2001, 17:02 GMT
renaissance after Taleban fall
city of Herat has the largest number of Sufis
By the BBC's Peter Greste
Sufis are free to
practice their ancient worship once again - and they are doing so with an
exuberance denied to them for the past six years.
have the right path to Almighty God and the Taleban's version of Islam
wasn't real Islam. It was a corruption, an evil hypocrisy. They were
terrorists and that is unacceptable in our religion
I was invited to
experience one of their first few meetings at a house in Kabul.
Posters of mystic
writings were pinned to the walls of the dark room in which more than eight
Afghans were concentrating deeply on words recited by their religious leader.
As the minutes went by,
the fervour of the session built up into singing and chanting as the members
of the Sufi gathering rocked back and forth increasingly dramatically.
I was witnessing Islamic
mysticism in its most developed form.
Dancing to Allah
Sufism did not originate
in Afghanistan but it was in the hidden valleys in the central highlands that
the Sufi sages refined their insights.
had traditionally shared mosques with other Muslims
Under the Taleban they
were driven underground, their voices silenced by the oppressive
At the core of their
beliefs, Sufis maintain that all creatures - human and animal - are equal and
that music and dance is the most direct route to Allah.
Outside the house, a
birdcage hung from a tree. Nearby a loudspeaker inundated the feathered
residents with the mystic singing.
The sect's spiritual
leader Said Abdullah Ahmad went into hiding, his ideas an anathema to the
"When they first
came here, the Taleban invaded all our gatherings and they humiliated and beat
up many great Sufis.
understand why, because we were worshipping and praising God."
Sufism has been in
Afghanistan almost as long as Islam itself, perhaps 1,300 years, and its
followers have traditionally shared the mosques peacefully alongside other
more mainstream versions of the religion.
Taleban forced their own strict interpretation of Islam on Afghanistan
The mystics have been an
unmistakeable and integral part of life here in Afghanistan for centuries, but
in the eyes of the Taleban they were infidels and the crackdown was brutal.
Mohammed Nirullah, one
of Afghanistan's best known Sufi writers, told me life for the last few years
had been near to impossible for him.
He virtually stopped his
work under the Taleban, retreating into his tiny Kabul bookshop as his fellow
Sufis were savagely beaten and imprisoned and their musical instruments
smashed to pieces.
"Sufis have the
right path to Almighty God and the Taleban's version of Islam wasn't real
Islam. It was a corruption, an evil hypocrisy. They were terrorists and that
is unacceptable in our religion.
"Now the sect is
recovering its place in Afghanistan and its hundreds of thousands of followers
are once more emerging from the shadows."
Mr Nirullah went into
deep concentration as he recited the profound words which confirm the values
of mystic Islam.
Surrounding him, stacked
books were piled up to the ceiling.
Here was a man at one
with himself again.
This is, in every sense,
a rebirth of Sufism.
Its mystical beliefs are
undergoing a renaissance from a chapter of oppression to one of the country's
most powerful movements.
And this is demonstrates
the importance of tolerance in finding the way forward for a peaceful
Only then, when the
nation's people are free to live as their needs tell them, will 23 years of
trauma and battle belong to the past .