Sufism is often described as the mystical side of Islam.

On Thursday, a Sufi shrine in the Sindh province of Pakistan was attacked by a suicide bomber, killing at least 80 worshippers. The shrine is dedicated to Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a much revered Sufi saint from the 13th century who inspired one of the most famous qawwalis or Sufi spiritual songs of all time, ‘Damma Dam Mast Kalandar’, which is sung to this day by artists from all faiths and none throughout the subcontinent and the diaspora communities around the world.

Sufism is often described as the mystical side of Islam. It embraces music and dancing as sacred rituals which help to connect devotees in meditation and prayer.

Sikhs have had a strong relationship with Sufis over the years. For example, the foundation stone of the Harmandir Sahib or the Golden Temple in Amritsar was laid by the Sufi mystic Sain Mian Mir. The 5th Sikh Guru had specifically called upon the mystic to lay the stone in order to show that the doors of the Sikh faith’s holiest of holies would always be open to everyone, regardless of their beliefs.

The Gurus were known for their appreciation of the spirituality and beliefs of others. When the Sikh scriptures were first being compiled by the 5th Guru some 400 years ago, he invited verses to be sent to him from all over the subcontinent so that they could be considered for inclusion. Many Hindus and Muslims submitted their own poetry and those of their teachers, and the Guru selected those hymns which accorded with Sikh teachings.

That was how the verses of Sheikh Farid, a Sufi saint who died about 250 years before the Sikh faith was even founded, came to form an integral part of the Sikh scriptures. His poetry also helped transform Punjabi from being a folk language to one considered suitable for literature, in much the same way that Chaucer changed how English came to be perceived.

The horrors of what happened in Pakistan on Thursday are sadly not unique. Minority communities around the world are increasingly finding themselves in challenging circumstances, ranging from being victims of discrimination at one end of the spectrum through to being subjected to violent attacks with deadly consequences on the other. At a time when difference is seen to be something to fear and despise rather than appreciate and celebrate, I’m reminded of the following couplet by Sheikh Farid:

Do not utter even a single harsh word; your True Lord and Master abides in all.
Do not break anyone’s heart; these are all priceless jewels.

The words of a Muslim Sufi saint within the holy Sikh scriptures is for me a beautiful example of what we can all strive for within a society.

Thought for the day by Jasvir Singh OBE

You can listen to the full BBC 4 recording by clicking the above link