He dwells not only in temples and mosques –

The whole creation is his abode.

The whole world is bewitched by his tale,

but wise are those who are lost in his love.

–Sarmad Kashani

 

Sarmad Kashani was born to an Armenian Jewish family in Kashan, Persia. His date of birth is estimated to be around 1590. In 1631, he migrated to Thatta, Sindh where he is reported to have fallen in love with a Hindu boy, Abhai Chand. By this time, he was known for his mystical powers and would also roam around the streets naked. When Sarmad migrated to Delhi, the Mughal prince Dara Shikoh became his disciple. When Aurangzeb usurped the throne, he felt threatened by Sarmad’s disobedient, unorthodox ways of being and planned on punishing him. Since the charges of nakedness and homosexuality were not enough, Aurangzeb planned on executing Sarmad on the charges of heresy. A trial of Sarmad was held in the presence of a religious council. When asked to recite the entire Kalima, Sarmad only recited its first half: “there is no God.” On inquiry, he explained how he was still immersed in negation and was yet to reach the stage of affirmation. This infuriated the religious council which was already skeptical of his religious syncretism. Consequently, he was capitulated by Aurangzeb on the charges of Blasphemy.

Sarmad was executed because of his critique of multiple religious, social and political institutions of his time. Even today, the religion is used to eliminate those who pose any kind of threat to the power structures as the case of Mashal Khan and missing bloggers indicates.