The International Sufi School, School of Peace and Service, proposes non-violence as an alternative to the violence prevailing in modern society. According to late Sheikh Aly N’Daw, non-violence is a universal approach for development and progress that can be applied to all cultures and nations regardless of all differences.
Throughout history, during periods of profound social, economic, religious and cultural turmoil, sustainable change has only been po-ssible thanks to nonviolence, as seen by the non-violent approach and action of many Peacemakers. Eminent Peacemakers like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba, Muhammad Yunus and Wangari Maathai, among many others, chose the path of non-violence in order to bring change in their respective societies. They first embraced the principles of non-violence, which involve self-transformation. Having embodied peace and found their authentic Being and unique purpose, the Peacemakers then dedicated their entire lives to their ideal of peace and the establishment of an alternative social order which enables people to live with purpose and thrive through conscious action.
The Peace day
From 4th to 10th July 2005, the International Sufi School held its first international exhibition and conference in London called ‘Non-violence, a Choice‘. This landmark event was organised in the context of the decade for peace, declared by the United Nations.
The event was a celebration of the lives and work of 16 peacemakers who had made their mark on human history through their noble actions and commitment to peace. It was also an invitation to discover the steps that they had followed to bring sustainable change to society. Ironically, that same week was sadly marked by the London bombings on Thursday 7th July 2005.
In its non-violent approach, the International Sufi School celebrates non-violence as a choice that every individual aspiring to peace can make in order to participate in the making of a better world for all.
Peace: myth or reality?
Everybody talks about peace, yet are we truly experiencing peace?
If we look at our current world, it would appear that all that prevails is chaos and violence. This situation is not new: the Inquisition, genocides, civil wars and various invasions all contributed to make peace appear like a utopian concept. Today, in addition to wars at the global level, we are also witnessing urban violence, the emergence of gangs and the prevalence of theft and murder, as well as domestic violence. The most vulnerable ones are often the elderly and children. Domestic violence also affects people’s mental health and wellbeing, and can lead to self-harm, drug addiction, behavioural problems and even suicide.
As a society, we have become so accustomed to all these forms of violence that it takes a tragic event to make us reflect on our innermost desire for peace.
Yet, we cannot deny that our desire for peace is so strong that we have even created structures for establishing and safeguarding peace. The United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are examples of the institutions in which we strongly believe. However, we often find that today these structures can be quite powerless when faced with the vetoes imposed by the more powerful nations.
What is the source of this violence that can annihilate even the best human initiatives?
Most of the time it arises from our yearning for materialistic gain; the selfish human desire for power and domination; the thirst for vengeance; arrogance, contempt, and so on. These are all emotions that fill the human heart. According to the teachings of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba, the Founder of the International Sufi School, the first steps for sustainable change consist of transforming negative feelings and emotions into virtues.
According to a tradition of the Prophet (pbuh), God says:
“Neither My Heaven nor My Earth can embrace Me, only the heart of my faithful servant can”.
This shows that when hearts are filled with negative emotions, there is no space for the Divine attributes. However, when these negative emotions are released, they transform into virtues like patience, humility, acceptance and unconditional love, the pre-requisites for harmony and co-existence.
The examples of the Peacemakers
The Peacemakers have shown us, through their own actions, that non-violent change is possible.
Let us look at the example of Gandhi and what triggered his consciousness.
In South Africa, Gandhi was violently thrown out of a train at Maritzburg station and was treated like an inferior citizen, despite having his first-class train ticket. Gandhi then spent the night in the station’s freezing waiting room in reflection. He recalled this episode as being the most decisive event of his life. It was an awakening shock for him. The next day, instead of resorting to arms and stirring up the Indians of South Africa in a violent and bloody revolt, he decided to establish ahimsa, that is, non-violence. This was the start of India’s inexorable liberation process and the fall of the British colonial empire.
Nelson Mandela is another example. After spending 27 years in jail, his followers were waiting for the slightest sign from him to attack the White population. However, Nelson Mandela came out of prison, saying:
“I have fought against White domination and I have fought against Black domination. I have an ideal of a democratic and free society where everybody can live together in harmony, while enjoying equal opportunities. This is an ideal for which I hope to live and see. But it is also an ideal for which I am ready to die”.
Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba
Another example is that of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba from Senegal. Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba was deprived of his liberty for 33 years. Yet, during these 33 years, he had no aim other than to liberate both the oppressor and the oppressed. This could only be achieved by a change in the consciousness that had created a political, social and cultural context in which the Senegalese population saw the French colonisers as oppressors.
Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba invited people to the path of non-violence. He took people out of the victim mindset and taught them to take responsibility and engage in conscious action. He proposed an alternative social model which allowed its citizens to find and live their true purpose as vicegerents of God on Earth. He built the Peace City of Touba, in which people have free access to land and water.
Later on, Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba even supported France financially when French currency was in decline. He also sent his followers to support the French army during the First World War. Towards the end of his life, he was offered the highest military distinction in France, the Legion of Honour, which he politely declined, explaining that he only wanted recognition from God.
Senegal’s independence is exemplary in the sense that it was achieved without bloodshed, enabling both countries to maintain friendly relations without any form of hatred, ill feeling or any desire for revenge.
Sheikh Aly N’Daw
Sheikh Aly N’Daw dedicated his life to the service of humanity by spreading the message of peace and love. He worked tirelessly to awaken people’s consciousness to their true Being and life purpose. Sheikh Aly N’Daw was also committed to the establishment of a conscious economic model in today’s world. In 2006, when he established the peace project in the village of Pout in Senegal, he explained to us the vital importance of the Earth and its resources in peacebuilding in the following speech:
“The earth is at the heart of peace, but it is also the cause of most wars.
Human nature is such that human consciousness only ever awakens after a crime committed against humanity. The Second World War is a testimony of this. We also have other examples, like the fauna and flora as well as the campaigns for the protection of endangered animals. Today it is the earth that cries out to us that it has suffered a crime against Humanity. Voices are rising from everywhere to make us aware of the words of wise men from all over the world: America, Africa, Europe and Asia, the words of those who have always said to us:
We belong to the earth.
The earth does not belong to us
We cannot talk of peace without talking of the earth. The peacemakers have all demonstrated it: Gandhi with the salt march and the spinning wheel, William Penn and the creation of Pennsylvania, Shaykh Ahmadou Bamba and the creation of Daaras (Social structures for the making of peacemakers through personal transformation and growth), Wangari Mathai and the Green Belt Movement and Muhammad Yunus with the Grameen Bank. They have all shown us that sustainable peace for all can only be achieved through a return to the earth and can only be built on the basis of an alternative economy through means of peace.
However, we cannot ignore the fact that the earth can only meet the needs of humanity thanks to Water. All forms of life are made up of water. Our planet itself consists of two thirds of water and one third earth. Our own body is made up of seventy per cent of water.
The future of humanity lies in the hands of the harmonious couple formed by water and the earth. Let us learn to make acquaintance with the earth and with water. Let us learn to be in their consciousness, as this is the only way of stopping the crime against humanity at the level of the earth and water.“
It is in this consciousness and in his commitment to water restoration that Sheikh Aly N’Daw set up the O’Peace water project in the arid region of Tambacounda in 2019. This project has now been extended to the region of Kedougou, where temperatures rise to 50 degrees Celsius in summer.
Self-transformation for conscious action
The above examples of non-violent action clearly show us that these figures of peace acted with a purified soul and a heart full of unconditional love. Having found their true Being they were able to freely choose the path of nonviolence and commit to an ideal of peace. By being the change, they were able to bring non-violent solutions to the problems of their respective societies.
May this Peace Day be an opportunity for us all to meditate and reflect on how we, in turn, can play our part in making the world a better place for all.
The International Sufi School proposes the Initiatory Way to Peace, elaborated by Sheikh Aly N’Daw. This is a 12-step process for self-transformation and conscious action in society.
As part of this peace process, we propose Liberation Therapy, a methodology for self-transformation and personal growth, elaborated by Sheikh Aly N’Daw.
We invite you to find out more about Liberation Therapy and how it can help us look at past life experiences with fresh eyes in order to grasp the opportunities for self-growth and emotional freedom. This inner transformation is essential for us to connect with our authentic Being and be an agent of peace and service in society.
Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see.” Change will only happen if we first change our inner self. As Einstein said, “no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created the problem.”
It is therefore vital for us to look deep within, in order to identify the obstacles to peace, so that they can then be transformed. This is the only way for Peace to be a reality today, rather than a myth. Let us meditate and be inspired by the lives of the Peacemakers who were able to make peace a reality in their respective societies and eras.