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Sufi Movements

Sufi Movements

  • The medieval period witnessed the rise and development of a large number of Muslim religious movements, mystic organizations, religious cults and attitudes.
  • The Islamic mysticism was known as Sufism.
    • It aims at establishing direct communion between God and man through personal experience of mystery which lies within Islam.

    • Every religion gives rise to mystical tendencies in its fold at a particular stage of its evolution. In this sense, sufism was a natural development within Islam based on the spirit of Quaranic piety.

  • It emerged as a schism against the institutionalized or dogmatic creed.
    • The sufis, while accepting the Shariat, did not confine their religious practice to formal adherence and stressed cultivation of religious experience aimed at direct perception of God.
  • The scholars of Kalam who were mainly concerned with the defence of the divine transcendence (i.e., God is above His creation and not one with it), Sufism sought to achieve the inner realization of divine unity by arousing intuitive and spiritual faculties. Rejecting rational arguments, the Sufis advocated contemplation and meditation.
  • Sufism finds justification in the esoteric aspects of Islam, which involves the purification of the heart through ethical regeneration.
    • This aspect is defined in the Islamic doctrine: that Allah should be worshipped with the certainty that the worshipper is watching Allah or He is watching the worshipper.

Meaning of Sufi

  • The term Sufi is most probably derived from the Arabic word suf meaning wool.
    • The eastern ascetics used to wear the coarse garments prepared out of wool.
    • This practice was also followed by the Sufis as a mark of poverty.
  • Other root of the word Sufism is traced to safa which means “purity“.

Origin of Sufism

  • Some of the early Sufis, such as the woman mystic of Basra named Rabia and Mansur-al-Hallaj laid great emphasis on love as the bond between God and the individual soul.
  • The early Sufis traced their ideas to some verses of the Quran and Traditions (Hadis) of the Prophet.
    • But in course of time they were influenced by a number of ideas and practices from different sources such as Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Indian philosophical system of Vedanta and yoga.
  • Mysticism was looked upon with disfavour by the Muslim fundamentalists. As a result the Sufis were persecuted and some of them were even executed on change of heresy and blasphemy.
    • The Sufis gave mystic interpretations of these scriptures. However, the orthodox Muslims believed in the literal interpretation of the scriptures.
    • The orthodox Muslims depend upon external conduct while the Sufis seek inner purity.
    • The orthodox believe in blind obedience to or observance of religious rituals while the Sufis consider love to be the only means of reaching God.
    • The Sufis used singing and dancing, forbidden by the orthodox as means of inducing a state of ecstasy, which brought a Sufi nearer to his goal of union with God.

Features of Sufism

There developed a number of sufi orders or silsilah in and outside India, each had their specific characteristic but had some common features:

  • Stress the importance of traversing the sufi path (tariqa) as a method of establishing direct communion with divine reality (haqiqat).
  • novice has to pass through a succession of “stations” or “stages” and changing psychological conditions or “states”  (maqamat) to experience God.
  • sufi path could be traversed only under the strict supervision of a spiritual guide (shaikh, pir or murshid) who had himself successfully traversed it and consequently established direct communion with God.
  • disciple (murid) progressed through the “stages” and “states” by practising spiritual exercises. e.g: self mortification (subjugation of desire by self-discipline), recollection of God’s name for concentration.
  • Sufis practiced sama (musical recital) which was intended to induce a mystical state of ecstasy. Ulema were hostile to this practice.
    • The Music party (sama) of the Sufis was justified by pointing out that a Sufi is a lover of God and, as such he stands in a different relation to God from others who are merely ‘abd’ or slaves.
    • As music inflames the fire of love and helps in creating the supreme state of ecstasy, it was permissible.
  • Organisation of the sufis into various orders (silsilah). e.g. Suhrawardi, Qadiri, Chishti etc.
  • hospice (khanqah) was the centre of the activities of a sufi order. Here, pir imparted spiritual training to his disciples.
    • The popularity of the khanqah and its capacity to attract disciples depended on the reputation of the pir.
    • The khanqahs were supported by endowment and charity.

Tasawwuf:

  • Sufism follows tasawwuf. Scholars have interpreted Tasawwuf in a number of ways and there exist hundreds of definitions of it but in simple words, it can be defined as the inwardness of the Islam.
  • Main elements of the philosophy of Tasawwuf includes:
    • Marifat /Ittisal /wasl – means mystical union with God.
    • Zikr – always remembering God.
    • The special form of Zikr i.e. Sama (the climax of Zikr) – include dancing, music, etc.
    • Tark-i- Duniya – rejection of worldly things and thinking of only otherworldly things and thinking of only otherworldly and other.
    • Fana-o- Baqa – Dissolution of self – this creates the ground for union with God.
    • Wahadat-ul- Wujud / Tauhid-i- wujudi – Unity between God and beings.
    • Focus on certain values such as repentance, perseverance, pity, charity, service, equality and pacifism.

Advent of the Sufis to India

  • The Sufis migrated to the far-off countries and lived in the midst of the non-Muslims and carried out their work of proselytization through peaceful means.
  • The advent of the Sufis in India dates back to the Arab conquest of Sindh.
    • After the establishment of the Muslim rule in northern India, Sufis from different Muslim countries began to migrate and settle down in different parts of India.
  • Early sufi saints came to India even before the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate.
  • The basic features of sufism in India continued to be the same as they were in the Islamic world.
    • However, its subsequent development was influenced more by Indian environment than by non-Indian variants of sufism.
  • Once the sufi orders took root in different parts of India, they followed their own phases of growth, stagnation and revival.
    • These were determined largely by indigenous circumstance but influence of developments in sufism outside India still persisted.
  • Al Hujwiri (A.D. 1088) was the earliest sufi to have settled in India. He was author of Kashf-ul Mawub (famous Persian treatise on Sufism).
  • After establishment of Delhi sultanate, various sufi orders were introduced in India and became new home of the sufis, who along with many other refugees fled from those parts of the Islamic world.
    • By the middle of the 14th century, Most part of the subcontinent were under influence of sufi activities.
    • Among various orders Chishti order became most popular.

The Silsilahs

  • Sufis came to be organised into a number of silsilahs or orders. Abul Fazal gives a list of fourteen orders of the Sufis, which came to India.
  • However, only two of them, the Chisti and Suhravardi silsilahs took deep roots in the Indian soil.
    • The Chisti silsilah centered on Ajmer and gradually spread to other parts of Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal, Orissa and Deccan.
    • The Suhravardi silsilah was confined to Sindh, Multan and the Punjab.

The Chisti Silsilah:

  • Khwaja Abdul Chisti founded the Chisti order in Herat (d. 966).
  • On the advice of his guide, he reached India in 1190 and consequently settled at Ajmer. He is said to have died in 1234.
  • The sayings of Muinuddin show that his life’s mission was to inculcate piety, humility and devotion to God.
    • According to him, those who know God avoid mixing with other people and keep silent on matters relating to divine knowledge.
    • After his death, the silsilah made notable progress under his able disciples.

Growth of this order in India took place in two phases:

First Phase: (early 13th to later 14th century)

  • Khwaja Muinuddin Chisti (died. 1236) a native of Persia, introduced it in India.
    • He was the disciple of Khwaja Usman Haruni
    • He reached India in 1190 during Ghori conquest and settled in Ajmer about 1206.
    • His simple, pious and dedicated life had great impact on those who came in contact with him.
    • He was respected by both Muslims and non Muslims.
    • He was not actively involved in conversions and his attitude towards non-Muslims was one of tolerance.
    • Later, His tomb in Ajmer became a famous centre of pilgrimage.
  • Shaikh Qutbuddin Bhaktiyar Kaki (d.1235) and Shaikh Hamiduddin (d. 1276 , after living ordinary life in Nagaur, Rajsthan) the two eminent disciples of Muinuddin Chisti:
    • The former popularized the Chisti order in Delhi and the latter in Rajasthan.
    • They lived simple life.
    • Shaikh Hamiduddin was a strict vegetarian and mixed freely with the Hindus.
    • Shaikh Qutbuddin Bhaktiyar Kaki settled down at Delhi during the reign of Iltutmish and refused to accept the royal patronage. The famous Qutub Minar was named after him.
    • The Chishti mystics believed in the spiritual value of music. Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiar Kaki died in a state of ecstasy under the spell of music.
  • Shaikh Fariduddin Ganj-i-Shakar (known as Baba Farid) was a disciple/ Khalifa (successor) of Bhaktiyar Kaki.
    • He popularized the Chisti order in Haryana and Punjab.
    • He led a householder’s life.
    • Some of his sayings are included in the Adi Granth of the Sikhs after 300 yr.
    • He kept himself far away from political personalities and avoided contact with rich and powerful people.
    • He advised his disciple Syed Maula: “Do not make friends with kings and nobles. Consider their visits to your home as fatal (for your spirit). Every darwesh who makes friends with kings and nobles, will end badly.
      • Almost the same was his message to his Chief disciple Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya i.e., he emphasised dissociation with kings.
    • Baba Farid died at the age of 93 in 1265.
  • Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya (1236-1325) was the most prominent of Baba Farid:
    • He made Delhi the most famous centre of the Chishti order.
    • Though he witnessed the reign of seven sultans of Delhi, he never visited the courts of any one of them.
    • The liberal outlook of the Shaikh as well as his delight in music caused him to be denounced by the orthodox Ulema.
    • He gave an Islamic touch to the socio-cultural atmosphere of the capital.
    • He laid stress on the element of love as means of realization of God.
      • He inspired men with the love of God and helped them to get rid of their attachment to worldly affairs.
      • Stress on the motive of love which leads to the realization of God, was the main feature of his teachings.
      • He preached that without the love of humanity, love of God will be incomplete.
      • He stated that social justice and benevolence are parts of Islam.
    • Nizamuddin Auliya practiced celibacy unlike a number of other Chisti saints.
    • He adopted yogic breathing exercises so much so that the yogis called him a siddha or perfect.
    • Langar in his khanqah was open to both muslim as well as non-Muslims.
    • Amir Khusrau (1253-1325) was a devoted disciple of Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya.
    • Fawaid-ul Fuwad written by Amir Hasan Sijz, records his teachings and conversations.
    • Even after his death in 1325, the Shaikh commanded tremendous respect.
  • The message of love imparted by Shaikh Nizamuddin was carried to different parts of the country by his disciples.
    • Shaikh Sirajuddin Usmani took the message to Bengal. He was succeeded by
    • Shaikh-Alaudin Ala-ul Haq who continued the work of his master in the eastern parts of India.
    • Shaikh Burhanuddin, another disciple of Shaikh Nizamuddin, settled at Daultabad and his message was preached there by his disciple, Shaikh Zainuddin.
    • In Gujarat Shaikh Syed Hussain, Shaikh Husamuddin and Shah Brakatullah, spread the message of equality and humanitarianism.
  • Shaikh Nasiruddin Mahmud (d. 1356) came to be known as Chiragh-i-Delhi (Lamp of Delhi):
    • He was successor of was Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya.
    • He and some of his disciples discontinued some of those practices of early Chishtis which could clash with Islamic orthodoxy thus tried to reconcile with ulema.

Decline of the Chishti Order in Delhi during the later Tughluq and Saiyyid Periods:

  • Some scholars hold the view that the decline of Delhi as a centre of the Chishti order was due to the attitudes and policies of Sultan Muhammad Tughluq.
  • But this is not the appropriate reason. In fact after death of Mohammad Tughlaq, Feroz Shah Tughluq showered gifts on them.
  • Below are few reasons of decline :
    • Shaikh Nasiruddin died without appointing a spiritual successor.
    • His chief disciples, Gesu Daraz left Delhi for a safer place in the Deccan at the time of Timur’s invasion (A.D. 1398).
    • As the Delhi Sultanate began to decline and disintegrate, the sufis dispersed (this dispersal to new places brought changes in their attitudes and practices) to the more stable provincial kingdoms and established their khanqahs there.

Second Phase:

  • Second phase in the history of the Chishti silsilah during the Sultanate period began with its decline in Delhi following the death of Shaikh Nasiruddin and its subsequent dispersal in various regional kingdoms.
  • Shaikh Burhanuddin Gharib introduced the Chishti order in the Deccan during the reign of Muhammad Tughluq.
  • Chishti sufis who migrated to Gulbarga (capital of the Bahmani):
    • Close relations with the court and accepted state patronage.
    • Bahmani kings purchased the political loyalty of these sufis and gave land grants to them.
    • Muhammad Banda Nawaz, Gesudaraz (c. 1321-1422):
      • He was the most prominent and was an orthodox sufi and declared the supremacy of Islamic law (Shariat) over all sufi stages.
      • He discontinued many practices of early Chishtis which had disappointed ulema.
      • His dargah in Gulbarga later developed into a popular place of pilgrimage in the Deccan.
    • Reason of decline of Chishti tradition in Gulbarga:
      • Transformation of his descendants into a landed elite and their indifference towards Chishti teachings.
      • Change of Bahmani capital from Gulbarga to Bidar in 1422: Bahamani Court at Bidar, owing to its pro-foreigner and anti-Deccani bias, encouraged the immigration of foreign sufis and did not patronise the Chishtis who were considered “too Indian”.
  • Shaikh Salim Chisti (1478–1572):
    • During Akbar’s period the Chishti order again rose to prominence, precisely due to the Emperor’s devotion to Salim Chishti of Fatehpur.
    • He lived the life of an ordinary householder in his cave dwelling at Sikri.
    • He was Akbar’s spiritual guide. He named his first son Salim (later emperor Jahangir) in honor of Chishti.
    • Bairam Khan, a prominent figure of this time, kept Aziz Chishti in high esteem.
  • Chishti tradition of Shahpur Hillock (from the end of the 15th century to 16th and 17th centuries):
    • It was different from most of the later chishti traditions and maintained distance from the court and the ulema and drew its inspiration from local influences.
    • It had much closer in their attitudes to the early Chishti sufi of Delhi. It had developed independent of both the Delhi and Gulbarga traditions.
  • In North India (later 15th and early 16th century): Three different branches:
    • Nagauriya (after the name of Shaikh Hamiduddin Nagauri),
    • Sabiriya (after the name of Shaikh Alauddin Kaliyari)
      • Shaikh Abdul Quddus Gangohi (d. 1537) was a mystic of the Sabiria order.
      • He was an exponent of the doctrine of the “Unity of Being” (Wahdat-ul Wujud),
    • Nizamiya (after the name of Shaikh Nizammddin Auliya)
      • It was founded by Makhdum Alauddin Ali Sabri who isolated himself from the world and lived the life of a recluse.

Causes of Chishti popularity:

  • Of all the orders, Chishti emerged as the most popular. It’s rituals, attitudes and practices made it an essentially Indian silsilah.
  • Many practices of early Chishtis bore close resemblance to the attributes of some of the already existing non-conformist religious orders in India such as :
    • asceticism
    • bowing before the master
    • shaving the head of a new entrant into the order
    • organizing spiritual musical recital,
  • Most of the Chisti saints belonged to the liberal school of thought.
    • Their popularity in India was due to their understanding of the Indian conditions and the religious attitudes and aspirations of the Indian people.
    • Chishtis adopted an attitude of religious tolerance towards the non-Muslim population of India and used Hindawi, popular imagery and popular idiom to convey their ideas and spreading their teaching.
    • They adopted many Hindu customs and ceremonies.
    • They laid much emphasis on the service to mankind.
    • The Chisti mystics were believers in pantheistic monism, which had its earliest exposition in the Upanishad of the Hindus.
    • As a result many Hindus felt closer to the Chisti silsilah.
  • Egalitarian atmosphere of the Chishti khanqahs attracted people from lower sections of Indian society.
    • Caste distinctions of the Brahmanical socia order were meaningless in the Chishti khanqahs. They had sympathy towards the deprived sections of the society.
    • They din’t accept, the two-fold racial division of the people by the Turkish ruling class into noble-Born and low-born.
  • Excellent leadership of the early Chishti masters, their rejection of the orthodoxy, unwillingness to accept state patronage combining of the simple precepts of Islam with the sufi teachings.
  • Hostile attitude of ulema towards them also contributed in their popularity.
  • Miracle stories about the early chishtis played an important role in enhancing the popularity of the Chishti dargah and the posthumous popularity of the sufis themselves.
  • Given too much respect after their life by writers and legend-makars.

The Suhravardi Silsilah:

  • Shaikh Sahabuddin Suhrawardi (d. 1234) initiated this silsilah in Baghdad.
  • Shaikh Bahauddin Zakariya and Shaikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi (both disciple of Sahabuddin) designated by Shahabuddin to spread the Suhrawardi silsilah in India.
  • Founder in India for this silsilah was Shaikh Bahauddin Zakariya (1182-1262):
    • He carried on his missionary work at Multan.
    • He sided with Iltutmish in his Multan conquest of Iltutmish against Qubacha and got state patronage from Delhi sultanate.
    • He received from Iltutmish title of Shaikh-ul Islam (Leader of Islam) and endowment.
    • Contrary to the chishti saints of time, he followed a worldly policy and built up a large fortune and maintained link with ruling class.
    • The saints of the Suhrawardi order hereafter remained in touch with the establishment and actively participated in political activities.
  • Shaikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi:
    • After his initial stay in Delhi, where he failed to establish his supremacy, he went to Bengal. There he played good role in Islamization.
    • Punjab, Sind and Bengal were three main centre of Suhrawardi activities.
    • They converted Hindu to Islam and were helped by ruling class.
  • Shaikh Ruknuddin:
    • He was greatly venerated by the Sultans of Delhi.
    • According to him, a Sufi should possess three attributes.
      • Property (to satisfy the Qalandar’s physical demand),
      • knowledge (to discuss scholarly questions with the Ulema) and
      • Hal (mystical enlightenment) to impress other Sufis.
  • After his death (1334-35), the Suhrawardi order made progress in provinces other than Multan and spread from Uch to Gujarat, Punjab, Kashmir and even Delhi.
  • Under Firoz Shah Tughlaq, this order was revitalized by Syed Jalaluddin Bukhari.
    • He was a very staunch and puritan Muslim and objected to the growing Hindu influence on the Muslim social and religious practices.
    • Other saints of this order like Qutab-Alam and Shah-Alam, exercised tremendous influence upon the political personalities of their time.
  • Unlike the Chistis, the Suhravardis did not believe in leading a life of poverty and excessive austerity and self-mortification.
    • They lived comfortable family lives.
    • They felt no scruples in accepting costly presents and patronage from the Muslim aristocracy.
    • They did not shun the ruling elite.
    • They actively associated with the government and accepted the posts.
  • The Suhravardi silsilah was confined mostly to the upper strata of the Muslim society.
  • Some of the saints of the Suhravardi silsilah adopted a rigid and uncompromising attitude on many matters of religious and social significance.
    • Contemporary historian Ziauddin Barani records that, the Suhravardi saint Syed Nuruddin Mubarak Ghaznavi advised Iltutmish to follow a policy of discrimination and persecution against the Hindus.
  • However, some of the Suhravardi saints were very liberal and broadminded and were held in deep respect by the Hindus.
    • The devotion of the Hindus of Bengal to Shaikh Jalauddin Tabrizi may be estimated from Sekha Subhodaya, a Sanskrit treatise, which includes all the legends about the saint prevalent among the Hindus.

Other Silsilahs:

  • Many other Sufi mystic orders also were introduced in India. However, unlike the Chisti and Suhravardi silsilahs, these did not make much impact on the people of India. Some of them were limited to certain regions only.
  • Firdausi
    • In the 14th century, there developed another order called Firdausiya.
    • Firdausi order was a branch of the Suhrawadi which established itself at Rajgir in Bihar towards the end of the 14th century. (most prominent sufi: Shaikh sharfuddin yahya Maneri (d. 1380).
    • Shaikh Sharfuddin Ahmad Yahya was an ardent believer in Wahdat-ul Wujud.
  • Qadiri silsilah:
    • It was founded in Baghdad by Shaikh Abdul Qadir Gilani (d. 1166) and was introduced in India by Sayyid Muhammad Gilani (d. 1517).
    • Established in Punjab, Sind and the Deccan.
    • Shaikh Musa had joined Akbar’s service but his brother Shaikh Abdul Qadir did not associate himself with the government.
    • Had orthodox orientation and close relations with the ruling classes.
    • Attempted to reform the religious life of Indian Muslims from un-islamic influences.
    • Dara Shikoh was a follower of Lahore’s famous Qadiri Sufi saint Mian Mir (1550-1635).
      • Prince Dara Shukoh visited Miyan Mir, at Lahore along with Shah Jahan and was much impressed by his saintly personality.
      • After the Shaikh’s death, Dara became the disciple of his successor, Mulla Shah Badakhshi.
      • Dara was next to him at the time when this mystic soul laid the foundation stone of the Golden Temple.
      • His learning from the sufis was compiled by him in a series of books “Safinat-ul-Auliya” (1640 AD), “Sakinat-ul-Auliya” (1643 AD), “Risala-e-Haq Numa” (1647 AD) and “Tariqat-ul-Haqiqat” and “Hasanat-ul-Arifeen” (1653 AD).
      • The influence of the Wahdat-ul Wujud concept is evident in the mystic works of the prince, namely:
        • Safinat-ul Aullya,
        • Sakinat-ul Aullya,
        • Tariqat-ul-Haqiqat
        • Hasanat-ul-Arifeen
        • Risala-e-Haq Numa (it is a revelation about yoga)
        • Majma-ul-Bahrain:
          • It was the book which was the result of nine years of research and study regarding the two doctrines — Brahmavidya and Quran.
          • Majma-ul-Bahrain is a testimony to the similarities between Sufism and Hinduism.
        • Mukalama Baba Lal wa Dara Shukoh:
          • It is a compilation of the dialogue between him and Baba Lal regarding the queries of the author about Kashi, Hindu mythology and various gods and goddesses, about Braj, exact recitation of OmPanchabhuta, the aatma (human soul) and the paramaatma (divine soul).
        • He also understood jyotish vidya (astrology) and is said to have written a book on this topic in Sanskrit.
        • Sirri-i-Akbar:
          • Inspired by the hidden treasures in the Upanishads, hetranslated them into Persian as Sirri-i-Akbar.
          • This book happens to be a remarkable parallel about the tauhid or unity of god which is present in Quran and Upanishads alike.
        • Iksir-ul-Azam:
          • it happens to be his diwan consisting of his ghazals, rubaiats on Sufism and Qadirism — doctrines of mysticism.
  • Qalandari: 
    • Wandering dervishes (An ascetic Muslim monk) who violated normal social behavior.
    • They were criticised under Islamic law.
    • They had no organized spiritual masters and organization.
    • Many of them were observed into chishtis.
    • Many had good contact with Nathpanthis and had adopted customs and practices like ear-piercing.
  • Shattari:
    • An orthodox order and had close relations with state. it was introduced in India in the 15th century by Shaikh  Abdull Shattari and established in Bengal, Jaunpur and the Deccan.
  • Firdausi silsilah:
    • Shaikh Badruddin of Samarqand established the Firdausi silsilah at Delhi.
  • Shattari silsilah: 
    • The Shattari silsilah was founded in India by Shaikh Abdullah Shattari (d. 1485).
  • Naqshbandi silsilah: 
    • Khawaja Bahauddin Naqshbandi (1317-1389) was the founder of this order
    • Khwaja Baqi Billah (1563-1603) introduced it in India.
      • Among his disciples were Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi and Sheikh Abdul Haq of Delhi.
    • Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi broke away from earlier mystic traditions and propounded his theory of the unity of the phenomenal world. He spoke out against innovations introduced by Sufis. For instance, he opposed Emperor Akbar’s views on Hindu and Muslim marriages.
    • From the beginning, the mystics of this order laid stress upon observance of the law (Shariat) and had emphatically denounced all biddat (innovations) which had spoiled the purity of Islam.
    • Thus, it may be regarded as a reaction to the challenging ideas of the upholders of Wahdat-ul Wujud. This doctrine was furiously attacked by Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi, the chief disciple of Khwaja Baqi Billah.
      • He wrote and circulated that God who created the world could not be identified with his creatures.
      • Rejecting, Wahdat-ul Wujud, he expounded the doctrine of Wahdat-ul Shuhud (“apparentism”) to serve as a corrective to the prevailing tendency.
      • The Shaikh maintained that the relation between man and God is that of slave and master or that of a worshipper and the worshipped. It is not the relation of lover and beloved as the Sufis generally hold.
      • He emphasized the individual’s unique relation of faith and responsibility to God as his Creator. Only through the Shariat one can realize the mystery of the Divine Existence.
      • Thus Shaikh Ahmad tried to harmonize the doctrines of mysticism with the teachings of Orthodox Islam. That is why he is called Mujaddid (the renovator) of Islam.
    • Aurangzeb was the disciple of Khwaja Mohammad Masum, the son of the Mujaddid.
    • Shah Waliullah (1702-1762) was a noted scholar and a saint of the Naqshbandi order.
      • He tried to reconcile the two doctrines of Wahdat-ul Wujud and Wahdat-ul Shuhud.
    • Khwaja Mir Dard, the famous Urdu poet, was another mystic of the Naqshbandi order and a contemporary of Shah Waliullah.
      • He condemned the believers in Wahdat-ul Wujud as those who have no knowledge of Reality.
      • He was of the view that only through slavery to God one can attain closeness to Him.
  • Rishi:
    • Flourished in Kashmir during the 15th and 16th centuries. It was an indigenous one eshtablished by Shaikh Nuruddin Wali (d.1430).
    • Got popularity because it drew inspiration from the popular Shaivite bhakti tradition of Kashmir and was rooted in the socio-cultural milieu of the region.
  • In the fourteenth century the influence of the Sufis declined. This was due to the doctrinal differences between different Sufi orders and assertion of Islamic orthodoxy.

Social role of Sufis

  • Sufis played an important role in society and sometimes in polity as well.
  • Muslim mystics, in spite of their speculative leanings, did not lose touch with the realities of life.
    • They were not prepared to give up the socio-moral aspects of life in the interest of spiritual exaltation and ecstasy. ‘
    • That is why they demanded justice and benevolence.
  • Sufis and the State:
    • Early chistis were not keen to be the beneficiaries of the state as it would have compromised their independence of mind and action.
    • If we exclude early chishtis and the chishtis of the Shahpur Hillock in the Bijapur Kingdom, sufis, belonging to most of the other silsilah, including the later Chishtis, were involved in the affairs of the state and accepted state endowments.
    • There are instances of expression of disagreement by Chishti sufis over the policies pursued by individual Sultans as during the reign of Muhammad Tughluq.
    • Sufis of other silsila served the state machinery by becoming an integral part of it.
    • Early Chishtis helped the state by creating a milieu in which people belonging to different classes and religious communities could live in harmony.
    • Sufls never questioned the existing political system and the class structure.
    • Sometimes, they advised the state officials to show leniency in collecting land revenue from the peasants.
  • Sufis and the Ulema:
    • From very early Ulema were hostile to Sufis and their practices (like sama). They also objected to the Chishti quest for religious synthesis.
    • However, Chishti sufis such as Shaikh Nasiruddin (Chiragh-i Delhi) and Gesudaraz gave an orthodox orientation to chisti order to mitigate hostility of ulema.
    • Gradually, as chishti order began to involve themselves in court politics and accept state endowments, they adopted doctrinal attitudes similar to those of the ulema.
  • Sufis and Conversions:
    • Generally they are considered as propagators of Islam in India.
    • Even Shaikh Muinuddin Chishti and Shaikh Nizamuddin Aulia though having tolerance for non Muslims has claimed to have involved in conversion of non-Muslims to Islam.
    • Mir Saiyyid Ali Hamadani and his followers who entered Kashmir in the 14th century with proselytizing zeal though they did not achieve much success in their mission.
    • Also, there is little historical evidence to show that the early sufis in the Deccan were warriors fighting for the expansion of Islam.
      • Even the first sufis who entered the Deccan (late 13th century) have been portrayed in the later legends as militant champions of Islam who waged a jihad (war against non-Muslims).
    • Large number of non-Muslims, especially from the low castes, were attracted to the sufis and dargah were Islamized.
  • Material Life in Sufi Khanqahs:
    • There are few  instances of prosperous khanqahs (supported by state endowments) of sufis forging links with the state and finally of the transformation of some sufis into landed elites.
    • But Mostly, Early Chishtis lived in khanqahs where life was based on egalitarian principles and there was a lack of hierarchy and structure.
      • Here both its inhabitants and the pilgrims experienced equality.
      • Though they followed egalitarian principle in khanqah but accepted the logic of the existing class structure  at the broader social and political level and did not see any alternative to it.
    • Khanqahs depended not on state patronage but on futuh (unsolicited charity) for necessary expenses.
    • The Chishti khanqahs were open to all sections of the society and to all communities.
    • khanqahs also contributed to economic life in various ways:
      • Some of them undertook the cultivation of waste lands.
      • Some were involved in construction of buildings both of religious character and public utility and planted gatdens.
      • played an important role in the process of urbanization.
      • annual urs (the festival commemorating the death of a spiritual master) gave impetus to trade, commerce’and production of local handicrafts.

Interaction between Sufi and Bhakti Movement and cultural synthesis

Influence of Sufism on Bhakti movement:

  • Many scholars argue that all variants of bhakti movement and the doctrine of bhakti itself came into being as a result of Islamic influence both before and after the 12th century.
  • This claim is on the basis of many similarities between Islam and the bhakti cults, but it is not so because:
    • Bhakti and bhakti movements had indigenous origins. Bhakti as a religious concept had developed in the religious tradition of ancient India.
    • Older South Indian bhakti movement came into being even before the advent of Islam in South India.
  • It would be more appropriate to understand the bhakti movements of medieval India in their immediate historical context rather than searching for far-fetched sources of inspiration in any particular religion.
  • However, Islam did influence the bhakti cults and, in particular monotheistic movements.
  • Islamic influence on monotheists:
    • Monotheistic bhakti movement and Islam seems to have been one of mutual influence and Sufism provided the common meeting ground.
    • Non-conformist saints picked up many ideas of Islam. e.g.:
      • Non-compromising faith in one God, their rejection of incarnation,
      • Their conception of Nirguna bhakti and their attack on idolatry
      • Rejection of the caste system.
      • Sufi concepts of pir and mystic union with the “beloved” (God) coincided in many respects with the non-conformist saints’ concepts of guru and devotional surrender to God.
    • Few non-conformist saints had interaction with sufis. Guru Nanak’s encounters with sufis are described in the janam-sakhis.
    • Sufism and the monotheistic movement were historically independent of each other, there was remarkable similarity in many of their basic ideas, including their common rejection of Hindu and Muslim orthodoxies.
      • Interaction between them, however indirect, must have given impetus to both of them.
  • Islamic influence on vaishnava bhakti movements:
    • They didn’t have any influence as they neither denounced idolatry and the caste system nor the theory of incarnation and believed in Saguna bhakti.

Influence of the bhakti movement on Sufism:

  • Rishi order of the sufis in Kashmir:
    • This order was founded by Shaikh Nuruddin Wdi and it had profound influence of non-conformist ideas of the famous 14th century women bhakti-preacher, Lal Ded (was a Kashmiri mystic of the Kashmir Shaivism school of philosophy). 
  • Interaction between the Chishti sufis and the Nathpanthi yogi:
    • During the 13th and 14th centuries, Nathpanthi movement had attained considerable’ popularity in Northern India, in particular among the lower sections of the society. Interactions are:
      • Nathpanthi yogis used to visit khanqahs of the leading Chishti sheikhs and had discussions with them on the nature of mysticism.
      • Early Chishtis’ approved some of the ethical values of the nathpanthi yogis and their collective way of life.
      • Even before the advent of Sufism in India, translation of the Yoga treatise Amrit-kund into persian from Sanskrit led to the adoption of many meditative practices by the Sufis.
      • Like the Chishtis, the nathpanthis had opened their doors to all sections of society, irrespective of caste distinctions.

Cultural synthesis:

  • Chishtis adaptability to in the non-Muslim environment of India released syncretic forces and led to cultural synthesis.
    • Common outlook of the movements (sufis, nathpanthis and monotheists) provided a basis for mutual understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.
    • Many early chishtis spoke Hindawi and composed versed in it. Many khanqahs inspired the composition of mystical poetry in regional language.
    • Chandayan (written in hindi) by Mulla Daud (second half of the 14th century) combined mysticism with Hindu mythology and philosophy.
      • Later it was translated in Persian by Chisti Sufi Shaikh Abdul Quddus Gangohi (1456-1537).
    • Growth of eclectic religious life:
      • Sufi folk literature was a mix of the simplest precepts of Islam and Sufi terminology and the existing popular imagery and idiom.
      • Thus, contributed to the growth of eclectic (including things taken from many different sources) religious life.
    • Qawwali:
      • It began with Amir Khusrau. Was a syncretic musical tradition provided by Chishti practice of sama.
  • Interaction had positive effect on the social and cultural life and resulted in a cultural synthesis in the areas of art, music and literature.

Role of Sufi Movement in promoting communal harmony:

  • Like the bhakti movement, Sufism also contributed to a great extent in molding the character of the medieval Indian society.
    • The Sufis stressed the essential unity between different religions and showed an attitude of toleration towards other religions and tried to bring about reconciliation between the Hindus and the Muslims.
  • The ideas of the brotherhood of Islam and equality among its adherents appealed to the low castes among the Hindus. It led to large-scale conversions.
  • The Sufis emphasized the unity of God and superiority of the path of devotion over rituals, ceremonies, pilgrimages and fasts.
  • The liberal and tolerant attitude adopted by Akbar and his successors made the Sufi literature and thought popular among the Hindu intellectuals.
    • The Sufi doctrine of Universal Brotherhood (sulh-i-kul) was adopted by Akbar in his attempt to establish a national state in India.
  • The Sufi movements promoted a feeling of religious toleration between the Hindus and Muslims and became instrumental in maintaining the social equilibrium of the medieval society.
    • The healthy religious atmosphere created by the Sufi movements enabled Akbar to adopt a broader outlook in religious matters culminating in the foundation of a syncretic religion Din-i-Ilahi.
  • It is important to note that the bhakti reformers and the Sufi saints directly as well as indirectly created an atmosphere of brotherhood and fellow feelings between the Hindus and the Muslims.
    • This enabled the Mughal Emperors to follow a policy of religious toleration.
    • The bhakti movement prepared the way for Akbar’s glorious rule that tried to transform the predominantly Muslim character of the Mughal state into a national state.
    • The bhakti movement also inspired Shivaji to establish the swarajya. Foundation of Sikhism was one of the results of the bhakti movement.

Impact of the Sufi Movement:

  • In the fourteenth century the influence of the Sufis declined. This was due to the doctrinal differences between different Sufi orders and assertion of Islamic orthodoxy.
    • However, the Sufis played an important role in spreading the Muslim culture among the masses in various parts of the country.
  • Like the bhakti movement, Sufism also contributed to a great extent in molding the character of the medieval Indian society.
    • The Sufis stressed the essential unity between different religions and showed an attitude of toleration towards other religions and tried to bring about reconciliation between the Hindus and the Muslims.
  • The Sufis promoted educational advancement of the society. Their khanqahs (monasteries) became centers of knowledge and wisdom.
  • The Sufis, specially belonging to the Chisti order appealed to the lower caste Hindus, which led to large-scale conversions. The Islamic concept of equality and brotherhood attracted the lower class Hindus.
  • The Sufis emphasized the unity of God and superiority of the path of devotion over rituals, ceremonies, pilgrimages and fasts.
  • Initially Hindus belonging to high castes remained aloof from the Sufi saints.
    • It was only during the reign of Akbar that some of the Persian educated Hindus began to show interest in the Sufi philosophy of the Chisti order.
    • The liberal and tolerant attitude adopted by Akbar and his successors made the Sufi literature and thought popular among the Hindu intellectuals.
    • The Sufi doctrine of Universal Brotherhood (sulh-i-kul) was adopted by Akbar in his attempt to establish a national state in India.

Mystical or Sufi literature:

  • Doctrinal Texts:
    • The Sufi doctrines in India are based upon some well known works such as the Kashf-ul-Mahjub of Hujwiri, which gives biographical details and other aspects of their thought from the days of Prophet.
    • Shaikh Shihabuddin Suhrawardi’s Awarif-ul Maarif is the second such work. Both of them accepted the superiority of the Shariat (Islamic Code). They argued that Sufis must obey the Sharia. To them Sharia, Marifat (gnosis) and Haqlqat (reality) were interdependent.
  • These are another category of literary work written in Persian. Under this category:
    • The treatises written by the sufis on mysticism;
    • Collection of letters written by sufis;
    • Malfuzat (discourses by sufi saints);
    • Biographies of sufis and
    • Collection of sufi poetry.
  • Prince Dara Shukoh wrote:
    • Sakinatul Uliya is a biographical account of the sufi Miya Mir and his disciples.
    • The Majm’aul Bahrain (Mingling of two Oceans) is his other work related to sufism. In this work he has compared the Islamic sufi concepts with Hindu philosophical outlook.
  • Sufi poets also made considerable contribution in the development of Punjabi literature.
    • Sultan Bahu,expressed himself through intense poetry.
    • Shah Husain (1553-1593) also made notable contribution. He wrote passionate lyrics set to music. This genre is known as
    • Bulhe Shah is best known. His works have passed into folklore and form a rich part of Punjab’s literary tradition.

Malfuzat texts as a source of medieval history:

  • The Malfuzat texts record the teachings of the Sufi saints. During the 13th century, the oral teachings of these saints took on a canonical textual form and gradually these works were recognized as the authoritative and normative genre both for the members of the Sufi order and for their lay followers.
  • Malfuzat as historical source:
    • The Malfuzat texts in the form of the records of Sufi discources were an extremely popular genre of literature during the 13th century in north India and are therefore of tremendous historical importance.
    • One of the most admired of these Malfuzat texts is the “Fawaid Al-Fuad” translated as “Morals of the Heart”.
      • The book was written by Amir Hasan Sijzi Dehlavi, a poet and disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya.
      • It is a beautifully written account of the Sufi teachings of Nizamuddin Auliya.
      • The “Fawaid Al-Fuad” is valued more for its historical value as a corrective to the exclusively dynastic focus of the court historians than its religious content.
    • The social history of the period, not found in dynastic chronicles can well be ascertaimed from the Malfuzat texts.
      • We can get a glimpse of medieval society and the popular customs, manners and problems of the people from recorded conversations of this kind.
    • Later on the Malfuzat tradition was furthered by Hamid Qalandar, who compiled the teachings and speeches of Nizamuddin Auliya’s successor in Delhi, Nasiruddin Mahmud Chirag-i-Delhi.
      • Hamid has provided us with an elaborate description of how the collection of works compiled in Khair al-Majalis (the best of aassemblies) began in 1854 and were then forwarded to the master, who finally approved of it
    • Another important one is Malfuzat on Burhan al-Din Gharib like Nafaid al-antas.
  • Limitations of Malfuzat as historical source:
    • The authors of the Malfuzat texts did not actually take down copious notes when the master was speaking instead they penned down and transcribed the master’s sayings from memory. This gives possibility of error and exaggeration.
    • Later on sometimes their work was improved upon by the Sufi saint himself.
    • Malfuzat texts do not give much information about rulers and political history of the time as the Malfuzat had great Sufi saints as their protagonists so these texts did not really care to concern themselves with either the Sultan or his entourage.

 

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