Sufism

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    • In ‘In Search of the Divine: Living Histories of Sufism in India’, Rana Safvi weaves together a narrative that combines history and geography, myth and contemporary practices of Sufism.

    Key Points From the Book

    • Shrines being brought to life with writing:
      • Rana Safvi has attempted the daunting task of mapping out the Sufi traditions in the subcontinent. 
      • Intertwining personal testimony with a taxonomy of the different silisilahs of Sufism, Safvi weaves together a narrative that combines history and geography, myth and contemporary practice. 
      • The description of the Sarkhej Roza, a shrine in Gujarat: “These square panels were patterned in three ways: geometric, curvilinear, or a combination of both. Floral motifs were also used to heighten the sense of being in a garden — as that is how paradise is also described. 
      • In the tomb of Sheikh Ghaus Gwaliori, there are over a hundred panels with one screen consisting of both geometrical and stylized designs.” 
    • Orders:
      • The book offers valuable source material on the history of Sufism in India, its various orders:
        • Chishti, 
        • Qadiriyya, 
        • Suhrawardiyya, 
        • Naqshbandi.  
    • Pan India presence:
      • The shrine of Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar (1188-1266) in Pakpattan, 
      • Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti’s (1143-1236) resting place in Ajmer, 
      • The mausoleum of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya (1238-1325) in Delhi, and even as far south as Nagore in present day Tamil Nadu, where Hazrat Syed Shahul Hameed (d. 1570) was welcomed by the king of Thanjavur with a land grant to build a khanqah, or seminary. 
      • The last named saint is revered as “Nagore Andavar” by locals and is one among thousands of examples where Hindus and Muslims continue to share sacred spaces in India.

    Sufism 

    • Meaning of Sufi: 
      • It literally refers to “the act of wearing wool,” perhaps referring to the shawls worn by the itinerant preachers who traveled the length and breadth of the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia. 
    • Practice:
      • The philosophy of Sufism believes in one God and regards every individual and everything else as part of Him. 
      • The Sufi saints preached that ‘God is one’, all is in God‘ , ‘nothing is beyond outside Him’  and ‘one can find God by renouncing everything except loving devotion to God.’
    • Sufism in the Indian Subcontinent:
      • The Sufi movement started in Persia and evolved into a well developed movement by the 11th century
      • Sufism found its way into India during the eleventh and twelfth centuries when many Sufi saints came to India particularly in Multan and Lahore of the Indian subcontinent. 
    • Bifurcated into Orders:
      • During this time, the Sufis were organized in orders (silsilahs).
      • The orders were generally led by a prominent mystic who lived in Khanqah (hospice) along with his disciples. 
      • The connection between the Pir (teacher) and his murids (disciples) was a vital part of the Sufi system. 
      • Every Pir nominated a successor or wali to carry on his work. 
      • The Sufi orders are divided into two groups: 
        • Ba-shara, which followed the Islamic Law (shara) and 
        • Be-shara, which was not bound by it (shara). 
        • Both types of orders prevailed in India, the latter being followed more by wandering saints and qalandars.

    Different Sufi Orders

    • The Sufis organized into several orders or silsilahs. Abul Fazal mentioned fourteen such orders. Some of them became quite popular in India.
    • The Chisti Order:
      • The most popular one in India. 
      • It originated outside India and its founder saint was Khawaja Abdul Chisti
      • In India, it was introduced by Khawaja Muinuddin Chishti
        • Muinuddin Chishti was born in Persia. 
        • He visited different places of Islamic learning in Central Asia and, finally, reached India in 1200 A.D. 
        • He settled himself at Ajmer and became very popular all over Northern India. 
        • Both the Hindus and Muslims paid homage to him. 
        • The Mughal emperor, Akbar paid homage at his Dargah. 
      • Among his disciples were Sheikh Hamiduddin of Nagaur and Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki. 
      • Shaikh Farid or Baba Farid was also a famous Chisti Saint. He raised the Chisti order to the status of an all-India organization. 
      • The most famous Chisti Saint was Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya who was the disciple of Baba Farid. 
        • He settled himself near Delhi. 
        • He had the chance of watching the reigns of several Sultans of Delhi. 
        • Amongst his followers was noted writer Amir Khusrau
      • Another famous Saint was Shaikh Nasiruddin Mahmud, popularly known as Nasiruddin Chirag-i-Dilli (The Lamp of Delhi).
    •  Suhrawardi Order:
      • Established by Shaikh Shahabuddin Suhravardi at Baghdad. 
      • The Suhravardi order of the sufis became popular in the North Western part of India
      • The first popular Saint of this order was Shaikh Bahauddin Zakariya who settled down at Multan. 
        • He differed from Chisti saints in several respects. 
        • He didn’t observe simplicity. 
        • He led a comfortable life and received wealth and land from his rich disciples. 
        • He emphasized the external form of Islam
        • He did not believe in fasting, self-mortification etc. with a view to purify souls. 
      • Shaikh Sharfuddin Yahya Manairi propagated Sufi-doctrines in Bihar. 
        • He was a good scholar and compiled several books. 
        • He laid great stress on the services of humanity.
    •  The Qadri Order:
      • The Qadrisilsilah was popular in Punjab
      • Shaikh Abdul Qadir and his sons were supporters of the Mughals under Akbar. 
      • The Pirs of this order supported the concept of Wahadat al Wajud (this doctrine postulates that God and His creation are one). 
      • Among the famous Sufis of this order was Miyan Mir who had enrolled the Mughal Princess Jahanara and her brother Dara Shikoh as his disciples.
    •  Naqshbandi Order:
      • The Naqshbandi order of the Sufis was introduced in India by Khwaja Baqi Billah
        • Khawaja Baqi Billah opposed the listening of Sama (religious music) and the practice of pilgrimage to the tombs of saints. 
        • He opposed interaction with Hindus and Shias. 
        • He criticised the withdrawal of the Jizyah and the ban on cow slaughter (by Akbar). 
        • He maintained that the relationship between man and God was that between the slave and the master and not the relation of a lover and beloved. 
        • He tried to harmonise the doctrines of mysticism and the teachings of Islam.
      • His successor was Shaikh Ahmed Sirhindi
      • This order emphasized an observance of the laws of Shariat and denounced all innovations which were added afterwards to Islamic doctrines. 

    Contribution of the Sufi Movement 

    • Unity: The contribution of the Indian Sufis to society lies in their sincere and dedicated struggle to find unity for the heterogeneous elements in the society. 
    • Promoted hetro-ethnicity: They appreciated the multi-racial, multi-religious and multilingual pattern of Indian society. 
    • Peaceful: Their efforts were directed towards the creation of a healthy social order free from dissensions, discords and conflicts. 
      • Like the Bhakti saints who were engaged in breaking down of barriers within Hinduism, the Sufis too infused a new liberal outlook within Islam. 
      • The interaction between early Bhakti and Sufi Ideas laid the foundation of more liberal movements of the fifteenth century.
    • Influence on Hinduism: Sufism influenced Hindu society and religion. 
      • The saints of Bhakti-cult like Kabir, Nanak, Dadu Dayal were certainly influenced by Sufi saints. 
      • Many Bhakti saints were influenced by monotheism of Islam. 
      • Efforts were made by several of them to remove the barriers of caste. Probably, the concept of Guru or the preceptor among the saints of Bhakti Cult was also influenced by the concept of Pir among the Sufis.
    • Helping oppressed: A notable contribution of Sufis was their service to the poorer and downtrodden sections of society. 
      • While the Sultan and Ulema often remained aloof from the day to day problems of the people, the Sufi saints maintained close contact with the common people.  
      • Nizamuddin Auliya was famous for distributing gifts amongst the needy irrespective of religion or caste.
    • Brotherhood: The Sufi movement encouraged equality and brotherhood. In fact, the Islamic emphasis upon equality was respected far more by the Sufis than by the Ulema.

    Conclusion

    • Sufis helped the spread of Islam in India by emphasizing social equality of all the people. 
    • Sufis were guides to good life. They bridged the gulf between our societies.

    Source: IE