Religious Movements of Medieval India :Sufism

‘Sufism’ is a term used to refer to mystical religious ideas in Islam. It had evolved into a well developed movement by the 11 century. Sufis, stress on the importance of traversing the path of the Sufi pir enabling one to establish a direct communion with the divine. Sufism or mysticism emerged in the 8 century and among the early known Sufis were Rabia al-Adawiya, Al-Junaid and Bayazid Bastami. Fundamental to sufism is God, Man and the relation between them that is Love. They believe that from man emerged the theories of ruh (soul), qurbat (divine proximity) and hulul (infusion of the divine spirit) and that from relation between God and Man ideas such as Ishq (divine love) and Fana (self annihilation) come into being. The Sufis were regarded as people who kept their heart pure; they sought to communicate with God though their ascetic practices and doctrine of divine love and union with God. The murid (disciple) passes through maqamat (various stages) in this process of experiencing
communication with the divine.
The khanqah (the hospice) was the center of activities of the various sufis orders. The khanqah was led by shaikh, pir or murshid (teacher) who lived with his mu- rids (disciples). In time the Khanqahs emerged as important centres of learning and preaching. By the twelfth century the sufis were organized in silsilahs (orders). The word silsila meant chain and it represented signifying an unbreakable chain between the pir and the murid. With the death of the pir his tomb or shrine the dargah became a centre for his disciples and followers.

Various Sufi Orders are:-

Chisti: The extraordinary success of the Chisti order was due to the fact that it knew better how to adapt itself to the usages and customs of the country in which it had copie to settle and it was also due to the personality of its early leaders. Some of the practices of the Chisti saints come close to those of Hinduism: control on breathing, meditation, and ascetic exercises performed with the head on the ground while the legs are tied to the roof or the branch of a tree.

Suhrawardi: The credit for organizing this order on a sound basis goes to Sheikh Bahauddin Zakariya. The main centers of the Suhrawardi were Uchch and Multan. They had large jagirs and had close contacts with the state, and some of them adopted a rigid and uncompromising attitude on many matters of religious and social significance.

Qadiri:The Quadiriyya silsilah was popular in Punjab. Sheikh Abdul Qadir and his sons were supporters of the Mughals under Akbar. The pirs of this Order supported the concept of Wahdat al Wajud. Among the famous Sufis of this order was Miyan Mir who had enrolled the Mughal princess Jahanara and her brother Dara as disciples.
The influence of the sheikh’s teachings is evident in the works of the prince. Shah Badakhshani another pir of this silsilah while dismissing orthodox elements, declared that, the infidel who had perceived reality and recognised it was a believer and that a believer who did not recognise reality was an infidel.

Naqshbandi:During the later years of Akbar’s reign, the Naqshbandi order was introduced in India by Khwajaha Billah. It was the most cherished spiritual order of the Turks, particularly the descendants of Timur and Babur. It attained a position of impor­tance in the sixteenth century. He propounded the unity of phenomenal world. Besides, he did not believe in the Chisti attitude of keeping aloof from politics.He compared the king to the soul, and the people to the physical frame. He was opposed to the religious experiments of Akbar, as he feared that in this process Islam might lose its individual­ity. The Muslims should follow their religion, and the Hindus theirs was what he stood for. His approach towards Hinduism and Pantheism was incompatible with the spirit of Indo-Muslim mysticism.

Shattari:This fifth religious order emerged during the fifteenth and sixteenth centu­ries. The saints of this order sought to synthesize Indian and Muslim mystical thoughts and practices. Some of them learnt Sanskrit to be familiar with the Hindu religious thought.

Raushaniyah: This was founded by Ansari, a native of Jalandhar, during the sixteenth century. He inspired his followers with the idea of ascetic self-denial. As their activities disturbed peace in the Kabul-Indus region, they often came into conflict with the Mughal emperors.

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