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Friday, December 19, 2014

Sufism - Finding God through Love..!!


Today, I am posting a brief information about the advent of Sufism in India, for no analysis about the Medieval India is complete unless Sufism is discussed along with it.


Medieval India saw the emergence of the Sufi movement in Islam parallel to the Bhakti movement in Hinduism. This movement, which started around the 11th century and reached its zenith around the 16th century, freed Indian society from dogmatic beliefs, rituals, communal hatred etc. 

The amazing fact was that Sufism did not conflict with the Bhakti movement. Rather they contributed to each other’s ideas and practices. Similar to the Bhakti movement, Sufism also preached a simplified version of religion to the masses in a language that could be understood by everyone. It neither craved for political patronage nor was it concerned with the political developments happening around.

Both movements contained elements of intellectuality, devotion, love and liberalism. Both stressed on searching for and loving One Supreme God. The mystic discipline in both was intended for the moral advancement of the individual and their rise above man-made barriers of religion, colour, caste, wealth, power and position.

Sufism gradually synthesized with the Bhakti movement in an environment of reconciliation, cooperation and co-existence to evolve into a composite Hindustani culture. 

So, What is Sufism?

Sufism gave a mystical interpretation to the Quran and Islamic traditions like the Hadit of the Prophet

But how did it get this name?

Some say that Sufi saints wore garments made of coarse wool called suf, as a badge of poverty. Some others say that Sufi saints were pious souls and the term Sufi derived from safa (clean / pure). Yet others say that Sufi has derived from the Greek word, sofia (knowledge).

Sufis could work or beg from others to kill their ego and to remind themselves that everything belonged to God. Except a few outstanding saints, Sufis did not shun family life. They discouraged materialism but  stressed that the daily necessities of life had to be worked for.
They were broad–minded and recognized the truth in other faiths.

The Concept of Spiritual Preceptorship or Pir-Muridi

Sufis believed in the practice of spiritual preceptorship. The spiritual guide was called pir. Those who entered a particular sect of Sufism as a pir’s disciples were called his murid and had to pledge absolute submission and devotion to the pir.

Spread of Sufism Across India

The sects or orders of Sufis came to be known after the saints founding them. These were known as silsilahs, for example, Chistis, Suhrawardis, Naqshbandis, etc. 

Each silsilah had a khanqah or “hermitage / ashram” where the pir and his murids lived and meditated.

By the 16th century, there were around 14 Sufi orders in India, as mentioned by Abul Fazl. But only 6 of these could be considered to be widely accepted. They spread across various parts of Hindustan.

1. The Chistis

Of all the sects, the Chistis were perhaps the most popular. They were quite liberal and adapted themselves well to the generally non-muslim environment of India, especially the common people and their problems and poverty. 

 The Chistis were active in Ajmer, Narnaul, Sarwal, Nagour, Hansi, Ayodhya, Badaun, and other parts of modern UP.

The most famous Sufi saint in India, Khwaja Muinuddin Chisti settled in Ajmer in the early part of the 13th century. (He himself came from the Chisti line of Sufi saints established by Shaikh Abdul Chisti in Iran in 966 AD.) He founded the Chisti order of the Sufis, to which belonged Shaikh Fariduddin Ganj-i-Shakar, known as Baba Farid to the Sikhs. His most famous disciple was Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya.

The Chisti sect in India progressed in this manner:

Shaikh Abdul Chisti -->...--> Khwaja Muinuddin Chisti -->Baba Farid --> Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya --> Shaikh Nasiruddin Chirag-i-Dilli

The other great Chisti saints in India were:

  • Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki - a direct descendant of the Prophet and the pir of Baba Farid. It is said that he died in the musical trance induced by a qawwali and his mausoleum is at Mehrauli in Delhi.  
  • Shaikh Alaul Haq, 
  • Shaikh Adhi Seraj,  
  • Nur Qutb Alam of Pandua, 
  • Shaikh Husamuddin Manikpuri, 
  • Burhanuddin Gharib, and 
  • Hazrat Gesu Daraz of Deccan. 
Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, Delhi

Note: Near the Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya dargah, you can also visit the tombs of the famous poet Amir Khusrau, Mughal Princess Jahanara, and Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib, as well as the Jamaat Khana mosque and the dargah of Hazrat Inayat Khan (with a modest library where you can study Sufism).  

These Sufis believed in serving the needy and the opressed. They kept no money for themselves and generally lived on futuh and nazur (money and gifts given by the people voluntarily).

Let me illustrate the austere lives these Chisti Sufi saints led through the example of Baba Farid.

Baba Farid

Once, his son was dying of starvation. When his wife complained to him about this, he replied that he was helpless against God’s decree – God wanted his son to die, and he could do nothing in this regard.

Baba Farid used to wear torn clothes. When he passed away, there was no money in the house to buy a coffin.  The door of his house had to be broken to build a grave.

Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya has been popularized greatly by the poems of his devoted follower Amir Khusrau. He was so popular that he was given the title Mahboob-i-ilahi (Beloved of the God). His tomb was built by Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq in Delhi, despite the saint specifically wishing to be buried in the open:

“I want no monument over my grave; let me rest in broad and open plain.”

Amir Khusrau died 6 months after Hazrat Nizamuddin's passing away.

Hazrat Nizamuddin's disciples spread to Hansi, Gulbarga and Bengal. His most charismatic disciple was Shaikh Nasiruddin Muhmud Chirag-i-Dilli (Light of Delhi)

Nasiruddin's 100 conversations, as reported in Khairul Majalis, describe his melancholy at the state of affairs in social and economic life, caused by political upheavals, bad administration, price rise, and general anarchy.

With Chirag-i-Dilli's death ended the first phase of Chisti mysticism. 

The Shrine of Chirag-i-Dilli

His disciple was Muhammad Gesu Daraz who went to Gulbarga in the just established Bahmani kingdom in 1346. He was a prolific writer who contributed greatly to the spread of Sufism in the south through over 30 books on mysticism (tasawwuf). He earned the title of Bandanawaz (benefactor of God’s creatures) because he always championed human rights and fought for the poor and needy.

Interestingly, Gesu Daraz was one of the earliest Urdu poets and writers. One of his couplets, which reflects his credo of mysticism is:

“Infidelity is welcome to the infidels and Islam to the Shaikh. But to us lovers, love and the content and harmony of our hearts is enough.”

Dargah of Banda Nawaz Gesu Daraz

Another Chisti saint, Shaikh Salim Chisti, lived in the 16th century, in Sikri, and was highly venerated by Emperor Akbar.

Dargah of Shaikh Salim Chisti, Fatehpur Sikri

2. The Suhrawardis

Shaikh Bahauddin Zakariya established the Suhrawardi sect in the 13th century.  Unlike most Sufis, the Suhrawardis did not mind living in luxury or leading a politically active life.

The Suhrawardis were most active in Sind and Multan. 

Dargah of Bahauddin Zakariya, Multan

3. The Qadiriyas

In the 15th century, two new Sufi orders, the Shuttaris and the Qadiris, emerged in India. 

Sayyid Ghau Wala Pir and Shaba Nayamatullah Qadiri founded the Qadiriya sect. This sect spread in UP and Deccan. 

Prince Dara Shikoh and Princess Jahanara were the famous followers of the Qadiriya silsilah.

Prince Dara Shikoh with Mian Mir and Mulla Shah

4. and 5. The Shuttaris and The Firdausis

The Shuttaris and the Firdausis were basically offshoots of the Suhrawardis and were largely active in Bengal and Bihar. The Shuttaria silsilah also  spread in MP and Gujarat.

Shaikh Abdullah Shattari founded the Shuttaria sect.

Mazaar of Shaikh Abdullah Shattari, Ahmedabad

The Firdausi sect was established by Shaikh Badruddin Samarkhandi. But it was spread by the writings of Shaikh Sharfuddin Yahya Muniri in the 13th century.

6. The Naqshbandis

The last of the 6 main silsilahs, the Naqshbandiah, was established in the reign of Akbar by Khwaja Baqi Billah

Mazaar of Khwaja Baqi Billah, Old Delhi

Its most famous saint was Shaikh Ahmed Sirhindi. He was known as Mujeddid Alif Saani (the Reformer).  He rejected the mystic philosophy of unity of being (wahadat-ul-wujud) and propounded the philosophy of Apparentism (wahadat-ul-shud). He believed that the relation between man and God is like that between a slave and his master, and not like a lover and the beloved, as generally believed by the Sufis. He tried to harmonise mysticism with Islam.

Shaikh Ahmed Sirhindi

Neo Sufism

Neo-sufism emerged in the 17th century. These Sufi saints believed in the unity of mankind and did not believe in sectarianism

One such Sufi saint was Yari Saheb (1668-1725) of Delhi. He would say that eyes should be painted with dust from the guru’s feet. His poems mentioned the names of Allah, Rama, and Hari and are full of complex metaphysical truths.

Sind had many neo-Sufi mystics, like Shah Karim. He received his first religious inspiration from a Vaishnav saint near Ahmedabad. The Vaishnav saint introduced him to the mysteries of Om.

Shah Inayat sheltered many Hindu families of Sind fleeing the oppression of the Kalhora kings. His belief that God was not the property of any one sect even led to his execution!

The greatest among the Sind neo-Sufis was perhaps Shah Latif, who was a great poet and singer. People sing his songs even now.

Shah Latif

Sufi saints like Bedil, Bekas, Rohal and Qutub left behind a rich legacy of songs, which are sung by Hindus and Muslims alike.

The neo-Sufi mystic Bulle Shah  was born around 1703 in Constantinople (Istanbul) and walked all the way to Punjab searching for spiritual truth. He settled down to a life of meditation and worship at Kasur. He was a fierce critic of the scriptures. No theologian could excel him in debates. He was buried at Kasur.

Bulle Shah

It is only fitting that this post should conclude with Bulle Shah's immortal words:

“Oh, Bulla, intoxicate thyself with the wine of divine love. Men will slander you and call you by a hundred names; when they abuse you with the name of kafir, say, “yes, friend, you are right.”

This article has been posted under the Miscellaneous topics section of history_geek's Blog.

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  1. A very beautiful post Radhika. Thanks for this Sufi Treat.
    The Sufi movement along with the Bhakti movement in medieval times showed a path less traveled, and even today Sufi and Bhakti teachings have a lots of potential to guide this world in times when communal problems have gained a lot of ground vis-a-vis the genuine love for God. Hats off to your efforts for penning down this post for us. :)

  2. Thanks Abhay! Glad you liked it :)

    I must say though my mom believed in dargahs and saints a lot, I never paid much attention to it till recently, when I started reading about people like Dara Shikoh, Jahanara, Zeb-un-Nisa, Amir Khusrau whose lives were transformed by their love for God and their devotion to their pir, be it Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, Muinuddin Chisti, or Bulle Shah.

    Truly, today we need a revival of the real Bhakti and Sufi movements to calm people and make them realize that God can only be attained through love and submission and not through guns and violence.

  3. WOW WOW WOW!! what a treat! I am about to l asleep and what a wonderful way to fall asleep with images of Bule Shah and baba Farid . will post again in the morning. I just responded to your picture on the Baoli . check it out.

  4. noble divine profound thoughts radhika. ur understanding n love 4 sufis iz amazing. day after day 'tis blog is becoming a treasure chest of information. keep writing dear. m addicted 2 'tis blog now.

  5. Friends,

    Delhi is just this close to being selected as a Heritage City like Rome and Cairo. But suddenly, the govt feels that if Delhi gets this tag then urban development projects will not be possible. So it is going slow in its quest for the prestigious tag. So sad!

    You can see just how many monuments and dargahs are there from medieval history here in Delhi. It's a shame they are getting ruined due to lack of attention. :(

  6. beautiful radhika. in 'tis times ppl spread wrong message in name of religion bt religion iz personal 2 a person. it iz done out of love. ur ammi believed in dargahs so slowly it iz coming inside u 2 dear. true sufis r magical.

  7. Iqra,

    Have you heard of Lalla Arifa? She was a Sufi from Kashmir who wrote poetry that will touch the chords of women even today - about suffering within the confines of marriage. I started reading about her and I was zapped.

    Sufis are the moderate voices, the ones who teach true love for God, irrespective of where we are coming from. I am hooked for life on Sufism. :)

  8. radhika - each word of urs is going deep inside myself 2day. i guess ur posts r reflecting ur feelings 2 along wid history part. yeah..i hv heard abt lalla arifa. she iz also called laleshwari. hindus call her incarnation of god. muslims called her believer of islam. 4 me she was only a sufi. no 1 bt only a sufi.

  9. so sad radhika. delhi is called tat city which was destroyed 7 times nd rebuild. still it lacks heritage marking of international repute. d monuments of delhi hv so much history in it.

  10. Radhika your post is joy to read. India's Sufi tradition is so rich and MUST be nurtured. It is the answer to the virus of hatred that sometimes affects our society.
    A Sufi knows no barriers of caste and creed.... nothing can chain his thoughts down
    I want to leave with some words of my favorite Sufi Rumi

    “Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.” - Rumi

    “You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?” ― Rumi

    “Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged” ― Rumi

    “An eye is meant to see things.
    The soul is here for its own joy.

    A head has one use: For loving a true love.
    Feet: To chase after.

    Love is for vanishing into the sky. The mind,
    for learning what men have done and tried to do.

    Mysteries are not to be solved: The eye goes blind
    when it only wants to see why.

    A lover is always accused of something.
    But when he finds his love, whatever was lost
    in the looking comes back completely changed.”
    ― Rumi

    Lovely Radhika, You made my day with this post.

  11. Iqra,

    thank u for sharing the details of Lalla Arifa :)

    i write from the heart or not at all :)

  12. radhika - it iz clear 4rm ur words dear. 'tis comment was most definitely close 2 u.

  13. Thank u so much Radhika, not only fr the post but also fr the beautiful pictures.! Greatful to u fr enabling me to hv ghar baithe, baithe darshan of so many Dargas.
    Until now I had only vague idea of Sufism being bhajanlike songs sung by the saint by name 'Sufi'. U hv given me immense knowledge, that exalted me.What a wonderful union of Hinduism n islam.I was wondering how Jahanara is mentioning abt meditation.! Now it's more clear to me. But Radhika, the first saint, did he not face any resistance frm hardliner?
    Coming to Auangzeb, did he try to punish those who followed Sufism? He desroyed so many temples, did he also try to attack Golden temple?
    I bow down to all the above saints n pray that their message may spread across the border, far n wide. Let the love fr God win over the sensless violence frm all corners prevailant these days

  14. Geeta,

    I have not read of resistance to Sufi saints in India, initially. Infact, the first Sufi shrine came up in Rajputana in Ajmer only. :)

    Yes, Aurangzeb was not in favor of Sufis. Infact, to be precise i would say that, he disliked everyone who opposed his conservative policies as he carried out as per the strictest possible interpretation of Islamic law

    He got a Sufi saint named "Sarmad" executed in Delhi.

    BTW, I have not heard of his attempt to harm the Golden Temple of Amritsar. :)

  15. Radhika, Amaging, Post, Clap for you. Your this post, again touching, Heart level, or feeling coming, Souli Souli.

    When, Humanity start to suffer a lot, or Moral goes to start Down,Values of Life, spoiling a lot,way is not seeing anywhere.Then Need a Way, who will take Birth, & concole whole world or we can say, Whole society.Then poistive persons shows a way, to society, Which is very necessary, that time, or try to bind the society, With there ways, which they Own find, through a Hard-WAY. because these type of Persons, so much Pure from heart, they not belive, in Conservative, Barriers, They belive, Everyone is God creation, or their Moto Is Spread Only Pure Love.& their mission is Only finding, Only One World TRUTH, or Who I Am ,These type of persons, supports time to time, Society a Lot. or shows, a,Right way to Society.

    But some misuses this, or spoiles names of spritiual persons

    .in medieval times Sufi, movement+Bhakti Movement Played a big Role to Calm Down, Society, , Because, Cause of Many reasons, Inner thoughts were disturbing,that time, or Society, was going to down day by day, Values, were fallling, Very much needed, This Movement, that time, Who came, or Preached, all, their, speeches, their poems their songs, any way, or gave True message of Love, Oneness, Peace, Which will wake all the sleeping, senses, of Humanity, After waking up,Rebuilt of Humanity, Love & oneness, & this Sufiness+Bhakti, Movements Played, A strong, Role That time, They gave a Pure message +Love for Everyone.They teach a LOVE Spread Form, Love to God, How find Love,

    Recalling some, Human have habit to Learn everything, from mind

    , But Love you can't do from mind. Its A Heart realted, So Sufiisim, taught us this also. i read somewhere, Birds not learn, from, anyone, How Love, Animals, not learn but they feel love from Heart,But these movements taught us through Language, Love from Heart,Many ways spread by Many Peoples because Every individual have a difference ,But Fire of finding Truth, in everyone inner, so different methods goes & Reaches Us, our destination.

    so its all provided by through those people, but strange thing is that after reaching,
    Everyone feels Oneness or Love for everyone. These type of preaches,lot of needed this time. After seeing, Trueness, Love flows in Form of Love, for Everyone.
    If Jesus Forgives, Who hurted, him,It was Jesus Love for All.If Krishna says,if Durodhana Gives Five villages to Pandavas, Yudh will be postponed, its Love for humanity. Many ex.

    Recalling some, Once Parvati asked Shiva, How i Enter this Loveable,Universe, Shiva ans was First start to love enemie,

    Parvati ans was Enemie Love is very tough, Shiva ans was you can't love single enemie, whole universe Lot of enemies, if you can't do this, you can't enter in Loveable Universe, you can't love in thoughts, so how can love spread from your heart, but Parvati Learnt, from Shiva,But yes everybody has its own method,

    So Sufi, jesus Krishna, Shiva, many others their Moto is to Humanity, +love for everyone.

  16. Radhika, you wrote about,Farid, i read somwwhere, Farid belivies, in God To much,

    He belives, God Knows, which i needed, so not need to collect. so which he begs, he only uses, which he & his family needed that day, Blance he Donates, then he sleeps, One day Farid suffering from fever, so his wife, stored some, food, maybee,

    tomorrow health will not allow. so, we will use, this food tomorrow.

    But when Farid slept, Sleppness very far away from him. or His consicous, giving signal, something is wrong, Some srored in his house, he asked wife, but she speaked lie, middle night, One hungry begger is came knock the door, asked some food, Farid suddenely understood, food is in his house 100%, because if food is not God not send, his house, Hungery begger.So that food,Farid gave to, Hungry begger,Farid said to wife, If God Give us today , he will sure give us tomorrrow.

    second; Lala arifa,

    Radhika, I read,some book, because she reached, Mediation which staze, When clothes no needed, Mahavir, but his, way was different, Lala was different,
    you can check this link, when she left body, because she was women, but she found the truth, socity not accepts her this living way, so People refused to, do Custom, which done for dead persons, So She was so Pure, from soul, Her dead body created, Fire Own, & this way Last, ceremoney was held.

  17. Ayushi,

    Thanks for such a fine explanation of finding love for God and all humanity in our hearts. You are right - if we can't love our enemies also as our own, then we are just the same as them. And so how can we find God, when our hearts are not pure? Only when we can love everyone just the same do our hearts become pure enough for God to become visible.

  18. Ayushi,

    Thank you for sharing the stories of Baba Farid and Lalla Arifa. They were one with God even when alive.

    Another pure soul was Meera Bai. She couldn't be killed by anyone, try as they did. And she left behind such beautiful bhajans!

  19. Geeta

    Abhay has answered your questions completely.

    I would say Sufism ruffled the feathers of some conservative Muslims like Aurangzeb. In fact, the Naqshbandis came up to converge Sufism with conventional Islam. They believed that God could only be attained, as prescribed in the holy books, and not through love, as suggested by the Sufis. Interestingly, this sect came up during the reign of Akbar because they were opposed to Akbar's liberal views, which they felt were being colored by the Sufi influence.

    If you read the poetry of the Sufis, again and again they mention that they don't mind being labeled as kafirs, as long as they can continue to love God.

  20. Radhika, this is a beautiful write-up on Sufism and Sufi saints. Thank you :)

    " Finding God through love". This phrase says it all.

    I wish this saying holds good in today's world, where unexplained illogical hatred and killings, seems to be taking precedence over love and true faith.

    Personally, I love Sufi music, they touch your soul, are pure and divine. Every time I'm stressed and down, listening to Sufi music rejuvenates me.

    I have visited the shrine of Sheikh Salim Chisti at Fatehpur Sikri. It is simple, yet beautiful. The entire place oozes with history and left me with a feeling of deja vu.

  21. Radhika actuallly, Sufisiam, is so Broad, or so touchi, Can, t desrcibe in Words,But its Fragrance, Sprads, & touches heart of the persons, Yes Meera Bai Pure Soul. Meera Bhajans, So touchi,

    Meera loved Krishna, when Krishna was not on Earth, Pysically, or she dissloved, totally. & then her Name Was KRISHNAMAI. Yes its also a Great ex of Love. Radha or Meera Love was in Contrast, But Both was Great. try to Made Post, about Meera. Radhika my List is Long,

    One time Sufisiam was extreem in India, recalling, when i was 8 standered, Some Sufies, Sings Sufisiam, Songs, Through walikng in cities, so we mostely wake up listening of their songs. My grandmother, was very spiritual, sometimes, she calls Them, or they sings, One or Two hour, Our all neighbour collects, & hear The Songs.Some i think was Verses, Because, they were Only Two or Four lines, but i remember, there voice also then vibrate the Heart Then.So you reclled me that precious, Movements, Which i spend with my GrandMom,Now She is not with Us,But In our Memories she is Alive.


  22. So beautiful, Ayushi! :) May your grandmother rest in peace.

  23. Thank u Ayushi, fr these lovely anecdots.

  24. These lines are by a great women Sufi saint of Kashmir.
    called her Lalla Ded and Muslims called her Lalla Arifa. >>
    "A 1000 times i asked my Guru - The name of the one who is
    known by nothing; Tired and exhausted was i, asking time and again when
    out of nothing emerged something, bewildering and great!"

  25. beautiful lines. thnks 4 sharing.