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Medieval History / Delhi Sultanate

Sufism in India

Sufi movement started in 8th C in Baghdad. Sufism in India started in North India in 13th C during the reign of Delhi Sultanates and moved to the South in 15th C. It is the religious reform movement of Islam religion in India. Sufism meaning is Islamic mysticism. Tasawwuf is the name of Sufism in Islamic texts.

Sufi Orders in India

A movement or order of Sufism is known as Silsila. There were around 14 Sufi orders in India until 17th C. The important Sufi Silsilas in India are

  • Chishti Silsila

    • Chishti Silsila is the most important and first Sufi Silsila in India. Chishti silsila was founded in 1192 AD by Sheikh Moinuddin Chishti popularly known as Khwaja Garib Nawaz (who helps the poor).

    • He came from Iran and settled at Ajmer in 1192 AD. He was the first Sufi saint in India. The Dargah of Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer is very important.
  • Suhrawardi Silsila

    It was founded by Abu al-Najib Suhrawardi and expanded by Shahabuddin Suhrawardi. It was expanded in India by Bahauddin Zakariya.

  • Qadri Silsila

    It was founded by Abdul Qadir Gilani. He was a native of Baghdad and he never visited India. Followers of this Silsila like Sultan Bahu and Muhammad Ghaus expanded it in India.

  • Naqshbandi Silsila

    Founder of Naqshbandi Silsila is Baha-ud-Din Naqshband Bukhari. It was brought to India by Khwaja Baqi Billah.

Glossary of Sufi Terms

  • Pir Murid - Pir means Master and Murid meaning is Disciple.

  • Silsila - It is a Sufi order. Literally, Silsila meaning is chain, which signifies a continuous link between the master and the disciple extending as an unbroken spiritual genealogy to Prophet Muhammad.

  • Khanqah - Khanqah meaning is Hospice or residence or hermitage of Pir living with dozens of Murids. Waqf lands (Waqf lands are similar to Devagraha or Devadana lands in Hinduism, given for an institution like mosque, madrasa, burial ground, etc.) were given to these Khanqahs by Sultans. (Sayurghal or Inam or Madad-i-Maash , similar to Brahmadeya or Agrahara in Hinduism, is for individuals like Ulemas)

  • Sama - It is the music and dance performed by Sufi saints. They used to propagate the Sufi movement to the masses by their performance. Tambura is used for this.

  • Dargah - The tomb of a Sufi saint is known as Dargah. Annually, on the death day of the Sufi saint, big celebrations will be going on for 3 days in Dargahs known as Urs.

  • Fana - It is mysticism and literally the meaning of Fana is merger with Almighty.

Sufi Saints of India

Some famous Sufi saints of India are

  • Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki - He was from Chishti Silsila. Qutb Minar tower in Delhi (Mehrgarh) was named after him.

  • Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya - He was also from Chishti Silsila. He was respected by all the Sultans of Delhi. His Dargah in Delhi is very important and it is considered very sacred after the Dargah of Ajmer.

  • Baba Farid (Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar) - He was from Chishti Order. Sikh had deep respect for him. He was a Sufi saint of Punjab and he preached in Punjabi. His tomb is found at Ajodhan. His preachings are included in Adi Granth.

  • Sheikh Noor ud-Din Wali or Nund Rishi - He was from also Chishti Order. He promoted Sufism in Kashmir. He was responsible for Islamisation of Kashmir. Except Brahmins (3% in Kashmir valley), all got converted. His Dargah is found at Charar-e-Sharif.

  • Sheikh Salim Chishti - He was from Chishti Silsila. He was the patron saint of Akbar. Akbar built a Dargah for him at Fatehpur Sikri. Jahangir is the blessed child of Akbar by Salim Chishti and is named after him (Salim Chishti).

  • Hazrat Gesudaraz - He was from also Chishti Silsila. He was popularly known as Khwaja Bande Nawaz. He is the first Sufi saint to introduce Sufism in South India. First book in Urdu literature, "Miraj-ul-ashiqin" was written by him. His tomb is found at Gulbarga.

  • Baha-ud-din Zakariya - He was from Suhrawardi Silsila. His Khanqah in Multan is very famous. Iltutmish gave waqf land for maintenance of this Khanqah.