Sufism in India - Seeker's Thoughts

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Sufism in India


Sufism in India


Sufism had a profound impact on India's religious, cultural and social life. Through various orders or chains of succession known as tariqas it shaped Islam and Hinduism's respective philosophical approaches.


Focusing on virtue, tolerance and compassion drew followers from other faith traditions; today their dargahs remain visited by faithful regardless of religious affiliation.


The origins of Sufism in India


Sufism, a mystical form of Islam practiced throughout India for centuries, has long been seen as an integral part of Indian culture. A path of love and devotion that has come to symbolize India itself. Unlike orthodox Islam, Sufism embraces elements from other faiths for worship purposes and also places emphasis on helping those in need.


Sufism's origins can be linked to Islam itself. It is thought that Sufi saints existed long before Islam came into being; however, until the ninth century AD they weren't known as Sufis but rather "pirs" or'murshids", with close ties between themselves and their followers known as murids - known as murids themselves. Sufi saints traveled widely preaching their philosophy of life while encouraging followers to live a simple lifestyle with guidance from an experienced guru mentor figure.


Sufis were organised into various orders known as Silsilas during the 12th century, each led by a mystic who resided at Khanqahs or hospices with his disciples and performed musical concerts called Sama. Popular silsilas included Chishtis, Suhrawardis, Qadririyas and Naqshbandis.


One of the greatest contributions of Sufism was in forging brotherly relations between Muslim and Hindu societies, due to the way Sufism fostered a more liberal interpretation of Islam than was held by traditionalist Muslims. Furthermore, it influenced medieval Bhakti movements widely and its teachings became widely accepted.


Bulleh Shah


Like many Sufis, Bulleh Shah was also an accomplished poet. Rather than using Persian or Urdu like many of his peers in other Muslim countries did, he wrote his verses in Punjabi which is more easily understandable by common people than Persian or Urdu. According to some accounts he may have written up to 150 Kafis and Ghazals during his lifetime.


Bulleh Shah's spiritual poems center around God and humanity's mutual relationship, depicting their devotion as something hidden inside themselves; not something manifest to others, like an external religion can do. Instead, true faith comes from within oneself, an internal struggle that involves sacrifices, hardship and suffering in its pursuit.


He speaks of a universal reality present in all religions and which pervades all existence, coined the "Attah-e-Rahman", or the All Seeing One, as being pervasive throughout. According to him, soul is eternal and that Creator created everything with an image of its soul in mind.


Bulleh Shah broke with social norms early in his life by mixing freely with members of lower castes, much to the disapproval of many family members and associates. Yet this did not cause him any concern as he believed that divinity in him transcended even his family hierarchy.


Bulleh Shah performed one last act of devotion for his master Shah Inayat: donning Kanj*r women attire and performing an unforgettable dance for him. Before dying in 1757 and being interred at Kasur cemetery. To this day his dargah attracts millions of pilgrims; Bulleh Shah remains highly revered by Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs alike.


Data Ganj Baksh


Hazrat Data Ganj Baksh (also known as the Bestower of Treasures), an 11th century Sufi saint from Ghazni in Afghanistan was an incredible spiritual guide and mystic. Traveling across Muslim world, he searched for an ideal Murshid to guide him closer to Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala. 


After finding one such Murshid in Lahore where his Dargah (tomb) stands today as one of Pakistan's largest tombs with 24/7 Langar services that draw large crowds every Thursday afternoon listening to soulful Qawwalis performed here.


Sufism's teachings emphasize self-realization and an in-depth comprehension of God's oneness, along with love of oneself and others. Their music and poetry frequently serve as vehicles to express these ideals, acting as powerful deterrents against orthodoxy, falsehood, and religious formalism; reminding people of their moral obligations in an ever more turbulent world.


Sufi saints have always been at the forefront of spreading Islam and its teachings in India. From spreading peace and love in socially neglected villages to shaping Mughal Emperor Akbar's religious outlook, their work has left an immeasurable mark on Indian culture. Now people of all faiths visit Sufi shrines seeking miracles or solace - leaving a legacy like that left by Saints like Bulleh Shah, Data Ganj Baksh, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, and Nizamuddin Auliya that are unrivalled within Islamic mysticism history.


Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti


Sufism, an Islamic belief and practice which seeks to explore the relationship between humanity and God, has greatly enriched India's rich cultural legacy. Comprised of various mystical paths focused on creating an intimate bond between man and his divine counterpart, Sufism offers its adherents an avenue to establish loving relations with their Higher Power.


Mystical saints were widely supported by Sultanate rulers to spread Islam among non-believers, with three main Sufi orders flourishing across India: Chistiyya, Naqshbandiyya and Qadiriyya - with Chishtism being especially prevalent and still followed today in some villages - of which only Chishti order still flourishing today in small villages. A renowned sage had immense spiritual influence which attracted people of all classes ( from royalty down to peasants) towards his Dargah: Dargah was his homecoming place of worship.


Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti's shrine is an important pilgrimage site for both Muslims and Hindus alike, with both faiths flocking there for spiritual guidance. Said to possess unparalleled wisdom, knowledge, and healing powers. One notable story associated with him occurred when he encountered a blind child wearing torn clothes while heading toward Idgah on his journey; moved by their condition he offered them some of his own clothes before accompanying them there.


Reports also state that Moinuddin Chishti forgave the bandits who attacked his village and murdered many women and children, as well as another individual who kidnapped the daughter of a Hindu king and offered her as his gift to Moinuddin.


He brought the Chishti order to India and established a permanent base at Ajmer. Often considered the founder of Sufism in India, he was known for his piety and generosity - not forgetting his profound devotion for God which often lead him to recite hymns in praise of Him.


Nizamuddin Auliya


Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya (1238-1325), also referred to as Nizamuddin Awliya or Mahbub-e-Ilahi ('beloved of Allah'), was an Indian Sunni Muslim Sufi Saint and founder of the Chishti spiritual chain or siddiyah in India. He is known for having used spiritual powers to dry Annasagar and Pansela lakes with waterlogged conditions using spiritual powers alone.


Nizamuddin Auliya received intensive spiritual instruction from Fariduddin Ganj Shakar before moving to Ghiaspura near Delhi to establish his own khanqah (spiritual retreat), where he resided for more than sixty years - now revered by devotees all year round as a holy site.


As opposed to most Sufis, Nizamuddin Auliya believed in merging oneself with God through cleansing one's soul and eliminating ego in this life. Additionally, he was extremely generous to those less fortunate; one notable achievement under his watch is revitalizing Basant Panchmi at his khanqah.


Nizamuddin Auliya inspired many disciples, such as poet Nasiruddin Chirag Delhavi and Amir Khusro, who achieved spiritual heights during their lifetimes. Nizamuddin Auliya himself left behind over 600 khalifas who carried his legacy throughout the globe.


Nizami details how every Friday, a Hindu family from Dubai sends langar (food) for distribution at the dargah, then after Maghrib (sunset prayers), Maghrib namaaz prayers are offered and, as night falls, tablas and harmoniums come alive with singing of qawwalis.


Scenes similar to this one can be found wherever Sufism has spread worldwide, yet for many scholars of Islam this form of shrine cult doesn't do justice to represent its true philosophy. Nile Green, professor of history at University of California states that many scholars had disassociated Sufism from its so-called "base" manifestations such as shrine cults until recently.


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