Sufism in India

Many books have been written on 'Sufism in India' and depending on how original their sources are and the intention of the writer/translator, some books must be read with caution. The difficulty of obtaining original sources is one of the factors contributing to the perpetuation of myths and practices about certain Sufis and other aspects of Islam in India. 

Shaikh Abdul Haqq 

Mogul India

Qadiriyya in India

Very few books mention and write about the great Reviver of the 14th Century, Imam Ahmed Raza Khan al-Qadiri (may Allah be pleased with him). His Eminence stresses that without this great Sufi and Reviver, there would be no real 'Sunnism' today. Under his pen, the language of love between Almighty Allah, the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), and the poet (himself) became a tool which to condemn those 'others' with whose views he disagreed. Under his leadership from the 1880s until his demise in 1921, the debates in which the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat engaged do not deal specifically with politics. They deal instead with issue such as the noble qualities of the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessing be Upon Him), the permissibility or otherwise of the intercession of deceased 'Saints' (Pirs), or the correct manner of calling believers to the Mosque for the Friday congregational prayers. 

Many writers use the term 'Barelwis' to describe Imam Ahmed Raza Khan al-Qadiri (may Allah be pleased with him) followers; our members and seekers for Truth are brethren who follow the Qadiri Tariqat, reject the name and it was not a term they used for self-identification. Studies show that the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat under this great spiritual leader and scientist had a strong Sufi dimension, in affiliation particularly with the Qadiriyya Tariqat, and many of the leading lights of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat leadership in the late 19th and early 20th century were caretakers of Sufi Shrines, and belonged to a world where intercessionary power of Saints and family ancestors (baraka) were taken for granted. 

Imam Raza's (may Allah be pleased with him) conceptions about the beloved Prophet Muhammad's (Allah bless him and give him peace) role as mediator with Almighty Allah and his miraculous achievements were in line with Sufi concepts of spiritual authority and power.

The Influence of Sufism on the Indian Subcontinent

Dedicating their whole being to the Absolute, the Sufis in the Indian subcontinent achieved their spiritual goal through intuition, esoteric knowledge, and experience of the mystical world. Theirs was naturally the antithesis of the solely intellectual experience fostered by some of the philosophers. Some Suhrawardī leaders and other dervishes played an important role in the power struggle of the ruling classes and aristocracy and pressured the government into taking a very narrow view of Islam. However, the large number of eminent Sufis whose vision of Islamic spiritual life was broadly based gave moral courage to the people by awakening in them spiritual values and reliance on God during calamities such as drought, floods, and panic due to protracted wars and foreign invasions. The early Chishtiyyah believed that contact with the saintly was the only means by which people would renounce evil or convert to Islam. The social and economic position of the masses of Muslim converts who accepted Islam under a variety of pressures was in fact no better than that of the Hindu masses, because of the dominance of the discriminating ruling classes. Nevertheless, the khanqahs did offer peace and comfort to the thousands of Muslims who crowded the towns. The lack of literary evidence is the most formidable obstacle to the presentation of any pictures of village khanqahs, where the tombs of local Pirs and the graves of local martyrs both real and fake offered the sole spiritual comfort to the inhabitants in their sufferings and anguish. The 'urs (death anniversaries) and other ceremonies celebrated in khanqahs developed into significant cultural institutions and were eagerly awaited by both poor and rich alike.

Not only was Sufi poetry an expression of the mystic love of thirsty soul seeking an intuitive understanding of God, but it was also avenue for the outlet of emotions and spiritual feelings which would otherwise never have been expressed because of the fury of the orthodox, social, inhibitions, and political repressions. Sufi poetry in Hindi and regional languages opened a fresh avenue for a new spiritual, serene, and colorful way of life. The Natha Panthī and Vaishnavite symbols did not necessarily make them syncretic, for a number of Sufis who used such symbols enjoyed a reputation for excessively deep devotion to Islam. They were designed to be shared with the experiences of their countrymen whose spirits passionately loved to attain the higher reaches of Reality. Both the Sufi poets of the regional languages and the pioneers of Hindu bhaktī (devotional) movements rebelled against all forms of religious formalism, falsehood, hypocrisy, and stupidity and tried to create a world in which spiritual bliss was the all-consuming goal. The devotion of some of the rulers and members of the governing classes to the Sufis went a long way toward making possible the erection of such masterpieces of architecture as the tomb of the Suhrawardī Shaykh Rukn al-Dīn in Multan, the khanqah of Mir Sayyid 'Alī Hamadānī in Srinagar (Kashmir), and the tombs of Shaykh Muhňammad Ghawth in Gwalior and Shaykh Salīm Chishtī at Fatehpur Sikri. Eve the Mughal miniatures did not neglect the Sufi landscape; some of them integrate Sufi themes with the bhaktas (Hindu devotees). The most serious threat to the survival of Sufism was the presumptuous claims of Sufi charlatans and impostors. The latter exploited Sufi influence to their own advantage. Their poetry and music promoted immoral practices, the use of drugs, and thaumaturgy and was a great threat to a spiritual world view of the genuine Sufis. But genuine Sufism survived this and other threats and has managed to keep alive to this day.