Regional Dynasties – Sufism


SUFIS were mystics who had risen in Islam at a very early stage. They were persons of deep devotion who were disgusted by the vulgar display of wealth and degeneration of morals following the establishment of the Islamic empire.

Basic Doctrine

Wahadat-ul-wujud or the unity of the Being was their basic doctrine. It identified the unity of the haq’ and the ‘Khalq, i.e., the creator and the created. 


The Sufis were organised into orders called silsilahs. These orders were divided into ba-shara (those who followed the Islamic law) and be-shara (those who were not bound by it). Silsilahs were generally led by a prominent mystic who lived in a khanqah of hospice along with his disciples. The link between the teacher (pir) and the disciples (murids) was vital for the Sufi system. 

Sufism arrived in India even before the establishment of Turkish rule, but the real migration of Sufis from the Islamic countries to India and their spread to different parts took place only after the establishment of Turkish rule. They divided the whole country among themselves as their religious spheres of influence. According to Abul Fazl, there were 14 orders (silsilahs) in the Mughul period.

Main Sufi Orders In India

Chisti Order

Its founder was Shaikh Muin-Ud-Din Chisti who lived in the 12th and som centuries. Other leaders were Qutb-ud-din Bakhtiyar Kaki, Nizamuddin Auliya and Shaikh sam Chisti. They established themselves at Ajmer and other parts of north India and Deccan. They believed in simplicity and poverty; possession of private property was considered as an impediment to the development of the spiritual personality. Hence they lived mainly on charity. They became popular by adopting musical recitations, called sama to create a mood of nearness to god.

Suhrwardi Order

Its founder was Shaikh Shihab-ud-din Suhrawardi. Other leaders were Bahaud-din Zakriya, Rukn-ud-din Abul Fath etc. They established themselves mainly in north-west India. They did not believe in leading a life of poverty, and so accepted direct service of the state by holding important posts in the ecclesiastical department.

Qadri Order

Its founder was Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani of Baghdad (12th century). Important leaders in India were Shah Nizamat Ullah and Nasir-ud-din Muhammad Jilani. This order was dominant in Sind and Lahore. Prince Dara Shikoh and Princess Jahanara was its followers.

Naqshbandi Order

The prominent leaders of this order were Khwaja Baqi Billah (1563-1603) and Shaikh Ahmad Sarhindi (contemporary of Akbar and Jahangir). They tried to harmonise the doctrines of mysticism with the teaching of orthodox Islam.

Among the other minor schools were the Mahadawi movement, started by Muhammad Madhi of Jaunpur (15th century); the Raushaniya sect, founded by Bayazid Ansari of Jalandhar (16th century); and the Shattari sect introduced in India by Abdul Shattari (15th century). These three sects laid greater stress on the spirit of the religion rather than its form.

Check out History of India notes in detail. 

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