Rise of Islam And Sufism in India

The Muslims first came to India in the eighth century AD mainly as traders. They were fascinated by the socio-cultural scenario in this country and decided to make India their home. The traders who came to India from Central and West Asia carried back with them traces of Indian science and culture. As a result they became cultural ambassadors of India by disseminating this knowledge to the Islamic world and from there to Europe. The immigrant Muslims also entered into matrimonial alliances with the local people and learned to live together in harmony. There was mutual exchange of ideas and customs. The Hindus and Muslims influenced each other equally in dress, speech, manners, customs and intellectual pursuits.

The Muslims also brought with them their religion, Islam which had a deep impact on Indian society and culture. Let us find out more about Prophet Mohammad and Islam in this lesson. Prophet Mohammad preached Islam in the seventh century AD in Arabia. He was born in AD 5 71 in the Quraysh tribe of Arabia. He migrated to Madina from Mecca in AD 622 and this marked the beginning of the Hijira Era. According-to the Muslim belief, Quran is the message of Allah revealed to Mohammad through his archangel Gabriel. It has been translated into several languages. Islam talked of equality, brotherhood, and the existence of one God. Its arrival particularly made a profound impact on the traditional pattern of Indian society.

The rise of both the Bhakti and the Sufi movements contributed immensely in this regard. Both the Bhakti and the Sufi movements believed that all humans are equal, God is supreme and devotion to God is the only way to achieve salvation. Sufism is a common term used for Islamic mysticism. The Sufis were very liberal in their religious outlook. They believed in the essential unity of all religions. They preached spirituality through music and doctrines that professed union with God. Sufism originated in Iran and found a congenial atmosphere in India under the Turkish rule. Their sense of piety, tolerance, sympathy, concept of equality and friendly attitude attracted many Hindus, mostly from lower classes, to Islam. Sufi saints such as Moinuddin Chisti, Nizamuddin Auliya, Fariduddin Ganj-e-Shakar were the pioneer sufïs who are still loved, respected and honoured in India.

The sufis were also influenced by the Christian and Buddhist monks regarding the establishment of their khanqahs and dargahs. Khanqah the institutions (abode of Sufis) set up by the Sufis in northern India took Islam deeper into the countryside. Mazars (tombs) and Takias (resting places of Muslim saints) also became the centres for the propagation of Islamic ideas. These were patronized both by the aristocracy and the common people. The Sufis emphasized respect for all human beings. The Sufis were organised into religious orders or silsilahs. These silsilahs were named after their founders such as Chishti, Suhrawardi, Qadi. and Naqshbandis. According to Abul Fazl, the author of the Ain-i-Akbari, there were as many as fourteen silsilahs in India during the sixteenth century.

Each order had its own khanqah, which served as a shelter for the Sufi saints and for destitutes, and later developed as a centre of learning. Ajmer, Nagaur and Ajodhan or Pak Pattan (now in Pakistan) developed as important centres of Sufism. These also started the tradition of piri-muridi, (teacher and the disciple). In order to attain a state of mystical ecstasy, the sufis listened to poetry and music (sama) which were originally in Persian, but later switched to Hindawi or Hindustani. They preached the unity of God and self-surrender unto Him in almost the same way as the votaries of the Nïrgun Bhakti movement did. Music attracts everybody, irrespective of language. Slowly such music attracted the Hindus who started visiting the dargahs in large number. The Hindu impact on Sufism also became visible in the form of siddhas and yogic postures

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