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Sufism in India (Part Two)

sufis india

Sufi Tariqahs


The Madariyya are members of a Sufi order (tariqa) popular in North India, especially in Uttar Pradesh, the Mewat region, Bihar and Bengal, as well as in Nepal and Bangladesh. Known for its syncretic aspects, lack of emphasis on external religious practice and focus on internal dhikr, it was initiated by the Sufi saint ‘Sayed Badiuddin Zinda Shah Madar’ (d. 1434 CE), called “Qutb-ul-Madar”, and is centered on his shrine (dargah) at Makanpur, Kanpur district, Uttar Pradesh.


Madurai Maqbara, the tomb of Shadhili Sufi saints in Madurai, India.

Shadhilyya was founded by Imam Nooruddeen Abu Al Hasan Ali Ash Sadhili Razi. Fassiya branch of Shadhiliyya was brought to India by Sheikh Aboobakkar Miskeen sahib Radiyallah of Kayalpatnam and Sheikh Mir Ahmad Ibrahim Raziyallah of Madurai. Mir Ahmad Ibrahim is the first of the three Sufi saints revered at the Madurai Maqbara in Tamil Nadu. There are more than 70 branches of Shadhiliyya and in India. Of these, the Fassiyatush Shadhiliyya is the most widely practised order.[37]


Chishti Order

Nizamuddin Auliya’s tomb (right) and Jama’at Khana Masjid (background), at Nizamuddin Dargah complex, in Nizamuddin West, Delhi

The Chishtiyya order emerged from Central Asia and Persia. The first saint was Abu Ishaq Shami (d. 940–41) establishing the Chishti order in Chisht-i-Sharif within Afghanistan[38] Furthermore, Chishtiyya took root with the notable saint Moinuddin Chishti (d. 1236) who championed the order within India, making it one of the largest orders in India today.[39] Scholars also mentioned that he had been a part-time disciple of Abu Najib Suhrawardi.[40] Khwaja Moiuddin Chishti was originally from Sistan (eastern Iran, southwest Afghanistan) and grew up as a well traveled scholar to Central Asia, Middle East, and South Asia.[41] He reached Delhi in 1193 during the end of Ghurid reign, then shortly settled in Ajmer-Rajasthan when the Delhi Sultanate formed.[21] Moinuddin Chishti’s Sufi and social welfare activities dubbed Ajmer the “nucleus for the Islamization of central and southern India.”[40] The Chishti order formed khanqah to reach the local communities, thus helping Islam spread with charity work. Islam in India grew with the efforts of dervishes, not with violent bloodshed or forced conversion.[21] Chishtis were famous for establishing khanqahs and for their simple teachings of humanity, peace, and generosity. This group drew an unprecedented amount of Hindus of lower and higher castes within the vicinity.[40] Until this day, both Muslims and non-Muslims visit the famous tomb of Moinuddin Chishti; it has become even a popular tourist and pilgrimage destination. Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar (d. 1605), the 3rd Mughal ruler frequented Ajmer as a pilgrim, setting a tradition for his constituents.[42] Successors of Khwaja Moinudden Chishti include eight additional saints; together, these names are considered the big eight of the medieval Chishtiyya order. Moinuddin Chishti (d. 1233 in Ajmer, India) Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki (d. 1236 in Delhi, India) Fariduddin Ganjshakar (d. 1265 in Pakpattan,Pakistan) Nizamuddin Auliya (d. 1335 in Delhi).[2] Nasiruddin Chiragh Dehlavi[43] Bande Nawaz (d. 1422 in Gulbarga, India) [44] Syed baqaullah shah kareemi safipur,unnao (1269H1362H) Akhi Siraj Aainae Hind (d. 1357 in Bengal, India[45] Alaul Haq Pandavi [46] Ashraf Jahangir Semnani(d. 1386, Kichaucha India) [47]


The founder of this order was Abdul-Wahir Abu Najib as-Suhrawardi (d. 1168).[48] He was actually a disciple of Ahmad Ghazali, who is also the younger brother of Abu Hamid Ghazali. The teachings of Ahmad Ghazali led to the formation of this order. This order was prominent in medieval Iran prior to Persian migrations into India during the Mongol Invasion [24] Consequently, it was Abu Najib as-Suhrawardi’s nephew that helped bring the Suhrawardiyyah to mainstream awareness.[49] Abu Hafs Umar as-Suhrawardi (d. 1243) wrote numerous treatises on Sufi theories. Most notably, the text trans. “Gift of Deep Knowledge: Awa’rif al-Mar’if” was so widely read that it became a standard book of teaching in Indian madrasas.[48] This helped spread the Sufi teachings of the Suhrawardiyya. Abu Hafs was a global ambassador of his time. From teaching in Baghdad to diplomacy between the Ayyubid rulers in Egypt and Syria, Abu Hafs was a politically involved Sufi leader. By keeping cordial relations with the Islamic empire, Abu Hafs’s followers in India continued to approve of his leadership and approve political participation of Sufi orders.[48]


This order was founded by Abu’l Jannab Ahmad, nicknamed Najmuddin Kubra (d. 1221) who was from the border between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan[50] This Sufi saint was a widely acclaimed teacher with travels to Turkey, Iran, and Kashmir. His education also fostering generations of students who became saints themselves.[24] This order became important in Kashmir during the late 14th century.[51] Kubra and his students made significant contributions to Sufi literature with mystical treatises, mystical psychology, and instructional literature such as text “al-Usul al-Ashara” and “Mirsad ul Ibad.”[52] These popular texts regarding are still mystic favorites in India and in frequent study. The Kubrawiya remains in Kashmir – India and within Huayy populations in China.[24]


The origin of this order can be traced back to Khwaja Ya‘qub Yusuf al-Hamadani (d. 1390), who lived in Central Asia.[24][53] It was later organized by Baha’uddin Naqshband (b. 1318–1389) of Tajik and Turkic background.[24] He is widely referred to as the founder of the Naqshbandi order. Khwaja Muhammad al-Baqi Billah Berang (d. 1603) introduced the Naqshbandiyyah to India.[24][39] This order was particularly popular Mughal elites due to ancestral links to the founder, Khawja al-Hamadani[54] [55] Babur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty in 1526, was already initiated in the Naqshbandi order prior to conquering India. This royal affiliation gave considerable impetus to the order.[3][17] This order has been considered as most orthodox among all sufi orders. This order strictly prohibits music, dance and other liberal ingredients of the sufism.[56]


The Qadiriyyah order was founded by Abdul-Qadir Gilani who was originally from Iran (d. 1166)[24] It is popular among the Muslims of South India.[57]



Less accurate information is known about the following other orders within India: Mujahhidiyyah.

Sarwari Qadri

The Sarwari Qadri order was founded by Sultan Bahu which branched out of the Qadiriyyah order. Hence, it follows the same approach of the order but unlike most Sufi orders, it does not follow a specific dress code, seclusion, or other lengthy exercises. Its mainstream philosophy is related directly to the heart and contemplating on the name of Allah, i.e., the word الله (allāh) as written on own heart.