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Sufism is a religion of intense devotion; Love is its manifestation, poetry, music and dance are the instruments of its worship and attaining oneness with God is its ideal.”

In the early centuries of Islam, a group of religious-minded people called Sufis turned to asceticism and mysticism in protest against the growing materialism of the Caliphate as a religious and political institution. They were critical of the theologians' use of dogmatic concepts and scholastic methodologies for understanding the Qur'an and sunna (traditions of the Prophet).

Rather than that, they emphasised obtaining salvation through abiding by God's commands and following the example of the Prophet Muhammad, whom they saw as a flawless human being. Thus, the Sufis sought an interpretation of the Qur'an based on their own experiences. Diving into the divine asceticism, the experience of ecstasy via sama.

Relationship with the state:

The Chishti tradition is characterised by austerity, which includes a separation from worldly power. This was not, however, a state of complete isolation from political authority. The Sufis accepted unsolicited grants and donations from the political elites. The Sultans, for their part, established benevolent trusts (auqaf) to endow hospices and gave tax-exempt land (inam).

The Chishtis received both monetary and in-kind donations. Rather than cumulating donations, they opted to spend it entirely on immediate necessities such as food, clothing, housing, and ceremonial necessities (such as sama'). All of this increased the shaikhs' moral authority, which attracted individuals from all walks of life. Additionally, their piety and scholarship, as well as the public's trust in their supernatural abilities, made sufis popular among the masses, whose backing rulers desired.

Kings did not simply need to demonstrate their association with sufis; they also required legitimation from them. When the Turks established the Delhi Sultanate, they opposed the ulama's insistence on implementing shari'a as state law out of concern for their subjects, the majority of whom were non-Muslims. The Sultans then sought out sufis — those who got their authority directly from God – rather than relying on jurists to interpret the shari'a.

Additionally, it was believed that the auliya might intercede with God on behalf of ordinary human beings' material and spiritual well-being. This explains why kings frequently desired that their tombs be located near sufi shrines and hospices.

However, clashes occurred between the Sultans and the Sufis. Both wanted specific rites, like prostration and foot kissing, to be performed in order to establish their power. At times, the Sufi shaikh was addressed with lofty titles. For instance, Nizamuddin Auliya's pupils referred to him as sultan-ul-mashaikh (literally, Sultan amongst shaikhs).


Most of the Sufis (mystics) were persons of deep devotion who disliked the display of wealth and degeneration of morals following the establishment of the Islamic empire. They placed a strong emphasis on love as the relationship that exists between God and each individual soul.

Sufis thought that loving God meant loving people, and that serving humanity was equivalent to serving God.

Self-discipline was regarded as a necessary condition in Sufism for gaining knowledge of God through a sense of perception. While orthodox Muslims place a premium on external behaviour, Sufis place a premium on inner purity.

While orthodox Muslims believe in ritual observance without question, Sufis believe that love and devotion are the only paths to heaven. Sufism also emphasised meditation, good deeds, remorse for sins, prayers, pilgrimage, fasting, charity, and ascetic disciplines for taming passion.

Impact of Sufism

Religious impact

Sufi saints' efforts aided in the lessening of religious fanaticism in India. Hindus turned in greater numbers to Sufi saints. Following their deaths, their tombs became places of veneration for both Muslims and Hindus. Their belief in unity of God helped to remove mutual differences.

Social Implications

Their emphasis on social welfare resulted in the establishment of philanthropic works, such as the establishment of orphanages and women service centres. Sufi saints' efforts aided in the promotion of equality and the amelioration of casteism's problems. Additionally, they attempted to instil an attitude of piety and virtue.

Political Implications

Some of the renowned Sufi saints inspired some of the Delhi Sultans to pursue a liberal policy as a result of their virtuous and saintly lives.

Cultural Implications

The sacred shrines dedicated to the memory of Sufi saints exemplify the evolution of a new style of architecture. Khawaja Muin-ud-Din Chisti's Dargah in Ajmer and Nizam-ud-Din Aulia's Tomb in Delhi both hold a prominent place in architecture.

Sufi saints made devotional music and songs popular.

Numerous Sufi saints authored works of literature in vernacular languages.

Amir Khusro was a prominent 'guzzle' writer who was a follower of Nizam-ud-Din Aulia. Khusro's poetry was so lovely that he was dubbed 'Tutiy-i-Hind. He is credited with almost 90 works on a variety of subjects, including historical and romantic fiction.


Sufism's most significant contribution is that it aided in the development of a connection of brotherhood and unity between Hindu and Muslim people. Sufi saints are adored not only by Muslims, but also by a sizable number of Hindus, and their tombs have developed into a popular pilgrimage destination for both communities.

Sufism is a celebration of diversity and pluralism, expressed in the words of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, that every people has its own path of truth, beliefs and focus of reverence. These words reflect the divine message of the Holy Prophet that there is no compulsion in religion; and also that to every people, we have appointed ways of worship which they observe,” Narendra Modi


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