Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sufism In India

"Mahomed's mission was necessary, else we might have ended by thinking, in the exaggeration of our efforts at self-purification, that earth was meant only for the monk and the city created as a vestibule for the desert."
(Essays Divine and Human, p.444)


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. more

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