Islamic spiritual traditions in the Indian subcontinent developed features uniquely their own, but as was the case in other parts of the Islamic world, they remained deeply rooted in the Quran, Hadith, and the teachings of the righteous caliphs and those of Ali ibn Abu Talibs descendants. The spiritual guide of the great Persian Sufi Bayazid Bastami was Abu Ali Sindi. In ca. 292/904, on his second pilgrimage to Mecca, Mansur al-Hallaj with his four hundred disciples traveled through Gujarat, the Lower Indus Valley and the northern Indian borders to Khurasan and Turkestan.From time to time other Sufis also moved to different parts of Sind and the Punjab, but the contributions of only those Sufis who settled in India after the conquest of the Punjab and Sind by Sultan Mahmud of Ghaznah (388/998-421/1030) are documented.


By the fourth/ tenth century, the Sufis had formed several orders and fraternities. One of them was founded by Shaykh Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Shahriyar (d. 426/ 1035), who died at Kazirun, situated between Shiraz and the Persian Gulf coast. He ordered his nephew Shaykh Safi al-Din to mount a camel and travel in whatever direction the animal took him, he was then to remain where finally the camel halted. The camel stopped at Uchh (Upper Sind in Pakistan), where Soafi al-Din founded his khanqah . The shaykh died in Uchh, but the influence of his uncle penetrated very deeply into the life of seamen and mariners who undertook hazardous voyages from the Persian Gulf to China through the Indian Ocean and the Indonesian archipelago. Ibn Batatu, who traveled along the Indian coasts on his way to China between 743/1342 and 747/1346, stayed in the Kaziruni khanqahs in Calicut and Quilon on the Malabar coast and at Zaitun in China.  A modern scholar compares the chain of Kaziruni khanqahs with an insurance corporation,  but none can doubt the devotion of seamen who returned to their homes safely because of what they believed to be the efficacy of Shaykh Abu Ishaqs prayers.


Before long, Lahore also became an important Sufi center. Abul-Fadol Muhammad ibn al Hasan Khuttali, (d. 371/ 981-82) of the school of Junayd of Baghdad, is the first known Sufi to have ordered a disciple, Shaykh Zanjani, to move to Lahore. Later Khuttali asked his young disciple, Abul-Hoasan Ali Hujwiri to follow Housayn Zanjani. It would seem that he arrived at Lahore in 426/1035, the same day Zanjani died.

Born at Ghaznah in about 399/1009, Hujwiri had studied under many teachers, but Khuttali of Syria was his main spiritual guide. From Lahore, he made long tours of the Islamic world at least twice during his lifetime. He died sometime between 465/ 1072-73 and 469/ 1076-77 at Lahore. Later Muslims posthumously conferred on him the title, Data Ganj Bakhsh (distributor of unlimited treasures). Among the early mystics who undertook hard ascetic exercises at his tomb was Khwajah Moinuddin Chishty, the founder of the Chishty Order in the Indian subcontinent.

Hujwiri wrote books on Sufism in both prose and poetry. His Kashf al-mahojub (Rending of the Veiled) is the first known manual of Sufism written in Persian. Composed toward the end of his life, the work draws on the vast source material available in Arabic and is a most authoritative exposition of the sober Sufism of Junayds school. It indicates that Lahore had become an important center of Sufism, some Sufis being profoundly aware of Hindu spiritual traditions. One of them who was an expert in Quranic exegesis held that baqa (abiding in Allah) meant Gods subsistence in man. Some Lahore Sufis identified gnosis with divine revelation. Some Sufis believed in the superiority of saints over prophets. It was an uphill task for Hujwiri to convince them of the true meanings of Sufism. He considered himself a "captive among uncongenial folk" in Lahore.

It would appear that from its very inception, Sufism in India developed conflicting trends, mainly because of the challenges from movements among local mystics. The analysis of Sufism, its history, and its principles discussed perceptively in the Kashf al-mahojub went a long way toward stabilizing Sufi thoughts, not only in India but even in Persia and Central Asia.


The only other work able to match the Kashf al-mahojub in popularity and utility in India was the Awarif al-marif by Shaykh Shihab al-Din Abu Hoafs Umar (539/1145-632/1234), the founder of the Suhrawardi Order. He obtained training under his uncle Shaykh Doiya al-Din Abul-Najib Suhrawardi (490/1097-563/1168), who built a hospice on a ruined site on the Tigris in Baghdad. The caliph appointed Shaykh Shihab al-Din as his ambassador to different courts of important rulers and built an extensive khanqah for him in Baghdad, which included luxurious bath houses and gardens. He traveled extensively and made several pilgrimages to Mecca, accompanied by his eminent disciples. Sufis from all over the world flocked to his khanqah to obtain initiation from him. One of them was Shaykh Bahaal-Din Zakariyya, who was born at Kot Karor near Multan (now in Pakistan) in about 578/1182-83. After studying at different centers of Islamic learning, he arrived in Baghdad. His training period under Shaykh Shihab al-Din lasted for only seventeen days, to the utter disgust of the senior disciples, but the Shaykh silenced them by saying that when they had first come to him they had been like green wood which would not catch fire, whereas Baha al-Din had been like dry wood, which had begun to burn with a single breath.

In Multan, the eminent Sufis and ulama stubbornly opposed Shaykh Bahaal-Din, but his scholarly attainments and a distinctive position among the disciples of Shaykh Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi soon made him a principal figure in Multan. It appears that merchants from Iraq and Khurasan were attracted to him in large numbers. The Shaykh built an extensive khanqah on the pattern of his spiritual guides khanqah in Baghdad. He fearlessly opposed Qubachah, the ruler of Multan, and espoused the cause of Sultan Shams al-Din Iltutmish (607/1211-633/1236) of Delhi, who seized Multan in 625/1228. The repeated Mongol invasions of Multan made the life of the townsfolk miserable, but the fame of Shaykh Baha al-Dins piety in Khurasan and Transoxiana facilitated successful negotiations with the Mongol invaders.

Shaykh Baha al-Din strongly discouraged Sufis from seeking guidance from a number of different pirs (spiritual guides), urging them to lay their heads on one rather than a number of thresholds. He placed great stress on performing obligatory prayers and assigned a secondary place to supererogatory prayers and zikr. He ate normally and did not indulge in incessant fasting. In Safar 661/ December 1262 he died at Multan, and his tomb became a center of pilgrimage in the region. He was succeeded by his own son, Shaykh Soadr al-Din Arif (d. 684/ 1286). Shaykh Baha al-Din Zakariyyas disciple and son-in-law, the poet and mystic Shaykh Fakhr alDin Ibrahim, popularly known as Iraqi (d. 688/ 1289), spread his fame from Syria to Turkey. Iraqis Lamaat (Divine Flashes), based on lectures by Shaykh Soadr al-Din Qunawi (d. 673/ 1274) on his master, made a deep impact on the spiritual discipline of the Indian Suhrawardiyyah.

Shaykh Soadr al-Din Arif was fortunate to have the poet Amir Husayn Housayni (b. 671/1272-73) as his disciple. Husayni works, such as ad almus Ăfirin (Provision of Travelers), Nuzhat al-arwaho (Pleasure of Spirits), and Kanz al-rumuz (Treasury of Mysteries) are devoid of Iraqis spiritual sensitivity, but their deep ethical teachings are of far-reaching importance.

Shaykh Soadr al-Dins son and successor, Shaykh Rukn al-Din Abul-Fatho, revived the political and spiritual glory of his grandfather. From the reign of Sultan Alaal-Din Khalji (695/1296-715/1316) to his own death in 735/1334-35 in the reign of Sultan Muhammad ibn Tughluq (725/1325752/1351), Shaykh Rukn al-Din was deeply revered by all the reigning monarchs of the Delhi sultanate. Whenever he visited Delhi, he never forgot to call on the great Chishty Shaykh Nizamuddin Awliya, but he did not care for the latters strained relations with the sultans. Petitioners filled Shaykh Rukn al-Dins palanquin with petitions on his way to the sultans court. The latter read them carefully and granted the petitioners requests, thanks to Shaykh Rukn al-Dins influence. The works of the shaykh do not survive, but some of his authentic conversations with Sufis tend to indicate that he regarded possession of wealth, scholarship, and mystical enlightenment as indispensable for the Sufis. The Chishtis, however, never agreed with the Suhrawardis on the question of the accumulation of wealth. Some of the Suhrawardi saints were, however, great ascetics. One of them was Shaykh Uthman Sayyah (d. 738/ 1337-38) (the traveler) of Sunnam in eastern Punjab. He was a disciple of Shaykh Rukn al-Din. With his pirs, he departed on a pilgrimage to Mecca without carrying even so much as a waterpot. After his return from Mecca, his pir allowed him to live in Delhi, where he spiritedly defended the Chishti practice of sama (spiritual music).

Reverting back to Shaykh Shihab al-Dins disciples, who strengthened the Suhrawardi spiritual movement in India, we may mention  Hoamid al Din of Nagawr in Rajasthan, not to be confused with the Chishtiyyah Shaykh Hoamid al-Din Soufi. His family had migrated from Bukhara to Delhi before its conquest by the Turks. He completed his education in Delhi and was appointed the qadi of Nagaor. After three years of service, he was disgusted with it and left for Baghdad, where he became Shaykh Shihab al-Dins disciple. He visited Mecca and Medina, traveled to many parts of western Asia and then arrived in Delhi around 618/1221. He was a firm friend of the Chishti Khwajah Qutob al-Din Bakhtiyar Kaki and enthusiastically participated in sama sessions in Delhi. His wit, in conjunction with his deep knowledge of Islamic Law, frustrated the ulamas efforts to defeat him on legal issues. His thirst for unqualified and non delimited love in his three surviving works, the Ishqiyyah (Pertaining to Love), the qawali al-shumus (Risings of the Suns) and the Risalah min kalam (Treatise of Kalam), is very profound. In the Ishqiyyah he says that although Lover and Beloved appear to be different, they are in fact identical. Whoever sees them as two is confused and whoever does not see them at all is insane. One who is lost in Being is a part of Gods Attributes. This stage makes Sufis present everywhere. The extinction of "I" leads to the predominance of "He." Both Lover and Beloved mirror each other. Love is the source of everything that exists. Fire is the burning quality of love, air is its aspect of restlessness, water is its movement, and earth is its immutable aspect. In the Tawali al-shumus, the Qadoi spells out the mystery of the Names of Allah. He says that the greatest Name of God is Huwa (He) and it indicates His eternal nature, hallowed and free from decline and fall. The Qadoi died in 643/1245-46.

The disciple of Shaykh Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi who made Islam popular in Bengal was Shaykh Jalal al-Din Tabrizi. He excelled all the shaykhs disciples in serving his pir. Migrating to Bengal, he built a khanqah at Deva Mahoal near Pandua in northern Bengal and converted a large number people to Islam. In the Riholah (Travels) of Ibn Batotoutoah, Shaykh Jalal of Sylhet whom he visited has been confused with Shaykh Jalal Tabrizi and the mistake has been repeated by several scholars.

The early Suhrawardis and the Chishtis had divided different regions of the Indian subcontinent into spheres of their respective spiritual influence and refrained from interfering with those of others. Despite their humility and self-abasement, the Chishtis encouraged their disciples to exhibit the utmost veneration to their pirs and even permitted the performance of sajdah (prostration) before them, but Shaykh Baha al-Din Zakariyya expected his disciples to greet him with the customary al-salamu alaykum (peace be upon you). He also urged his disciples to finish their obligatory religious duties first and to greet him afterward. The Suhrawardi view of the function of the state, envisaged by Shaykh Shihab al-Dins disciple, Shaykh Nur al-Din Mubarak Ghaznawi, who settled in Delhi and died there in 632/1234-35, encompassed the prosperity of the Sunni upper classes alone; Shiis and Hindus were permitted to survive, provided they did so in a deprived economic state. The Suhrawardis, as depicted in the legends surrounding Shaykh Jalal al-Din Tabrizis activities in Bengal, and those of Makhdum Jahaniyan, as we shall see, were unhesitating in their proselytizing zeal. By contrast, the Chishtis believed that only the company of pious and ascetic Muslims prompted others to accept Islam. To them, their main mission was to work for the integration of those who embraced Islam in an attempt to make them genuinely pious Muslims and save them from emulating the example of the haughty governing classes.

Makhdum Jahaniyan Sayyid Jalal al-Din Bukhari was a grandson of Shaykh Baha al-Din Zakariyyas disciple, Sayyid Jalal al-Din Surkh. Sultan Muhoammad ibn Tughluq, who initiated the policy of controlling the appointment of the heads of Sufi khanqahs, had made him the head of the khanqah of Sehwan. Before long, however, Makhdum Jahaniyan embarked on a pilgrimage and later traveled to many parts of the Islamic world, earning the title Jahangasht (world traveler) for himself. During the reign of Sultan Firuz Tughluq (752/1351-790/1388), he settled down in Uchh and occasionally visited Delhi. A notorious puritan, Makhdum Jahaniyan strongly deplored the Indian Muslim religious customs and ceremonies which had been borrowed from Hindus and were an Indian accretion. He urged that dervishes, Sufis, and ulama visit rulers and government officials in order to elicit assistance for the downtrodden sections of Muslims. He introduced among his disciples the spirit of the akhi and futuwwah (spiritual chivalry) organizations of Anatolia, Khurasan, and Transoxiana. After his death in 785/1384, he was succeeded by his brother, Sadr al-Din, who achieved fame under his nicknames Raju and Qattal (slayer) for his militant evangelism. A grandson of Makhdum Jahaniyan moved to Gujarat and before long came to be known as Qutob-i Alam (The Pole of the Universe). He settled in Ahmadabad, the newly founded capital of an independent provincial ruling dynasty of Gujarat. He died in 857/1453 and was succeeded by his son, who came to be known by the illustrious title Shah-i Alam (The Emperor of the World), and was also called Shah Manjhan. Qutob-i Alam, Shah-i Alam (d. 880/ 1475) and their disciples made Gujarat a leading Suhrawardi Sufi center of India. The influence of Shaykh Sama al-Din and the fame of his disciple Shaykh Jamali transformed Delhi into an important Suhrawardi center. Jamali (d. 942/ 1536) was passionately fond of traveling and, starting with a pilgrimage to Mecca, he traveled through western Asia and the Maghreb. At Herat he called on the great Persian poet Jami and held lively discussions, particularly on Iraqis Lamaat. Jamali was the author of several Persian mathnawis in which he lyrically delineated the theme of spiritual transmutation through love. The biographical notes on the Chishtis and Suhrawardis which he wrote in his Siyar al-arifin (Biography of the Gnostics) comprise a wealth of information which he collected during his travels to Persia and Iraq. In the eighth/ fourteenth century a Suhrawardi center was established in Kashmir, strengthening orthodox Sunnism there.

“Firdawsi Branch of the Kubrawiyyah”

Shaykh Najm al-Din Kubra ( 540/1145-618/1221), the founder of the Kubrawi Order, was the disciple of Shaykh Ismail Qaṣri (d. 589/ 1193) of Khuzistan and Shaykh Ammar ibn Yasir al-Bidlisi (d. 597/ 1200), who in their turn were disciples of Shaykh Abul-Najib Suhrawardi. A galaxy of eminent Sufis flocked to Kubra as disciples and a number of branches of his order spread to Baghdad, Khurasan, and India. One of Kubras eminent disciples, Shaykh Sayf al-Din Bakharzi (d. 658/ 1260) ordered his disciple, Khwajah Badr al-Din Samarqandi Firdawsi to settle in Delhi. After his death in Delhi, he was succeeded by Khwajah Najib al-Din Firdawsi and Khwajah Rukn al-Din. The Firdawsis would have remained unknown, had Khwajah Najib al-Din not been so fortunate as to find a disciple of the fame of Shaykh Sharaf al-Din Ahomad ibn Yahoya Munyari (also known as Maneri)  Ahmad was born in Munyar, near Patna in Bihar, where he obtained his early education. He then moved to Sunargaon, near modern Dacca in Bengal, with Shaykh Abu Tawwamah of Bukhara, and studied under the latter until his own fathers death in 690/ 1291. From there he visited Delhi and Panipat and finally became Khwajah Najib al-Dins khalifah and returned to Bihar. Instead of going to his village, the shaykh chose to do ascetic exercises in the lonely Rajgir hills of Bihar, where Buddhist monks and Hindu sages loved to establish their hermitages. He would go to Bihar Sharif near Patna each Friday for congregational prayers, returning to the Rajgir forest afterward. Later, in 782/1381, he was forced to settle down in Bihar Sharif, where he lived throughout the greater part of the reign of Muhoammad ibn Tughluq. 

His teachings are embodied in several collections of his letters to his disciples, both ulama and Sufis. He also wrote to the state dignitaries and even to Firuz Tughluq. One of the collections comprising one hundred letters was compiled in 747/1346-47, and the other, containing 151 letters, was compiled in 769/1367-68. His Malfuzoat (Discourses) were also compiled and give an authentic picture of his spiritual contributions to his contemporaries and to posterity. Through Quranic verses, ahoadith, anecdotes and parables from classical Sufi works, he discussed the religious and spiritual duties of Islam and the social and ethical responsibilities of Muslims in a vocabulary enriched by his own contemplative vision of the realities of things. Frequently quoting the Quranic verse "Despair not of the mercy of Allah" ( XXXIX, 53), he used to affirm that the divine fire consumed the root of despondency and the young shoots of desperation. Mystical knowledge was the seed of love. All those who penetrated deeply into the realm of mystical knowledge were engulfed by the fire of love and obtained increasingly great delight and distinction from the face of the Beloved and from the sight of the Desired One. Although the shaykh strongly advocated adherence to the Shariah, he failed to concede the superiority of the ulama over Sufis. He avoided, however, expressing his ecstatic feelings and spiritual experiences and advised his disciples to keep their own knowledge of such experiences secret. He was appalled at the execution by Sultan Firuz of his friends and the enraptured Sufis (majdhubs) Shaykh  Izz Kakui and Shaykh Ahmad Bihari. But for the timely intervention of Makhdum Jahaniyan, he would also have met the same fate. The number of the shaykhs disciples was quite large; among them Shaykh Muzoaffar Balkhi was most prominent. A network of small khanqahs stretching from Bihar to Bengal and reaching many areas of the Indian subcontinent disseminated the shaykhs spiritual teachings as embodied in his letters.

“The Kubrawiyyah of Kashmir”

The Kubrawiyyah Order was introduced into Kashmir by Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani, who was initiated into it by Shaykh Sharaf al-Din Mahomud Nizoam al-Din Mazdaqana, a disciple of the great Shaykh Ala al-Dawlah Simnani. At his pirs bidding, Mir Sayyid Ali studied under a number of important disciples of Shaykh Ala al-Dawlah, but he was not converted to the view of wahodat al-shuhud (unity of consciousness), although before the death of the aged shaykh, he went to Simnan and completed his final training with him. He was imbued, however, with the shaykhs missionary fervor and sense of social responsibilities. The Mir left Simnan with Muhoammad Ashraf Jahangir Simnani (d. ca. 840/ 1436-37), a Kubrawi who, after settling down in Kichawcha in the Sharqi sultanate of Jaunpur in India, founded the Ashrafi branch of the Kubrawi Order. One traveled slightly ahead of the other, shortly before Shaykh Ala al-Dawlahs death.

Traveling through Uchh, Mir Sayyid Ali arrived at Srinagar in 783/1381. He was accompanied by a considerable number of sayyids. Their missionary zeal took the form of temple demolition and the enforced conversion of many Hindus. After a stay in Kashmir of about three years, Sayyid Ali left Srinagar and died en route in 786/1385 after having passed through Pakhli near Kunar. His body was taken to Khuttalan, now part of the Soviet Union, where it was buried.

Mir Sayyid Ali has been credited with the authorship of 170 treatises, generally short in length, of which about fifty have survived. He translated the Fuṣuṣ al-hoikam (Bezels of Wisdom) into Persian and wrote a religiopolitical treatise entitled the Dhakhirat al-muluk (Provision of Kings). The clarity of expression and the force of his arguments in the short treatises dealing with Muslim ethics and spirituality are remarkable. His interpretation of the "oneness of being" is accompanied by a mystical portrayal of the "reality of the perfect man." He identifies the latter with the "Muhoammadan Reality," which acts as a receptable for all of Beings perfections. His treatises entitled the Akhi (Brother) and the Futuwwah (Spiritual Chivalry) are designed to arouse devotion in Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talibs futuwwah, which in turn was based on forgiveness in place of revenge, patience in the time of anger, wishing an enemy well, and preference for the needs of others over ones own. The Mir believed that spiritual beings whose earthly existence had been completely effaced, who swam in the ocean of ahoadiyyah (oneness, unicity) and flew into the realm of huwiyyah (Divine Ipseity) belonged to a supernatural category, but those who remained steadfastly dedicated to ordinary people and looked after the comfort of mankind were true members of futuwwah.

When Sayyid Ali left Kashmir, only a handful of Persian sayyids were allowed by him to accompany him back to Persia. After 796/1393, the migration of Mir Sayyid Alis son, Mir Sayyid Muhoammad, provided them with much-needed leadership. Sultan Sikandar (788/1386-813/1410), nicknamed But Shikan (destroyer of idols), became his disciple, and the sultans Brahmin vizier, Suha Bhatta, embraced Islam after instruction by Mir Muhammad. Mir Sayyid, a disciple of Mir Sayyid Ali who had earlier moved to Kashmir and had lost his influence with the court, was deeply upset with the aggressive evangelism of his pirs son. Before long he was able to reassert himself at the court and Mir Sayyid Muhammad left Kashmir after a stay of some twelve years. By that time, the Kubrawi Order was firmly established there.Their role in converting the Kashmiri Brahmins to Islam is overestimated, but the devotion to Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib and his descendants inculcated in the Muslims of Kashmir by the Hamadana Kubrawas made Kashmiri spiritual traditions unique in the subcontinent.

Among Mir Sayyid Alis disciples was Khwajah Ishoaaq al-Khuttalani, who was executed by the Timurid Sultan Shahrukh ( 807/ 1405-850/ 1447) in 826/1423 for leading an unsuccessful revolt against the sultan. His impact on the spiritual life of Khuttalan and the Balkh region was most profound. His disciple Sayyid Muhoammad Ahosai, on whom he bestowed the title Nurbakhsh (Bestower of Light) and whom he considered to be the Mahdi of the Sunni tradition, was hounded from place to place by Shahrukh. This harassment and persecution helped to make the sayyid famous throughout Persia, Central Asia, and Kashmir. In 869/ 1464-65 he died at Rayy near Tehran, but his son, Shah Qasim Faydobakhsh, who lived in the reigns of Sultoan Housayn Bayqara (873/1469-911/ 1506) of Herat and Shah Ismail Soafawi (907/ 1501-930/ 1524) of Persia, transformed the Kubrawi teachings on the devotion to Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib into Ithna Ashari Shiism. His disciple, Mir Shams al-Din Iraqi, introduced Shiism into Kashmir. Although Shiism was strongly opposed by the Suhrawardi leader Shaykh Hamzah Makhdum (d. 984/ 1576) and later by the Naqshbandiyyah, the spiritual framework of the Kubrawiyyah in Kashmir remained deeply rooted in the awrad (litanies) of Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani. These were deeply impregnated with the spirit of the invocations to Allah ascribed to Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talibs disciple Kumayl ibn Ziyad. The latters impact on the Kubrawiyyah was indelible.


The Shatotoariyyah drew inspiration from works of mystic exegesis on divination ascribed to Imam Jafar al-Soadiq (d. 148/ 765), the sixth Imam of the Shiites. Another influence on the order came from mystical stories about the life of Abu Yazid Bastoami. In Ottoman Turkey the order was known as the Bastoamiyyah and in Persia and Turkey it was known as Ishqiyyah. The Indian branch of the order founded by Shah Abd Allah preferred to call itself the Shatotoariyyah. Shah Abd Allah moved from Bukhara--where he perfected his mystical training--to India in the early ninth/ fifteenth century. The incredible speed with which Sufis trained in this order were able to solve the paradox of Unity in multiplicity prompted Shah Abd Allah to call the order that of the Shatotoars (those who moved fast). During his travels the shah marched in royal fashion with his disciples dressed in black uniform, holding banners and beating kettledrums. He proclaimed that he was engaged in a quest to discover more of the secrets of wahodat al-wujud from anyone who was more perfect than he. At the same time, others in their turn could learn from his perception. He traveled in northern India as far as Bengal, where the leading Sufi, Shaykh Muhoammad Ala, known as Shaykh Qadin, ignored his challenge. Sorely disappointed, the shah retreated to Malwa in central India and settled down in its capital, Mandu, in 846/1442-43; he died there in 890/1485. The local sultans were deeply devoted to the shah, and seekers after spirituality from all over India sat at his feet. Shaykh Qadin also arrived from Bengal and apologized for his earlier rude behavior and enrolled himself among his disciples. The Latoaif-i ghaybiyyah (Subtleties of the Invisible World), of which the shah was the author, outlines the basic framework of Shatotoariyyah teachings and practices. In it, Shah Abd Allah divides Muslim spiritual devotees into three categories: akhyar (the chosen ones), abrar (the dutiful ones) and shatotoar (the swift-paced ones). Of these, the Shatotoariyyah were superior to all, for they obtained direct training from the spirits of great saints of the past and thus were able to traverse the path of Sufi ascension rapidly.

Shaykh Qadins influence made the Shatotoari Order considerably successful in Bengal. His disciple, Shaykh Zouhur Hoajji Hoamid Hudour of Gwalior, lived for a long time in Medina and in his old age returned to Gwalior, where he trained two young boys, Shaykh Muhoammad Phul and Shaykh Muhoammad Ghawth. He then took both of them to Bihar. At his instigation, Shaykh Muhoammad Ghawth plunged himself into hard ascetic exercises in a cave in Chunar near Banaras. A number of brahmin sages and Natha siddhas had also made the region their hermitage. Shaykh Muhoammad Ghawth lived there for more than thirteen years.

The Mughal Emperor Humayun (937/ 1530-947/ 1540 and 962/ 1555963/ 1556) became Shaykh Phuls disciple. In 946/ 1539, Humayuns brother, Mirza Hindal, killed Shaykh Phul in Agra for political reasons. Before Humayuns exile from Agra in 947/ 1540, Shaykh Ghawth moved to Gujarat. There the greatest alim of the region, Shaykh Wajih al-Din Gujarati (d. 997/ 1589), became his disciple. Shaykh Ali MutotoAaqi (d. 975/ 1567), the great Indian scholar of Hoadith, and some other eminent members of the ulama and Sufis resolutely opposed Shaykh Ghawth for the claims he made in his Risala-yi mirajiyyah (The Treatise of Nocturnal Ascent) that his own mystic ascent enabled him to arrive near Divine Proximity and to hold a conversation with God. Shaykh Wajih al-Dins influence in Gujarat, however, saved his spiritual guide. After Akbars (963/ 1556-1014/ 1605) accession to the throne, the shaykh returned to his khanqah at Gwalior and died there in 970/ 1563. The works and disciples of Shaykh Wajih al-Din Gujarati ensured the popularity of the Shatotoari Order throughout India, and its disciples in Mecca and Medina initiated Sufis from the Malay and Indonesian islands into the order. They, in turn, disseminated the Shatotoari teachings in their homeland. Of all the works written by Shaykh Ghawth, it was his Jawahir-i khamsah (The Five Substances) that left the most indelible mark on Sufism on the Indian subcontinent, as well as in Malaya and Indonesia. It was first authored in 929/ 1522-23, and in 956/ 1549-50, at the request of his disciples, it was edited and some new material added, superseding the earlier version. Before long it was translated into Arabic and obtained considerable popularity in Arabic-speaking countries. Its third jawhar (substance or section), dealing with invocation of the Names of Allah and the mystical importance of Arabic letters, numbers, and rubrics, gained great popularity with those Sufis who were keen to gain supernatural power. Its fourth section discusses the advanced stages of the mystical achievements of the Shatotoar, which, according to the contemporary Shatotoariyyah scholar Ghawthi Shatotoari, was the legacy of Imam Jafar al-Soadiq and Bayazid Bastoami. Its fifth section deals with the ontological perfection manifested by the Divine Names, leading to the stage wherein the attributes of the mystics become the theophany of the Divine Attributes.

Shaykh Muhoammad Ghawth retranslated the Bahr al-hoayat (The Ocean of Life), on yogic practices, by Qadoi Rukn al-Din Samarqandi (d. 615/ 1218). The work, which was originally translated into Arabic from the Sanskrit Amritkunda, was designed to integrate more firmly yogic practices and principles with Shatotoari spiritual discipline.   


The founding of Sufi orders synchronized with the movement of itinerant dervishes who did not observe the customary rules of Sufi life and normal social behavior. They considered khanqah life sacrilegious and profane. The Chishti records portray them as being extremely rude to the Suhrawardi leaders, but somewhat more considerate toward the Chishtiyyah because of their humility. Fakhr al-Din Iraqi visited Shaykh al-Din in the company of qalandars. Another exception made by Shaykh Baha al-Din was in the case of his most famous disciple, Mir Sayyid Uthman of Marwand in Sistan, who came to be known as Lal Shahbaz (The Red Falcon). He established his khanqah at Sehwan in Sind at the site of an old Shaivite sanctuary. Incredible miracles are said to have been performed by him, and even his tomb in Sehwan is known for innumerable miracles. Verses said to have been composed by the members of the Sehwan khanqah tend to indicate that they were very deeply devoted to  Hazrat Ali ibn Abu Talib and reinvigorated Hoallajian traditions in their poetry. His disciples developed bi-shar (indifferent to Shariah) practices and came to be known as malangs. Their annual fair in the month of Shawwal attracts enormous crowds in Sehwan from all parts of Pakistan.

The Haydari and Jawaliqi branches of qalandars also made a deep impact on Indian spiritual life. Wandering from place to place throughout India, the qalandars who sang love songs and walked on burning fire and ate red hot charcoals presented a staggering spectacle to the urban and rural population of the country. They did not fail, however, to arouse spiritual sensitivity among the Muslim converts, who had not forgotten the siddhas and yogis of their Hindu milieu.

Like the Suhrawardis, the Chishtis also initiated the qalandars into their orders. One of the most prominent qalandars of the Chishtiyyah Order was Shaykh Abu Ali Qalandar. His letters explain Sufism and its many controversial aspects. Although a Diwan ascribed to him is apocryphal, some verses and quatrains which appear genuine remind the reader of Ahomad Ghazzali and Iraqi. He died at Panipat in 724/1324. 

“Majdhubs (Enraptured Sufis)”

In Sufi traditions, the malamatis are holy men who deliberately led an outrageous life in order to conceal their spiritual achievements. The malamatiyyah, however, hardly found any respite from their admirers. The same was the case with the majdhubs or enraptured mystics. Many Sufis lived in a state of ecstasy for shorter or longer periods, but some never regained mental stability. Just as there was no external criterion by which to judge a true Sufi or by which to distinguish him from a charlatan, so it was difficult to distinguish a majdhub from a lunatic. In the popular mind, however, majdhubs were supernatural beings who could perform incredible miracles, and both Hindus and Muslims vied with one another in exhibiting devotion to them.

In all decades and in all centuries, there was no dearth of majdhubs. Preposterous stories are told about their spiritual achievements. Biographical notes on some of them are available in even sober hagiological literature, but none could surpass Muhoammad Said Sarmad in his contribution to the colorful mystical life and exuberance of emotions in poetry. He was an Armenian Jew who came from Kashan but embraced Islam under the influence of his teachers, Mulla Soadra and his contemporary Mir Findarski. The hoikmat al-ishraq and wahodat al-wujud became the breath of his nostrils. He earned his living as a merchant and amassed a considerable fortune from his overseas trade. In 1042/ 1632-33 he visited Thatta, where he fell violently in love with a Hindu boy, Abhai Chand by name. In 1044/ 1634-35, Sarmad went to Lahore and from thence to Hyderabad, Deccan. Around 1064/ 1654, Sarmad reached Delhi, where Prince Dara Shukuh became his devotee. The depths of Sarmads ineffable experience in the mysteries of Divine Love have been articulated in his quatrains of indescribable beauty, although they tend to offend orthodox sentiments.

In 1071/ 1660-61 Emperor Awrangzeb, in his bid to weed out Dara Shukuhs influence completely, passed orders to execute Sarmad. When Sarmad was taken to the gallows, the executioner proceeded to cover his eyes, but Sarmad, preventing him from doing so, cast a glance at him and said, smiling, "Come in whatever garb you choose, I recognize you well," and recited the following verse:

There was an uproar and we opened our eyes from the eternal sleep,
Saw that the night of wickedness endured, so slept again.
You have seen kings, dervishes and qalandars,
Come, see the intoxicated Sarmad in his wretched condition.

Mythical stories were also associated with Sarmad and his quatrains. Both in the history of Sufism and in the popular mind, Sarmad came to occupy the same status that was held by Hoallaj. Rightly did one of his verses earlier prophesy:

A long time since the fame of Mansur became an ancient relic,
I will exhibit with my head the gallow and cord.

“The Influence of Sufism on the Indian Subcontinent”

Dedicating their whole being to the Absolute, the Sufies in the Indian Sub Continent 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.

Not only was Sufi poetry an expression of the mystic love of thirsty soul seeking an intuitive understanding of God, but it was also avenue for the outlet of emotions and spiritual feelings which would otherwise never have been expressed because of the fury of the orthodox, social, inhibitions, and political repressions. Sufi poetry in Hindi and regional languages opened a fresh avenue for a new spiritual, serene, and colorful way of life. The Natha Panthī and Vaishnavite symbols did not necessarily make them syncretic, for a number of Sufis who used such symbols enjoyed a reputation for excessively deep devotion to Islam. They were designed to be shared with the experiences of their countrymen whose spirits passionately loved to attain the higher reaches of Reality. Both the Sufi poets of the regional languages and the pioneers of Hindu bhaktī (devotional) movements rebelled against all forms of religious formalism, falsehood, hypocrisy, and stupidity and tried to create a world in which spiritual bliss was the all-consuming goal. The devotion of some of the rulers and members of the governing classes to the Sufis went a long way toward making possible the erection of such masterpieces of architecture as the tomb of the Suhrawardī Shaykh Rukn al-Dīn in Multan, the khanqah of Mir Sayyid Alī Hamadānī in Srinagar (Kashmir), and the tombs of Shaykh Muhòammad Ghawth in Gwalior and Shaykh Salīm Chishtī at Fatehpur Sikri. Eve the Mughal miniatures did not neglect the Sufi landscape; some of them integrate Sufi themes with the bhaktas (Hindu devotees). The most serious threat to the survival of Sufism was the presumptuous claims of Sufi charlatans and impostors. The latter exploited Sufi influence to their own advantage. Their poetry and music promoted immoral practices, the use of drugs, and thaumaturgy and was a great threat to a spiritual world view of the genuine Sufis. But genuine Sufism survived this and other threats and has managed to keep alive to this day.