Sufism in India

Sufism is also known as Islamic mysticism. It deals with special powers that are mentioned in the Quran. It is a more philosophical approach, where a person tries to become one with nature and feel the power of God. A person who belongs to Sufism is called a Sufi. The word Sufi comes from the Arabic word ‘Suf’ which means wool. Sufism believed that the Quran and Hadith have secret meanings of mysticism. The word mysticism can be defined as the consciousness of the one reality, also called wisdom or love. Sufism has become widely popular in India for mystical practices and thoughts.

Sufism developed in the eighth and ninth centuries in three major places: 1) In the cities of Basra, Kufa, and Baghdad in Iraq. 2) In the city of Balkh in the Khorasan district of Persia. 3) In Egypt. The origin of Sufism goes back to the Prophet Muhammad who received the Revelation known as the ‘Quran’. He is regarded as the first Sufi master who passed his mysterious teachings orally to his followers who also received his special grace or barakat (Armanios 1). The Muslim shrine of the Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya is the famous Sufi saint of the chisti order in India. He was popularly known as Hazrat Nizamuddin.

His shrine is located in Delhi, which is a popular attraction for Sufi followers. The devotees come from different part of the world for Ziyarat. The Ziyarat is something that people go to the saint’s grave and pray to give the soul peace. The devotees are not only Muslim but also Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. Sufis believed that if they pray to the saint, they could get closer to god and also cures many diseases or pains. For example, there’s a Baoli, a large well in the shrine where devotees go there and have a bath with that well water, as a saint’s karamat or blessings.

Which shows the Nizamuddin’s living presence. “Muslim shrines in Indo-Muslim thought is the belief that they emanate the saint’s blessedness, a spiritual quality that survives after their death” (Saniotis 3). It is believed that saint’s blessed his devotees by full filling their desires and cures devotes with spiritual powers. The second attracting Sufi shrine is the Hazrat Khwaja Garib Nawaz shrine, which is located in Ajmer, India. He was the founder of the chistiyyah order of Sufis in India. Devotees come there everyday to pay respect to the saint and offer the flowers on the saint’s grave.

It is the common practice among Sufis to visit tombs of Sufi saints to pay respect and recite Surah Fateha or pray to God for the reward of recitations to the soul and ask the saints blessings. “Garib Nawaz [literally, ‘The friend of the poor’] will reward us for our pains” (Dalrymple 1). Devotees pray, chant and fast to focus on the God for the love. For example, people recite Surah or Ayat to get close to the saint for the help. Sufis strongly believed in music, poetry and meditation that makes them connect to God through the saint easily. Sufis believe that praying and chanting at such places provides a means for transferring the saint’s blessedness into themselves for purifying oneself from nafs (lower soul)” (Saniotis 4). Sufis aim is to gain a closer connection to god. They tries to unite his will with god’s will. They try to separate themselves, so they can fear and become close to god. The Sufis path is a path of love. They help people who are suffering by using special mystical powers. Sufi practices to have awareness of god. There are certain practices they get engaged in are Dhikr, Sama, Qawwalli, and Khalwa.

Dhikr is the remembrance of god. In the Dhikr, sufis would recite the many names of god and sing hymns of praise. Sama or Sema means listening, which involves music, poetry recitals, singing and holy dance. It is an act of devotion that takes a person to a higher level of consciousness. The other sufi practice is Qawwalli. It is a sufi devotional music in India and some other places. Some sufis think that listening to qawwalli music strengthens their Iman (faith) (Saniotis 7). They play the qawwalli music in the shrines.

Khalwa basically refers to retreat that a person can experience under the guidance of a sufi teacher. For example, Prophet Muhammad was retreated in the cave on Mount Hira where he had been going for the training from the angel Gabriel. Thus, the sufi practices retreat in order to concentrate on the divinity of the God. “Sufi teachers gain acceptance and support by their insights and capacity for transmission of enlightenment to their students” (Schwartz 2). Sufis celebrates the ‘Urs’ as a festival celebrating anniversary of Saint’s death.

Sufis commonly celebrate several festivals in India. They celebrate the Urs of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti and Urs of Nizamuddin Auliya (Dalrymple 2). An Urs is celebrated to keep the memory alive of the death anniversary of the saints. During this Urs, which is attended by people of different communities, various ceremonies are performed and the Qawwalli’s are sung in praise of the saints. In Urs, The new cloth sheet or chaddar placed on the saint’s grave. Ghilaf or cloth with Quranic verses is a permanent placement on the saint’s treasury.

Decorate the shrine by lightening the tombs, mosques and pavilions of the shrine. Devotees offer roses on the saint’s grave and play the qawwalli music in the shrine. Islam is consists of two main sects are the Sunnis and Shiite. In Sunni Muslim, there are four schools of legal jurisprudence that a Muslim believer follows. The four legal schools are Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi and Hanbali. Hanafi is the oldest school of law. There are similar laws among Shiites and Sunni, but Shiite hadiths differ from Sunni hadiths.

Sufis do not define Sufism as jurisprudence; they follow Sufi orders (Armanios 4) Wahhabis is the one who oppose Sufism because they believe that all objects of worship other than Allah are false. They don’t believe in making offering at the tomb of saints, and playing music (Bijlefeld 2). A Sufi as one, who is a mystic, allowed by the Quran and the Prophet, guided by the Sufi master and saints and belongs to one of the many Sufi orders. They practice various techniques of meditation, recite poetry and enjoy music.

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