THE CHISHTIIYYAS AND THE SUHRAWARDIYYAS
In India the four major silsilas to take root were Suhrawardiyya, Chishtiyya, Qadiriyya and Naqshabandiyya. From these major orders many suborders such as Shattariyya and the Kubrawiyya branched out.
Founders of the four great Sufi orders
THE CHISHTIYYAS: Founders of Indian Sufism
This was the silsila which with its spirit of equality and brotherhood won the hearts of the people of the subcontinent. The doors of the Chishtiyya khanqahs were open to all at all times. This silsila was instrumental in spreading Islam in central and southern Indian with its ocean like generosity, mildness of the evening sun and earth-like modesty. Sufism became a mass movement under the influence of Chishti saints who settled in the Indus region: Sind, Punjab and Multan. The contempt of the Chishti saints for the rulers was obvious from their refusal to accept any land or money from them. The early Chishti saints considered anything accepted from the rulers as unlawful. From the ‘low caste’ Hindus to the mighty Mogul kings, all bowed in reverence at the feet of the great Chishti saints.
The birth place of the Chishti order is believed to be in Chisht, a village, sixty miles east of Herat in present day Afghanistan. However in the Indian subcontinent Hazrat Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti (d.1236) was instrumental in laying the foundations of Sufism especially the Chishtiyya silsila. He was born in Sistan (a province bordering Iran and Afghanistan) and in his early years was inspired by Abu Najib Surhawardi. Muinuddin who was also known as Khwaja Garib Nawaaz (benefactor of the poor), reached Delhi in 1193 but later shifted to Ajmer when it was conquered by the Delhi Sultanate.
Among the most important disciples of Muinuddin was Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki (d.1235) who carried out the Chishtiyya work in Delhi. His successor was Shaykh Fariduddin or Baba Farid (d.1265), the legendary sufi poet of Punjab, whose disciple was another great saint – Nizamuddin Auliya (d.1325), whose disciple was the popular poet and muscian Amir Khosrau (d.1325). Other prominent Chishti saints and poets were Shaykh Hamiduddin Nagori (d.1274) who was based in Nagaur (Rajasthan) and was known for his vegetarianism and frugal life style; Hasan Sijzi Dihlawi (d.1328); Bu Ali Qalandar Panipati (d. 1323); Hazrat Nasiruddin Roshan Chiragh-i Dehli (d.1356); Muhammad Bandanawaz Gisudara (d.1422) who spread the Chishtiyya silsila in southern India with the patronage of Bahmani Sultans of Deccan. He was the first Indian Sufi to write in Dakhani (the southern branch of Urdu); Shaykh Salim Chishti (d. 1572) and Warith Shah (d.1798) .
THE SUHRAWARDIYYAS: Political Diplomats
The sufis of this order were known for their close ties with the rulers and played a key role in making war and peace. They acted as political emissaries and ambassadors and held important posts as advisers in the royal court and excepted jagirs and gifts as royal patronage. The early Suhrawardiyya saints believed that it was their duty to guide the rulers. It was from this silsila that Muinuddin Chishti drew his first inspiration. However the Chishtiyya silsila stood in stark contrast to the Surhawaddiyyas in their contempt for rulers and governments.
This silsila was founded in north west Iran by Abdul Qahir Abu Najib as-Suhrawardi (d. 1168). He was a disciple of the well known Imam Ghazzali’s youngr brother – Ahmad Ghazzali. However, more influential than Abdul Qahir Abu Najib as-Suhrawardi was his nephew – Shihabuddin Abu Hafs Umar as-Suhrawardi (d.1234), whose treatise – Awarif al-Maarif became an essential part of the courses on Sufism taught in Indian madarsas. In the Indian subcontinent, this silsila was introduced by Bahauddin Zakariya Multani (d. 1262) who was a contemporary of Baba Farid.The two Sufis not only lived miles apart from each other but were also miles apart in their attitude towards material wealth and rulers. Bhahauddin was a prosperous landlord whereas Baba Farid was a fakir in the true sense of the word.
Some of the eminent Suhraawardi saints were Sayyid Jalaluddin Surkhpush (the red dressed one, d.1292) who was a disciple of Zakariya. He came from Bukhara and settled in Ucch (north east of Multan in present day Punjab-Pakistan). Fakhruddin Iraqi (d. 1289), a was a well known Persian poet and a disciple of Bahauddin Zakariya whose tender and intoxicatiing love songs continue to be sung at his master’s tomb in Multan. Ucch became a centre of Suhrawarddiyya silsila under the tireless efforts of Jalaluddin Makhdum-i Jahaniyan, (the one whom all the people of the world serve), (d.1383). Jalaluddin Tabrizi (d.1244) who was a disciple of Abu Hafs Umar Suhrawardi, played a key role in spreading the Suhraawardi message in Bengal.