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The life of a Sufi is the "life of the spirit " regulated strictly in accordance with Islamic theology and traditions. To attain this his first lesson is unshakable belief in the existence of God and unconditional surrender to His will. This entails a strenuous life attended by rigid austerity and self-denial. He has to undergo a course of training in regular prayers and meditation to attain the Divine Knowledge and realisation of Truth. This particular knowledge is passed on 'in secret' by one Sufi to another having the requisite qualifications i.e. one who does not think evil does not see evil, does not hear evil and does not speak evil. Without this Divine Knowledge, one cannot fathom the hidden mysteries of the Nature and those of the soul. To sum up the whole object of Sufism is to attain the highest spiritual perfection.
A Sufi will be distinguishable from others on account of his detachment from his parents, children, wealth, power, position and comforts. His ignorance vanishes in the effulgence of the 'Divine Light' of the most High, the Lord of the entire Universe. In such an ecstatically devotion there is neither pain nor sorrow for him as he is overwhelmingly dedicated to the will of the Almighty God. Thus a Sufi saint is the Spiritual King, far above all temporal kings, disguised in the patched robes of a humble dervish.
Hazrat Khawaja Muinuddin Chisty (May peace of God be upon his soul) was one of the greatest Sufi saints the world has ever known. His spiritual influence and benedictions have been, and are still a perpetually source of inspiration courage and guidance to the afflicted humanity, irrespective of caste creed or religion.
The Sufis are classified into four prominent silsilas (categories) or lines, viz. Qadaria, Chishtia Suhraward and Naqshbandia.
Hazrat Khawaja Muinuddin Chishty belonged to the second 'silsila'. There is no fundamental difference between these silsilas except in matters of minor details. They are all within the framework of the Islamic law as laid down by the Holy Quran and expounded by Hadith but the rituals applied for obtaining the communion or 'raza' of God are different just like the modern Universities where student take different courses for obtaining a particular class of degree. The Chishtia 'silsila' does not enjoin any indifferent belief from that of the other Hanafi Sunni Mussalmans. Their belief is based upon the Holy Quran. A study of the lives of Chishty saints, including Hazrat Khawaja Muinuddin and his spiritual preceptor Hazrat Khwaja Usman Harooni reveals that they preached and held purely Quranic beliefs. According to Shariat, every Chishty saint has to follow the Quranic laws strictly.
The Sufi 'silsilas' however, are not sects. They grew up because people went to Sheikhs or 'murshids' (religious masters) for spiritual guidance and training who invested those of their disciples whom they regarded as spiritually fit to cater for the spiritual and moral needs of others Traditions, no doubt, grew up differently in different 'silsilas'. What is common between the various Sufi 'silsilas' is confined to few spiritual practices like auraad (verses from Quran) 'sama' (audition) certain festivals, institutions like veneration of the shrines, the etiquette of visiting them and the devotion to certain leading personalities of the order. One special features of the Chishtia order, which is particularly observable among the early Chishty saints of India, is their love for all humanity. They sought to inculcate among their followers an attitude of broad sympathy for the common man irrespective of caste, creed or nationality. They stressed more on humanitarian of caste, creed or nationality. They stressed more on humanitarian obligations of Muslims than on any other point. And that is why Khawaja Muinuddin Chishty attracted lakhs of people to the vast circle of his devotees in India in a very short time.
Regulation and Practices
There are certain regulations of Sufism which are called ‘Adraak’ and ‘Ehsas’ in Sufi parlance. They are also known as ‘Arkaan Tasawwuf’ or ‘Arkaan-Baatani’ i.e. the rules and discipline for the acquirement of the hidden wisdom or knowledge. They are divided into the "hidden wisdom" or knowledge. They are divided into the following three categories:
(1) "Knowledge" i.e. the ‘divine Knowledge’ attainable through the rigid discipline of ‘Shariat’.
(2) "Amal" i.e. action under the above discipline with unflinching faith and devotion.
(3) "Haal" i.e. the resulting reaction from ‘Amal’ or the action.
A Sufi aspirant’s first important step to act upon the above course is to seek a religious preceptor or ‘murshid’ who should be a practical master of the said Divine Knowledge and its training experience. His preliminary lessons start with,
(i) Liturgical practices and exercises with unswerving devotion to certain Quranic verses which are pregnant with the Divine Knowledge in order to grasp their spiritual interpretation and values.
(ii) A rigid control over his soul called ‘Nafs’which starts which renunciation and self-mortification.
Training In Sufism
When a person decided to become a mystic or Sufi, he was expected to go to a Sheikh or Murshid (master) and spend with him as much time as was deemed necessary by the Sheikh for his spiritual development. During this period of apprenticeship which, in most cases, lasted a lifetime the Sheikh used to instruct the disciple to perform mortification (Mujahedas) so as to gain control over his appetitive soul, i.e. 'Nafs'. This was done by performing service like hewing of wood, drawing of water from the wells and so many other menial services in the Khanqah (the monastery or chapel). Even Hazrat Khawaja Muinuddin Chishty himself had to pass through this hard and rigorous course of probation when he was under training for a period of 20 years with his Pir-o-Murshid (master) Hazrat Khawaja Usman Harooni. Every Sufi saint had to perform these hard services for his 'Pir' before achieving the robe of Khilafat (succession).
Stages Of Mysticism
According to the Islamic standard
of judgment, the seeker after Truth, as stated above has to pass through
many stages before he can actually feel himself in commination with the
Truth being the ultimate object. The elementary condition is to have an
unshakable faith and a firm resolve in doing or not doing a thing that is
termed 'niyyat' (intention) in Muslim theology which is followed by
repentance and penitence. The next stage is called "Mujaheda" (probation
of striving). When it reaches its zenith then the revelation process
begins which is known as "Mukashfa" (the uplifting of veil). At this stage
the attainments of the saint (or Sufi) are so exquisite that he emerges
his identify in the will of God, the creator, and the reactions are
visible and affect the code and conduct of human beings. The effort by
which each stage is gained is called 'haal' (state). It is a state of joy
or desire and when the seeker is in this condition he falls into 'wajd'
Basis Of Sufism
The origin of the term Sufi is rather complex, but in general it signifies one who wears the garment of ''suf'' i.e. wool. In the beginning it was a mark of personal penitence though some early Muslims, like Ibn Sirin (died 729 AD) criticised the ascetics for wearing Suf in imitation of Jesus Christ. He said, "I prefer to follow the example of the Prophet who dressed in cotton." In the second century of Islam a particular group of ascetics of Kufa were generally called al-Sufiya due to their dress. But, by 4th century wearing of woolen garments became the recognised badge of the Sufis of Iraq and hence the term was commonly applied to all Muslim mystics. In the same century, groups of these a sites used to assemble to recite aloud the holy Quran and other religious pieces which practice gradually took on a liturgical character called Zikr evolving into spiritual concerts named Sama (now popularly called Qawwali in India) with their attendant perils of extreme ecstatic nervous.
Gradually a change was coming over the general character of Sufism. Its basis was " fear of God and His wrath to come " with the mystical element of love and adoration. According to a woman saint, Rabia al-Adawiya (died 891 AD) The mainspring of mysticism is Love. She said, "Love of God had so absorbed me that neither love nor hate for any other things remains in my heart."
Sufism In 12th Century
While Imam Ghazali (died 1111) and Abul Qasim Al Qashari (died 1072) laid the basic foundation of Sufism, it was Ghos-ul-Azam, Mahboob Subhani Hazrat Sheikh Abdul Qadar Gilani (died 1166) who helped to give it a real practical shape by instituting the famous "Qadaria" silsila of Sufis in Baghdad in the 12th Christian century which did wonders in raising the cult at Sufism to a glorious pitch in the succeeding generations. Sufism under Hazrat Gilani's spiritual and moral spell created a marvelous revolution which brought the whole of Afghanistan and its adjoining parts in Islamic fold in a very short time. This was one of the greatest miracles of Sufism in the history of Islam at a very crucial period. The number of converts after Hazrat Gilani's every preaching meeting, often exceeded 70,000 necessitating the employment of as many as 400 writers for the registration of these converts. Other Sufi saints of this century were Sheikh Najeebuddin Abul Qahir Suhrawardy, Sheikh Akbar mohiuddin Ibn Arabi (1156-1240) and Hazrat Sheikh Shahabuddin Suhrawardy (1144-1234), the last named being the founder of another famous "Suhrawardia" silsila which Sheikh Saadi embraced in his later years of life. Their services to the cause of Islam proved exceedingly invaluable and their innumerable writings and speeches helped to rejuvenate the waning spirit of Islam, serving the cause of Sufism itself as a guiding star for all future generations.
Doctrine Of Sufism And Its Need
After the death of the Prophet
the overpowering influence of his religion and sacred traditions dominated
the lives of his succeeding descendants and the Caliphs. During the early
period of Islam there was no necessity of any new cult like Sufism. But,
as time passed on a revival of the Islamic influence was deemed necessary
and Sufism took it up in right earnest. The term Sufism denotes nothing
but a direct interpretation of the cardinal principles of Islam and
certain spiritual practices to be observed in this process. Its originator
Abu Ishaq Shami was the first Sufi who preached this cult which was in
conformity with all the basic principles of Islam.
One of the cardinal principles of the followers of Sufism is the hate of all wealth pomp and show. All great Sufis have always therefore refused to accept any money or presents from any quarters whatever, and they never went to the glittering courts of any monarch which made them bold, selfless and independent of all secularism, thus distinguishing them from the class of the Ulama, who so often succumbed to these temptations. On the contrary, if any ruler or rich person sought an interview with them they either refused it flatly or gave them illuminating sermons, bluntly reminding them of their misdeeds and instructing them to realise and follow their duties and responsibilities to the cause of Islam and the Holy Prophet's Shariat. Once Khalifa Abu Muzaffar Yusuf of Baghdad approached Hazrat Gilani for a blissful advice with a present of 10 bags of gold mohurs. This great Sufi saint contemptuously refused to accept the money but when the Khalifa insisted upon its acceptance he picked up two of the bags one in each hand, and squeezed them. And as he did so human blood flowed out of them! The great saint said: "Abu Muzaffar, don't you feel shame in offering me this blood of the poor people?" The Khalifa was dumbfounded and went away in a shameful disgust.
During the 13th century AD Sufism had gained greater popularity among the masses as the result of the persistent efforts of the above named Sufi saint. Under the rule of the Ommayads and the Abbassides, secularism had usurped the real spirit of Islam and had economic, political and social fabric of Islam to pieces resulting in the ultimate downfall of their power itself. Baghdad, once a flourishing capital, was in the grip of debasing frivolities and revelry. Unbalanced secularism had caused unprecedented pillage, arson, murder and all round destruction at the hands of Mongols and Tartars. Although this condition was generally attributed to the intruders' invasions but as a matter of fact it was primarily due to the deterioration of the spiritual and moral character of the Muslims from top to bottom.
Attendance At Shrine
When these Sufi saints left this world their devotees put up impressive buildings over their tombs (Mazaars) most of which are attractive monuments of architectural beauty and subdued oriental splendour where Muslims, Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, and their beneficiaries pay loving homage to their immortal glory all the year round, and receive all sorts of benedictions even to this day. On the occasions of their death anniversaries, which are called Urs, the gatherings in many cases run from thousands to lakhs, according to the popularity of the saint. Religious ceremonies are performed on these occasions and the poor and the needy are fed liberally. Of the numerous Sufi saints of India, Hazrat Khawaja Muinuddin Chisty of Ajmer, (the founder of Sufism in this country) Hazrat Makhdoom Allauddin Saabir of Kalyar and Hazrat Baba Fariduddin Ganj Shakar of Pak Patan are the most celebrated. But each Indian province from North to South and East to West has one or more monumental shrines of its own Sufi saints whose benedictions have left an impressive mark upon the people of those parts and whose blessings they still enjoy year after year.
The natural outcome of such an outlook was a religion of ecstatic fervour and intoxication (Sukr). Such an attitude of mind could best be produced by and then find satisfaction in liturgical practices (Azkaar-Zikr-e-khafi, zikr-e-jail), spiritual concerts or audition (sama), and other forms of auto hypnosis. Because of the efforts of Khawaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, Sufi Hameeduddin Nagauri and Sheikh Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi, 'sama' became a cranial feature of the Chishty silsila and brought it in occasional conflicts with the orthodox Ulama.
The mystic belief in gnosis and love is usually accompanied by characteristic ethics. The Sufis had fully followed and systematised certain ethical concepts before Islam came to India. The Indian Sufism merely reiterated these beliefs although there was difference in the degree of emphasis. The basis of the Sufi attitude is that the Veil which hides Reality from mankind is that of Bashariyat, (creature hood). The nature of man consists of sensual, intellectual and spiritual features. Intellect, according to them performed a restricted function. The central pivot of spiritual life was the Qalb (heart) or the Rooh (soul). They were regarded as ethereal in nature and hence capable of communion with God. This function however could never be performed until the heart was purified of the dirt of sensual or lower self called in Sufi terminology the nafs (appetitive soul). The struggle against nafs regarded as wholly evil, therefore, became one of the main concerns of the Sufis. This implied an outlook of renunciation, penitence, asceticism, poverty, self-mortification and quietism-in short, other worldliness. This other worldliness was never interpreted strictly and the Chishty product recommended more an outlook of another-worldliness than actually going away from society.
The idea among the nobler minds
in the world of Islam, that there is a deeper and more inward sense in the
words of the Quran arose not from the wish to escape from the rigour of '
texts and dogmas', but from a profound conviction that those words mean
more, not less than the popular expounders supposed them to convey. This
conviction combined with a deep feeling of Divine pervasion, a feeling
originating from and in perfect accordance with the teachings of the Quran
and the instruction of the Prophet led to the development among the
Muslims of that contemplative idealistic philosophy which has received the
name of Sufism. The appeal of which among the Mohammedans was probably
assisted by the prevalence of Neo-Platonic ideas. Imam-al-Ghazzali in the
East and Ibn Tufail in the West were the two great representatives of
mysticism among the Muslims.
At first the leaders of mysticism were supposed to be the Ulema or orthodox religious teachers but by the end of 3rd century they were replaced mostly by middle classes, specially from the mixed half Persian and half Arabian population of Baghdad, who followed Sufism. Against the political revolutionary aims of Shia'ite propagandists the Ulema protested vehemently. Their programme of reform included the awakening of religious conscience of individuals and the spiritual revival of the social organisation of the community. These social implications were reinforced by the labours of Sufis in preaching and converting, firstly members of their own class or followers and secondly carrying on their missionary work for Islam in other distant lands. For all times and in all countries these Sufi ascetics were the most active and powerful propagandists of Islam and it was none but Hazrat Khawaja Muinuddin Chishty of Sanjar who introduce the Chishtia silsila (order) of Sufis in India and did such a wonderful service to the cause of Islam.
For the above reasons the orthodox Ulema began to suspect the new social implications of the Sufi movement in Islam and a rift seemed to be widening between Sufism and orthodoxy. Serious attempts were made to silence the Sufis and on failure an example of punishment was set of one prominent Sufi Mansur al-Hallaj, who was charged with heresy in having identified himself with God and was cruelty executed in the beginning of the 4th century. This punishment was not inflicted by any violent fanatics but by pious upholders of the ancient Faith like the Good Wazir' Ale-ibn-Isa. Repression however proved futile and the Sufi movement continued firmly based as it was on both the open and 'secret' teachings of Quran and the moral standards of Islam. Despite the adverse views of the learned layers, the tendency towards the neglect of the ritual prescriptions and the outside influence clashing with the traditional outlook of Islam the strength of Sufism lay in the satisfaction which it gave to the religious instincts of the people, instincts which were chilled or starved by the rigid and impersonal teachings of orthodox Ulema but which found more relief in the directly personal and emotional approach of Sufism.
It must be remembered that this popular character and appeal of Sufism arose out of the ranks of the people themselves and appealed to the people whose main reading matter was furnished by short lives of the saints often replete with their miraculous deeds. It was the unceasing labours of the mystics ascetic or Sufis that gave to Islam its widespread permanent hold upon the masses and that plated such a conspicuous part in spreading the Divine Message among new and fertile lands rather than the slow work of purely orthodox Ulema or their system of propagation.
During the 4th and 5th centuries, Sufism grew in strength in spite of the frowning Ulema it was in this period that the Zikr and Sama from their simple congregational recitation and meditation over the Quran began to show more definite liturgical tendency marked specially by the recitation of chants and litanies. But it was not this difference alone that marked off Sufism from the orthodox services as similar liturgical ceremonies were commonly performed in the mosques as well. The hostility of the theologians was however due partly to their fear that the Sufi Zikr might replace the mosque as the center of religious life. There was also a more deeper and selfish reason for the conflict, the traditional exclusive claim of the possession of sciences of theology and law and their position as the sole authoritative exponents of the Islamic doctrine-sciences which they had built up by infinite trouble and whose acquisition involved long and arduous study. They maintained that it was by their means that the substances of Faith had been preserved against both heretical innovations in doctrine and the attempts of the secular arm to override its privileges and obligations.
Naturally the theologians were
proud of their system and jealous for the maintenance of their authority.
They held that it was by this method alone that they were able to
propagate Islam and promote its cause and that any relaxation would open
the way to heresy and corruption both spiritual and material. But the
Sufis rejected these claims bluntly and even derisively. According to them
there was only one way to knowledge which lay through the direct and
personal experience called "Marifat" culminating in momentary union with
or absorption into the Godhead and not through the rational and second
hand knowledge or ilm of the scholastic type. They thought, theology
instead of assisting their process. Actually hindered it. The conflict
between the doctrinaire and the seeker or follower of the Inner Light
therefore seemed irreconcilable.
After a prolonged bodily mental and intellectual struggle he finally fell from sheer philosophic agnosticism upon his personal experience of God which he found only in the Sufi path. To his school of thought belonged such Sufi giants as Maulana Rum the author of the celebrated Masnavi (one of the most authentic works on Sufism) Hazrat Junaid Baghdadi, Maulana Shibli, Maulana Fariduddin Attaar, Khaqani, Shamsuddin Haafiz Shirazi (one of the greatest Persian Sufi poets in the East) Sheikh Sa'adi and others. Both Imam al-Ghazali and the stalwart Al-Qushari forged a synthesis that ultimately accommodated the essential principles of Islam between orthodoxy and Sufism which were thus tied to one and the other forever though their paths remained different.
Sufism In India
(a) `Qualan’ i.e. expression through ‘Shariat’ or the Divine Law (ordained for the harmonious conduct of man in this world with promise of his salvation in the next.)
(b) `Failan’ or ‘Tariqat’ i.e. expression through human activity and discipline under the said Divine Law or ‘Shariat.
(c) "Haalan" or Haqiqat i.e. the ‘state ‘ acquired by acting upon and passing through Qualan and Failan stages reaching the zenith of the spiritual perfection.
While the Qualan and Failan stages can be analysed or expressed through the human faculties, the expression of Haalan ‘Haqiqat’ or ‘Reality’ is beyond the scope of all human conception and is therefore inexpressible and indescribable because human intellect or faculties are restricted to a ‘limit and transcend no more. This is the highest and final stage of Sufism in which the aspirant is face to face with the ‘Divine Light ‘ and ultimately merges his identity with God Supreme. It is therefore a state, the secrets of which have never been divulged to the humanity at large without Sufism entitles.A Persian couplet describes this ‘state’ as follows "Aan raa ke Khabar shud Khabarash baaz nayamad." i.e. nobody ever heard of them who dived deep into the secrets of God or the mysteries of Nature.
The intuitive or esoteric
experience or Reality implied that parallel to the orthodoxy or "external"
theology, there was also an "internal" or spiritual interpretation of the
Holy Quran and of the actions prescribed by the Law. This spiritual
interpretation was necessity subjective, intuitive and esoteric. But this
is a very delicate point to be discussed by a layman. Only the advanced
Sufis or Saints, who are now rare, can interpret them satisfactorily in
the light of their own practical experience. No one in the present
scientific civilisation can either understand or convince easily the
average man on these delicate points.
Shariat And Tariqat
The basis of the teachings of the early Sufis was a clear distinction between the real and the apparent, between the external and the internal, between the formal and the spiritual. The codes of beliefs and behaviour prescribed in the two were the Shariat which they called 'external science' and the Tariqat (the path or way) or the 'internal' or "spiritual science". The starting point of the spiritual progress, they argued was the Shariat but their distinctive contribution to the religious life of the Muslims was the emphasis which they laid on Tariqat. They bypassed the abstract and colourless scholastic discussions of faith and ritual, and supplemented the inspiring orthodox attitude of commands and prohibitions with an "emotive principal and a living religious experience." In orthodox Islam, these features had become subordinated. By emphasising them the Sufis sought to restore the religious balance and brought Islam into greater harmony with the prevailing Indian traditions
Scholars On Quran
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