Sufis in India

Qadiri Order received a wider acceptance in the valley of Kashmir


Book: History of the Qadiri Order in India [During 16th & 18thc]
Author: Fatima Zehra Bilgrami
Publisher: Idarah-i-Adabiyat-i-Delli , India, Delhi
Pages: 398
Based on her doctoral dissertation submitted to the Department of History, AMU, Aligarh, the present book is a wonderful study of the 16th and 18thc Sufis of the Qadiri order in India. Bilgrami accepts the notion that every mystic concept derives its strength from the following two precepts: 
1) The faith and conviction that there is one Reality behind this phenomenal world and that (2) man is a part of that Reality, direct communion with ultimate Reality is possible through a deep devotion to it.
Thus she, as many, too defines Sufism as: a tendency directed towards the realization of Divine love, a mode of thinking and feeling based on inward purification and Divine contemplation. To further she motivates us that, this kind of intuition enables a person to exercise his/her emotional and spiritual faculties. Bilgrami also draws our attention to look at the controversy and misunderstanding that is about the origin of Islamic mysticism. Different scholars, as she writes, have attributed its rise and growth to different foreign influences on Islam. But she clearly shows her understanding with Massignon and Nicholson, [the two outstanding scholars of modern age], who have pointed out that, only the teachings of ‘Quran’ and ‘ Hadith’ form the real basis of Sufism in Islam.
 Bilgrami’s work comprises five chapters that weave together an incisive textual analysis of Persian and Urdu sources, short readings on biographical sketches of the Qadiri Sufis in India and fieldwork, all that shows her extended effort to keep her Doctoral dissertation in good accuracy without oversimplifying the matter. In her Doctoral dissertation, Bilgrami purposefully addresses one particular subject of Sufism, that is, the history of Qadiri order in India [During 16th and 18thc]. More than this, Bilgrami also shows her typical comprehension of the different Sufi Silsilahs other than Qadiri. To add it more, she has been finalizing that the three characteristics which distinguish Qadiri Sufis from the Sufis of other Orders were: (1) Religious orthodoxy, (2) Urbanism and (3) Distinct Arab character.
In the very Introduction, Bilgrami introduces us with the source material she has used for her Doctoral dissertation. According to her, the literature produced on Qadiri Silsilah, can be divided into three categories: (a) Biographical accounts of the Saints, (b) works on mystic Ideologies and Practices, and(c) Poetical works.
 Chapter 1 introduces us with the biographical accounts of the earliest Sufis who played their selfless role in promoting and establishing the Qadiri Order in India. The Order, we go on now, know that, sprung from the Khanwada Tartawsiyya, and it traces its origin to ‘Abdu’l-Qadir Jilani, who is also called Hasanu’l-Husayni, on account of his descent, on his mother’s side Husayn and on his father’s side from Hasan, Muhammad’s grandsons. Jilan was a district south of the Caspian Sea, where ‘Abdu’l-Qadir was born in 1078 A.D. At the age of eighteen he went to Baghdad and became a disciple of Abu-Sa’id Mubarak Mukharrami. Abdu’l-Qadir lived in Baghdad till he died in 1166 A.D. He had been given more than 99 titles, the chief and the best are: Pir-i-Piran [or Chief of the Saints], Pir-i-Dastgir [or The Saint my helper], Ghawsu’l-A’Zam [or The Great Refuge] and Mahbub-i-Subhani [or The Beloved of Allah]. Thus, as Bilgrami says, he had been projected by his admirers as a superman possessing miraculous powers and a great source of blessings for those who wished success in their mundane affairs, and of inspiration to those who yearned for communion with Allah. Bilgrami shifts our attention to bring us know that, in India, the life story of Delhi Sultanate and the History of Chishti and Suharwardi Silsilah run parallel. It is surprising [to know] that these two Salasil declined almost simultaneously with the disintegration of Delhi Sultanate. Thus she too, as other, admits that the fifteenth century can be fixed as the date of Introduction of the Qadiri Silsilah in India. But as we, she too is disappointed to express that, due to the paucity of authentic information, it is difficult to determine as to who was the original founder of this Silsilah in India. The names of  Saiyid Ahmad Baghdadi, Shah Nimatullah Wali, Saiyid Yusufuddin and Saiyid Muhammad Ghaus, are mentioned by most of the writers’ writes she. Despite this, she verily accepts that, in Northern India, the Qadiri Silsilah was organised by Makhdum Muhammad Ghaus [the founder of Uchch Branch of Qadiri Silsilah], and in South, the Silsilah spread through the Multani branch whose founder was Shaikh Ibrahim Multani, the son of Shaikh Fatullah.
 Chapter 2 develops a well detailed account of the Qadiri Silsilah in Deccan, which Bilgrami does mention, [that] was the first and the earlier centre of the Qadiri Silsilah in India. Like 1st, this Chapter too, contains the biographical sketches of the Sufis of Qadiri Silsilah who lived and worked in various parts of the Deccan. Chapter 3rd and 4th produces a good detailed account of the Qadiri Silsilah in Sind, Punjab, Delhi, Agra, Malwa and Gujarat. The biographies of Qadiri Sufis who established themselves in these places throw light on their proselytizing activities and the progress of the Silsilah in their respective regions.
 Chapter 5 is a devout of completely devoted to the teachings and attitude of the Qadiri Sufis in general in India and particularly in Kashmir. Islam in Kashmir was introduced by Muslim missionaries and Sufis. Its Sufi roots are syncretic, reaching back not only to the Prophet of Islam but to the ancient rishis and the Buddhist tradition that preceded them. The truth is that, even if, the Qadiri Order descended late in Kashmir, yet in short time, it was able to establish its profound roots as according to Bilgrami, no other Silsilah could do it in the valley of Kashmir. In other words, she moves with the notion that, Qadiri Order received a wider acceptance in the valley of Kashmir. And, it won’t be incorrect to say, Mughals were fond of visiting Kashmir. We had Shahjahan, Dara Shukoh, Jahan Ara and several courtiers of the Imperial court who were deeply devoted to the famous Qadiri Sufi Mulla Shah in Kashmir, writes she. It is reported in Nuskha-i- Ahwal-i Shahi says Bilgrami, Dara Shukoh and Jahan Ara, erected a Mosque, a Khanqah and a residential school of Sufism for their spiritual mentor and maser, known as Mulla Shah Badakhshi, in Kashmir. This Chapter shows a special attention of what Bilgrami is giving the biographical sketches of the Sufis of Qadiri Order who lived in different parts of Kashmir between sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. The teachings of the Qadiri Sufis were based on some fundamental doctrines and concepts of religion, which constitute the whole structure of Islamic mysticism, like: Wahdat (Divine Unity), Ruyat (Beautific vision), Shariat (Law), Tariqat (Path), Haqiqat (Truth), Iman (Faith) and Ishq (Love). The Sufis of Qadiri Silsilah ardently followed the doctrine of Wahdat-ul-Wujud (Unity of Being), which Bilgrami writes, forms the core and kernel of Islamic mysticism. In India, the attitude of the Sufis toward the State differed not only from Silsilah to Silsilah, but also from Sufi to Sufi. In this changing motion, the Qadiri Sufis could not go on developing a constant attitude towards the state and rulers of the day. Some of them maintained the accuracy of their founder [of the Order] by keeping aloof from the court politics and did not accept any financial help from the rulers, and depended solely for their livelihood on Futuh (Unasked for charity). In view of this background, Bilgrami divides the Sufis of the Qadiri Silsilah into two broad categories: (1) one set of Qadiri Sufis remained aloof from din and noise of materialistic world and spent their time in devotion and prayers. And (2) the other set received favours from the kings and officers and maintained cordial relations with them. In conclusion, Bilgrami is sure to put that, in the eighteenth century, even if the Mughal Empire started declining, yet the Qadiri Silsilah continued to flourish and played an important role in stabilizing the society. She argues that, the Sufis of this Order infused a new spirit of harmony and mutual understanding among the discordant elements of the society and worked for reducing social and religious differences.
 My criticism, if at all, is only that, though the contents of the book reveals to have only five chapters, but in reality, the book comprises seven separate full chapters besides conclusion, which perhaps, I assume is partly an error of miscalculation and partly is something misleading...? Perhaps, Bilgrami also escapes to mention in detail about the founder [Abdu’l-Qadir Jilani] of Qadiri Order, what I suppose: is needed to be reproduced at length. And my handful  appreciation is that, at the end of each chapter, we do have a long detailed list of foot notes, not only this, at the end, a powerful bibliography is in itself a sign of making this work an indispensable starting point for further study of the Qadiri Order in India. Though, the overall text is written in lucid language, yet, indeed it is more pioneering. Briefing it, needless to say that, in India, the literature on Sufism of this [Qadiri] Order is richer and more textured as a result of this thought-provoking work. 
Author is Research scholar, A.M.U., Aligarh, India. Email:

Lastupdate on : Mon, 13 Feb 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 13 Feb 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 14 Feb 2012 00:00:00 IST

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