Sufis and the Spread of Islam

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The spread of Islam in the Sub-continent is the story of untiring efforts of numerous saints and Sufis who dedicated their lives to the cause of service to humanity. By the time the Muslim Empire was established at Delhi, Sufi fraternities had come into being and the Sufi influence was far more powerful than it was in earlier days under the Arabs in Sindh. The two great fraternities that established themselves very early in Muslim India were the Suhrawardiyah and the Chishtiyah. The Suhrawardiyah order was founded by Sheikh Ab-al-Najib Suhrawardi (1097 – 1162) and was introduced into Muslim India by Sheikh Baha-ud-din Zakariya (1182 – 1268) of Multan. With Multan as its center the Silsilah became dominant in the areas that now constitute Pakistan. Hadrat Khawaja Muin-ud-din introduced the Chishtiyah Silsilah in the Sub-continent. He settled in Ajmer. Because he established the first Sufi Silsilah in the Indian sub-continent, he is often referred to as Hind-al-Wali. Khawaja Muin-ud-din Ajmeri’s chief disciple, Khawaja Qutb-ud-din Bakhtiyar Kaki, who lived at Delhi, was held in high esteem by Iltutmush. Baba Farid who was the disciple of Khawaja Qutb-ud-din Bakhtiyar Kaki, decided to settle in Punjab. The Chishtiyah order remained the most popular order during the Sultanate period.

Baba Farid appointed Sheikh Nizam-ud-din Auliya (1238 – 1325) as his Khalifah. It was Nizam-ud-din Auliya who trained a group of Sufis for the propagation of Islam in Gujarat, the Deccan and Bengal. Earlier, Sheikh Ali Hajweri, popularly known as Data Ganj Baksh, came from Ghazni to Lahore a few days after the death of Sultan Mahmud. He is mainly responsible for the propagation of Islam in Punjab. The disciple of Sheikh Baha-ud-din Zakariya, Syed Jalal-ud-din Bukhari, popularly known as Mukhdum Jahanian Jahangasht, was one of the most important saints of the Suhrawardiyah order.

He played an important part in the propagation of Islam in Sindh. Shah Jalal came from Turkey and was a great Suhrawardi saint of Bengal. He came to the Sub-continent in the reign of Iltutmush. Due to his missionary activities, Islam gained good ground in Sylhet. Sheikh Ala-ul-Haq and his son Nur Qutb Alam established new orders after their names in Bengal, and are responsible for large-scale conversions in Sylhet, Bengal.

This article was last updated on Sunday, June 01, 2003