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Demystifying the Sufis

By: U. Mahesh Prabhu
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(Author is Editor-In-Chief of upcoming apolitical and illustrated family magazine FOLKS and Fellow of Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, London (UK))

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Perceptions are not history - they can never be. It is perceived in India, by many, that "Sufis are living testimonies of secular face of Islam." and that "they have played a pivotal role" in shaping the secular fabric of this land. The facts, however, suggest otherwise. Folks" Founder & Editor-in-chief U. Mahesh Prabhu Writes more.

History testifies the fact that most of the Sufi "saints" came to India either accompanying the invading armies of Islamic marauders or just followed them in their sweeping conquests. Hazrat Shaikh Khwaja Syed Muhammad Mu"inuddin Chishti was accompanied to Ajmer and Khwaja Qutubuddin to Delhi by Mu?ammad Shahabuddin Ghori, famously known as Mu?ammad of Ghor. Hazrat Baba Fariduddin Mas"ud Ganjshakar aka Baba Fareed came to Pakpattan (now in Pakistan) and Hazrat Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya of Dargah Hazarat Nizamuddin came to Delhi accompanying a contingent of the Muslim invaders. [Ref: Islamization of India by the Sufis by Purushottam, Hindu Writers Forum, New Delhi]

These Sufi masters taught a faith, which though may appear different in practice, was in tune with Koran and Hadis. The "great" Sufi Saint Al-Hujuri had said that ""There is no god other than Allah and Muhammad is the apostle of Allah" is ultimate and indisputable truth." Also Sufi"s obsession to convert India to Islam was no less than those Islamic murderers whom they had followed or accompanied.

Throughout the Islamic rule, all Sufis have enjoyed full confidence, royal favour and support of the Islamist rulers. Distinguished historian Prof Abdul Karim in his book Social History of Muslims in Bengal (Pp 136-138) states that: "Hand in hand with the proselytizing efforts of the rulers was the work of Sufis and Maulvis. From the time of Muhammad bin Tughlaq (1326-1351) to that of Akbar (1556-1605); Bengal had attracted rebels, refugees, Sufi Mashaikh, disgruntled nobles and adventurers from North India." Besides, he has also referred to militant Sufi conversion practices.

Professor KR Qanungo has noted that the conversion of Bengal was mainly the work of Barah-Auliyas. [Ref: "Bengal was not conquered by seventeen Turkish cavaliers (of Bakhtiyar Khalji); but by the barah-auliyas, or twelve legendary Muslim militant saints, the Pirs who cropped up after the seed of Islam had been broadcast in the plains of Bengal." K.R. Qanungo, op. cit., p. 151.]

In the very same context, Dr IH Qureshi, who in his work The Muslim Community of the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent (610-1947) writes: "Fourteenth century happened to be a period of expansion of Muslim authority in Bengal and adjoining territories. A significant part was played in this process by the warrior saints who were eager to take up the cause of any persecuted community. This often resulted [in clash] with the native authority, followed by, almost invariably by annexation."

Saiyyad Muhammad bin Nasiruddin Jafar Makki al-Husaini

Saiyyad Muhammad bin Nasiruddin Jafar Makki al-Husaini, the Khalifa of Nasiruddin Chiragh-i-Delhi "held that there were five reasons which led the people to embrace Islam:

1. Fear of death,
2. Fear of their families being enslaved,
3. Propagation (of Islam) on the part of Muslims,
4. The lust for obtaining mawajib (pensions or rewards) ghanaim (booty), and
5. Tassub (bigotry or superstition)."
[Ref: Rizvi, op. cit., p.46 citing Sijzi, Akhbar-ul-Akhiyar, p.136]

Amir Khusrau writes that under Jalaluddin Khilji (1290-96) "Whenever a live Hindu fell into the hands of the victorious king he was pounded to bits under the feet of the elephants." [Ref: KS Lal; Legacy of Muslim Rule in India, p-120]

Because it was impractical to behead the entire Hindu population which stubbornly refused to convert they were given the alternative of living as Dhimmis (or Zimmis) on payment of a tax called Jazia - which was generally an alternative offered to Christians and Jews only. By imposing this tax Hindus were turned into a second class citizen in their very own land!

Says KS Lal in Legacy of Muslim Rule in India (p-119) "The main objective of levying the Jazia is the subjugation of infidels to humiliation; and during the process of payments, the Dhimmi is seized by the collar and vigorously shaken and pulled about in order to show degradation." adding, "Death awaited them at every corner, because, being idolaters they could be given a choice only between Islam and death. Hindu peasants, unable to pay heavy taxes, were driven away as slaves and sold to recover the tax. It was not uncommon to see the families crying and wailing during their march to the salve market. All such salves were sooner or later sold only to Muslim buyers."

"According to 14th and 15th century legends, Ismaili propagandist evolved a belief for Hindu converts that Ali, the husband of Fatima, daughter of Prophet Muhammad, was the 10th incarnation of Vishnu, that Adam was another aspect of Siva and that Muhammad was in fact Brahma." [Ref: S Athar Abbas Rizvi, A History of Sufism in India, Volume 2, p-110]

Sufi literally means a person clad in woollen cloth. They were so called because they dressed themselves in this way, said to be the way of prophet and his companions.

In principle, Sufis believed in attaining God by meditation, fasts and singing his praises to achieve a state of ecstasy just like Hindu Saints. Thus, several scholars find a "great similarity" between these practices of Sufis and the advocacy by some of them of exercise of breath control (Pranyama) so highly praised in Hindu Yoga Shastras. They ascribe this similarity to the fact that ancient Hindu thought and ideas on mysticism had continually aroused interest in the Khurasan region and these naturally fused with the mystical experiences of the Muslim Sufis there.

All Sufis are ardent Muslims having absolute faith in the Prophet his traditions, Quran and Shariah. Thus, although their form and conduct of recollection (Jap) and Meditation (Dhyan) were often different, there was no hostility among them, and they adhered strictly to the basic tenets and frame work of Islam, which, of course, held proselytisation a very "meritorious" and "pious" work.

Muhammad of Ghazni repeatedly invaded India from 1001 to 1025 AD. During these raids and after, many talented and adventurous Sunni Sufis came to India and settled here. By middle of the century, Sufis had well penetrated until Punjab and spread their tentacles there and in the adjoining areas. Stories of "miracle" of these Sufis were spread by the gullible Hindus themselves.

Between the 16th and 18th century, conversion of Hindus to Islam occurred in a considerable scale due to the successful proselytizing techniques used by the new Sufic orders which had considerable experience in this kind of work in Persia, Iraq and Central Asia. A large number of conversions that are taking place in India today are also due to the activities of these the Sufis - dead and alive. Music maestro AR Rehman is just one among those several converts to Islam through this means.

Story of Shahid Salar Masood Ghazi

Amongst the Sufi saints who wielded the sword the name of Shahid Salar Masood Ghazi tops the list. He was Mohammad Ghazni"s sister"s son and had persuaded him to destroy the Somnath temple.

He entered India from the North-West with his father and a few hundred thousand cavalry. From the first day he offered to Hindus - "Sword or Koran". His forces swelled as local recruits joined him; and he marched as far as Bahraich (UP). The route he took is littered with tombs and graves of his Soldiers and offers who were slain fighting the Hindu forces. These can be recognized by the word Shaheed (martyr) or Ghazi (Slayer of Kafirs) attached with their names.

Interestingly, two of such graves in Lucknow have recently (post-partition) became famous and now attract thousands of Hindu devotees who have contributed most of the money for their expansion and decoration.

Hazrat Shaikh Khwaja Syed Muhammad Mu"inuddin Chishti

Hazrat Shaikh Khwaja Syed Muhammad Mu"inuddin Chishti of Ajmer is a hallowed name amongst Sufi saints of India. He is generally known as Gharib Nawaz (the friend of the poor beseechers). Mughal Emperor Akbar is said to have made several visits to his shrine many times starting and ending his journey on foot.

He is projected as an example of "Sufi saintliness" and "secularism", tending to all needy persons irrespective of their faith. However, little is known (or told?) about the major role that he played in Islamization of India.

The following is excerpt from "Siya-al-aqtab" compiled in the mid-seventeenth century as quoted in P M Curie"s book "The shrine and cult of Mu"inuddin Chishti of Ajmer": ""It is told that once when he went to perform the pilgrimage to the holy tomb of the Prophet Muhammad, one day from the inside of the pure and blessed tomb a cry came: ""Send for Muinuddin."" When Muinuddin came to the door he stood there and he saw that presence speak to him. ""Muinuddin, you are the essence of my faith; but must go to Hindustan. There is a place called Ajmer, to which one of my sons (descendants) went for a holy war, and now he has become a martyr, and the place has passed again into the hands of infidels. By the grace of your footsteps there, once more shall Islam be made manifest, and the Kafirs be punished by God"s wrath.""

"Accordingly Muinuddin reached Ajmer in Hindustan. There he said: "Praise be to God, May he be exalted, for I have gained possession of the property of my brother. Although, at that time there were many temples of idols around the lake, when the Khwaja saw them, he said: "If God and His Prophet so will, it will not be long before I raze to the ground these idol-temples.""

This is followed by tales of Khwaja coming over those Hindu deities and teachers who were strongly opposed to his settling down there. Amongst such people was a disgruntled employee of Rai Pithaura (as Prithvi Raj Chauhan was also known).

It appears that shorn of miracles the story simply suggests that Khwaja came to India determined to eradicated idolatry and paganism and establish Islam in its place. He met with a lot of resistance from the local governor of Rai Pithaura besides resistance from Rai Pithaura himself. With the help of the immense treasure at his disposal and having converted many gullible Hindus to his faith, he became strong enough to invite Rai Pithaura to convert to Islam. Having failed to persuade him, Khwaja sent a message inviting Sultan Shihabuddin Ghori to attack India. Shihabuddin made unsuccessful invasions. Rai Pithaura always allowed him to go back unmolested after his defeat. Ultimately, however, he defeated Prithvi Raj Chauhan and killed him.

The "Siyar al-"arifin" says about Khwaja Muinuddin: "All were ignorant of Allah and his prophet. None had seen the Kaba. None had heard of the greatness of Allah. After Muinuddin arrived in India, "Because of his sword, instead of idols and temples, there are Mosques, Mimbars and Mihrabs in the land of unbelief. In the land where the sayings of the idolaters were heard, there is now the sound of Allah-O-Akbar."

Sufis in Kashmir
Kashmir is a typical example of Islamization both by sword and by the Sufis. Amongst the Sultans who used force to Islamize Kashmir the most notorious is Sikandar Butshikan (1389-1431). About this Sultan Kalhana in his "Rajatarangini" says: "The Sultan forgetting all his royal duties took pleasure day and night in destroying idols. He destroyed idols of Martand, Vishnu, Ishan, Chakravarthy and Tripureshwar. Not a forest, a village or a city escaped where the Turushk and his minister Suha passed..."

But this is just a small tip of iceberg. The real credit of Islamizing Kashmir goes to Sufis. Sikandar was a passing phase having lived only 42 years. Conversion by Sufis was a continuous process almost imperceptible which lasted for centuries. Sikandar"s conversions were caused by utter terror. Sufis created conditions where Hindus voluntarily came to them and got converted.

On the night of 10th May 1995 Sheikh Nuruddin"s mausoleum known as "Charare Sharief" was burnt down, very interesting, by Muslim terrorists. The Indian Press described it as "the sacred Dargah of Sufi Saint Nuruddin Nurani" (India Today), "Symbol of Secularism, a most valuable symbol of cultural identity" (Frontline) and "Adobe of Rishis" (The Economic Times) without having any idea of the person"s historical facts.

It is imperative to note that amongst the Sufis who played a major role in converting Hindus of Kashmir to Islam Sheikh Nuruddin popularly known as "Rishi Nur" holds a very high place. His way of conversion was through deceit.

U. Mahesh Prabhu

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