Religious and Cultural Activities – The rise and growth of Sufism

Religious and Cultural Activities – The rise and growth of Sufism


Situated between Punjab and Delhi, Haryana had been the scene of frequent warfares which left disturbing effects and made life rather difficult. Although the Muslim rulers, by and large, adopted an intolerant attitude towards the Hindus and frequently destroyed their holy places, the Sufi movement soon wove itself with the complex culture-pattern of India and helped removing the spirit of mistrust and isolation between the two religionists. Some aspects of the Muslim rule on the cultural life of the people of Haryana may be described here.


  1. The rise and growth of Sufism


During the Sultanate Haryana witnessed the growth of Sufism. The earliest sect of this order in the region — the Chistis, named after their founder Khwaja Muinuddin Chisti, had their centre at Hansi, which was considered to be the frontier between Chishti and Suhrawardi jurisdictions. These orders, introduced simultaneously with he foundation of the Sultanate, built up in the following century, their organization and established themselves in their respective zones. Early in the I4th century, a traveller informed Shihab-ud-din al Umari in Damascus ‘In Delhi and its surroundings are khanqahs and hospices numbering two thousand’.


The most outstanding figure of the Chishti silsilah associated with the region during the thirteenth century was Shaikh Farid-ud-din Masud Ganj-i-Shakar (1175- 1265). He transformed the silsilah into an organised spiritual movement. After com- pleting his studies in mystic discipline at the feet of Shaikh Qutb-ud-din Bakhtiyar Kaki, he settled at Hansi. Shaikh Jamal-ud-din, a descendant of Abu Hanifah of Kufah and the then khatib of Hansi was to deliver discourses and pronounce judicial decisions. As informed by Mir Khurd’ and Abul FazP he renounced his office and became the disciple of Shaikh Farid. Consequently he had to suffer starvation and poverty. When he requested Shaikh Nizamud-din-Auliya to inform Shaikh Farid about his misery, the latter replied ‘Tell him (Shaikh Jamal-ud-din) that when a wilayat (spiritual territory) is assigned to any one, it is his duty to bear its burden’. These sufferings rewarded him with high degree of virtue and higher spiritual experience. Pointing out his position among the Kalifahs of Shaikh Farid Abul Fazl wrote


To whom so ever the Shaikh Farid gave a certificate of vicegerency he would send him to Jamal ud-din on whose approval the certificate took effect. If he did not approve, the Shaikh would say that what Jamal tore up Farid could not repair.


Shaikh Jamal was a man of wide learning. His two books— a Persian diwan and an Arabic treatise Mulhamat bear testimony to his scholarship.’ The Muihamat is a work of general mystic interest, a condensation of the mystic thought of the preceding generation also bringing out a clear distinction between the externalists and the mystics. ‘A Zahid (externalist)’, he remarked, ‘keeps the exterior clean with water; an armystic keeps his interior clean from passions’. The throws considerable light on the contemporary religious thought and institutions.’ The Shaikh died at Hansi during the life time of his master and was succeeded by his son Maulana Burhan-ud-din. Shaikh Burhan did not enrol any disciple—this he left to Hazrat Nizam-ud-din Muhammad for whom he had greatest regards.” He was succeeded by his son. Shaikh Qutb-ud-din Munawwar (d, 1358). a distinguished disciple and khalifah of Shaikh Nizam-ud-din Auhya.’ One of the three disciples of Shaikh Nizam-ud-din (the other two being Shaikh Nasir-ud-din Chiragh and Shaikh Shams-ud-din Yahya) who, in accordance with the demand of the Shaikh from his disciples of a promise to abstain from the service of the state, strongly opposed Muhammad Tughlaq and withstood his threats with courage and determination which elicited universal praise.’ Even the bait of a jagir of two villages could not entice him into the trap of royal service although a firman to this effect was personally carried by Kazi Kamaluddin Sadre-Jahan to him.’ The emperor could not lay his hand on the Shaikh. When convinced that some persons out of jealousy has misinformed him about the Shaikh, the Sultan honoured him and allowed him to stay at Hansi, his ancestral place.’ He was succeeded by Shaikh Nuruddin (d. 1359) a contemporary of Firuz Tughlaq and an author of several Arabic and Persian works on Muslim theology.’ Afif gives an account of Shaikh Nuruddin (his preceptor’s) interview with the Sultan whose request to settle at Hisar-i-Firuza (his newly founded town) for the benefit of the people was declined by the Shaikh on the ground that Hansi had been his ancestral home and the abode of his predecessors. As fate would have it Hisar suffered due to Mongol invasion while the town of Hansi not only remained unaffected but it offered protection to the people of Hisar who took refuge there. Shaikh Nuruddin was a friend of Maulana Ahmad Thanesari, an Arabic poet, whose noble elegies ‘the whole of which are copied into Akhbdr-uUAkhyar bear testimony to his eminent talents and genius. Shaikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi, one of the Saints of the Suhrawardi order also had short stays at Hansi. Other distinguished men of the town then were Maulana Fakhruddin, Kazi Kamaluddin, Nizamuddin and Samsuddin.


Other towns which also felt the impact of Sufism were Narnaul, Kaithal, Jhajjar, Payal, Hlsar and Panipat. Shaikh Nasiruddin Chiragh told people that prayers at the tomb of Shaikh Muhammad at Narnaul resolved all difficulties. The Shaikh was one of the earliest Sufis who accompanied Muinuddin Chisti to India. He was murdered by Hindu fanatics in 1243. One of the disciples of Shaikh Munawwar, Sayyid Tajuddin Saiswar (b, 1300) also died at Narnaul. Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya referred to Maulana Kaithali, as one of the three danishmands (externalists), a category of learned men who spent their time in academic pursuits and did not harken after worldly prestige or glory Barani mentions Saiyid Mujibuddin, Saiyid Mugisuddin, Saiyid Alauddin and Maulana Jalal-ud-din, Saiyid (of Kaithal), Malik Tajuddin Jafar, Malik Jalal-ud-din, Malik Jamal and Saiyid Ali (of Jhajjar) and Maulana Wejeh-ud-din of Payal as the celebrated men during the Khalji reign, while at Hisar was Gula Mira, Nobahar, a descendant of Shaikh Farid (d. 1348).


Among the saintly personages of Panipat there was Shaikh Sharafuddin (early fourteenth century) better known by his patronymic Abu Ali Qalander, At the age of forty he came to Delhi and received his spiritual training under the able guidance of Khwaja Qutbuddin. His merit as a teacher was recognised by many learned men of the age and for twenty years he was associated with the administration of justice. In one of his writings he makes the following remark about himself


Unexpectedly I received a call from God, and throwing all my learned books, into the Jumna, I set out on travel. In Roumelia I fell in with Shamsuddin Tabriz! And Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi who presented me with a robe and turban and with many books which in their presence I threw into the river. Subsequently, I came to Panipat and there lived as a recluse.


The passage illustrates how useless he considered the bookish knowledge for God realization and how disinterested he was in worldly affairs. He spent the remaining years of his life at Panipat (where lies his tomb) as a recluse meditating on what he had learnt through experience. His correspondence with Shaikh Bakhtiyaruddin is an important source of Sufism in India.


A contemporary of Abu Qalandar was Hazrat Khwaja Samsuddin Turk whose teacher Shaikh Ala-ud-din Sabari had advised him to stay at Panipat but which the latter could not because of his failure to satisfy the spiritual needs of the people. He, therefore, went over to the military profession under Balban. Fade up also with his new job, he returned to Panipat at the command of his master and came there in contact with Abu Qalandar and succeeded in acquiring the friendship of the latter which continued till his death (1318). He was succeeded by Kabir-Al-Auliya Hazrat Shaikh Jalaluddin Makhdum (d. 1364), Saiyyid Alauddin was another noted figure of the town, a contemporary of his namesake the Sultan, he was the author of numerous Persian and Arabic works which are now untraceable but were probably known to Barani who makes complementary remarks about their author’s erudition and scholarship.


Under the Mughals Sufism extended to various other parts of Haryana. Hansi, its important stronghold during the Sultanate, lost its former glory and Thanesar and Panipat emerged as the new centres of the Sufi activity. We are fortunate in having the accounts of Abul Fazl” and Badaoni,” the noted historians, for their details on the lives and works of the Sufi saints and the influence which they exerted on the popular mind.


Hazrat Jalaluddin was the most outstanding Sufi Saint connected with Thanesar. According to Badaoni” he was a disciple of Shaikh Abdul-Quddus of Gangoh(a town in Saharanpur district where lies his tomb). A number of Shaikh Abdul’s letters (in the Collection of his Letters) are addressed to Shaikh Jalal.” In exoteric and esoteric learning he was profound. He was an expert in imparting instruction in divinity. Towards the last years of his life, living in complete seclusion, he absorbed himself in meditation and in reading the Quran. At the age of ninety-three, ‘although exceedingly weak and feeble yet no sooner did he hear the call to prayer, he would rise without any assistance, put on his shoes, take his staff in his hand, perform his ceremonial ablutions and stand up for prayers. After this he would go to reclining position on a couch. Badaoni quotes the following couplet about him


When the veins of an aged man, in consequence of his abandonment of worldly desires, stand out on his skin. Then it is that he becomes, as it were, a ruler to guide disciples in the way of righteousness.


Badaoni had the honour of attending him twice in 1561-62 and 1573 ’74. In 1561-62 the Shaikh had visited Agra in connection with the settlement of some matter regarding his aima holding in Thanesar.” Emperor Akbar’s visits to him, once with Biram Khan and next with Abul Fazl have already been mentioned.


According to Abdul Haq Mahaddis Dehlavi, Shaikh Jalal remained occupied through out his life in devotion to the Almighty, in teaching and preaching of Zikr and Sama. He also wrote a commentary on Sama and a treatise entitled Irshad-ut~ Talibin. Badaoni calls him ‘crucible of austerity and devotion and paragon of the people of rapture and ecstasy’. The Iqbalnama adds that the Shaikh was ‘respected by all, that for eighty years he read the whole of the Qoran every day and that he never went out of his cell’. He died in the year A.H. 989 (January, 1382).


Another noted personality of the town was Shaikh Abu-l-Fath, a profound scholar who mastered Islamic tradition under Saiyyid Rafi-ud-din, the traditionalist, and later shifted to Agra where he shared his knowledge with eager and inquisitive students for forty years. Badaoni and Miyan Kamaluddin Husain were taught by him.’ Abul Path Thaneswari was present along with Mir Saiyyid Rafi-ud-din Safawi, the traditionalist, Mulla Jalal and other eminent Ulama in the assembly summoned by Islam Shah to discuss traditions on Mahdiism. On the opposite camp was Shaikh Alai of Biyana, one of the most distinguished disciples of Shaikh Abdullah Niyazi.



Haji Sultan was yet another well-known figure of Thanesar during Akbar’s times. He had undertaken pilgrimage to Makkah and Madinah. He had a phenomenal memory and could reproduce religious text verbatim. He was one of those eminent scholars engaged by Akbar for the Persian translation of the Mahabhdrata known as Razmndma (or the book of wars) and also the Rdmayam which was begun by Naqib Khan. Badaoni who was one of the translators, tells us about the small extent of Faizi’s share in that work and is full of praise for the work done by Haji Sultan. He states that when the first draft was completed ‘Shaikh Faizi was directed to convert the rough translation into eloquent prose and verse, but he did not complete more than two sections’. Haji Sultan then revised these two sections, put right the defects in the first edition, supplied the omissions and comparing it word by word with the original, brought to such a point of perfection that not a fly mark of the original was omitted’. At the time when Haji Sultan was translating the text someone asked him what it was that he was translating. He replied, ’I am translating what was well known ten thousand years ago into the modern tongue’. Haji Sultan was profound scholar, meticulous and painstaking.


As already stated earlier, Sultan who was charged for killing a cow at Thanesar was banished to Bhakkar by the imperial order. Khan-i-Khanan, the subedar of Multan and a friend of Sultan treated him kindly and after the complete subjugation of Multan allowed him to return secretely to his native place. After the Asirgarh and Burhanpur expeditions Khan-i-Khanan made a petition to the emperor for the reversal of Sultan’s sentence. The request was granted and the emperor privately ordered Abul-Fazl to appoint him Karori of Thanesar and Karnal. Later on, the ryots again petitioned against his oppressive rule, and when it was found that the charges have some substance, he was sentenced to death.


In the line of Shaikh Jalaluddin, there was Shaikh Chehali Bannauri, (i.e, of Bannur) a Sufi saint after whom is named the marble tomb in Thanesar. Shaikh Chehali seems to be a popular name, who is variously mentioned as Abdur Rahim, Abdul Karim or Abdul Razak. Probably he was the spiritual adviser of Dara Shekoh, and also the author of a book entitled Lives of the Waits (Muhammadan saints). Though Cunningham could not identify the saint, but on the basis of the style of the tomb, he thinks that the Shaikh was the contemporary of Dara Shekoh about 1650 A.D.


Other towns of Haryana which continued to be spiritually benefitted by the Sufi movement under the Mughals were Panipat, Narnaul, Hisar, Sadhaura, Jind, Sohna and Safidon.


The earliest known saint of Panipat of this period Shaikh Amanullah Panipati (1467-1549) was deeply influenced by the Advaita-philosophy. He is the author of two ‘vvoxVs– Asbat-ld-Hddis and a commentary on the well known composition Lavdh of Maiilana Jarai. Muhammad Afzal, the author of Vikat Kahani was also associated with the town (d. 1623)7 Shaikh Abdul Kabir’s son Shaikh Jindapir, a contemporary of Shaikh Jalal of Thanesar, was another noted figure of Panipat. Held in high veneration both by Hindus as well as by Muslims, the Shaikh breathed his last at Panipat (1590) and was succeeded by his worthy son Shaikh Nizamuddin (d. 1609)7 Shaikh Man, the disciple of Shaikh Muhammad Hasan, was another noble soul of Panipat who had the good fortune of enjoying the companionship of Shaikh Salim-i- Chisti, whom he put the question ‘Was it induction or revelation that was the means of your attaining to your goal? and the Shaikh replied, ‘Our means is heart to heart’, probably referring to the method of the Sufis of the revelation of God, who Himself draws them to the mysterious bonds inflamming their hearts with an ardent love for HimJ” Shaikh Man is known as the composer of a work Ghairiyyah which though not traceable, is supposed to be a polemic on theology or rather mysticism of the Sufis. The work seems to have invoked considerable interest for Shaikh Azizullah, another theologian wrote in its reply Risdld-yi-Ainiyyah wherein the questions regarding essential unity of all things were discussed. This tradition of Sufi saints and scholars was continued by Shaikh Shah Ali Chisti (d. 1624) and Sanullah Panipati, both descendants of Kabir-ul-Auliya, the latter a writer of merit but whose works written in Persian script remained in obscurity and very little of it has come to light


Shaikh Nizamuddin was a noted sufi saint of the Chisti order of Narnaul. Although a disciple of Shaikh Khanun of Gwalior, his real spiritual guru was his elder brother. Shaikh IsmaiK He was one of those few Sufis who had overcome worldly desires, and had chosen a religious life voluntarily and deeply influenced those who came in his contact. Badaoni informs that the Shaikh used intoxicant for the purpose of inducing ‘a trance or mock state of religious ecstasy’. He spent a strictly religious life for nearly forty years guiding the needy and also visiting far off places of pilgrimages such as the holy shrine of Khwaja Qutb-ud-din Bakhtyar of Ush in Transoxiana) till he grew too old, and celebrated the saint’s festival at Narnaul itself. According to Badaoni:


In abandoning all outward show he followed the footsteps of his spiritual guide, and in his freedom from ceremoniousness and formality he regarded rich and poor alike, observing the same impartiality also in admitting disciples.


Akbar, the Mughal emperor, visited the Shaikh in 1578 but was not, however, impressed by the latter. Abul Fazl calls him ‘a vaunter of simplicity possibly attacking the boastful nature of the Shaikh. He died in the year H 997 (A.D. 1588-89).


At Hissar there were Shaikh Junaid, Ghurbati and Mihnati. Shaikh Junaid’s (d. 1495) tomb lies towards south of Nagauri gate at a distance of about 300 yards. Ghurbati (d. 1558-59) is supposed to have participated in an assembly of darvishes convened by Shaikh Hussain of Khwarazm for the chanting of devotional songs.


The Shaikh who too experienced the holy rapture and an ecstasy, spontaneously uttered the following couplet


Whether Thou showest me favour or

Whether Thou showest it not,

I am one of that brotherhood,

Who wear the ring of Thy service in their ears.


‘His Holiness’ writes the Shaikh, ‘seized me by the hand and whirled me round with him, and the delight of that moment never leaves my heart’. Minahati was a poet educated at the Delhi madrasa. He received his poetical name from the emperor Akbar. In a few of his verses he thus expresses himself


I found in my path the print of her foot.

Why should I not press my cheek against it?

I have found her place.

The folk has lost their heart in meditating on her waist, slender as a hair,

I too, among them, have lost my broken heart.


Among other contemporaries of Akbar mention may be made of Saiyyid Najumuddin Husain (Jhajjar) ; Mulla Shah Mohammad (of Shahbad), a learned man who translated Badaoni’s History oj Kashmir in Persian; Shah Qumaish, the son of Abdul Hayat, and the seventeenth descendant of Abdul Kadir Jilami, and the founder of Qumaishia order, a branch of the Kadiriyas at Sadhora (in Ambala district) where lies his tomb and an annual fare is held ; Shah Dujan (Jind), a disciple of Sadruddin Maleri, Dujana a qasba in Rohtak is named after him td. 1550).


Shaikh Chayan Ladh of Sohna (a pargana town of Mewat) was one of the most renowned successors of Shaikh Abdul Aziz of Delhi. Although in early life due to extreme poverty the Shaikh had suffered hardships, he continued imparting instructions to worthy pupils in Sufi texts such as Fusus and the Naqd-i-fusus. Towards the close of his life he gained favours of Emperor Akbar who consulted him on several important matters of the state. He had his residence in the ibddatkhdnd and was admitted to private interviews at night in connection with prayers and recitations of the Holy Scriptures. He died in A.D. 1590.


Last but not the least was Mulla Nuruddin Muhammad Tarkhan Safidoni. As a poet, he wrote under the takhallus of Nuri and hence he was called Nuri of Safidon also because he held that place as Jagir for sometime. He attained distinction for his mastery in geometry, exact sciences and astrology. He had a comprehensive knowledge of philosophy and rhetoric and was a man of pleasant disposition. A close associate of Emperor Akbar, he received from the latter the title of Tarkhan, Badaoni thus wrote about him:


He was unequalled in liberality, generosity, munificence and conviviality for which qualities he was proverbial.


He is the composer of a diwan and was known for his public welfare activities. He constructed a canal from Jamuna to Kamal and beyond, which facilitated cultivation of more land adding to the prosperity of the region. In 1586 he was appointed by Akbar as a trustee of the tomb of Humayun in the imperial capital. An idea of his poetic talent can be gathered from the following verse


Sad at heart am I sitting.

Far from those shining lips,

Like the rose-bud am I sitting.

With my head cast down to my collar.


Among other Sufi saints of Haryana who, in the succeeding ages continued the propagation of their creed and worked for the moral regeneration of the people were much noble souls as Ismail Shah (Hisar), Abu Shakur Silma and Shaikh Dada Sahab (Sirsa), Shah Sodha (Safidon), Hidayatullah and Shaikh Muhammad (Dadri), Gaus AH Sahab and Maulavi Ahmadullah (Panipat), Shaikh Muhammad (Ambala), Shaikh Abdul Quddus (Mahendragadh) and last but not the least, Gulam Kadar Jilani (1749-1819) of Rohtak who brought about a happy synthesis of Advaitism, Vai§navism and Sufism.

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