What is Sufism?

The spirit of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence led to the development of two liberal religious reform movements in India—the Sufism, and the Bhakti movements in India.

Composite Culture


Sufism was a Muslim movement whose followers seek to find divine truth and love through direct encounters with God. The Sufi saints were organized into 12 orders or ‘silsilas’ meaning a chain or a continuous link between the master and the disciple. The leader of the order was called a ‘pir’, while the disciple was called a ‘murid’. The Chisti and Suhrawardi orders became extremely popular in India.

The Chisti order was introduced in India by Khwaja Muin-ud-Din Chisti. He came to India with Mahmud of Ghazni and settled in Ajmer. An annual festival called ‘Urs’ is celebrated at his dargah or the tomb. Nizamuddin Auliya, Sheikh Nasiruddin Mahmud and Salim Chisti were popular Sufi saints of the period. The Suhrawardi order was founded by Sheikh Bahauddin Zakariya.

Doctrines and Teachings of Sufism

  • All religions are equal. It preached the fundamental unity of all religions.
  • It is possible to reach God only through personal devotion and not by following any ritual.
  • The human soul is the manifestation of the supreme God.
  • All people are equal irrespective of their caste, class, creed and religion.
  • Inner purity and self-discipline are essential for gaining knowledge about God.

Impact of Sufism

  • It led to unity between Hindus and Muslims.
  • It played a great role in promoting feelings of tolerance among the rulers.
  • People began to understand and appreciate the faiths and beliefs of other religions.
  • It influenced literature and many poets such as Amir Khusro and Malik Muhammad Jayasi composed poems in praise of Sufi principles.

The establishment of the Delhi Sultanate led to the beginning of a new phase in the cultural development of the country. The assimilation of the Turkish, Arabic and Persian cultures with Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism led to the development of a new culture known as the Indo-Islamic culture. This culture was neither purely Muslim nor completely Hindu but was a fusion of both religions. The Mughal Period marked the consolidation of the composite culture in India.

The Mughals built various monuments and buildings incorporating the features of Hindu and Islamic art. This further consolidated the composite culture of the country.

Thus, we find that the mediaeval period in India witnessed the acceptance and assimilation of several religions and cultures in India.

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