In the third and final part to this article, we will look at the Sufiness of the most famous Khwaja followed and revered by Muslims as well as Bollywood.
Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti of Ajmer, Rajhastan is considered a prolific Sufi Saint who came to India (Lahore, Delhi, Ajmer) in or around 1192. Ajmer was rued at the time by Prithviraj Chauhan. This is the same time period when Shahabuddin Ghori attacked the kingdom of Prithviraj for the second time, and this time successfully. Ghori also followed the same route as Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. He first arrived in Lahore and sent message to Prithviraj to accept Islam. When he refused, a battle was fought and this time Ajmer was conquered by Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori.
It is said that Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti entered Ajmer with the conquering troops of Ghori, who then proceeded to destroy many temples and built Khanqahs and mosques in their place. Hasan Nizami, one of the chroniclers who has discussed the rule of Muslim kings in India, writes in his book called Taj ul Maasir about the conquest of Ajmer:
‘The victorious army on the right and on the left departed towards Ajmer’ When the crow-faced Hindus began to sound their white shells on the backs of the elephants, you would have said that a river of pitch was flowing impetuously down the face of a mountain of blue’ The army of Islam was completely victorious, and a hundred thousand groveling Hindus swiftly departed to the fire of hell’ He destroyed (at Ajmer) the pillars and foundations of the idol temples, and built in their stead mosques and colleges, and the precepts of Islam, and the customs of the law were divulged and established.’
Today there is no doubting the fact that Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti is revered in the sub continent as Gharib Nawaz and Nabi-ul-Hind. He has said to have converted thousands of non Muslims to Islam through his charitable ways. He led his life in abject poverty with barely enough clothes to cover his body. However lands were bestowed upon him, which he accepted in the names of his sons, who possessed these lands through generations. After the killing of Prithviraj Chauhan, Ajmer was give to his son Pithviraj III to rule as a diplomatic ploy. It is narrated that Khwaja Moinuddin also dabbled in politics, so much so that at one point Prithviraj III asked Ramdeva to expel him from Ajmer. Also, it is interesting to note that the three contemporary chroniclers of the time, Hasan Nizami, Fakhr-i-Mudabbir and Minhaj have not referred to him in their books.
“Early mystic records, the Favaid-ul-Fuad and Khair-ul-Majalis do not give any information about him. Barani makes no reference to him. Isami tells us only this much that Muhammad bin Tughlaq had once visited his grave”
During a personal visit to the Dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti I had a conversation about the historical background of the dargah with one of his family members. I also noticed the 2 massive Deghs which serve a pure vegetarian langar to scores of people, and was told that one of the Deghs was given by Emperor Akbar. Upon looking at the text it is also noted that Khwaja Chishti was greatly revered by Emperor Akbar who paid special attention to his dargah, and it was in his era that the Sufi saint started to get a mention in narratives and books.
Other famous disciples of the Chishti order include Sheikh Bakhtiar Kaki, Baba Farid Ganj e Shakar, and Nizamuddin Aulia. Nizamuddin had his khanqah in Delhi and was witness to 7 different emperors coming to power in his lifetime. However it is said that he never went to any of their darbars. He also lived in abject poverty and was able to influence and convert scores of non Muslims. Khwaja Nizamuddin is also said to have been interested in politics and used to hold his own court at his dargah. His disciples include Amir Khusru who had a very close affiliation with his Peer o Murshid. Khusru was a renowned poet and writer, who has also written a compilation called Tughlaqnama on the life and times of Ghayasuddin Tughlaq. Nuh Sipehr is the title of one of his writings in which he narrates:
‘They (Hindus) have four books in that language (Sanskrit), which they are constantly in the habit of repeating. Their name is Bed (Vedas). They contain stories of their gods, but little advantage can be derived from their perusal.’
This kind of thinking has been in prevalence constantly in the minds of all Muslims, even the Sufi saints, who with the best of intent consider that by convincing the non Muslims to join Islam they are bringing them to the era of enlightenment.
The Islamisationn of Kashmir was done through a mix of sword and forceful conversion by the Sufis. Among the wielders of the sword, the most famous one for the area was Alexander, or Sikandar But Shikan who came to Kashmir in 1394. He and his Brahmin convert prime minister,issued an order “proscribing the residence of any other than Mahomedans in Kashmir”, after which they threw out all idols from the temples.
But over a longer period of time it was the Sufis who were welcomed into Kashmir from Hamdan, by Emperor Sultan Shahabuddin of the Shah Mir dynasty, during mid 14th century. One Sufi Saint, Syed Ali Hamdani, and 700 of his disciples came and started building khanqahs and converting people to Islam, as well as convincing the ruler to destroy temples and make khanqahs. After Hamdani’s death the task was taken over by Nuruddin, who conned the locals by dressing up as a Rishi, “the highest appellation of Hindu Seers in Kashmir”. Nuruddin took advantage of the Hindu psyche and started focusing on conversions of Brahmin Priests, as he knew they were natural teachers for the Kashmiri Hindus.
According to Nehemia Levtzion’s assertion, ‘Sufis were particularly important in achieving the almost total conversion in eastern Bengal.’ The Sufi influence and conversion of Buddhists as well as some Hindus into Islam was done at a very high pace by Sheikh Shah Jalal and his disciples during the 13th century. According to some sources, he took part in a holy war with 700 of his disciples against King Gaur Govinda and was sent to do so by his Pir Nizamuddin Aulia.
Sheikh took part in the 3rd attack on Gaur Govinda in which the king stood defeated. After the war was over tens of thousands of prisoners were taken and they were all converted to Islam under the patronage of Sheikh Jalal. It is, therefore, quite apparent that at least these prisoners did not convert according to their own free will or after getting enamored by the teachings and lifestyle of Sheikh Jalal. According to the account of Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen Gibb on Ibn e Batuta, he mentioned that “(Jalaluddin’s) effort was instrumental in converting the infidels who embraced Islam there”, but he does not specify what these measures were. Another well known Sufi saint of Bengal was Nur Qutb-i-Alam, who influenced Hindu Prince Ganesha, recently fallen ruler of Bengal, to hand over his twelve-year-old son Jadu was converted to Islam, and made the ruler of Bengal under the name of Sultan Jalaluddin Muhammad. Jalaluddin turned out to be a particularly ferocious king and offered the option of Islam or death to his subjects. Additionally, it is said that the conversion methods applied in Bangladesh were quiet orthodox, as “(the Sufis) established their khanaqahs on the sites of Buddhist shrines, and (it) fitted well into the religious situation in Bengal.”
There are a lot of different opinions as we look at scholarly work from different quarters which may lead to different conclusions to answer the question we started out to explore,. However, the overbearing scholarly perceptions suggesting that the Sufis resorted to only peaceful and humble mannerism in order to promote Islam in India needs to be challenged. It is true that many Sufi Saints could be humane and kind hearted individuals. Nonetheless the overarching belief that in order to lead a happy, content and pious life, one must come into the fold of their own ideology, has remained a constant standpoint with all Sufi Saints across South Asia.
This article was earlier posted by India Facts and Hindu Post.
This is Part 3 of a 3-part article. Part 1 can be read here:
And here is Part 2
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