Peace Of­fen­sive Lost

Southasia - - Book review -

Ti­tle: Chishti Su­fis in the Sul­tanate of Delhi 1190- 1400 From re­strained in­dif­fer­ence to cal­cu­lated de­fi­ance

Author: Tan­vir An­jum

Pub­lisher: Ox­ford Univer­sity Press, Pak­istan (March, 2011)

Pages: 452, Hard­back Price: PKR. 1200 ISBN: 978-0-19-906009-2

Tan­vir An­jum’s Chishti Su­fis in the Sul­tanate of Delhi 1190- 1400, of­fers a glance at the his­tory of Su­fism and how it changed the mind­set of peo­ple and con­tin­ues to linger in the hearts of many. Prej­u­dice and dis­crim­i­na­tion on the ba­sis of color, caste and creed has no bound­aries and is as ev­i­dent now as it was in the sub-con­ti­nent cen­turies ago. How­ever, it was the peace­ful na­ture and re­spect for all Su­fis that set this ha­tred aside and in­tro­duced a new con­cept called Su­fism. And when it comes to Su­fism, one can never for­get the ser­vices of Kh­waja Moeenud­din, the fa­ther of the Chishti sil­sila. Kh. Moeenud­din led a life that was

ex­em­plary for oth­ers; giv­ing up the ma­te­ri­al­is­tic world for un­wa­ver­ing de­vo­tion to the Supreme Be­ing. In turn, his Khulfa also led a sim­ple life and re­fused to ac­cept govern­ment po­si­tions as a way to re­main free from state in­flu­ences. From con­tin­u­ous prayers to de­vo­tional chants, they preached that ser­vice to mankind was the high­est level of wor­ship.

At a time when kings and ma­hara­jas were ruth­less to their peo­ple, the com­mon man found him­self the tar­get of big­otry and op­pres­sion. Through Sufi in­flu­ences, the Chishti Khulfa brought re­lief to the peo­ple by preach­ing re­spect and tol­er­ance for ev­ery­one and sep­a­rat­ing the Khulfa from the Kings.

The heir to the prodigy was se­lected by the pre­vi­ous one, and next came Baba Fa­reed of Ajod­han, now known as Pak­patan, in 1236. The gov­er­nor of Mul­tan, har­bor­ing great re­sent­ment for Baba Fa­reed, made his mis­sion very dif­fi­cult. Sheikh Niza­mud­din Auliya suc­ceeded him as the next Khal­ifa of the Chishti sil­sila in 1265. Like his an­ces­tors, he re­mained aloof from the kings and sul­tans and rec­og­niz­ing the press­ing needs of the peo­ple, he would of­ten visit higher of­fi­cials. Not only this, many of­fi­cials would call upon him as well and vis- ited to pay homage to the great Khal­ifa. Forced to ac­cept mone­tary of­fer­ings, Sheikh Niza­mud­din Auliya would en­sure that the amount was evenly dis­trib­uted among the poor and needy.

In 1325, af­ter the demise of Sheikh Niza­mud­din Auliya, Sheikh Naseerud­din Mah­mud be­came his suc­ces­sor. Un­der the regime of Muham­mad ibn Tugh­laq, Su­fism gained un­par­al­lel promi­nence in North West In­dia. Chishti Su­fis, through their mes­sage of peace and brother­hood, en­cour­aged large Mus­lim gath­er­ings at var­i­ous Sufi congregations

The dis­in­te­gra­tion of the Chishti sil­sila was caused largely by Sul­tan Tugh­laq who aimed to fuse re­li­gious cler­gy­men and Su­fis so they could sup­port the state. Want­ing to ex­ploit their in­flu­ence on the com­mon man, the Sul­tan thought that he could use them for the mul­ti­pli­ca­tion of his power. Nu­mer­ous dis­ci­ples were scat­tered or ex­e­cuted and ma­te­ri­al­ism rapidly en­tered the Sufi struc­ture. Be­fore long, the Chishti sil­sila started to crum­ble.

The last nail in the cof­fin was placed by Sul­tan Feroz Tugh­laq, who brought in the spir­i­tu­ally in­com­pe­tent and in­ex­pe­ri­enced, Sa­jada nasheens. The ba­sic idea be­hind this step was to im­pose the dom­i­nant con­trol of the state on all re­li­gious af­fairs. The still pop­u­lar Su­fism move­ment posed a threat and crush­ing it be­came im­per­a­tive.

Such steps and di­rec­tions brought a di­luted end to the Chishti dy­nasty in the cap­i­tal of the sub-con­ti­nent, the Sul­tanate of Delhi. Shrines were thronged with large numbers of fol­low­ers but the quin­tes­sence of spir­i­tu­al­ity was miss­ing. Even to­day peo­ple from Pak­istan and In­dia visit these shrines to pay homage to the great Su­fis, many of whom have left be­hind the uni­ver­sal mes­sage to love hu­man­ity, re­spect all and serve mankind in the best way pos­si­ble.

Tan­vir An­jum, PH.D and As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor at Quaid-e-azam Univer­sity, has done a com­mend­able job. The book pro­vides the reader an ex­ten­sive look at var­i­ous evo­lu­tion­ary stages of the Chishti Su­fis. The rel­e­vant ref­er­ences make the vol­ume an authen­tic read and very well il­lus­trate the com­mand of the author over the sub­ject.

Re­viewed by Sabina Rizwan Khan The re­viewer is an en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist, work­ing as Coun­try Me­dia Co­or­di­na­tor (Pak­istan) for the South Asian Youth Ac­tion Cli­mate Ac­tion Net­work (SAYCAN). She is also a cer­ti­fied youth trainer.

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