Peace Offensive Lost
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.