(This is a reproduction of the booklet “Islamization of India by the Sufis” – by Shri Purushottam. It is being presented as a 3 part series.)
It is awfully propagated that Sufism is full of spiritualism and mysticism and could be a very effective means of promoting ‘Hindu-Muslim unity’ and social harmony, while the fact is otherwise.
Sufism-Another Face of Islamic Proselytization
A close examination of the history of Islamic proselytization activities in Bharat proves that Sufism through its missionary activities complemented the conversion of Hindus to Islam. Sufism, on one hand supported the Muslim invaders and Sultans in their political activities and reckless killings of the Hindus, and on the other hand influenced the gullible Hindus through their drama of spiritualism and mysticism. They did not object to the genocide of the Hindus and enslaving and selling their children and women by the cruel Muslim invaders.
Almost all Sufi masters were silent spectators of to the murderous mayhems and reckless plunder of temples and by the marauding hordes across the subcontinent. They did not object to senseless mass killings of the Hindus and destruction of Hindu temples.
Most Sufis came to Bharat either accompanying the invading armies of Islamic marauders or followed them in the wake of sweeping conquests by the soldiers of Islam. For example :- (1) Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti was accompanied to Ajmer in 1192 by Shihabuddeen Ghauri (2) Khwaja Qutubuddin came to Delhi during the rule of Iltutmish (1211-1236) (3) Shaikh Fariduddin came to Pattan (now in Pakistan) in 1265 and (4) Shaikh Nizammddin Auliya of Dargah Hazarat Nizamuddin came to Delhi in 1335 accompanying a contingent of the Muslim invaders.
It may be pointed out here that all Sufis supported Quran and Sharia. The great Sufi master of the eleventh century, Al-Qushairi (1072AD) had unanimously declared that there was no discord between the aims of the Sufi Haqiqa and the aims of the Shariah.
Similarly the great Sufi saint Al-Huiuri said that “There is no God save Allah” is the ultimate truth and the words “Muhammad is the apostle of Allah” are the indisputable law for the Sufis. In brief, the Sufism and Islamic Ulema represent the same two aspects of the Islamic faith which are universally accepted by all the Muslims.
Throughout the Muslim rule, all Sufis enjoyed full confidence, royal favour and support of the cruel rulers. According to well-known historian, Dr. K.S. Lal : “Hand in hand with the proselytizing efforts of the rulers was the work of Sufis and Maulvis. From the time of Muhammad bin Tughlaq (1326-1351) to that of Akbar (1556-1605), Bengal had attracted rebels, refugees, Sufi mashaikh, disgruntled nobles and adventurers from North Bharat. Professor K. R. Quanungo has noted that the conversion of Bengal was mainly the work of Barah-Auliyas. Prof. Abdul Karim has also referred to militant Sufi proselytization.” (Social History of Muslims in Bengal, pp. 136-138).
In this context, Dr. I.H. Qureshi writes : “The fourteenth century was a period of expansion of Muslim authority in Bengal and the adjoining territories. A significant part was played in this process by the warrior saints who were eager to take up the cause of any persecuted community. This often resulted (in clash) with the native authority, followed, almost invariably, by annexation.” (The Muslim Community of the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent (610-1974), pp. 70-71). “They (Sufis) acted mostly as peaceful missionaries, but if they saw that the espousal of some just cause required military action, they were not averse to fighting. The Sufis did not adopt the Ismaile technique of gradual conversion….. They established their Khanqahs and shrines at places which had already a reputation for sanctity before Islam. In brief, the Sufi Mashaikh converted people by both violent and non-violent means occupied their places of worship and turned them into Khanqahs and mosques to make Estern Bengal specially a Muslim land.”
“Muslim rulers, soldiers and Sufi Mashaikh left the high and low hardly any choice in the matter. The lower classes of course were more vulnerable…” In conclusion, it may be emphasized that even when historical forces had divided the country into a number of independent states consequent to the breakup of the Delhi Sultanate, the work of proselytization continued unabated. Small regions could be dealt with in detail and severe Muslim rulers, orthodox-Ulema and Zealous Sufis worked in this effectively.” (Indian Muslims : Who Are They pp. 58-59, 70).
In the following pages, the author Shri Purushottam has explicitly established that Sufis systematically worked hand in hand with the Muslim rulers, their armies and Sunni and Shia Ulemas in the garb of Sufi Spiritualism and mysticism.
I hope this small booklet will help in understanding the true colours of the Sufis’ activities during the last thirteen centuries.
– K.V. Paliwal,
Hindu Writers Forum
Islamization of Bharat by the Sufis- by Shri Purushottam
Jafar Makki in his letter No. 28, dated 19th December 1421, states that the main aspects of conversion to Islam were fear of death, fear of enslavement of the family, economic incentives (rewards, pension and war booty), the superstitious bigotry of the ancestral faith of the converts and lastly, persuasive preaching.1 In the entire history of Muslim rule in Bharat, we see the play of this process.
Rulers, zamindars and employers, who had the sword, the whip and the wealth, used fear of death, fear of enslavement of the family, economic incentives (rewards, pensions and war booty). The Sufis and Ulema on the other hand, employed persuasive preaching and bigotry towards native belief systems as their instruments of proselytization. Both the processes worked simultaneously, many times giving each other a helping hand.
Islamization of Bharat was the main aim of the invaders, Sultans and Kings and Sufis alike. Hindu soldiers and Rajas, who resisted the process, could be mercilessly trampled upon by elephant or beheaded and their dependents enslaved. Amir Khusrau writes that under Jalaluddin Khilji (1290-96) “Whenever a live Hindu fell into the hands of the victorious king was pounded to bits under the feet of the elephants. The Mussalman captives had their lives spared”.2 It was, however, not possible to behead the entire Hindu Population which stubbornly refused to convert. Therefore, Hindus were given the alternative of living as Zimmies on payment of a tax (Jizia), which normally was an alternative offered to Christians and Jews only.
Even so, the Hindus, as Zimmies, became second class citizens in their own homeland.”The main object of levying the jizia is the subjection of infidels to humiliation; and during the process of payment, the Zimmi is seized by the collar and vigorously shaken and pulled about in order to show him his degradation”.3 “Death awaited them at every corner, because, being idolators they could be given a choice only between Islam and death.”4 The purpose was to give the Zimmi some time to see the light of Islam in course of time and accept it.
Sufis and the Ulema have often resented and be-moaned for this kind of “mild treatment” of the Hindus by Muslim rulers. Amir Khusrau-the “Secular Sufi Saint” much advertised as such by DoorDarshan (Bharat’s Government TV channel) writes: “Happy Hindustan, the splendour of religion, where the law finds perfect honour and security. The whole country, by means of the sword of our holy warriors, has become like a forest denuded of its thorns by fire…… Islam is triumphant, idolatory is subdued. Had not the law granted exemption from death by the payment of poll-tax (Jizia), the very name of Hindu, root and branch, would have been extinguished.”
In peace time too, the process of enslavement went on un-abated. Hindu peasants, unable to pay heavy taxes, were driven away as slaves and sold to recover the tax. It was not uncommon to see the families weeping and wailing during the march to the slave market. All such slaves sooner or later, became Muslims because they were sold only to Muslim buyers. In North Bharat, Mohd. Bin Quasim entered with sword to convert Hindus to Islam in 712 CE. His achievement in the way of converting to Islam, is described in books. With his return back, Hindu Sindh soon reverted to its old religion, badly shattered, but alive.
Jihad in the path of Allah
Mohd. Bin Quasim left Sindh, but he had sown the seed of Islam in the fertile land of Bharat. The Muslims who had established their colonies at Debal, Mansura, Multan and Uch etc. flourished. With the rise of Fatimid Shia Caiphate from 909 to 1171, Multan became their dependency. Mansura, Capital of Sindh also accepted their lordship. Ismailis, who were a sect of Shias, were enthusiastic missionaries who unhesitatingly modified their esoteric system to suit their converts. According to 14th and 15th century legends, Ismaili propagandists evolved a belief for Hindu converts that Ali, the husband of Fatima, daughter of Mohammed, was the 10th incarnation of Vishnu, that Adam was another aspect of Siva and that Mohammad was in fact Brahma.6
When Sindh came under Muslim control, many Brahmins, holding high government offices, embraced Islam in order to retain their position. A large number of Buddhists who had acted as fifth columnists against their Hindu rulers and were extremely hostile to Brahmin domination converted to the faith of their conquerors.7Muhammad Bin Quasim is believed to have induced several chieftains to accept Islam and for reasons of expediency some responded favourably.8 The Raja of Asifan in the Punjab is said to have converted to Islam, after persuasion by some Muslim merchants who as a class had always been enthusiastic proselytizers.9 The Quran was translated in local language. As a result of these efforts, by 774 CE, Sindh had some leading Muslim literary figures well known in the Islamic world.10
Meanwhile, Islam had spread and established itself firmly in Transoxiana area. Many Sufis had migrated to that area from Persia, Iraq, Arabia etc.
Sufi literally means a person clad in woolen cloth. They were so-called because they dressed themselves in this way, said to be the way of the Prophet and his companions. In principle, Sufis believed in attaining God by meditation, fasts and singing His praises and achieving a state of ecstasy by singing and dancing, not unlike the practice of some Hindus saints.
Many scholars find great similarity between these practices of Sufis and the advocacy by some of them of the exercises of breath control (Pranayam) so highly praised in Hindu Yoga Shastra. They ascribe this similarity to the fact that ancient Hindu thought and ideas on mysticism had continually aroused interest in the Khurasan region, and these naturally fused with the mystical experiences of Muslim Sufis there.
However, one thing must be made clear at this juncture. All Sufis are ardent Muslims having absolute faith in the Prophet, his traditions, Quran and Shariah. So, although their form and conduct of recollection (Jap) and meditation (Dhyan) were often different, there was no hostility among them, and they adhered strictly to the basic tenets and frame work of Islam, which of cource held proselytization a very meritorious and pious work.
Mahmud of Ghazni repeatedly invaded India from 1001 to 1025 CE. During these raids and after, many talented and adventurous Sunni Sufis from the trans-oxania area came to Bharat and settled here. So that by the middle of the century, Sufis had well penetrated upto Punjab and spread their tentacles there and in the adjoining areas.
As is common in Hindu Bharat, stories of miraculous powers of these Sufis were spread by gullible Hindus themselves. Corrupted Hindu religion, after the Mahabharat had taken to sacrificial rituals involving slaughter of large number of animals and self mortification. This gave rise, as a reaction, to the extremely nonviolent religions of Jainism and Buddhism.
Buddhism, supported and encouraged by powerful Kings, like Ashok, spread peacefully and quickly even beyond the frontiers of Bharat to Tibet, China, Japan, Korea, Afghanistan, Ceylon, Burma and South East Asian countries of Indonesia, Malaya etc. The enormous Royal aid to Boddh Sanghs attracted innumerable indolent young men and women to these Sanghs. As a result, corruption grew. Aadi Shankracharya and other Hindu saints challenged these religions in public religious debates. Some powerful Hindu Kings having come to the throne helped. Buddhism, gradually retreated from Bharat, the land of its birth, but Hindu Dharma, due to its absorbent character, accepted the saintly Buddha as one of the incarnations of Vishnu and his principle of Ahinsa (non-violence) and Shankracharya’s Mayawad (illusionism). In this process, it forgot and neglected the aggressive and robust national militantism of the Vedas.
While the spiritual body of Hindus was thus in convulsion, its political body was also ailing. There was no central authority, only small independent states which were perpetually at war with each other. In these circumstances, they had no time to gain knowledge of the upto date military strategy, training and arms which had developed outside Bharat.
The weakness of Hindu Bharat in the political field, led to its defeat at the hands of vigorous and seasoned armies of Islam under Mahmood of Ghazni.
It was at this critical juncture that Sufism penetrated Bharat un-unoticed. Hindu society by now, had become victim to all kinds of superstitious bigotry, believing in good and bad spirits, miracles and miraculous power of mendicants, self-serving Gurus, Tantriks and Aghories, a cancer which will end only at its death. The Hindu religious psyche was therefore, quite ready to believe the fantastic stories of miracles performed by the newly arrived saints (Sufis) from across the frontiers. Consequently they flocked to them in large numbers for amulets, blessings and recommendations. Their conversion to Islam was then only a matter of time. The Sufis thus adopted a much easier path for conversions. Forced conversion involved a lot of blood shed of the Muslim soldiers. It also left behind a lot of bitterness. People so converted lapsed into infidelism as soon as the Muslim power waned as happened in Sindh after Mohd. Bin–Quasim’s departure. The Sufi method sometimes achieved conversions in a pleasant and peaceful manner without leaving behind any bitterness and chances of relapse.
Between the sixteenth and eighteenth century, conversions of Hindus to Islam did occur on a considerable scale, due to the successful proselytizing techniques used by the new Sufic orders which had considerable experience of this kind of work in Persia, Iraq and Central Asia. A large number of conversions that are taking place in Bharat today are also due to the activities of these sufis, dead and alive.
Although Sufis were not averse to taking up the sword and participating in Jihad, mostly they called upon the Muslim Sultans for this purpose. They themselves presented to the gullible and ignorant Hindus a face of devotional singing, dancing, renunciation and penance with which the latter was so familiar and which appeared to him, the signs of divinity in such Sufis.
(To be continued in the next part)
- Athar Abbas Rizvi : A History of Sufism in India Vol. II, p-425.
- S. Lal : The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India, P-120.
- Ibid, p-119.
- Athar Abbas Rizbi Ibid, Vol.I, p-110.
- Ibid, p-109.