How Islam came to India and why now it needs to go from India – 4 : Sufis
The Islamic conversion in India of non-Muslims into Islam has been declared to have been done by Sufi preachers who were always a very tolerant, integrative, and peaceful interpretation of Islam always using peaceful means to convert Hindus. Let us see, what the Sufi’s themselves say about their conversion methods in the early days of Islam in India.
The author of Siyarul-Arifin, Hamid bin Fazlullah is also known as Dervish Jamali Kamboh Dihlawi. He was a Sufi of the Suhrawardiyya sect who died in AD 1536 while accompanying the Mughal Emperor Humayun on an expedition to Gujarat. His son, Shykh Gadai was with the Mughal army in the Second Battle of Panipat (AD 1556) and advised Akbar to kill the Hindu king, Himu imprisoned in battle, with his own hand. On Akbar’s refusal, according to Badauni, Shykh Gadai helped Bairam Khan in beheading the blinded and fatally wounded Himu [So much for treatment of prisoners of war in Islam]. This work, completed between AD 1530 and 1536, is an account of the Chishti and Suhrawardi Sufis of the period.
Sheikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi (AH 533-623) was the second most famous disciple of Sheikh Shihabuddin Suhrawardi (AD 1145-1235), founder of the Suhrawardiyya silsila of Sufism. Having lived in Multan, Delhi and Badaun, he finally settled down in Lakhanauti, also known as Gaur, in Bengal.
Devatala (Bengal) “Shaikh Jalaluddin had many disciples in Bengal. He first lived at Lakhnauti, constructed a khanqah and attached a langar to it. He also bought some gardens and land to be attached to the monastery. He moved to Devatalla (Deva Mahal) near Pandua in northern Bengal. There a kafir (either a Hindu or a Buddhist) had erected a large temple and a well. The Shaikh demolished the temple and constructed a takiya (khanqah) and converted a large number of kafirs… Devatalla came to be known as Tabrizabad and attracted a large number of pilgrims.”
[S.A.A. Rizvi: A History of Sufism in India. Vol. I, New Delhi, 1978]
Tarikh-i-Kashmir was written by Haidar Malik Chadurah, was a Kashmiri aristocrat in the service of Sultan Yusuf Shah (AD 1579-1586) and purports to give the history of Kashmir. Earlier portions are based on Kalhana’s Rajatarangini with some additions in the later period. It was begun in AD 1618 and finished sometime after 1620-21.
Sufi Mir Shamsuddin Iraqi of Kashmir was a sufi of the Kubrawiyya sect who came to Kashmir first in AD 1481, next in AD 1501, and finally in 1505 in the reign of Sultan Fath Shah. He found it convenient to work as a member of the Nr Bakhsh Sufi sect. His doings are “anticipated” in the Tarikh-i-Kashmir as follows:
“…Baba Uchah Ganai went for circumambulation of the two harms (Mecca and Medina)… in search of the perfect guide (Pir-i-Kamil). He prayed to God (to help) him when he heard a voice from the unknown that the ‘perfect guide’ was in Kashmir himself… Hazrat Shaikh, Baba Uchah Ganai… returned to Kashmir… All of a sudden his eyes fell upon a place of worship, the temples of the Hindus. He smiled; when the devotees asked the cause of (his smile) he replied that the destruction and demolition of these places of worship and the destruction of the idols will take place at the hand of the high horn Sheikh Shams-ud-Din Irraqi. He will soon be coming from Iraq and shall turn the temples completely desolate, and most of the misled people will accept the path of guidance and Islam… So as was ordained Sheikh Shams-ud-Din reached Kashmir. He began destroying the places of worship and the temples of the Hindus and made an effort to achieve the objectives.” [Tarikh-Kashmir, edited and translated into English by Razia Bano, Delhi, 1991, pp. l02-03. ]
Siyar al-Aqtab was completed in AD 1647 by Allah Diya Chishti and deals with many miracles performed by the Sufis, particularly of the Sabriyya branch of the Chishtiyya silsila.
Sheikh Muin al-Din Chishti of Ajmer (d. AD 1236) Ajmer (Rajasthan)
“Although at that time there were very many temples of idols around the lake, when the Khwaja saw them, he said: ‘If God and His Prophet so will, it will not be long before I raze to the ground these idol temples.’
“It is said that among those temples there was one temple to reverence which the Raja and all the infidels used to come, and lands had been assigned to provide for its expenditure. When the Khwaja settled there, every day his servants bought a cow, brought it there and slaughtered it and ate it…
[CE 1236 was the time of Qutbudin Aibak and Iltutmish, (whose reputation about treatment of non-Muslims we will discuss later) based a short distance away from Ajmer, in Delhi, with Muslim military bases all around in Punjab. The integration and tolerance towards non-Muslims is shown in the bold declaration of occupying a Hindu temple, slaughtering (imagined or real) cows in a Hindu temple and eating the beef up.]
“So when the infidels grew weak and saw that they had no power to resist such a perfect companion of God, they… went into their idol temples which were their places of worship. In them there was a dev, in front of whom they cried out and asked for help…
“…The dev who was their leader, when he saw the perfect beauty of the Khwaja, trembled from head to foot like a willow tree. However much he tried to say ‘Ram, Ram’, it was ‘Rahim, Rahim’ that came from his tongue… The Khwaja… with his own hand gave a cup of water to a servant to take to the dev… He had no sooner drunk it than his heart was purified of darkness of unbelief, he ran forward and fell at the Heaven-treading feet of the Khwaja, and professed his belief…
“The Khwaja said: ‘I also bestow on you the name of Shadi Dev [Joyful Dev]’…
“…Then Shadi Dev… suggested to the Khwaja, that he should now set up a place in the city, where the populace might benefit from his holy arrival. The Khwaja accepted this suggestion, and ordered one of his special servants called Muhammad Yadgir to go into the city and set in good order a place for faqirs. Muhammad Yadgir carried out his orders, and when he had gone into the city, he liked well the place where the radiant tomb of the Khwaja now is, and which originally belonged to Shadi Dev, and he suggested that the Khwaja should favour it with his residence…
[A realistic version will be the story of a typical strong arm bully backed up by the threat of Muslim military might simply picking up a nice property that takes fancy]
“…Muin al-din had a second wife for the following reason: one night he saw the Holy Prophet in the flesh. The prophet said: ‘You are not truly of my religion if you depart in any way from my sunnat.’ It happened that the ruler of the Patli fort, Malik Khitab, attacked the unbelievers that night and captured the daughter of the Raja of that land. He presented her to Muin al-din who accepted her and named her Bibi Umiya.”
[ This method of obtaining a bride is of course also a wonderful way of showing tolerance, integration, peaceful gestures of conversion. What is more significant is that a Sufi writer does not think that such behaviour is odd and not in the character of a Sufi]
Currie comments that “…The take-over of ‘pagan’ sites is a recurrent feature of the history of the expansion of Islam. The most obvious precedent is to be found in the Muslim annexation of the Hajar al-aswad at Mecca… Sir Thomas Arnold remarks that ‘in many instances there is no doubt that the shrine of a Muslim saint marks the site of some local cult which was practised on the spot long before the introduction of Islam…There is evidence, more reliable than the tradition recorded in the Siyar al-Aqtab, to suggest that this was the case in Ajmer. Sculpted stones, apparently from a Hindu temple, are incorporated in the Buland Darwaza of Muin-al-din’s shrine. Moreover, his tomb is built over a series of cellars which may have formed part of an earlier temple… A tradition, first recorded in the Anis al-Arwah, suggests that the Sandal Khana is built on the site of Shadi Dev’s temple.” [P.M. Currie, The Shrine and Cult of Muin al-Din Chishti of Ajmer, OUP, 1989]
Bahar-i-Azam is an account of a journey undertaken in 1823 by Azam Jah Bahadur “after he ascended the throne of the Carnatic as Nawab Walajah VI.” The author, Ghulam ‘Abdul Qadir Nazir, was his court scribe who accompanied the Nawab on this journey. The Nawab was only in name as he was living in Madras on British gratuity, in lieu of his ancestral principality of Arcot which had been cturned over to the British in 1801. The account names numerous Sufis etc., who came to the districts of Chingleput, North Arcot, South Arcot, Tiruchirapalli and Thanjavur and established Muslim places of worship. What these new monuments replaced becomes obvious from the following instances.
Sufi Natthar Wali of Tiruchirapalli (Tamil Nadu) “It is said that in ancient days Trichila, an execrable monster with three heads, who was a brother of Rawan, with ten heads, had the sway over this country. No human being could oppose him. But as per the saying of the Prophet, ‘Islam will be elevated and cannot be subdued’, the Faith took root by the efforts of Hazarat Natthar Wali. The monster was slain and sent to the house of perdition. His image namely but-ling worshipped by the unbelievers was cut and the head was separated from the body. A portion of the body went into the ground. Over that spot is the tomb of the Wali, shedding rediance till this day.”
Sufi Shah Bheka “Shah Bheka… when he was at Trichinopoly during the days of Rani Minachi, the unbelievers who did not like his stay there harassed him. One day when he was very much vexed, he got upon the bull in front of the temple, which the Hindus worship calling it swami, and made it move on by the power and strength of the Supreme Life Giver… They abandoned the temple and gave the entire place on the aruskalwa as present to the Shah.” (this is during a time when the Muslim faction in court politics was dominant)
Sufi Qãyim Shah “Qayim Shah[…]was the cause for the destruction of twelve temples. He lived to an old age and passed away on the 17th Safar AH 1193.”
Sufi Nur Muhammad Qadiri of Vellore (Tamil Nadu) “Hazarat Nur Muhammad Qadiri was the most unique man regarded as an invaluable person of his age. Very often he was the cause of the ruin of temples. Some of these were laid waste. He selected his own burial ground in the vicinity of the temple. Although he lived five hundred years ago, people at large still remember his greatness.”
[Bahar-i-Azam, translated in English, Madras, 1960, 382 Ibid., p. 51. Sayyid Nathar Shah (AD 969-1030) from Arabia destroyed a Shiva temple and converted it into his khanqah. He died in AH 673, and the khanqah became a dargah which has since grown into an important place of Muslim pilgrimage]