Major Beliefs and Practices of Sufism
The medieval era saw a major social and religious movement in the Islamic world called the Sufi movement. In India, along with the Bhakti movement, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Sufi movement also became popular and left its indelible mark on the hearts of the people. The Sufi movement was a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity. The Sufi scholars traveling across continental Asia were instrumental in the social, economic, and philosophical development of India. In addition to preaching in major cities and centers of intellectual thought, Sufis reached out to poor and marginalized rural communities and preached in local dialects such as Urdu, Sindhi, and Punjabi.
Sufism originally originated from Islam, which continued to flourish in India. Some scholars argue that Sufism came to India before the Muslim invasion. Sufi mystics used to come to India with Arab travelers. The real propagation of Sufism was done by Abul Hasan and he became famous for his liberal ideology. The famous preacher of Sufism in India was Saint Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti.
The Sufi movement also has many branches. A group of Sufi preachers took a very revolutionary path. They were mystics who renounced the material world and took up a life of penance. Apart from this, they also rejected the supremacy of Sharia laws. Such Sufis were called Be-Sharia. On the other hand, some Sufi saints criticized the extravagant lifestyle of emperors and caliphates but did not reject Sharia laws. These Sufi saints were called Ba-Sharia.
Main principles of Sufism
According to Sufism, God is one. The world is a reflection of God. Everything in the world is given by God. According to them, God is the only real being. Its form is eternal and everywhere. According to Sufi seekers, God is unique, absolute, imperceptible, infinite, and the ultimate truth. Apart from the ultimate truth, he is the ultimate welfare and supremely beautiful. Thus, the Sufi doctrine can be said to be based on Satyam Shivam Sundaram.
Sufi saints consider the soul to be a part of God. According to Sufis, the soul used to rule before it got imprisoned in the human body. That’s why Sufi seekers welcome death and thus the liberation of the soul. In the view of Sufi seekers, two qualities are predominant in the soul, Nafs and Rooh. Nafs is the source of all vices, pride, ignorance, anger, lust, fear. The Rooh or The spirit is the abode of God. The Nafs and Rooh are in a constant conflict.
3. Light (Noor)
According to the Sufis, when God had the desire to create the universe, he created light. The light is referred to as Noor e Muhammad (the light of Muhammad). God created the universe with this light.
Humans and helping fellow human beings are given the utmost importance in Sufism. According to Sufism, human beings are the best creation of God in the universe. According to Sufi seekers, man manifests all the qualities of God’s soul. Every human being should do good deeds. Good deeds bring man closer to God. Due to bad deeds, he turns away from God. A man can rise above the human condition and attain divinity. In this stage, he can listen to the teachings of God and put forth good ideas in front of the public.
5. Importance of teacher (Pir)
Pir has great importance in Sufism. Pir is the one who takes the seeker to God. A Sufi seeker cannot achieve anything without a spiritual master. Seeker always sees his Pir like God. Before being initiated into this religion, a person has to make certain vows in front of the Pir. The disciple had to do all the work like staying in the ashram, filling water, cleaning, etc. It is necessary to have a Pir to cross the difficult paths. With the help of Pir, a person achieves his real objective. Malik Muhammad Jayasi has written in this regard, “Don’t walk without your Pir, else you’ll do mistakes”.
Love has great importance in the practice of Sufis. Love in the physical, mental, and spiritual sense is the driving force and the basis of Sufism is love. According to this God is uniquely beautiful and can be attained through love. The pleasure and benefit that comes from attachment to something is love.
As a religious and political institution, the Sufis turned to asceticism and mysticism to protest the growing materialism of the Caliphate. They were against dogmatic definitions and educational methods of interpreting the Qur’an and Sunna adopted by theologians. They emphasized attaining salvation through intense devotion and love for God. They regarded Prophet Muhammad as a perfect human being and suggested following his example.
Sufism opposes the propaganda of fanatics for faith and devotion to God. Sufism is a spiritual movement against the orthodox practice of Islam whose aim is to bring mankind to the realization of God without any intermediary. These people were interested in Hindu-Muslim unity and cultural harmony. The main aim of Sufism is to serve humanity through spiritual self-development.