. The Sufis were mystics. They were pious men who were shocked at the degeneration in political and religious life. They opposed the vulgar display of wealth in public life and the readiness of the ulema to serve “ungodly” rulers. Many began to lead a retired ascetic life, having nothing to do with the state. The Sufi philosophy also differed from the ulema. The Sufis laid emphasis upon free thought and liberal ideas. They were against formal worship, rigidity and fanaticism in religion. The Sufis turned to meditation in order to achieve religious satisfaction. Like the Bhakti saints, the Sufis too interpreted religion as ‘love of god’ and service of humanity. In course of time, the Sufis were divided into different silsilahs (orders) with each silsilah having its own pir (guide) called Khwaja or Sheikh.
The advent of Sufism in India is said to be in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. One of the early Sufis of eminence, who settled in India, was Al-Hujwari who died in 1089, popularly known as Data Ganj Baksh (Distributor of Unlimited Treasure). In the beginning, the main centres of the Sufis were Multan and Punjab. By the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Sufis had spread to Kashmir, Bihar, Bengal and the Deccan. It may be mentioned that Sufism had already taken on a definite form before coming to India. Its fundamental and moral principles, teachings and orders, system of fasting, prayers and practice of living in khanqahs had already been fixed. The Sufis came to India via Afghanistan on their own free will. Their emphasis upon a pure life, devotional love and service to humanity made them popular and earned them a place of honour in Indian society.
Abul Fazl while writing in the Ain-i-Akbari speaks of fourteen silsilahs of the Sufis. However, in this lesson we shall outline only some of the important ones. These silsilahs were divided into two types: Ba-shara and Be-shara. Ba-shara were those orders that followed the Islamic Law (Sharia) and its directives such as namaz and roza. Chief amongst these were the Chishti, Suhrawardi, Firdawsi, Qadiri and Naqshbandi silsilahs. The beshara silsilahs were not bound by the Sharia. The Qalandars belonged to this group.