The Sufi movement and the Bhakti movement saw rise during the medieval period in India. Both the movements brought a new form of religious expression in Muslims and Hindus. The Sufis were mystics who believed in liberalism in Islam. They stressed on a society based on universal love. They didn’t give any importance to caste and believed that all human being’s are equal. The Sufi saints played an important role in bringing the Muslims and Hindus together. They used local language to make religion accessible and meaningful to the common people. They were against the vulgar display of wealth in public life. The Sufis gave prominence to free thought and liberal ideas. They turned to meditation in order to achieve religious contentment. Similar to the Bhakti saints, the Sufis also interpreted religion as ‘love of god’ and service of humanity. Due to their belief in the concept of unity of being, Sufis could establish an ideological relationship with Hindu thought.
The term sufi is an Arabic word generally suggesting to a man who believes in the path of devotion and dedication to god. The scholars are divided on the origin of the term. Some scholars are of the view that the term sufi has been derived from a Greek word sophia that means wisdom.
The Sufism came in India in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In the early days, the main centres of the Sufis were in Multan and Punjab. The Sufis had spread to Deccan, Bengal, Bihar and the Kashmir in thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The Sufism had already taken on a definite form before its arrival to India. Its moral principles, teachings and orders, system of fasting, prayers and practice of living in khanqahs had already been fixed. The Sufis came to India on their own will through Afghanistan. They became popular due to their emphasis upon devotional love, service to humanity and a pure life. This helped them to earn a place of honour in Indian society.
The sufis traveled with an aim of preaching Islam to the native people of the conquered lands without using any force or coercive measures. They were welcomed in India and all other countries. To accomplish their mission, they interacted with the residents of that country and they learnt the local language for this purpose. The sufis also came in contact with the mystics of different religions. Many sufis had come to India along with the armies of Muslim invaders. The Sufis found the Indian soil suitable for the accomplishment of their mission. They developed contacts with the local people after their arrival in India. To have meaningful conversation with the natives of the area for their work, they learnt their language. They also studied the literature of different languages. Sanskrit literature deeply affected their thought. Many sufis had learnt and practiced the eight fold path of yoga.
The Rishi order of Sufis has the most dominant influence on the Kashmiri Muslims in terms of Kashmiriyat. The other Sufi orders like the Kubravi, Naqshbandi, Suharwardi and Quadri arrived in Kashmir from Persia, Central and North India, Central Asia, however, the Rishi order evolved indigenously in the valley itself in the fifteenth century. The term ‘Rishi‘ has a clear roots from Sanskrit and Indian traditions. The Rishi order of Sufis differ from other Sufi orders in its way of life and philosophy. Many writers of this period have been greatly attracted to the unique way of life and philosophy of the Rishi order of Sufis. Abul Fazl, an important chronicler of this period writes that the most respected class of people in Kashmir are the Rishis. They are true in their worship and they do not condemn men belonging to different faiths and religion. The Kashmiri Muslims of Rishi‘s order have ascetic and unworldly life thus have a close similarity to the lifestyle of the Hindu Rishis, Munis and Buddhist and Jain monks.
Kashmir remained in the grip of militants and separatists for years. A Muslim majority region was seeking freedom from a Hindu majority country. This created an impression of rampant communalism in the state. Not paying attention to the misdeeds of isolated groups, funded from abroad, the people remained secular. This is demonstrated by the fact that ordinary Kashmiri Muslims are even today eagerly waiting the return of their Pundit brothers and sisters who had left the valley due to militancy.
From where does this commitment to secularism and a composite Hindu Muslim culture emanate? What is the reason of this deep connection with India? Why Kashmiri Muslim gives so importance to Kashmiriyat? The answer lies in the Kashmiri Muslims philosophy of life and his spiritual beliefs. It is the deep rooted impact of Sufi and Rishi visions of Islam that have helped him to follow co existence and universal brotherhood.
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