While the tyranny of Islamic rulers and the atrocities they inflicted upon countless Hindus is often discussed, one aspect of the onslaught of Islamic rule in India is often forgotten. Worse, it is even revered, deified and put forth as the face of the tolerant, forgiving and loving side of Islam. It is Sufism. Sufism is described as the mystic, musical Islamic belief where saints and followers seek closeness with Allah through direct personal experience, so the popular definitions claim.
In India, while the deification of Mughals as tolerant, loving, kind rulers who brought prosperity to India is rampant, Sufism has been portrayed by Bollywood and popular culture as the “cool” version of Islam. Countless Bollywood songs, Ghazals and Shayaris have been made hailing Sufi saints, music, and dance. Most of them immensely popular. From Khwaja Mere Khwaja in Jodha Akbar to Kun Faya Kun in Rockstar, the list goes on. While Sufism itself may have been tolerant at one point, it evolved in a manner most violent and some who held on to Sufi roots were also persecuted by Islamists.
Among the Sufi shrines, the shrine of Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, Rajasthan is one of the most popular. The shrine invites devotees, Muslims and Hindus both, from all over the world. While the Ajmer Dargah is an important religious centre for Muslims, and even some Hindus, who visit there to get their wishes fulfilled, the history behind Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti is rather violent, and not very tolerant either.
MA Khan’s book ‘Islamic Jihad, A Legacy of Forced Conversions, Imperialism and Slavery sheds some light upon what the Sufi saints were actually like.
Sufism and orthodox Islam
Khan writes that Sufism was not accepted among most Muslims till Imam Ghazzali weaved tenets of Islamic orthodoxy into the body. The sects of Sufism that did not follow the orthodox ways, like the Bishariya Sufis, were brutally persecuted by Islamic rulers.
In India, Firoz Shah Tughlaq has recoded how he had punished the Sufi Shaykh Ruknuddin of Delhi, who had called himself a ‘Mahdi’ (messenger of God). Tughlaq had recorded that the people had torn Ruknuddin and his followers ‘into pieces’ and had ‘broke his bones into fragments’.
Indian Sufism was ‘Ghazzali’s orthodox Sufism
Khan further writes that Sufi leaders had poured into India along with the Turkic invaders and most of them, Nizamuddin Aulia, Aamir Khasrau, Nasiruddin Chiragh, Moinuddin Chishti and Jalaluddin etc, were all known for holding the Ulemas, orthodox Islamic scholars in high esteem. Khan further writes that though Nizamuddin Aulia and Moinuddin Chishti were among the most unorthodox when it came to music and dance, in the matters of Islam and Islamic supremacy, they held the words of the Ulema as sacrosanct.
“What the Ulema seeks to achieve though speech, the Sufis achieve by behaviour,” Nizamuddin Aulia had said. The great Sufi saint Nasiruddin Chiragh had reportedly banned all practices that were deviant from the Sharia.
Sufis, Jihad and ‘infidels’
Khan quotes Prof KA Nizami to describe what the Sufi leader Ghazzali had told in terms of Jihad, the Islamic religious war against Kafirs.
Ghazzali had written that his followers must go on Jihad at least once in a year and should bring down the fortresses of non-Muslims, they should cut down their throats and drown them and burn their holy books. Jihadists may take whatever booty they desire.
Toeing the orthodox line, Nizamuddin Aulia had condemned the Hindus of India to the ‘fires of hell’. He had also written that even if the non-Muslims embrace Islam, the faith will not benefit them, because they had been unbelievers. He had added, “He, (Allah) has created paradise and hell for the believers and the infidels respectively to repay the wicked they (infidels) have done.”
Khwaja Moinuddin and his Hindu hate
Records say that the much revered Khawaja of the Ajmer Dargah had a deep-seated hatred towards Hindus. He was among the very first Sufi saints to arrive in India where Delhi was under the rule of Sultan Iltutmish. Having arrived in Ajmer, Chishti reportedly saw a number of temples near the Anasagar lake and promised that he will have them razed to the ground.
Khan writes further that every day, Khwaja’s followers used to bring a cow and they used to slaughter it near a prominent temple where the local Raja and Hindus used to pray, cook kebabs from the cow’s meat to eat, just to show contempt towards the local Hindus.
Chishti had come to India to fight Jihad on the side of the Sultan Muhammad Ghauri against the Hindu King Prithviraj Chauhan. Chishti had credited himself for Prithviraj’s capture, writing, “We have seized Pithaura (Prithviraj) and handed him to the army of Islam.”
Moinuddin and forced conversions of Hindus
Khan writes that none of the Sufi saints had come to India with the idea of ‘peace and love’. Instead, they had come as a part of invading armies or had participated in Jihadi wars against Hindu kings, aimed at capturing their kingdoms and wealth and enslavement of their people. While Moinuddin fought for Mohammad Ghauri, Nizamuddin Aulia had fought for Sultan Alauddin.
Khan writes, Moinuddin and Nizamuddin were among the most revered of the Sufi saints. However, instead of adapting a missionary approach towards spreading Islam, they were the spiritual and moral supporters of bloody Jihad waged by Islamic invaders. In Kashmir, it was the Sufis who had inspired the wholesale level destruction of Hindu temples, the slaughter of Hindus and their forced conversions.
Not a single Sufi saint ever objected to the brutal mass slaughter and forced conversion of Hindus
Khan further writes that while Muslim rules were incessantly undertaking bloody wars against Hindus, calling it Jihad, resulting in the slaughter and enslavement of tens of thousands of Hindus, not a single Sufi saint ever objected to this cruel practice. They never asked the Islamic rulers to stop conversions by the sword and said that they can achieve it by peaceful means. Instead, they went on lending the rulers unflinching support, and even actively participated in their wars.
Moinuddin and Ajmer
Khwaja Moinuddin is said to have played an active role in the war by Ghauri against Prithviraj Chauhan. It is also said that he had encouraged forced conversions, slavery and kidnapping of Hindu women.
Popular Twitter user True Indology has shared a snippet from the Translation of Sufi Biography by Siyar Al Aqtab where he has pointed out how Moinuddin had forcibly taken the daughter of the local Hindu king who was ‘gifted’ to him by a follower who had captured the princess after attacking the Hindu king’s fort at night.
The reverence that the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti inspires among his followers is remarkable. Yesterday, journalist Amish Devgan had to apologise on social media after he had mistakenly pronounced ‘Chishti’ instead of Khilji in one of his news debates.
Not just Devgan’s social media timeline was soon filled with hate messages, and even death threats for daring to insult the revered Khwaja, multiple FIRs have now been registered against him by several Muslim individuals and organisations.
Ajmer and the India’s own ‘Rotherham’ scandal
In the early 1990s, a brutal, widespread rape gang had operated in the Ajmer city. Most of the perpetrators were from the families of ‘Khadims’, the families of traditional caretakers of the Ajmer Dargah. Khadims claim to be the direct descendants of the first followers of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishty and hold significant influence in the local communities. The police had stalled the case because the local politicians warned action against the accuse would lead to massive communal tension. The targeted rape and prolonged sexual exploitation of Hindu girls had gone on for years and while the case lingered, many victims, most of them minor girls, had committed suicide or chose to remain silent, for the fear of repercussions.
While the perpetrators may or may not have been the followers of Chishti, the institutionalised hatred against infidels and the religious sanction to treat infidel women as slaves and objects to be ‘owned’ comes from the deep-seated orthodox ideas that remain in the core of most political Islamist ideologies. It is not very different from what Alauddin Khilji did against Rajput kingdoms and what ISIS has done to Yazidis.
Islamist appeasement has reached to such levels in India that even the slightest criticism invites condemnation, and even legal, and judicial ramifications. In 2015, Kamalesh Tiwari, a former leader of the Hindu Mahasabha had commented on the sexuality of Prophet Mohammad. Though criticism and condemnation of statements are as democratic as the freedom to make those statements itself, in case of Kamlesh Tiwari, there were massive rallies taken out by thousand of Muslims where they had openly demanded his beheading. Rallies were taken out with placards literally calling for his head and finally in 2019, he was brutally killed (and beheaded) by some radical Islamists in his office.
While Sufism has been successfully popularised as a mystic, musical and ‘cool’ version of Islam, the ideas sold commercially by music maestros and Bollywood, one cannot ignore the other historical details of slavery, brutality and bloodshed that was heaped upon countless of Hindus to erect the monuments of this notion.