Rebuttal: History

Were Sufi saints sent by Muslim rulers to India?


By Sulaiman Razvi

We know that even Hindus visit shrines of Sufi saints with utmost respect to fulfill their wishes or to pay respect, but there are some people in the community who doesn’t want communal harmony. The Saffron nationalist are trying to demean the holy saints by calling them traitors. They claim that Sufi saints were sent here by the Muslim rulers with a mission to convert Indian people to Islam so it may become easier for them to rule. It’s a bogus claim, Sufi saints are known for their correct preaching of Islam which includes living peacefully with every human being irrespective of their religion or status. The Saffron terrorist quotes a letter of unknown Sufi saint addressed to a Muslim ruler and claim that all the saints were traitors. Right wing groups cannot digest facts that Islam was spread peacefully by Sufis so they have to distort history. When right wing outfit say that Sufis were traitors that means they are acknowledging the fact that Islam was spread peacefully, this is why they are trying to distort the history of Sufism in India.

There was a Hindu king named Raja Ganesha in Bengal who was persecuting Muslims and vandalizing mosques, so a Muslim saint named Shaikh Nur Qutb al Alam r.a sent letter to Jaunpur Sultan, Ibrahim Shah Sharqi, with an appeal to invade Bengal and overthrow Raja Ganesha. Sultan Ibrahim Shah Sharqi successfully defeated Raja Ganesha and his son embraced Islam and took the name Jalaluddin Muhammad Shah. This letter of the Sufi saint is misrepresented by Hindutvadis to show that the saint had sent a letter asking the Sultan to persecute Hindus. There are many such incidents where Hindu Rajas oppressed Sufi saints for proselytizing or oppressing Muslims like the case of Sufi Sarmast of Bijapur who along with his followers were going to be expelled by Hindu Raja Kumaram (Kumara Rama). So a war ensued between them and Lakhi Khan Afghan and Nimat Khan came from Delhi to help the Sufi saint and defeated the Raja.

In 1758, the Maratha armies occupied Lahore and evicted Timur, son of Ahmed Shah Abdali of Kabul. The Punjab is where the vast Islamic world meets up with the subcontinental Hindu culture. At this juncture, Shah Waliullah of Delhi wrote to Ahmed Shah Abdali, inviting him to enter Punjab and stop the Marathas. Three years later, in 1761, Ahmed Shah crossed the Indus and took Lahore. Third battle of Panipat was fought and Afghans were victorious. Hindutvadis are undermining the work of Sufis by accusing them of working under the control of rulers. Sufi saints had left everything behind and came to India to preach the message of Islam solely for the purpose of pleasing Allah and it is an insult to their devotion to god to say that they were agents of rulers. There are 50 crore or 500 million Muslims in the Indian subcontinent and Sufi saints played a major role in preaching of Islam. Hindutvadis believe in the proverb ‘tell a lie a hundred times and it becomes the truth’. They tried hard putting forth their sword of Islam thesis, to claim the Islam was spread by sword in India and when they thought that this is not going to work so they started tarnishing the image of Sufi saints.

The Gorakhpur-based Gorakhnath Peeth or Matth, was granted by a Muslim ruler, Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula of Awadh. Roshan Ali Shah, the great 18th century Sufi of Gorakhpur requested Asaf-ud-daula, the then Nawab of Avadh, to grant land for the Gorakhpur Matth. After posting this can one make a claim that Gorakhnath Mutth Yogis also worked for Muslim rulers?

Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya R.A witnessed the reigns of seven Sultans, but he did not attend the darbar of any one of them. He was popularly known as Mahbub-i-Ilahi (Beloved of God)

Mahatma Gandhi, The father of the India said
‘”My association with the noblest of Mussalmans has taught me to see that Islam has spread not by power of sword but by the prayerful love of an unbroken line of saints and fakirs…” – Young India, 10-7-1942; Mahatma Gandhi and comparative religion By K.L. Seshagiri Rao pg 39


”It is incorrect to state that the Sufis followed the Muslim conquerors in the sub-continent. They were here, though in small numbers, and had started their work even before the arrival and triumph of Muslim armies. ” We now know that a Sufi, Sh. Abdur Rahman, had settled in Ajmer even before Khwaja Moinuddin, and was the author of the first work in Hindi.”( Indian Muslims, By Prof. M.Mujeeb.). At this time Ajmer was ruled by Rajput Rajas. Similarly, Shaikh Ismail Bukhari came to Pakistan before Mahmud Ghaznavi. Mohammed Alfi who came as early as Mohd. Bin Qasim’s time began missionary work in Hindu-ruled Kashmir. “The Ismaili missionary Abdullah landed near Cambay in 1067A.D. and worked in Gujrat when the country was governed by Sidhraj Jai Singh. He and his Jain teacher Huma Charya are said to have been converted to Islam when there was no recorded Muslim invasion.” (The Shias of India, By John Norman Hollister). Such instances can be multiplied without end.” – Sufi Movement and Pakistan, Kemal Hasan


”From the fifteenth year after the death of the Prophet, when an Arab expedition was sent into Sind, up to the eighteenth century, a series of Muhammadan invaders, some founders of great empires, others mere adventurers, poured into India from the north-west. While some came only to plunder and retired laden with spoils, others remained to found kingdoms that have had a lasting influence to the present day. But of none of these do we learn that they were accompanied by any missionaries or preachers.” -The Preaching of Islam: A History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith, pg 256, by T.W Arnold, Adam Publishers, 2002

It would be important to note here that even before the invaders who came to conquer India in the name of Islam, a large number of Sufis and preachers had come to India to spread the word of Islam
and its message of universal brotherhood and equality. If Islam had come to India with the sword, it would not have gained the acceptance of a
large number of people as it did in the times to come.” – Indo-West Asian relations: the Nehru era, By Najma Heptulla p 195-6, Allied Publishers, 1991

”Islam as having historically played a key role in the emancipation of the Dalit, a role which was gradually watered down over time. Islam spread in India principally through the agency of the Sufis whose teachings of love, brotherhood and social equality attracted many Dalit to the new faith, shackled as they were by the chains of the caste system and the Brahminical religion. Seeing the early Muslims eating from the same dish and praying together in the same mosque, the Dalit entered the Muslim fold in droves. It was not by the sword, but through the love and compassion that the Sufis exhibited in their behaviour towards the poor, principally the Dalit, that large numbers of Hindus converted to Islam.’ Muslims in India Since 1947: Islamic Perspectives on Inter-Faith Relations, page 115, Yoginder Sikand, Routledge, 31-Jul-2004

”Indian Moslem merchants from Gujarat and Bengal also brought Islam to southeast Asia [pg15]… Islam was spread by the Sufi mystics who came and lived in their interpretation of Islam among the people without any support of any external authority” [Malay Muslims: The History and challenge of resurgent Islam in Southeast Asia By Robert Day McAmis p.17, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 09-Jul-2002]

He also writes,

“This does not contradict the fact that the Indian Muslims merchants helped in the spread of Islam. It is possible that these merchants were Sufis or greatly influenced by the Sufis.” ibid

‘The Sufis were not part of an organized missionary program, nor did they work under the direct authority of the Muslim ruler, instead they were inspired by the personal commitment to their faith. The Sufis helped spread Islam through Asia, Central Asia, India, China and Indonesia.
[Exploring the Middle Ages, By Marshall Cavendish Corporation, Steven Maddocks, Dale Anderson, Jane Bingham, Peter Chrisp, Christopher Gavett, p.527, 01-Jan-2006 – Juvenile Nonfiction]

“Sufism in India provided a means of establishing contact between Muslims and Hindus, was responsible for many conversions. ”- [world history: journeys from past to present, Candice lee Goucher, linda a Walton and In the balance: themes in global history, Volume 1 p.358]

”explaining the role of Sufis and Sufi orders in spreading Islam D. Macdonald states: ”I have already said the nearest approach that Islam has produced to the professional missionary is the wandering dervish- saints […}the favorable causes of the spread of Islam in the Indian subcontinent has been the peaceful penetration of the country by Muslim saints and mystics [The spread of Islam: the contributing factors[…]much of the work of conversion was carried on by the Sufi brotherhood during the second great wave of Islamic spread in central Asia, India, Indonesia and Africa”- [By Abū al-Faz̤l ʻIzzatī, A. Ezzati, The spread of Islam: the contributing factors By Abū al-Faz̤l ʻIzzatī, A. Ezzati page 22, 200-1, ICAS Press, 2002]

”the reaction of the Hindus to certain groups of Muslims men of letters remains insignificant compared to the profound popular work of conversion undertaken by Muslim mystics, which led more and more Hindu masses to embrace Islam [p 146]. from the sixth to the thirteenth century, the hermitages of Muslim saints, who were chased from Persia by the invading Mongols, multiplied in north India, and around their venerated tombs, villages were founded by Hindu converts who were attracted to Islam by the austerity and the gentile helpfulness of these hermits… it is not through war that Islam was spread in India, it is through the mystics and their great orders, Chistiyah, Kobrawaiyah, Shattariya and Naqshbandiya.”- On Becoming an Indian Muslim: French Essays on Aspects of Syncretism, page 52, by M. Waseem, Oxford University Press, 2003, also mentioned in The foundations of the composite culture in India, By Malika Mohammada page 148

”The thirteenth and fourteenth centuries witnessed the peaceful spread of Islam, via Sufi travellers and merchants”- [The Illustrated guide to World Religions p.99, Michael David Coogan]

Conversion to Islam in this country is seen as the act of the Kings while in reality Islam spread in India because of the humane teachings of the Sufi saints. Surely some individuals and landlords did convert to Islam out of fear or expectation of reward but those are few compared to the Shudras2 who embraced Islam in large numbers.” – Popular culture in a globalised India, pg 99, By K. Moti Gokulsing, also mentioned in Contemporary India: overcoming sectarianism and terrorism, page 134, by Ram Punyani, Hope India Publications, 2008

”The spread of Islam throughout the western Punjab has been attributed to the efforts initiated by the grand Sufi masters of the Chishtiyya and Suhrawaridiya, baba Farid Ganj i Shakar (d. 664/1264) of Pakpattan and Bahauddin Zakariya (d.666/1267) of Multan, Respectiverly”-
[Sufi heirs of the Prophet: the Indian Naqshbandiyya and the rise of the, Arthur F. Buehler page 169]

The Awliya (Saints) used to distant themselves from politics, but some Saints had relation with the rulers, but this relation was limited to a Murshid and Murid relation (Student and teacher or disciple). I don’t want to speak about whether Shivaji was communal or not, but when trying to portray Shivaji as a secular king, Hindu brothers often say in defence that he used to revere a Sufi saint named Yakut Baba. Shivaji visiting Yakut Baba doesn’t mean he used to visit Yakut Baba for political gains. So it were not just Muslim rulers but even non Muslims rulers who were attracted towards the preaching of Sufi saints.

”The first Sufi to visit Jammu, according to available sources, was Pir Raushan ‘Ali shah. According to the Gulab Nama, a nineteenth century history of Jammu, he was a contemporary of the Prophet Muhammad and arrived in Jammu in the seventh century A.D, although this is not credible. He is said to have so impressed the Hindu ruler of Jammu, Raja Sarpala Dhar, that the king requested him to settle down.”- [Muslims in India: contemporary social and political discourses By Yoginder Sikand page 186]

”The Buddhists were the first to embrace Islam in Kashmir. The firm Muslim ruler of Kashmir was Rinchana, a Buddhist prince of Ladakh, who embraced Islam at the behest of a Muslim saint. Rinchanas conversion should not, however be treated as an individual case…”[Perspectives on kashmi pg 127 , by Dr. M.I Khan] – Challenges to religions and Islam: a study of Muslim movements pg 1349, by Hamid Naseem Rafiabadi

However some consider Rinchana’s conversion to be for political gain. A historian writes,

”He [Raziuddin] also points out that some Sufis supported a king as long as he (the king) was accountable to God only and ensured peace and order he received Saint’s blessings but “if he failed to ensure peace and order in realm, and oppressed the subject, he could lose his ‘job’ on account of the prayer of a saintly person, for example, a Sufi Shaykh. The sources mention several anecdotes in which a reigning king was removed from the throne by the Sufi saint, and the kingship was bestowed upon some one who was portrayed as a more deserving person.”- Sufism, Culture and Politics: Afghans and Islam in Medieval North India By Raziuddin Aquil

It’s a well-established fact that no Muslim army invaded Malaysia and Indonesia, yet Muslims make majority in those countries. Islam was spread in Malaysia and Indonesia due to the preaching by Sufis. If Sufi saints were sent by Muslim rulers in India then can Islamophobes tell us which Muslim ruler sent the Saints in Malaysia and Indonesia? It is substantial proof that saints were spiritually motivated to preach Islam.

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