Impact of Sufism
In parallel with the Bhakti movement in Hinduism, Sufism played a similar role in Islam. The terms Sufi, Wali, Darvesh and Fakir are used for Muslim saints who attempted to develop their intuitive faculties through ascetic exercises, contemplation, renunciation and self-denial. By the 12th century, Sufism had become an influential aspect of Islamic social life as it extended over almost the entire Muslim community.
Sufism represents the inward or esoteric side and the mystical dimension of Islam. Sufi saints transcended religious and communal distinctions, and worked for promoting the interest of humanity at large. The Sufis were a class of philosophers remarkable for their religious catholicity and tolarance. Sufis regarded God as the supreme beauty and believed that one must admire it, take delight in His thought and concentrate his attention on Him only. They believed that God is ‘Mashuq’ (beloved) and Sufis are the ‘Ashiqs’ (lovers). Sufism crystallized into various ‘Silsilahs’ or orders. The most popular Sufi orders were Chistis, Suhrawardis, Qadiriyahs and Naqshbandis.
Sufism took root in both rural and urban areas, and exercised a deep social, political and cultural influence on the masses. It rebelled against all forms of religious formalism, orthodoxy, falsehood and hypocrisy, and endeavoured to create a new world order in which spiritual bliss was the ultimate goal. At a time when struggle for political power was the prevailing trend, the Sufi saints reminded people of their moral obligations. In a world torn by strife and conflict they tried to bring peace and harmony. The most important contribution of Sufism is that it helped to blunt the edge of Hindu-Muslim conflicts and prejudices by forging the feelings of solidarity and brotherhood between these two religious communities.