Sufism in Karnataka

Sufism in Karnataka

Sufism is nothing other than Islamic mysticism. The saints who preached the principles of Sufism are called Sufi saints. Karnataka is one of the most important southern states of India. At present in Karnataka there are thirty districts and in these districts, four hundred and twenty five references to Sufi saints’ darghas are found. The paper concentrates on the Sufi saints of the Bahamani and Adil Shahi periods as Sufism spread and flourished during their reign. The advent of Sufi saints would have been from the very inception of Islam in the beginning of the 7th century A.D. in South India. Trade and commerce carried out by the Arabs paved out a way for Islam and later for Sufism to enter Karnataka. Sufism first entered the Western Coast along with the Arab merchants who have been mentioned in inscriptions as Tajjikas. The earliest reference to a Sufi saint in Karnataka can be traced back to 1301 A.D. Hazrat Sayyid Shah Hisamud-din-Teighbarana was the first saint to come to Gulbarga. At present his tomb is located in the fort near Jagath talab in Gulbarga. Another reference is to Nurulla Qadiri during the Vijayanagar period (1336 1565 A.D.). The tomb at Kadi Ramapuram in Hospet of Bellary district was erected in honour of him. Karnataka was ruled by many Muslim dynasties. In North Karnataka, fourteenth century, happens to be a period that gave space for the first Muslim dynasty to thrive i.e., The Bahamanis (1347 A.D. to 1538 A.D.), and later the Adil Shahis (1489-1686 A.D.) After them, North Karnataka was under the rule of Nawabs of Savanur, the Mughals, the Barid Shahis of Bidar and the Nizams of Hyderabad. The southern part of Karnataka was under the reign of Haider Ali and his son Tippu Sultan (1761 A.D. to 1799 A.D.). During the Muslim reign, the Sufis had found an amicable geographical and cultural abode in Karnataka for Sufi flourishment and popularity. The kings and queens of Karnataka like the common people promoted Sufism. The Sufi saints who came from North India as well as from Persia, Arabia and Baghdad settled here because of its amicability and great concern of the people. There were different types of Sufis living in Karnataka, like the landed elites, warriors, reformists, literates and dervishes. Sufism has been variedly ordered and institutionalised. It has the practice of taking the pupil into the order (Silsilah) and the concept of peer (master) and perzad (pupil). In India, there prevailed six orders and in Karnataka, four orders, namely Chisti, Qadiri, Sattariya and Shurawardia thrived.

Some sufi Saints of Karnataka

Shaikh Sirajud-din Junaidi: Shaikh Sirajud-din Junaidi came to Gulbarga in 1347 A.D. The King Alauddin Hasan Bahman Shah selected him as a royal preceptor. Sultan Muhammad I (1358-75 A.D.) and his son Mujahid (1375-1378 A.D.) always counted on the prayers of this saint whenever they set out on a campaign. His tomb called Shaikh Roza dargah is located in Shah Bazar at Gulbarga. Hazrat Shaikh Saad Zanjani Rahimatullah Aulia came to Gulbarga in 1351 A.D. His dargah is located near the Chor Gumbad at Gulbarga.  Hazrat Shaikh Minajjuddin Tamim-ul-Ansari came to Gulbarga from Daulatabad in 1352 A.D. At present his dargah is located in Kirana Bazar near fort road at Gulbarga.  Hazrat Shah Ruknud-din Tola of Qadiri order is said to have come to Gulbarga before Gesu Daraz during the period of King Firuz Shah Bahman. His dargah at present is located near Chor Gumbad in Gulbarga. (Munshi, 1997:350-354) Syed Muhammad Gesu Daraz (Hazarat Khwaja Bande Nawaz; 1321-1422 A.D.) One of the most prominent figures in the early history of Islamic mysticism in Gulbarga was Syed Muhammad Gesu Daraz.

King Sultan Ahmad Shah I shifted his capital from Gulbarga to Bidar in 1424 A.D. During the Bahamani period, many well-known Sufi saints lived in the area. There are as many as 37 darghas of Sufi saints in Bidar. The descendants of the family of Gesu Daraz of Gulbarga considerably extended their influence into Bidar region. Sufi saints of various orders such as Chisti and Qadiri came to Bidar and they were given munificent help by the Sultans for propagating Sufi principles. Syed Tajuddin is said to have played a vital role in bringing the social and cultural synthesis in Bidar. He was born in Khorasan, a city of Iran, and came to Kalyana (Bidar) in 1387 A.D. He was popularly called “Raja Bagh Sawar” of Kalyana and was also one of the prominent followers of Gesu Daraz of Gulbarga and at the instruction of his master; he came to Kalyana and commenced his Sufi activities. He was also respected by the Bahamani King Alaud-din II (1435-1457 A.D). After his death in 1397 A.D., his dargah was constructed near the Inspection Bungalow at Bidar. Today Syed Tajuddin’s dargah enjoys a unique reputation as a great centre of pilgrimage for the Muslims and the Hindus. Syed Ismail Qadiri from Bagdad held a distinguished place in the Bahamani kingdom and appears to have been a favourite of King Alaud-din II. He lived in the neighbourhood of Hindu Brahmana families and had good relations with them. The dargah of Syed Ismail Qadiri is located in Ghorwad near by Bhalki, a taluka unit of Bidar district. The urus of this saint is celebrated with great pomp and pleasure by both the Hindus and the Muslims even to this date.

During the Adil Shahi period, Sufi saints migrated to Bijapur from various places like Baghdad, Arabia, Persia, Sindh, and from other places in North and South India like Daulatabad, Ahmadabad, Gujarat, Broach, Bidar and Gulbarga. About twenty-seven Sufi saints were living during the period of King Ibrahim II, about eleven of them were in the period of King Muhammad and four were in the period of King Ali II. Single references to the Sufi saints are recorded in the period of Kings Yusuf, Ibrahim I and Ali I. Bijapur remained relatively barren as a centre for Sufism prior to the reign of Ibrahim II but the post 1583 period saw Sufism flourish in Bijapur to a significant degree.

In the reign of Sultan Muhammad, majority of Sufis came directly from Arabia, Egypt, Baghdad, and other parts of India like Bidar, Gulbarga, Burhanpur, and Gujarat to Bijapur. They are.,  Abd al-Samad Kanani (from Egypt), Ismail Qadiri bin Hasan (from Baghdad), Abu Bakrbal-Faqih (from Arabia), Ahmad Nazir, Saiyid (from Arabia), Jafar Saqqaf, Saiyid (from Arabia), Zain Muqbil, Saiyid (from Arabia),  Naim Allah, Shah (from Burhanpur), Zubairi Qazi Ibrahim (from Gujarat), Abd alLatif Qadiri, Shah (from Bidar), and Siraj al-Din Junaidi III (from Gulbarga).(Eaton,1985:126) Sufi saints arriving directly from Arabia tended to retain Arab habits and customs in Bijapur. For example writing in Arabic conducting initiation ceremonies in Arabic, making frequent pilgrimages to Mecca, and sending gifts of money back to the holy places of Arabia were all widely practiced by the Sufis.

Female Sufi Saints

From fourteenth century onwards references are found to female Sufi saints in Karnataka. These female Sufi saints not only involved themselves in spiritual teachings but also their main role in the society as mothers, sisters, wives are really noteworthy. They were also supporting their husbands in spreading Sufi principles. There are nine references found to female Sufi saints in Karnataka. The earliest happens to be of Hazrat Masaheba Ashrafe Dojahan  who came from Arabia or Baghdad about 800 years ago to Kudchi in Raybag taluk of Belgaum district, and second Kunja Maa Bee, the daughter of king Muhammad Shah I (1358 A.D. to 1375 A.D.(Munshi,1977:356-365) Other female saints were Hazrata Amina Bibi Dadi Ma Sahiba and Mastana Bibi (darghas at City Market, Bangalore), Syedani Bibi (dargha at Tannery road, Bangalore), Tawakkal Mastan Bibi (dargha at Richmond Circle, Bangalore), Hazrat Saiyida Amma Jaan (in Mandya) and Saidani Bibi (in Mangalore).

Contribution of the Sufi Saints to Karnataka

The Sufi saints who professed mysticism made contribution in their own way to the social, political, religious, and cultural life of Karnataka. Sufi Services to Society – One of the ideals of the Sufi saints was to strive for the abolition of all discriminations, and inequalities from contemporary society. They received all men, rich and poor, Hindu and Muslim, free born and slaves in the same way. They served as socio-religious reformers in Karnataka. One of their great achievements was that they brought the Muslim aristocracy into touch with the Hindus. The Sufis could attract large masses towards them in Karnataka because of their simple life. They served the poor, the distressed and the down-trodden. As Sufism was based on liberal principle it attained fame among the Hindu religionists and Sufi saints became equally respectable to the Hindus and the Muslims. They established khanqhas (monasteries) which played a key role in maintaining the moral balance of the society in Karnataka. Influence of Sufi Saints on Rulers, Administrators and Aristocrats – Many Sufi saints exercised considerable influence on kings, administrators, nobles and well-to-do persons. They advised the officials of high status to help the weak, the indigent and the needy persons.

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