The advent of the Turks in the Indian subcontinent in the beginning of the 12th century, invited Islam, slave sultans, minars and masjids, tarikh and tabaqat literary traditions and Sufism to adorn the new nuclei of power – Hazrat – i – Dehlvi. It had been a mere military pargana of little importance before its conquest in AD 1193, populated with non – believers and temples; nevertheless Iltutmish began to develop it into the fostering kernel of the Delhi Sultanate. The construction of new forts, palaces, mosques with graceful domes and the colonies for the [Mohammedan] immigrants added to the metropolis not only by transforming its skyline but also leading to socio – economic growth.

Nevertheless, despite Delhi being a centre of Islamic authority, there is much debate concerning its rulers in the questions of legitimacy, power and religion. Some have staked out a “Shari’ah position” proclaiming the regime as a theocracy; yet the predominant view was that of historians hinging on the “secularization” theory like Nizami postulating the fundamental illegitimacy of the Sultanate: “it had no sanction in Shari’at; nay, it was a non legal institution”; and Muhammad Habib stating its basis as the “zawabit of state – laws made by the king”.  Indeed, the Delhi Sultanate originated in the post – caliphal world, in the persona of “mamuluk sultans”, in 5th – 11th century writings of individuals (like al – Mawardi and al – Jujzani) who established the legitimacy of sultah (power) and imamah (leadership) beyond the caliph. In a Sunni context, and in relation to khalifat Allah (God’s caliph), sultans were right hand of God’s caliph or yamin – i khilafat Allah. They were, in absolute sense, the arbitrators of justice and punishment, nothing less than zill Allah fi’ l-ard (God’s shadow on earth). This invented idea of Islamic authority and power contributed to the understanding of the Sultanate not as an “expediency” but as an ideal of Islamic power embodied and united in the figure of the sultan. The sultan, however, rarely ascended the throne following the laws of succession and in the infant years of the regime, was a foreigner who came into conflict with the Shari’ah by preferring to rule by the zawabit: factors that discredited the privilege of an acclaimed ‘legitimate sultan’. Hence, the espousing, on part of the State, the symbolically legitimating and sanctifying Islamic ideology that sustained the Delhi Sultanate by the establishment of courts ruled according to the Shari’ah; by recourse to Sunni authority embodied in the Caliphate; and by following the exempla of Sufi shaykhs, the Prophet Muhammad and the pre – Islamic prophets. The rulers occasionally flouted the first two parameters, but the last source .i.e., the Sufi shaykhs was present in flesh and blood to argue out its utility. The essay will examine how the preaching and practices of Sufism, synchronically, legitimized and challenged the authority of the Delhi Sultanate, in the context of the Chishti Sufis.

The Chishti Sufi.

The development of Sufism (tasavvuf) in the 6th/12th century from metaphysics and individual asceticism, to organized orders with transmittable systems of authority, had a profound impact on the establishment and use of political authority in the Delhi Sultanate. The establishment of the Sultanate occurred during the critical and most expansive phases in the evolution of Indo – Islamic Sufi orders of Chishtiyyah and Suhravardi – as the orders became institutionalised, they attempted to define political directions – blurring the lining of the two governed separate realms – the sultan over the temporal [materialistic] Sultanate; the shaykh over the mystical, spiritual domain. The style of rule was uncannily homogenous: both held ‘court’ daily wherein subjects, disciples and laity congregated for their benediction, favours and sermons; imparting the impression that “Delhi had two Sultans ruling simultaneously”. Appositely, this spelled discord over the boundaries of the relative realm, particularly moral superiority for each in his way suggested that he was responsible for maintaining the moral order in the world; a disagreement over the understanding of moral conduct, to emphasize not companionable neighbourliness, but encompassment by one of the other. Literature maintained the ‘great divide’ yet the reality proved otherwise – the rhetorical claims apart, each had to fend for the other. In general, the rulers needed the support of the Sufis and other holy men for legitimising their political authority. On the other hand, the leading mystic figures looked for political patronage and support, and attempted even to influence the rulers so as to be able to dominate over their rivals. Though the preoccupations of the mystics, seen wandering around in search of God or truth, might appear to be other-worldly, many of them could also be found deeply involved in this worldly concerns, often embroiling themselves in political controversies.

To discern the relationship between the Delhi Sultanate and the Chishti shaykhs, it is essential to know the chief players in the fray. Introduced in India by Shaikh Muin – u’ddin Sijzi, the earliest khanqahs of the Chishti silsilah flourished in Northern India at the centres of Ajmer, Naraul, Suwal, Nagaur and Mandal in Rajputana; Hansi and Ajodhan in Punjab and in some towns of Uttar Pradesh. The cult assumed a pan – Indian status, revolving around the principal personas of Shaikh Hamid – u’ddin Sufi in Rajputana and Shaikh Qutb – u’ddin Bakhtiyar Kaki in Delhi. Kaki established the silsilah at Delhi, much to Iltutmish’s delight, yet the saint avoided identification with the centre of imperial power and conquest. He left his legacy to two famous khalifahsBadr – u’ddin Ghaznavi and Farid – u’ddin Masud Ganj – i – Shakar (Baba Farid); both had, however, minimal influence in Delhi. It was Farid’s disciple, Shaikh Nizam – u’ddin Awliya who gave the Chishti silsilah of Delhi the momentum of an organized spiritual movement – under him it reached the highest watermark in the Khalji – Tughluq period. He was most powerful shaykh of the capital city at the time when the power of the Delhi Sultanate itself had attained its greatest extent at the beginning of the fourteenth century; as Simon Digby observes, it is accordingly no matter for surprise that the conflict between royal and Sufi claims of authority in this period of the Delhi sultanate centred around his person.

“We tell you the most beautiful of tales.”

Surah Yusuf, the Quran.

The new religious polity of the saints and their devoted followers fostered a burgeoning literary culture defined by the traditions of malfuzat/majalis, maktubat and tazkiras that developed, according to Blain H. Auer, a stock imagery of the Sufi shaykh that emphasized his ilham (divine inspiration), darvishi (renunciation), and the walayah (protection) he offered through God, his closeness to God and his karamat (marvellous powers). These images reflected the consequences of the coevolution of Sufi polities and the Delhi Sultanate – the figure of shaykh served as a model of behaviour for the sultans. Attempts were made to create resonances between these ‘diametrical’ silhouettes – the shaykhs were themselves recipient of the same types of panegyric treatment sultans received in the work they patronized; the imagery of sultans developed on the saints. The historiography of one reciprocally embodied the other. The sultan, however, is subverted to the saint, and portrayed as one looking for legitimacy from the Sufi who embodied the Islamic truth beyond the leaves of the Shari’ah. There are also narratives that depict the tension between the two, particularly conflicts that were the outgrowth of the theological principles of fiqr (voluntary poverty) and the desire to discard the worldly baggage of power – the basis of the shaykh’s moral authority. Nonetheless, the Chishtis were subject to the paradox of crossroad realism – they were the ‘uniformly unworldly’, whose ‘worldly wisdom in running the affairs of their hospices and their respective fortunes’ made their ‘intermittent intervention in the politics of the Sultanate’ unavoidable.

A King of Kings without throne or crown,

With kings in need of the dust of his feet.”

Amir Khusraw Dehlavi, Majnun Layla.

The Chishti Sufis of Sultanate India were organized into a hierarchy built upon the concept of wilayat (spiritual governance) of a specific territory. The heads of silsilahs dispatched their khilafahs to various provinces, called them wilayats; and they, in their turn, appointed subordinate khalifahs for qasbahs and cities. The chief shaykh at the centre stood at the apex of the whole system and controlled a network of khanqahs spread over the country. The territorial wilayat of the Sufi shaykh was considered as having a direct influence on the political events and material destiny of the realm over which it was exercised. Equally, the decline in the fortunes of the sultanate might be attributed to the removal of such spiritual protection. This is illustrated by the fact that Barani in his Tawarikh – i – Firozshahi attributes the prosperity of Alauddin Khalji’s reign to the presence of Nizam – u’ddin Awliya, whose benediction and spiritual blessings (barakat) spread virtue and enlightenment among the faithful. He was the ‘efficient’ cause of the sultan’s apparent success; in his curbing of sedition and his control of the Hindus, Alauddin was merely an unwitting agent of the Divine Will. The sultan however, proved to be far from grateful.

Barakat – for peace ?

This singular instance is demonstrative of the many conflicts the claim of wilayat invited upon itself, generating tension both within the Sufi society and with the sultan himself. Sunil Kumar has studied in detail this conflict, contextualizing the rhetorical claims of authority over the masjid – i – Jami, concerning Alauddin Khalji and Nizam – u’ddin Awliya. The sultan had taken to the reconstruction of the masjid complex with the intention of hegemonizing the monumental legitimacy of Iltutmish as well as to communicate his moral claims to authority. He ‘impressed congregation with inscriptions’ on a site that allowed for ‘focused representation of Islam’ (.i.e., the mosque which was a site of community socialization, channelizing Islamic ritual, conduct, and values to the subjects) with a purpose – to appear as the muhyi (restorer) of Shari’ah, the fujur (conqueror) of sinners on earth and mubarhin – i – barahin ijtihad (jurist king) of the realm. In fact, the iconography of the congregational mosque represented the intimate relationship between the sultan and his Maker.  Nizam – u’ddin Awliya, however, trivialized the gesture, caricaturing the outward ritualistic understanding of Shari’ah. Alauddin’s ‘monumental’ claim to authority (expenditure, narration of fiqh over Hadis and the subversion of Shari’ah to the Hanafi law) appeared as muta’addi (communicable) devotion to the lazmi (obligatory) devotion of the shaykh. This affair showcased two dominant, hostile and competing systems of thought rallied against each other to claim the protectorate of the Muslim community in Delhi, as well as provide a singular version of Shari’ah as legitimate and authoritative, albeit through different ‘paths’. The incident provoked the sultan into willfully neglecting the presence of the shaykh, thereby spelling disaster for his dynastic ambitions.

mhdyusuf1845 (1).jpg
A Khanqah.

 The above incident is slightly suggestive of how the sultan and the shaykh clashed over the question of patronage. The presence of khanqahs meant that the sultan could recruit, as objects of his bounty and clients of his patronage, Sufis with lesser claims – Jirrat (mystics seeking patronage) – than the great shaykhs: Muqallid (mystics with no masters) who were obliged by their own pretensions to reject such patronage. But if a major Sufi shaykh laid claims to wilayat over a territory which the sultan held by the force of his arms and ordered through the civil administration, he could ill afford to be seen to be under the sultan’s patronage, as indicated by such gestures as accepting largesse, alms or grants, directly from the sultan; or attending upon the sultan at his court, which would involve the observance of court etiquette designed to emphasize the supremacy of the sovereign over all who attended; or even willingly permitting the sultan to visit his own khanqah, with the shaykh receiving the sultan with the same politeness as was the lot of other visitors. From the point of view of the sultan, the failure of the shaykh to perform such gestures might constitute a threat to his authority, because of the visible independence of the shaykh from that authority. The Chishti saints were cognitive in nafs – i – gira (an intuitive intelligence that could understand, comprehend, control and direct the mind of the people) and had even institutionalised a distinctive adab for the khanqah, that served  progressively to assimilate various groups into its socio – religious structure: these accounted for their popularity and the odium of the sultan toward them. The state feared the possibility that the shaykh’s khanqah might provide a refuge and a rallying point for dissidents and plotters against it. Digby, in his essay, The Sufi Shaykh and the Sultan: A Conflict of Claims to Authority in Medieval India, mentions one such incident –

“In the reign of Al’ al-Din Khalji the influence of Nizam al-Din had reached its apogee and “ulama, shaykhs, maliks and amirs were his servants.” Envious people (hasidan) described the lavishness of the hospitality which the Shaykh dispensed and brought such reports about him as led the Sultan, who had a suspicious and vengeful nature, to fear that the Shaykh would bring injury to his rule, of the same kind as “others of this group (ta’ifa)” had brought to rulers in the past. The Sultan accordingly devised a ruse to ascertain whether the Shaykh had intentions of seizing power. He indited a letter to him to the effect that, since the Shaykh was the “Lord of Mankind” by whom people’s needs were fulfilled and since God had given temporal power to the writer (the Sultan), it would be appropriate for him to submit to the Shaykh’s judgement in matters arising in the kingdom. The Sultan sent the letter by the hand of his son Khiir Khan, who was a murid of the Shaykh and was not aware of the background to its dispatch. The Shaykh took the letter in his hand and remarked without studying it: “What business have darweshs with the doings of Kings? I am a darwish who has made a retreat from the city, and I am occupied in praying for the King and for Muslims. If the King says anything further I will leave this place also.” The Sultan Al’ al-Din was much pleased with the answer that the prince brought back, and he remarked that he knew that all this had nothing to do with “the Sultan of Shaykhs” (i.e. with Nizam al-Din himself), adding that this would have caused the ruin of his realm.”

The tale continues with the Sultan desiring to visit the Shaykh. The latter rejected the privilege, reasoning that he was occupied with the efficaciousness of the du ‘a – yi ghaybat (“prayer in absentia”) before famously remarking –

“The house of this weak one has two doors. If the Sultan enters by one door, I will go out by the other!”

The Chishti shaykh – No man for the bureaucracy!

Such was the Chishti distaste for the affairs of the Islamic court. This abhorrence stemmed from the belief that marifat (gnosis) was beyond the reach of one who spent his time in shughl (government services). Secondly, they believed that whole of the income of the sultans came from prohibitive sources. The permitted income was from sadaqat, fay, ghanimah and jiziyah: sources that enjoy no benevolent existence. Thirdly, the entire court – life and the government organization breathed an atmosphere so alien to the true spirit of Islam that the state couldn’t be served without obstructing religious advancement. If the mystic associated himself with the ‘exploiting’ governing class, he isolated himself from the main sphere of his activity, the masses. This conviction made the notable saints of the order to scrupulously abstain themselves from the company of the nobility and the royalty. For example, Balban had great faith in Baba Farid; yet this respect or devotion couldn’t, in any way, influence the saint’s outlook or policy toward the sultan. The shaykhs also rejected the offers of jagirs and endowments – gifts that would make them subservient to the royal wish and fetter the independence of the spiritual soul. Presents from the kings and nobles were hesitantly accepted for the sake of respect; such bequests were usually distributed as futuh amongst the masses. Nizam – u’ddin Awliya distributed the five lakhs of tankas, which he received from Khusraw Khan after the murder of Sultan Qutb al – Din Mubarak, among the faqirs and the poor of Delhi – rationalizing that the sum came from the bayt al – mal (the public treasury of Muslim believers) and should be rightfully utilized. Equally strong was the condemnation of government service by the Chishti saints. The offenders were severely punished, their khilafat namahs were cancelled and they were expelled from the mystic fraternity.

The Chishti shaykhs, however, didn’t restrict themselves to avoidance. They consorted with the sultans in challenging their authority and most importantly, in admonishing them – the former asserting his superior moral authority to reprimand the latter for behaviour unbefitting his high status; and in the process establishing his superior piety and ethical command over the royal figure. Afif in his Tarikh – i – Firuz Shahi, reported that the sultan Firoz Shah Tughluq was criticised by Shaykh Qutb al – Munavvar for excessive drinking and hunting, and in a final slight the saint rejected the gift of an ostentatious robe. Indeed, it was in this Sufi ideology the imposition of the will of the sultan against that of the shaykh was unacceptable. For if the sultan could act thus with impunity, the wilayat of the shaykh was cast into doubts in the minds of his followers. The belief in the cosmic significance of the pir had to be maintained at all cost, through jamal (“beauty” of miracles) and jalal (“terror” of the curse). Expectantly, Chishti Sufi literature abounds in misfortunes that befell sultans who flouted the Divine supremacy. The most famous strife ridden abstractions centred around  Ghias – u’ddin Tughluq and Nizam – u’ddin Awliya and enjoyed prominence of legendary proportions: the Shaykh’s cursing of the new city of Tughluqabad with “Ya rahe ujar, yaa basse gujjar” (“it shall either lie barren, or be inhabited by the Gujar”, a nomadic tribe); and the nafas (pronouncement) of the Saint about the Sultan’s death –  “Haniz Delh dur ast” (“Delhi is yet far away!”) when he was returning from a victorious campaign in the east, and  contemplating a reckoning with the pir. Ghias – u’ddin Tughluq died under mysterious circumstances in 1324 after a pavilion of welcome collapsed away from the capital.

Nizamuddin Awliya
The Shaykh and Sultan – conflicting melodies?

Another arena that generated opposition from the patronized ulamas of the Sultanate against the Chishti Sufis was that of music. Already criticised for their doctrine of wahdat – ul wujud (monism as a reality) and occasional indifference to namaz, for they focused instead on meditation and spiritual exercises – the Chishtis came into confrontation with the ulamas over the legitimacy of sama or qawwali. Despite conforming to the traditional Islamic norms of conduct at the social level; qawwali and other music – dance techniques were central to the Sufi cult, being regarded as one of the most effective and valid ways to remember Allah and achieve ecstasy. According to Amir Khwurd, the author of Siyar-ul-Auliya, Nizam ud – Din identified four kinds of musical practice: halal (lawful), haram (forbidden), makruh (abominable) and mubah (permissible). If the connoisseur ( sahib-i wajad wa haal) is fairly attracted towards the divine, then his practice of sama is mubah ; if he is inclined more towards majaz (worldly concerns), then it is makruh ; if his interest is entirely for majaz , then it is haram; and if he is fully devoted to God, sama is halal for him. Chishti Sufi music was constructed along lines of mubah, forbidding the use of any instrument. On the other hand, the Hanafi interpretation of Sunni Islam, as advocated by the ulama, viewed music as haram (forbidden act), having non – Islamic origins. They had not succeeded in stopping Qazi Hamid-ud-Din Nagauri – the Suhrawardi Sufi who floated around in the Chishti circle of Delhi in the early thirteenth century and Baba Farid, from organising mahfil-i-sama, despite some fatwas issued against them. They did not succeed in preventing Nizam-ud-Din Awliya from listening to music at the time of the Khalji sultans, Ala-ud-Din and Qutb-ud-Din Mubarak-shah, despite some misunderstanding and difficulties in the relationship between the shaykh and the sultans. However, they were able to drag Nizam ud-Din Awliya to the court of Sultan Ghiyas- ud-Din Tughluq, forcing him to participate in an inquest and defend his practice of organising music assemblies. The testimony of Maulana Alam- ud-Din saved the shaykh and no ban was pronounced on the sama. However, Nizam – u’ddin, expressing his concern that the ulama’ s approach could mislead the people into not having enough respect for the prophetic reports, prophesied that there would be a divine retribution for the wrong faith of the ulama of the city. Amir Khwurd concluded that within a period of four years, all the ulama of the opposing group were forced to migrate to Deogiri, most of them dying there. This inquest made evident the ‘ceremonial’ combat the Chishti Sufis and the Sultanate indulged in during the era.

Notwithstanding the long string of contestation, the Chishtis and the Sultanate also dwelled on harmonious grounds. The two shared a mutual love for adab and legitimacy and consequently, their coexistence led to their influencing each other in these enclaves.

“Wa idha tahirtum fi al – umur fa asta‘inu min ahl al – qubir.” –  A hadith.

[“If you are troubled with a problem, ask help from those in the grave.”]

As Richard M. Eaton states, in Islam, the ultimate source of moral authority is unambiguous. The Quran proclaims its moral authority on the basis of it being the very Word of God; and the interpreters of this sacred word .i.e., lineages of holy men, saints, etc., are no mere representatives of this world religion. Koranic property emanates from them, as they are Islam themselves. The devout Chishti shaykhs (masha ‘ikh – i – dindar) were believed to have a shajra (spiritual lineage) traceable to the Prophet and in part, paralleling the biological lineage, the saint was a legate of Muhammad’s charisma (barakah) to intercede with God on the devotee’s life. This barakah outlasted the saints’ death and adhered to their burial places, because of which vast shrines developed over their tombs. Constructed over a vox populi in this sacerdotalism, these shrines (.i.e., the shrine of Baba Farid at Pakpattan, Ajodhan) symbolized the wilayat as well as the microcosm that represented the moral order of Islamic macrocosm. They flourished in 8th/ 14th century India, under court patronage, as nuclei of socio – economic and political significance, providing a network of interconnected pilgrimage routes. The sultans of Delhi were great patrons in the building of mausolea that in turn grew to support ziyarat (pilgrimage) to the tombs as a pervasive ritualistic practice of the Muslim community. Their visitations, considered commendable and efficacious by the Sufis themselves, spoke of the inner dimensions and personal relationships created between the deceased saints and living sultans, serving as a legitimating ploy to publicly proclaim royal piety. This theme is played out in Afif’s narrative compositions of imperial pilgrimages; particularly illustrious is an episode of oneiromancy, wherein the deceased Shaykh Mas‘ud Ghazi appeared to Firoz Shah Tughluq in his dar khvab (dream), suggesting him to make preparations for the afterlife; during the latter’s visit to the former’s tomb in Bahraich. There is also mention of royal ziyarat to tombs of ‘notable sultans’ (salatin – inamdar).

Adab – the garb of order.

Furthermore, as the Delhi courts patronized the shrines, the shrines patronized the laity and in some ways, even mimicked the symbols of the larger court. The court of the Indo – Muslim culture had evolved a highly elaborate adab (code of etiquette and pageantry) dazzling and integrating into its structure the subjects of the kingdom; the Chishti silsilah replicated it. Each conferred its own legitimacy to the other. The very word for ‘shrine’ used in the subcontinent “dargah” is also used for a royal court. The synonymity of adab in these two arenas is best seen at the Pakpattan shrine of Baba Farid. The special title of the shaykh’s chief successor, a personage at other shrines was designated simply sajjada nishin (“one who sits on the prayer carpet”), at Pakpattan was and is “diwan” – a term taken directly from the lexicon of royal courts and probably alluding to the man’s revenue collecting function and distribution of goods from the langar khana (kitchen). Similarly, the dastar bandi (tying of turban) ceremony (indicating the formal inheritance of the Baba’s spiritual authority) – has obvious parallels with a coronation ceremony. It possessed a great symbolic repertoire: it defined relations of kinship between the shrine and its subordinate laity, it symbolically conferred legitimacy on actual rulers in Delhi and it conferred spiritual discipleship at the shrine itself. Another aspect of the shrine’s adab was its carefully defined formula for achieving religious transcendence, namely the practice of passing through the southern door (bihishti darwaza) of the tomb on occasion of annual ‘urs celebration as synonymous to the ritually entering of Paradise.

“This is Divine Work and cannot be assigned to (everyone) who desires it. The qualified one gets it without asking for it.”

Baba Farid, Siyar – u‘l – Auliya.

Another Sufi practice that mirrored as well as legitimized the authority of the Delhi Sultanate was the appointment of Khalifahs (successors of the shaykh) of the silsilahs. Pain was taken by the Chishti shaykh to bestow his legacy on a healthy integrated personality through personal supervision of the taught and through the bestowal of a written khilafat namah (certificate of succession). The saint bestowed this in three ways: first is the Rahmini way wherein God directly put it into the heart of a shaykh to give his khilafat to a particular person. The second way was that the shaykh considered the qualifications and capability of a disciple, settling upon granting his khilafat to him. The third was that he grants the khilafat based on recommendation or as a matter of grace. In the imperial context, this khilafat namah was actually a Chishti shaykhs’s clairvoyance (firasat) to forecast the attainment of the throne. This was based on the inference that if a shaykh could lead to the downfall of a ruler, he could also bestow kingship. Chishti Sufi literature, as well as contemporary accounts of the Sultanate is sumptuous of such instances of the ‘kingmaker’ Sufi shaykh: Baba Farid’s bestowal of kingship on Balban when he was defending the western marches of the Delhi Sultanate against the incursions of the Mongols; the bestowal of the kingdom on Muhammad bin Tughluq by Nizam-ud-Din Awliya; and the prediction of kingship (“bisharat – i mulk saltanat”) for Firoz Shah Tughluq from four celebrated shaykhs – Ala’ – al Din of Dipalpur, Bu Ali Qalandar, Nizam – u’ddin Awliya, and Nasir al – Din Mahmud Chirag – i Dihli. The most famous accounts undoubtedly pertain to Iltutmish – in fact, Sufi memory appropriated him as one of the few Islamic heroes of India with mystical inclinations. Several saintly kingmakers coloured this Sultan’s accession on various occasions – when he was a slave boy running errands, a tender of burnt wicks of candles at a sama and a visitor at the Baghdadi khanqah of Shaykh Shihab al – Din Suhrawardi. All the accounts of ‘kingmaking’ portrayed the shaykh in context as the murshid (“guide to the right way”) who escorted the sultan to his desired goal and glory. The dervish’s prediction also functioned as a blessing that conferred the legitimacy of a succession upon the ‘ruler’ and transmitted authority from the dervish to the future sultan. A critical study of these ‘marvel – filled and legitimating narratives’, however, would show that such a claim of legitimacy was essential in the setting of the Delhi Sultanate that comprised of slave sultans with no strong tradition of primogeniture or hereditary ruled and common usurpations of power and chaotic successions.

The above incidents conclude that the Chishti Sufis (represented by the shaykh) and the Delhi Sultanate (represented by the sultan and the ulama) existed in circumstances in which they were bound to share an idiomatic relationship. In their quest for empire, the sultans of Delhi relied on multiple sources of legitimization: ethnicity, social hierarchy, genealogy, language and force; yet it was this Chishti (and other Sufi) countenance, in the form of the shaykh’s karamat that camouflaged the ‘frequent usurper’ into the predestined blessed ruler of the realm. The Chishti Sufis occupied a significant place in the quarters of the immigrant Muslim population, as the pioneer Islamizers in an alien hostile land; and one of the foremost supporters of the sultan’s rule. It was also a period wherein no regal law was in formulation, and the meaning of the ‘legitimate right to succeed’ carried negligible solemnity. They were a powerful spiritual force to be reckoned with as they proved to be an effective corridor through which the interests of the state were fulfilled and the dissemination and consolidation of Islamic power in the newly conquered lands were realized. Nonetheless, this very importance compelled them to plea for avenues of power through interaction and persuasion and on occasions both clashed over the ‘power’ statement. But as reality enforced itself, both attended to each other’s needs, complementing the common grounds of authority and survival.



  • Blain H. Auer – Symbols of Authority in Medieval Islam: History, Religion and Muslim Legitimacy in the Delhi Sultanate.
  • Iqtidar Hussain Siddiqui – Composite Culture under the Sultanate of Delhi.
  • Khaliq Ahmad Nizami – Some Aspects of Religion and Politics in India during the Thirteenth Century.
  • Muzaffar Alam – The Languages of Political Islam in India, c.1200 – 1800.
  • Richard Eaton – India’s Islamic Traditions, 711 – 1750.
  • Hardy – Historians of Medieval India: Studies in Indo – Muslim Historical Writing.
  • Rana Safvi – Where Stones Speak: Historical Trials in Mehrauli, the First City of Delhi.


  • Simon Digby – The Sufi Shaykh and the Sultan: A Conflict of Claims to Authority in Medieval India.
  • Raziuddin Aquil – Music and Related Practices in Chishti Sufìsm: Celebrations and Contestations.
  • Sunil Kumar – Assertions of Authority: A Study of the Discursive Statements of Two Sultans of Delhi.
  • Bruce B. Lawrence – The Earliest Chishtiya and Shaikh Nizam ud – din Awliya.



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    Liked by 1 person

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