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Chishtiyya Tolerance

Watching what has transpired in Mumbai over the past ten days it seem it seems tensions between India and Pakistan are, unfortunately, growing. Consequently, this usually means tensions between Hindus and Muslims in India may possibly rise as well.

The Muslim Council of India has done an excellent job of dissociating itself and Indian Muslims from the recent attacks with strong condemnations, as well as their sending the message that no Muslim cemetery should bury the terrorists.

It is a strong, positive step towards reclaiming the message and spirit of Islam for honest, decent Muslims.

It reminds me of the rise of the Chishtiyya Sufi movement about 700 years ago.

The Chishtiyya were a Sufi Order that preached a strong emphasis on living a very simple life, ascetic, esoteric lifestyle.

In the 1300’s, they were led by Nizam al-Din Awliya who promoted rejection of the Sultanate of Delhi.

The Chishtiyya members in India were mostly a rural phenomenon, which was a change from traditional Islam in India, since up until that time Islam was mostly an urban phenomenon.

The Chishtiyya, because of their strong emphasis on asceticism (something common to Hinduism), they were able to convert Hindus in rural areas, and themselves took up many Hindu practices.

This Sufi Order promoted rejection of the Sultanate, and began taking up appearance similar to that traditionally worn by Brahmins. They also had excellent conflict management skills, which they practiced in rural, primarily Hindu, villages. Their conflict management boded well for them, allowing them to gain heavy influence and respect in the Indian countryside. However, it also caused tensions between the ruling class Hindus and the more orthodox practicing Muslims. This increase in tensions also caused a lot of trouble for the already oppressive Sultanate, who took even more oppressive measures to maintain what little control they had over the rural population; fearing the Chishtiyya, who were gaining more and more control, would threaten their dynasty.

The Sufi Chishtiyya became a leading movement in India, and through their efforts, actually led to more tolerance of Hindus by Muslims in India, and more tolerance of the continuing blending of Islamic and Hindu practices.

Because of the Chishtiyya, Indian Muslims were able to relate more to Hindus and were more tolerant of non-Muslims than non-Indian Muslims; something that would rub off on the Mughals, especially Akbar.

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