‘Sufism’ is a term used to refer to mystical religious ideas in Islam.
Sufism or mysticism emerged in the 8th century and among the early known Sufis were Rabia al-Adawiya, Al-Junaid and Bayazid Bastami.
By the twelfth century the sufis were organized in silsilahs (orders).
The word silsila meant chain and it represented signifying an unbreakable chain between the pir (teacher) and the murid (disciples).
With the death of the pir his tomb or shrine the dargah became a centre for his disciples and followers.
In the 10th century Sufism spread across important regions of the Islamic empire.
Iran, Egypt, Syria and Baghdad were important Sufi centers.
Al-Ghazali, (1059–1111 A.D.) is among the most venerated of Sufis.
He emphasized on the supreme authority of the holy Prophet and the need to obey laws in both letter and spirit.
The Sufi movement in India commenced in the 11th century A.D.
Al Hujwiri, who established himself in north India was buried in Lahore and regarded as the oldest Sufi in the sub Continent.
Among the important Sufi Orders in the history of Medieval India were those of the Chishtitiya, Suhrawardiya, Qadiriya and Naqshbandiya.
Chisti and the Suhrawardi silsilahs were popular during the Sultanate period.
The Suhrawardis were active in Punjab and Sindh while the Chishti’s were active in Delhi, Rajasthan and parts of the western gangetic plains.
The Sufi movement as it emerged in India had the following features—-
The Sufis were organized in a number of different silsilahs (orders).
Most of these orders were led by some prominent sufi saint or pir.
The sufi pirs lived in Khanqahs with their disciples
The Khanqah (the hospice) was the centre of sufi activities
A musical form called the qawwali developed during this period.
Most of the Sufis believed in the performance of miracles.
The different sufi orders had diverse approaches about the matters of polity and state.