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the Delhi Sultanate

the Delhi Sultanate

In almost all the World it is assumed that Islamic Sufism is popular and acceptable to common non-fundamentalist Muslims; it very important to note that this is not true. To understand esoteric Sufism it is essential to study the following topics:

1- History of Turkic of invasion into India and its relationship to Sufism

And 2- The origins of leaders of biggest 50 Sufi orders and place of birth and upbringing and trips

The Routes of Turkic first invasions to India, Iran, Caucasus, Anatolia, East Europe, Levant, Arabia, and Africa around 600 BC. These invasions corrupted all region's major religions and created new tribal groups

The Routes of Turkic first invasions to India, Iran, Caucasus, Anatolia, East Europe, Levant, Arabia, and Africa around 600 BC. These invasions corrupted all region’s major religions and created new tribal groups

Medieval India

After the 10th century, Central Asian nomadic Turkic clans, using swift-horse cavalry and raising vast armies united by ethnicity and religion, repeatedly overran South Asia’s north-western plains, leading eventually to the establishment of the Islamic Delhi Sultanate in 1206. The sultanate was to control much of North India, and to make many forays into South India.

The Battles of Tarain, also known as the Battles of Taraori, were fought in 1191 and 1192 near the town of Tarain (Taraori), near Thanesar in present-day Haryana, approximately 150 kilometres north of Delhi, India, between a Ghurid force led by Mu’izz al-Din and a Chauhan Rajput army led by Prithviraj Chauhan.

The victory of Mu’izz al-Din was decisive; he took Bihar province in 1193 eradicating Buddhism in that area. Later in 1202, his army completes the occupation of Hindustan by taking the province of Bengal.

After Tarain, Muizuddin returned to Ghazni leaving the affairs of India in the hands of his trusted slave Qutubuddin Aibak. During his governorship Aibak had to face a serious rebellion in Rajasthan that was suppressed. Thereafter Aibak attacked Anhilwara in Gujarat in 1197 A.D. and defeated Bhima II. He also conquered Badaun, Benares and Chandawar and consolidated the conquest at Kannauj.

The conquest of Bengal and Bihar was not attempted either by Muhammad Ghori or Aibak but by a petty noble named Bakhtiar Khilji. He began his career as an ordinary soldier and received some villages as jagirs from his master at Oudh. Here Khilji gathered a small force of followers and started raiding the nearby territories of Bihar. He began expanding his area and gradually conquered Nalanda and Vikramshila as well.

Making careful preparations Bakhtiar Khilji marched with an army towards Nadia, the capital of Sena kings of Bengal. Lakshman Sena felt that the Turks had made a surprise attack and fled out of fear. He plundered the city and later established his capital at Lakhnauti in North Bengal. Lakshman Sena and his successors continued to rule south Bengal from Sonargaon. Bakhtiar Khilji tried to conquer Tibet but his expedition failed miserably. Later his own army men murdered him.

The period of 1206 – 1526 is labeled as the Delhi Sultanate. This time frame consists of five separate dynasties that ruled territorial parts of India: the Mamluk or slave, Khaljis, Tughlaq, Sayyid, and Lodi dynasty.

Mamluk Dynasty (Delhi)

The Mamluk, literally meaning owned, was a soldier of slave origin who had converted to Islam. It was a Turkic phenomenon started in the 9th century and gradually the Mamluks became a powerful military caste in various Muslim societies. Mamluks held political and military power most notably in Egypt, but also in the Levant, Iraq, and India.

The rulers who ruled Delhi between the period 1206-90 A.D. are popularly known as Slave dynasty. But neither of them belonged to one dynasty. Qutubuddin Aibak was the founder of the Qutubi dynasty, lltutmish that of Shamsi dynasty and Balban of Balbani dynasty. They were also called the llbafi Turks or the Mameluk Sultans of Delhi.

The Mamluk Dynasty (sometimes referred as Slave Dynasty or Ghulam Dynasty), was directed into Northern India by Qutb ud-Din Aibak, a Turkic general from Central Asia. The Mamluk Dynasty ruled from 1206 to 1290; it was the first of five unrelated dynasties to rule as the Delhi Sultanate till 1526. Aibak’s tenure as a Ghurid dynasty administrator lasted from 1192 to 1206, a period during which he led invasions into the Gangetic heartland of India and established control over some of the new areas.

Qutb ud-Din Aibak ruled from 1206 to 1210. Aram Shah ruled from 1210 to 1211(eliminated by a corp of 40 loyal slaves called “Chihalgani group” led by Shams-ud-din Iltutmish, and remained powerful during the Mamluk Dynasty). Shams-ud-din Iltutmish reigned from 1211 to 1236 (titled Amir-ul-Mu’minin,  prince of the faithful). Rukn-ud-din Feroze reigned from April 1236 to November 1236 (he and his mother Shah Turkan were assassinated). Razia al-Din reigned from 1236 to 1240 (the first female Muslim ruler in Inda, associating with the African Jamal-ud-Din Yaqut, and was killed). Muiz-ud-din Bahram reigned from 1240 to 1242. Ala-ud-din Masud reigned from 1242 to 1246. Nasir-ud-din Mahmud reigned from 1246 to 1266. Ghiyath-ud-din Balban reigned from 1266 to 1287. The tenth and final Sultan was Muiz-ud-din Muhammad Qaiqabad reigned from 1287 to 1290. The Slave dynasty had ended with the rise of the Khiljis.

Qutubuddin Aibak (1206-1210 A.D.):

Quṭb al-Dīn Aibak, also spelt Quṭb ud-Dīn Aibak or Qutub ud-Din Aybak, (1150–1210), was the founder of Turkic dominion in northwestern India and the Mamluk Dynasty in Delhi. Quṭb was born to Turkic parents in Turkistan. In his childhood, Quṭb was sold as a slave and raised at Nishapur, Persia, where he was purchased by the local Qazi. After the death of his master, he was sold by his master’s son and eventually became a slave of Muʿizz al-Dīn Muḥammad, also known as Muhammad Ghori, who made him the Amir-i-Akhur, the Master of Stable.

Eventually, Quṭb was appointed to military command. He became an able general of his owner Muʿizz al-Dīn Muḥammad. In 1193 and after conquering Delhi, Muʿizz al-Dīn Muḥammad returned to Khorāsān and left the consolidation of the Ghūrid conquests in northwest India to Quṭb. With his headquarters at Delhi, Quṭb subjugated areas between the Ganges (Ganga) and Yamuna (Jumna) rivers. He then turned his attention to the Rajputs who were still resisting Ghūrid domination. In 1195–1203 he mounted campaigns against their strongholds, while his lieutenant Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji conquered Bihar and Bengal.

When Muʿizz al-Dīn was assassinated in 1206, Quṭb al-Dīn was his logical successor. He was still technically a slave, but he quickly obtained manumission. He married the daughter of Tāj al-Dīn Yildiz of Ghazna, one of the other principal claimants to succeed Muʿizz al-Dīn, and, by other judiciously arranged marriages, consolidated his rule.

The death of Muhammad Ghori in 1206 A.D. created a tussle for supremacy among his three important generals, Tajuddin Yalduz, Nasiruddin Qabacha and Qutub-ud-din Aibak. Tajuddin held the area from Afghanistan to upper Sindh, Nasiruddin Qabacha who held Uchch, Multan and Qutub-ud-din Aibak became the governor of the Indian provinces of Muhammad.

He functioned as an independent ruler. Qutubuddin not only helped Muhammad in all his Indian campaigns but also consolidated and extended his conquests in his absence. Qutubuddin Aibak received manumission from Sultan Ghiasuddin Mahmud of Ghur, nephew of Muhammad Ghori who conferred the title of Sultan to Aibak (1206).

In his brief reign of four years (1206-10 A.D.), he moved his capital to Lahore in order to frustrate Yalduz’s ambition of annexing Punjab. He strengthened his position by matrimonial alliances with influential rival Turkish chiefs. He married the daughter of Yalduz. Next he married his sister to Nasiruddin Qabacha of Sindh and married his own daughter to lltutmish. He earned the title of Lakh Baksh (giver of lakhs).

He built the Quwwat-ul-lslam Mosque at Delhi and another at Ajmer called Adhai Din Ka Jhopra. He also laid the foundation of the so called one of the seven cities of medieval Delhi by constructing Quila-i-Rai Pithaura. He started building the Qutub Minarat Delhi in 1199 A.D., after the name of the sufi saint Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, but could not complete it as he died in 1210 A.D. at Lahore playing Chaugan (Polo). Aram Shah his immediate successor was probably not his son. He was later killed by lltutmish.

Shamsuddin lltutmish (1210-36 A.D.):

Qutubuddin was succeeded by his son-in-law lltutmish. At the time of Aibak’s death, he was the governor of Badaun. He is considered as the real founder of the Delhi Sultanate, and made Delhi the seat of governance in preference to Lahore. His accession was opposed by the Turkish nobles. Ali Mardan Khan had declared himself independent in Bengal and Bihar, while Qabacha, a fellow slave of Aibak had declared himself independent ruler of Multan and seized parts of Lahore and Punjab.

The Rajput rulers of Jalore, Ranthambore Gwaliorand Ajmer became independent and Turkish power was thrown out of the doab. At the same time Delhi Sultanate was threatened by the Mongols from the northwest. They appeared under Chenghiz Khan in pursuit of Jalal-ud-din, a prince of Khwarizm.

He was refused asylum by lltutmish and thus saved the Turkish Empire from the wrath of the Mongol warlord. He was also able to subdue the rebellion in Bengal and do away with other rivals one by one. He won back Gwalior, Bayana, Ajmer and Nagore. He also sent expeditions against Ranthambor and Jalore to reassert his sovereignty. He attacked and occupied Mandor in 1226 A.D. the capital of Paramaras. In 1234-35 A.D. lltutmish attacked Malwa and plundered Bhilsa and Ujjain.

In 1229 the Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad sent a robe of honour and patent of investiture legitimising his kingship as Sultan-i-Asam. This contribution of lltutmish to the monetary system of the sultanat was very great. It was he who introduced the silver Tanka and the copper Jital – the two basic coins of the Sultanat period.

He issued coins and had Khutba read in his name. He gave a governing class or an official nobility to the Sultanate called Chahalganior the “forty”. He introduced the Iqta system. The iqtadars retained a part of the revenue from the iqta rendering military service to the Sultan. Large iqtadars were put in-charge of maintaining law and order in their iqta, in addition to sending troops to the Sultan in times of need.

He died in 1236 A.D. He completed Qutab Minar of Delhi, lltutmish had nominated his daughter Razia as the successor on his death-bed. However, nobles elected Rukn-ud-din Firuz as the ruler. But his reign proved short lived. He engaged himself in sensual pleasures while his mother Shah Turkan created dissatisfaction among the nobility.

It resulted in revolts. At the capital, Razia took advantage of Firuz’s absence. She succeeded in getting the support of the people of Delhi and de­clared herself the Sultana of Delhi in the absence of Firuz. The accession and deposition of Firuz proved one point that the provincial governors proved the actual middlemen who could make and unmake the kings.

Sultana Raziya (1236-40 A.D.):

Once Razia ascended the throne, she cast off the seclusion of the harem and wore male attire, administered justice in open court and personally led armies against rebellious chiefs. Jalal-ud-din Yakut, an Abyssinan slave became her favourite, which was not liked by the other nobles. Her bold and independent ways were not liked by the Chahlgani Razia tried to concentrate power in her own hands and succeeded.

Her primary aim was to make the Turkish slave nobles subservient to the throne. They planned to oust her from the throne. The first to revolt against her was Ikhtiyar-ud-din Altuniya, the governor of Sirhind. On her way to Delhi she was killed by one of the nobles.

After Razia’s fall two weak rulers Bahram (1240-42 A.D.) and Alauddin Masud (1242-46 A.D.) followed in quick succession. Their brief and inglorious reign was marked by the invasion of the Mongols. In 1246 A.D. Nasir-ud-din Mahmud, another son of lltutmish ascended the throne. Nasiruddin placed all power into the hands of his Prime Minister Balban. Balban married off his daughter to Sultan and was made Naib-i-Mamlakat, with the title of Ulugh Khan (Great khan).

On one occasion Balban was removed from office for a brief period at the instigation of Imaduddin Raihan, an Indian Muslim. Minhaj- us-Sirsj dedicated his book Tabaqat-i-Nasiri to Nasiruddin. The accounts of Ibn Batuta and Isami hold Balban guilty of poisoning Nasiruddin in 1266 AD.

Balban (1246-86 A.D.):

After Nasiruddin Mahmud, Balban ascended the throne. Balban’s original name was Baha-ud-Din. With his accession begun the Balbani dynasty, an era of strong centralized government. He realized the need to strengthen the authority of the Sultan and wanted to curtail the power of Chahalgani. Balban in his attempt to curtail the power of the nobility increased the power and prestige of the Sultan.

It was an age when power was exclusive to the persons born in noble houses Hence Balban tried to strengthen his claim to the throne by declaring that he was the descendant of the legendary Iranian king Afrasiyab. Likewise Balban stood as the champion of the Turkish nobility.

Balban built up an aura around the throne and associated it with certain traits. He refused to entertain persons outside Turkish descent. It naturally meant the exclusion of Indian Muslims from all the position of god on earth. He modelled his court in that of Persian manners and introduced Persian etiquette like paibos (prostration,) and sijda (Kissing of the monarch’s feet). He maintained a dignified reserve and did not allow anyone to indulge in frivolity in his presence. He introduces the Persian Nauroz ceremony in the court.

While claiming to act as a champion of the Turkish nobility, Balban was not prepared to share power with anyone. He did not hesitate to poison his cousin Sher Khan to achieve his objective. The main instrument of Balban’s despotism was his army. The credit of organizing a separate department of army (Diwan-i-Arz) goes to Balban. He reformed the financial side of the military administration and pensioned off those soldiers and troopers who were no longer fit for service.

The strong centralized army that he built was to deal with both internal and external disturbances and mainly to tackle the Mongol menace. Balban also appointed spies in every department. The Barids or spies appointed were to watch the activities of his governors, military and civil officers and that of his own son.

Balban administered justice with extreme impartiality. Not even the highest in the land were to be spared if they transgressed his authority. Balban did not undertake any fresh conquest largely because of the Mongol menace. He instead, concentrated on consolidating the territory already in possession. He suppressed the revolts in the doab and Oudh and tracked down recalcitrant elements in the region of Rohilkhand in Katehar.

In Bengal Tughrij Khan revolted in 1279 A.D. and declared himself independent. This rebellion was easily suppressed. The region of Delhi had been rendered unsafe with the operation of robbers and dacoits to the extent that communication with the eastern areas became difficult. The Mewatis had become bold enough to plunder people on the

Balban had to face another invasion of the Mongols in 1285 A.D. He sent his eldest son Muhammad to repel the attack but lost him during the encounter. He could no longer recover from this tragedy and died in 1286 A.D. His greatest contribution was heightening of the dignity of the Sultan and of strengthening the army. He was also a patron of men of letters and shewed special favour to the poet Amir Khusrau.

On the death of Balban, his grandson Kaiqubad succeeded him. The affairs of the state fell in disorder Jalal-ud-din Khilji, placed himself at the head of a powerful faction and routed the Turkish amirs. Eventually Kaiqubad was murdered and Jalal-ud-din placed himself on the throne. Thus the rule of the llbari Turks came to an end in 1290 A.D.

Sufism in India

Muslims entered India in 711 under the Arab commander Muhammad bin Qasim, by conquering the regions of Sindh and Multan. The Abbasid Caliphate (750 – 1258) was seated in Baghdad; this city is also the birthplace of Sufism with notable figures such as Hazrat Ali ibn Abu Talib, Hasan al Basri, and Rabiah.

In 901, a Turkic military leader, Sabuktigin, established an Afghan kingdom in the city of Ghaznah. His son, Mahmud, expanded their territories into the Indian Punjab region during 1027. During the early 11th century, the Ghaznavids succeeded prior Arab influences. In 1151, another Central Asian group, called the Ghurids, overtook the lands of the Ghaznavids. Mu’izz al-Din Ghuri, a governor of Turkic origin, initiated a major invasion of India, extending the previous Ghazni territories into Delhi and Ajmer.

Sufi traditions became more visible during the 10th and 11th centuries of the Delhi Sultanate. The early Delhi Sultanate consisted of rulers from Turkic and Afghan lands. Turkic traditions of the Ghaznah court accelerated Sufism in India. Between the late 12th century and 13th century, Sufi brotherhoods became firmly consolidated in northern India. Sufism came to Kashmir when Sufi Saint, Shai Karman, from the Iranian city of Karman, took up residence in a small village called Sharakaware. From Sharakawara, the religion spread to other villages like Pangipora and Fatigarh.

The spread and influence of Sufism in India are due to the establishment of khanqah. Khanqahs pre-date Islam and are a remnant of Zoroastrism. A khanqah also known as a ribat is commonly defined as a hospice, lodge, community center, or dormitory ran by Sufis. Khanqahs are very often found adjoined to dargahs (shrines of Sufi saints), mosques and madrasas (Islamic schools). In North Africa, the khanqah is known as a zāwiyah. In Turkey, Iran and formerly Ottoman areas like Albania and Bosnia, they are locally referred to as tekije (transliterated as tekke, tekyeh, or takiyah). Although some khanqah establishments were independent of royal funding or patronage, many received fiscal grants (waqf) and donations for continuing services. Over time, the function of traditional Sufi khanqahs evolved as Sufism solidified in India. Khanqahs later spread across the Islamic world, from Morocco to Indonesia. Sometimes Khanqah is commonly interpreted as the place for mentally and psychological disturbed.

Shadhiliyya Order

Shadhilyya was founded by Imam Nooruddeen Abu Al Hasan Ali Ash Sadhili Razi. Fassiya branch of Shadhiliyya was brought to India by Sheikh Aboobakkar Miskeen sahib Radiyallah of Kayalpatnam and Sheikh Mir Ahmad Ibrahim Raziyallah of Madurai. Mir Ahmad Ibrahim is the first of the three Sufi saints revered at the Madurai Maqbara in Tamil Nadu. There are more than 70 branches of Shadhiliyya and in India. Of these, the Fassiyatush Shadhiliyya is the most widely practised order.

Chishtiyyah Order

The Chishtiyya order emerged from Central Asia and Persia. The first saint was Abu Ishaq Shami (d. 940–41) establishing the Chishti order in Chisht-i-Sharif within Afghanistan. Furthermore, Chishtiyya took root with the notable saint Moinuddin Chishti (d. 1236) who championed the order within India, making it one of the largest orders in India today.

Suhrwardiyyah Order

The founder of this order was Abdul-Wahir Abu Najib as-Suhrawardi (1097–1168). It is a strictly Sunni order. He was actually a disciple of Ahmad Ghazali, who is also the younger brother of Abu Hamid Ghazali. The teachings of Ahmad Ghazali led to the formation of this order. This order was prominent in medieval Iran prior to Persian migrations into India during the Mongol Invasion. Consequently, it was Abu Najib as-Suhrawardi’s nephew that helped bring the Suhrawardiyyah to mainstream awareness. Abu Hafs Umar as-Suhrawardi (c.1145-1234) expanded the Sufi order of Suhrawardiyya that had been created by his uncle Abu al-Najib Suhrawardi, and is the person responsible for officially formalizing the order. Abu Hafs was a global ambassador of his time. From teaching in Baghdad to diplomacy between the Ayyubid rulers in Egypt and Syria, Abu Hafs was a politically involved Sufi leader.

It is important to notice the works of “Shahāb ad-Dīn” Yahya ibn Habash Suhrawardī (1154- 1191), a very famous philosopher and founder of the Iranian “Philosophy of Illumination”, an important school in Islamic philosophy and mysticism that drew upon Zoroastrian and Platonic ideas, that were completely of different nature of the Suhrwardiyyah order . His life spanned a period of less than forty years during which he produced a series of works that established him as the founder of a new school of philosophy, called “Illuminism” (hikmat al-Ishraq). According to Henry Corbin, Suhrawardi “came later to be called the Master of Illumination (Shaikh-i-Ishraq) because his great aim was the renaissance of ancient Iranian wisdom” pre-Islamic Iranian thought; which Corbin specifies in various ways as the “project of reviving the philosophy of ancient Persia”.

There are several contradictory reports of his death. The most commonly held view is that he was executed sometime between 1191 and 1208 in Aleppo on charges of cultivating Batini teachings and philosophy, by the order of al-Malik al-Zahir, son of Saladin. That execution occurred during the height of the Suhrawardiyyah order in India which was in strong relationships with the Ayyubid rulers (Turkic Mamluk dynasty).

Kubrawiyyah Order

This order was founded by Abu’l Jannab Ahmad, nicknamed Najmuddin Kubra (d. 1221) who was from the border between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. This Sufi saint was a widely acclaimed teacher with travels to Turkey, Iran, and Kashmir.

Naqshbandiyyah Order

The origin of this order can be traced back to Khwaja Ya‘qub Yusuf al-Hamadani (d. 1390), who lived in Central Asia. It was later organized by Baha’uddin Naqshband (b. 1318–1389) of Tajik and Turkic background. He is widely referred to as the founder of the Naqshbandi order. Khwaja Muhammad al-Baqi Billah Berang (d. 1603) introduced the Naqshbandiyyah to India. This order was particularly popular Mughal elites due to ancestral links to the founder, Khawja al-Hamadani Babur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty in 1526, was already initiated in the Naqshbandi order prior to conquering India. This royal affiliation gave considerable impetus to the order.

Qadiriyyah Order

The Qadiriyyah order was founded by Abdul-Qadir Gilani who was originally from Iran (1077–1166, also transliterated Jilani). It is popular among the Muslims of South India. The order, with its many offshoots, by the end of the fifteenth century, the Qadiriyya had distinct branches and had spread particularly in the Arabic-speaking world, and can also be found in Turkey, Indonesia, Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Balkans, Russia, Palestine, Israel, China, East and West Africa.

During the Safavid dynasty’s rule of Baghdad from 1508 to 1534, the sheikh of the Qadiriyya was appointed chief Sufi of Baghdad and the surrounding lands. Shortly after the Ottoman Empire conquered Baghdad in 1534, Suleiman the Magnificent commissioned a dome to be built on the mausoleum of Abdul-Qadir Gilani, establishing the Qadiriyya as his main allies in Iraq. By the seventeenth century, the Qadiriyya had reached Ottoman-occupied areas of Europe. Sultan Bahu contributed to the spread of Qadiriyya in western India


Islamic Sufism is actually a Turkic ideology developed mainly in central Asia and India. It is being politically used for centuries for Turkic expansion into India, the Middle East and Africa. Sufi orders received strong support and roles from Turkic rulers and then the Ottoman Empire to become integral part of the colonial rule. While these orders were claiming pure mystical faith they were silent towards Turkic atrocities and infidelity.

Other issues of strong relevance are: The difference between Iranian and Persian cultures and Islam; the contemporary four versions of Islam (Arab extinct, Turkic-Persian–Sufi, Zoroastrian-Iranian, and basic localized), Turkic origins of Zionism, capitalism and communism, Turkic expansions in world history, and finally Turkic linage of Arab and North African elites and rulers. These issues need to be discussed in a comprehensive research project.

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