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SUFISIM IN KARNATAKA

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. (Tarikere, 2008:261-273). 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.
(Shrinivas, 2000:8). 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. (Munshi, 1997:349) Another reference is to Nurulla
Qadiri during the Vijayanagar period (1336 A.D.to 1565 A.D.). The tomb at Kadi
Ramapuram in Hospet of Bellary district was erected in honour of him (Konduri,
1990:47). 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 (Shrinivas, 2000:4-5) and in
Karnataka, four orders, namely Chisti, Qadiri, Sattariya and Shurawardia thrived.

Sufi Saints of the Bahmani Period in Gulbarga
The Bahmanis ruled Gulbarga from 1347 to 1424 A.D. and Bidar from 1424 to
1538 A.D. During their period many Sufi saints lived. Among them Shiak Sirajud
–din-Junaidi, Gesu Daraz (Bande Nawaz) in Gulbarga and Syed Tajuddinin in
Bidar were the most important Sufi saints. The Bahmani rulers from the very
beginning of their rule in Karnataka gained the goodwill and co-operation of the
Sufi saints. In many movements of crisis connected with accessions, campaigns,
and factious conflicts in the history of the Bahmanis, the Sufi saints exerted their
influence in favour of one or other claimant. King Alaud-din Hasan Bahman
Shah (1347- 1358 A.D.) had great respect for Sufi saints named Shaikh Burhanuddin
Gharib, Shaikh Ainud-din Bijapuri and Shaikh Sirajud-din Junaidi .
(1) 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. (2) Hazrat Shaikh Saad
Zanjani Rahimatullah Aulia came to Gulbarga in 1351 A.D. His dargah is
located near the Chor Gumbad at Gulbarga. (3) 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. (4) 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) (5) 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. He was of the Chishti order that had
created a centre of Sufi culture at Gulbarga. He was born at Delhi on 30th July
1321 A.D. In 1335 A.D., he came to Delhi from Daulatabad to complete his
education and became the disciple of the most outstanding Chishti saint Shaikh
Nasirud-din Chirag. For years he imbedded from his master the spirit of the
Chishti Silsilah. Gesu Daraz had arrived at Gulbarga from Delhi about 1400-1
A.D., and had settled down at a Khanqah in the vicinity of Gulbarga fort during
the period of King Firuz Shah. For about a quarter of a century he propagated the
Chishti mystic’s principle in Gulbarga and other parts of Deccan. He died at the
age of more than a hundred years on 1st November, 1422 A.D. (Sherwani and
The arrival of Gesu Daraz to Gulbarga had a great cultural
impact on the people of Karnataka with important consequences. It is said that the
Khanqah of this great Sufi saint often surpassed the Bahmanis court in terms of
the number of the audience. A Persian scholar to begin with, he learnt Urdu and
had 104 literary works to his credit which are in Persian, Dakhani Urdu and
Arabic languages. He was much revered and respected by all. (Machakanur,
2008:34).
A profound scholar, with a keen and penetrating insight into the religious
sciences, Gesu Daraz gave a new fillip to religious studies in Karnataka. He has
written a commentary on the Quran and another on the Mashariq-al-Anwar (a
famous collection of the Traditions of the Prophet). He had studied Hindu
mythology and was conversant with the Sanskrit language also. He mingled with
Hindus and the Hindu yogis of Gulbarga and had respect for their sacred books
and culture. His works were voraciously read in the higher mystic circles while
the common people thronged to his khanqah in large numbers. His disciples who
spread in towns and villages applied themselves to brisk spiritual activity and
propagated his name and teachings far and wide. The poets, scholars, saints and
sages of Karnataka in the succeeding centuries have paid eloquent tributes to
Hazrat Gesu Daraz and have prided in their association with his spiritual order.
(Sherwani and Joshi, 1974:185-188) After his death, King Ahmad I, who was a
staunch disciple, constructed the dargah in Gulbarga. The paintings on the walls
and domes are in Turkish and Iranian style. The dargah is even now regarded
with great esteem and veneration by the people of Karnataka. (6.)
Khalifat-al- Rahman played an important role in the spiritual life both of
Firuzabad and Sultan Firuz. His dargah is located in Firuzabad and it is unique in
its architecture. (Michell and Eaton, 1992: 58-59)
Other than these famous Sufi saints, there are some more references for Sufi saints
who lived in Gulbarga during the 15th century A.D. They are., (7) Hazrat Shah
Bahaud-din Langot Band Rehamathullah Aulia (dargah is located near Shah
Bazar, Gulbarga), (8) Hazrat Moulana Hafeez (dargah is located near the tomb
of Shaikh Ziyauddin Qatal at Gulbarga), (9) Moulana Qadar (dargah is located
in Sultanpur, Gulbarga), (10)Moulana Iftiqaruddin (dargah is located in
Moulana Shahbazar), (11) Moulana Kamal Girayan (dargah is located in
Sultanpur, Gulbarga), (12) Hazrat Peer Bangdhi (dargah is located near fort
road, Gulbarga), and (13)Bahaman Shah Sahib (dargah is located near
Ganjiriyan Mazhar, Gulbarga).(Munshi,1997:354-356) A total of thirteen
references to Sufi saints in Gulbarga, throws light on how popular was Sufism and
how revered and respected were the Sufi saints.
 Sufi Saints of the Bahamani period in Bidar
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. (1) 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. (Kulkarni, 1977:295) 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. (KSGBD, 1977:562)Today
Syed Tajuddin’s dargah enjoys a unique reputation as a great centre of pilgrimage
for the Muslims and the Hindus. (Kulkarni, 1977:298-299) (2) 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. (Kulkarni,
1977:315-317)
During and after the reign of King Ahmad I, several saints of the Qadiri order
arrived at Bidar from Multan, Mahan and Kirman (Persia).The present existing
dargahs of the Sufi Saints of the Bahamani period in Bidar, speak of the Sufi
saints who lived during Bahamani period in and around Bidar.(Yazdani,1947:184-
208) These dargahs named after the Sufi saints belong to (3) Hazrat Shah Abul-
Faid, (4)Hazrat Shah Ali, (5)Hazrat Shah Abul-Hasan, (6) Hazrat Sayyid
Amir Hamza Qadiri, (7) Banda Ali Shah Majdhub, (8)Hazrat Nur Samnani,
(9) Shaikh Badr-Ud-Din Qadiri, (10) Hazrat Makdhum Qadiri, and (11)
Hazrat Sayyid-Us-Sadat. The presence of these dargahs help to infer that, the
Sufi saints had popularized Sufism in and around Bidar.

 Khanqahs of the Sufi Saints of Bahamani period in and around Bidar
Bidar has nine khanquahs named after the Sufi saints. (Yazdani, 1947:109-113)
They are., (1) Hazrat Shah Abul-Faid, (2) Hazrat Nur Sammani, (3) Shah
Wali-Ullah-al-Husaini, (4) Shah Ali Husain Qutb II, (5) Mahbub Subhani, (6)
The small Khanqah of Mahbub Subani, (7) Chhoti Khanqah, (8) Makhdum
Qadiri, and (9) Hazrat Minnat-Ullah Bi Sahiba. Among these, the khanqah of
Hazrat Shah Abul-Faid is the most important one. Hazrat Shah Abul-Faid (1408
A.D. to 1474 A.D.) was a contemporary of Kings Ahmad I, Alaud-din Ahamad,
Humayun and Nizam Shah Bahamani. These kings had great respect for him. The
study of the Sufis saints of the Bahamani period shows that they were popular
among the kings and the masses alike in bringing welfare and social harmony.
2.4. Sufi Saints of Adil Shahi period in and around Bijapur
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.(Eaton,1985:63)

Dargahs and tombs of Sufi saints in Bijapur
The number of dargahs and tombs of Sufi saints in Bijapur vary from large to
small in size with almost three hundred. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the
Deccan plateau throng to Bijapur and join local devotees in the celebration of
urus that have made such dargahs the focus of popular Islam throughout
India.(Eaton,1985:Intro., xxiii-xxiv) A reference to twenty-two famous Sufi saints
of Bijapur during the Adil Shahi period are found. (1) Sayyid Chanda Husaini
migrated from Arabia to Bidar in the late 15th century and joined the cavalry of
King Yusuf Adil Khan and accompanied him to Gogi, seven miles from Shahapur
of Gulbarga district. At present his tomb is located in Gogi. (2) Shaikh
Shamsal-Din Zinda Dil was the only Sufi saint of the Shattari order, who came
from Shiraz (Persia) to Ahmedabad and then to Bijapur during the period of King
Ali I. (3) Shah Miranji Shamsal-Ushashaq of the Chisti order came from
Mecca. He lived in Bijapur along with his descendants on Shahapur hillock called
Manauwarpur (City of Light). Throughout the sixteenth century, when the Adil
Shahi kingdom was ruled by Shias and the city of Bijpaur remained virtually
empty of Sufis, the two persons namely Shah Miranji and his son Burhan al-Din
Janam kept Chisti order of Sufism alive at Shahapur hillock. In Shahapur hillock,
they established a khanqah wherein many devotees from diverse parts of the
Indian subcontinent were studying. (4) Shah Nur al-Din Safawi was the only
Shattari Sufi saint to have come directly from Iran (Persia) to Bijapur. He bears
the name of the order of Ismail Safawi, the founder of the Safawi dynasty of Iran.
(5) Shah Abul-Hasan Qadiri lived during the period of Ibrahim II and
Muhammad. (6) Shah Sibghat Allah of the Shattari order was born in Gujarat
seaport of Broach. After coming to Bijapur he learnt that King Ibrahim II
enamoured to Hindu singing and playing, had cultivated deviate skills. Sibghat
Allah was the only Sufi saint who questioned against the worldly pursuits of the
King Ibrahim II and declared that the selling of wine and the practice of the
prostitution must be prohibited in Bijapur. He opened a khanqah in Bijapur. Later
he left for Arabia because of the non-cooperation by the king Ibrahim II. (7) Shah
Hashim Alawi, popularly remembered as Hashim Gujarati, or Hashim Pir, was a
Gujarati Sufi of the Shattari order. Muhammad Ibrahim Zubairi, the historian
wrote that both Kings Ibrahim II and Muhammad had a great deal of belief in
Hashim’s spiritual power and that Muhammad declared him to be superior to all
other Sufis of Bijapur, even depending on Hashim’s council on important matters
of State. Hashim was very much attached with the Adil Shahi king Muhammad
and his court. Every day hundreds, because of their poverty to seek relief, came to
him. He was perhaps the only Sufi saint of Bijapur to employ his good favour
with the court for truly constructive social ends. (8) Abul Hasan, (9) Shah
Mustafa Qadiri and (10) Shah Qasim Qadiri, all the three were brothers who
came from Bidar to Bijapur during the period of Ibrahim II to spread the Qadiri
order. (11). Shaikh Abd Allah Aidarus (1631-32 A.D.) was a Sufi of the eminent
Aidarus family of Yemen who came to Bijapur during the period of Ibrahim II.
He induced the king to wear Arab cloths and propagated the Holy Law of
Muhammad in Bijapur. (Eaton, 1985: 69-128)
2.4.2. Migration of Sufi saints in the reign of Muhammad (1627-1656 A.D.)
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., (12) Abd al-Samad Kanani (from Egypt),
(13) Ismail Qadiri bin Hasan (from Baghdad), (14) Abu Bakrbal-Faqih (from
Arabia), (15) Ahmad Nazir, Saiyid (from Arabia), (16) Jafar Saqqaf, (17)
Saiyid (from Arabia), (18) Zain Muqbil, Saiyid (from Arabia), (19) Naim Allah,
Shah (from Burhanpur), (20) Zubairi Qazi Ibrahim (from Gujarat), (21) Abd al-
Latif Qadiri, Shah (from Bidar), and (22) 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 (Kamath,1987:
912) 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).(Katpadi, 2010:7&78)
 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. They gave correct guidance and did not hesitate to express their
disapprobation of some of the misdeeds and evil practices of rulers and aristocrats
and made silent protests .They served as a medium of contact between the rulers
and the masses. High Standard of Morality and Discipline – Sufi saints taught
people to cultivate the virtues of humanity, good disposition, tolerance,
forgiveness and patience. They raised their voice against all vices such as
drinking, gambling, slavery etc. They were instrumental in maintaining the social
equilibrium of the medieval society of Karnataka. They played an important role
in shaping the character of the people and exercised immense influence upon the
people and on account of them many Muslims and thousands of people became
righteous. Education, Common Language – The Sufis played a significant role
in the educational advancement of the society. Their khanqahs became centers of
knowledge and wisdom. Their religious discourses helped in the intellectual and
spiritual advancement of the audience, while in some khanqahs formal religious
education was also imparted. From the very beginning, the Sufis realized the need
of learning the regional languages of the Hindus so as to converse with them
freely in their own dialect language. So, they were instrumental in making Hindi
and Urdu languages to be used regularly by commoners. Work of Proselytism –
The Sufis were responsible for the spread of Muslim culture and Islam among the
masses in the various parts of Karnataka. They had their own way of getting new
converts from the Hindu masses. The Islamic concept of equality and brotherhood
of men attracted the lower classes of Hindus to their khanqahs. There was no
discrimination between the high and low, rich and poor in the khanqahs and the
atmosphere there made them embrace Islam. Art and Architecture, Literature
and Music – Sufi saints contributed to the development art and architecture of
Karnataka by constructing the khanqahs and mosques. Their patrons constructed
the darghas and they have become a living tradition of Islam in Karnataka.
Khawja Bande Nawaz dargha at Gulbarga is a classic example to art and
architecture. The influence of Sufism is not only confined to religious harmony
but it has also affected the Kannada language and literature. Folk songs such as
Chakki-nama (song sung by women to accompany their work at the grinding
stone) and Charaka-nama (song sung by women to accompany their work at the
spinning-wheel) formed because of Sufi influence.
CONCLUSION
Sufi saints made Islam quite popular in Karnataka. They tried to remove
fanaticism between the Hindus and the Muslims and enhanced the feelings of
humanity of love, tolerance and equality. They criticized and condemned the evil
practices prevalent among the Hindus and Muslims and tried to purify the society
of Karnataka. Sufi saints have been a legacy to the rich diverse culture of
Karnataka.