Sufism in India bears influences of Hindu mysticism as well. While the tenets of Hindu philosophy present much contrast to the core Islamic concepts, elements of these two theologies merged to give rise to the Naqshbandi order of the 13th century. From its glory days in the central Asian plateau, the Naqshbandiya had gradually traveled south and created a stronghold for itself in the Indian subcontinent. This school of Sufi thought had attracted followers right from the days of the Urdu poet Mir Dad. The trade links with the Arab world took this religious order to the Ottoman Empire, where it radicalized existing religious beliefs. In urban India of today, the Naqshbandi order of Sufi heritage finds expression in a much different way – suitable to the geo-political realities and technological advancements. The Chishtiya order is also prominent in India today and continues to inspire followers in the ways of “fervour and hospitality” (Sufism in India).
In spite of religious and political circumstances that are unfavorable to it, continues to thrive in India, but in a rather subdued way. With the growth of fundamentalist notions of Islam in the later half of last century came also a rejuvenation of Sufism. Sufism still thrives in “North Africa, Egypt, Sudan, Iran, Indonesia and Central Asia”, in addition to its foothold in the Indian subcontinent. Sufism today is still a formidable force in these parts of the world. It still influences and gives direction to thousands of faithful followers across the Muslim world, giving them support and comfort in a world that is becoming ever more politically and economically volatile.” (Sufism in India).
But nevertheless, the decline of Sufism from its glory days is indisputable. The present condition of this versatile and liberal religious faith fades in comparison to the reverence and follower-ship it elicited during the thirteenth century. A noted Islamic scholar made this following observation regarding the decline of Sufism and the underlying irony. Although it was meant as a general observation on the state of the sect, it is very relevant to the India of today:
“Why today Sufism is but a name with no underlying reality apparent. At one time, it was a reality, but without a name. Soon this Sufis will be as rare as the philosopher’s stone, and they will vanish from all corners of the world, and even if off in some distant province, a master be found, he would be considered of less value than earth. Yes, my friend, one must deplore this age, that men can live as they do. Alas! Those masters who once shielded their disciples have taken away the shield; and even if one finds among their successors, however rarely, a follower of the Path according to the Sunna tradition adhering to the rule of his predecessors, on retiring he finds himself confronted by a host of adversaries. However, if a beginner, whether in the past or present, takes one step in proposing some heretical innovation, he immediately gains himself a thousand disciples and lovers!” (Yoginder)
There is a crisis in Sufism of India today. The sect suffers from authoritarianism and the allied dangers. In other words, “certain Sufis are deifying various aspects of Sufism. A totalitarianism of the non-essential is being imposed.” The Persian Sufi Poet Saadi notes poignantly, “The path is the service of others, not prayer beads and dervish robes.” Similar sentiments were expressed by other Sufi intellectuals of today. The essence of Sufism’s present condition in India could be captured from the following passage:
“India’s future and prosperity critically depends on better relations between the different religious communities that have lived here together for centuries. These calls for the promotion of new understandings of each religion that can help promote genuine inter-faith dialogue and which at the same time critique theological formulations that promote inter-sectarian and inter-community strife and hatred. In this regard, it is obvious that the AH and similar Muslim groups, like their counterparts among the Hindus, would need to engage in considerable soul-searching.” (Sufism in India)