The word Sufi means wool. The preachers from Arabia wore wool to protect themselves from dust winds. The Sufi movement is believed to have begun in Persian countries against the highly puritan Islamic culture. Later, it spread into India and adopted various things like yogic postures, dance and music into it, and turned itself into a pantheistic movement. The Sufi orders were of two types – ba-shara and be-shara, where shara stood for the Islamic law. The former obeyed the laws while the latter was more liberal.
The saints organized themselves into twelve silsilas or orders. The important among them were the Chisti and Suhrawardi silsilas, both of which belonged to the ba-shara order.
The Chisti Silsila was begun by Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti who came to India around 1192. None of his records remain, and he is widely known through the writings of his disciples and followers. The most famous of the Chisti saints were Nizamuddin Auliya and Naziruddin chirag-i-Delhi. They mingled freely with people of low classes, even Hindus. The chistis didn’t want anything to do with the administration or money. They led simple austere lives.
This was just the opposite in the case of the suhrawardi saints who were rich, and often held positions in the government. Bahauddin Zachariah suhrawardi is a famous saint from this silsila. There were two streams in general – wahdat-ul-wujud (doctrine of the unity of god) and wahdat-ul-shuhud (philosophy of apprenticism). The latter was found only in the nakshbandi silsila, which was a highly puritan Islamic silsila.
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