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Abul Fazl gave a list of the Sufi orders in India, which comprises dozens of silsilahs. The prominent among these include the Chistiya, Qadriya, Naqsbandiya and the Suhrawardiya. The silsilahs were generally led by the Sufi saints who lived in Khanqahs or hospices along with their disciples.

(a) The Chishti Order:

The Chishti Order was introduced in India by Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti (1143-1223 AD) who was one of the most renowned Sufi saints in India. He was born in Sanjar in the province of Sistan in Iran. He was the disciple of the great Sufi saint Khwaja Uthman Harvani, who belonged to the Chishti order. Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti reached India around 1192 AD, shortly after the death and defeat of Prithvi Raj Chauhan. After staying for a short period in Lahore and Delhi, he reached Ajmer in 1195 AD and set up a Khanqah (place of worship) to spread his message of universal love and brotherhood. His simple, pious and ascetic way of life attracted a large number of people who came to seek spiritual guidance from him. After his death on March 11, 1223 AD (6th of Rajab, 633 AH), his devotees started holding a congregation or Urs at Ajmer from the first to the sixth day of the Islamic month of Rajab every year.

The other renowned Sufi saints of this order include Shaikh Qutubuddin Bakhtyar Kaki, Shaikh Hamiduddin Sufi of Nagaur, Hazrat Moinuddin Ajmeri, Shaikh Fariduddin Ganj-i-Shakar of Ajodhan (Modern Pubjab), who was popularly known as Hazrat Baba Farid and whose bani and slokas are part of the holy Guru Granth Sahib, Shaikh Jamaluddin Hanowi, Shaikh Nizamuddin Aulia, Shaikh Allauddin Sabir, Shaikh Nasiruddin Chiragh-i-Delhi and Khwaja Gesu Deraz of Gulbarga. Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya founded the Nizamiya sub-silsilah, which spread throughout the country due to the dedicated efforts of his disciples likeShaikhSirajuddin, Shaikh Alaul Haqq, Shaikh Nur Qutb-i-Alam, Syed Ashraf Jahangir, Shaikh Burhanuddin Gharib and Khwaja Gesu Deraz. Amir Khusro, the legendary poet and musician also belonged to this order. The Chisti order is the most widespread among all the Sufi orders in India. The Chisti saints follow the concept of pantheistic monism called Wahdat-ul-wajud, which finds similarities with the Vedanta philosophy. The Chishti order helped in inculcating a sense of duty in the rulers and monarchs to administer justice and equity and to do away with social disorder and religious intolerance.

(b) The Suhrawardi Order:

This order was founded by Shaikh Shahabuddin Umar Suharwardi (d.1234 AD), who is the author of Awarif ul Maarif.  It was represented in India by Shaikh Bahauddin Zikiriyya of Multan and Shaikh Jalal Tabrizi of Lakhnauti. This order became popular in Kashmir, Punjab, Sind and parts of Bengal. It reached its acme under Shaikh Ruknuddin (d.1335 AD).

(c) The Qadriya Order:

This ascetic order of Sufism was instituted in 561 AH by Saiyid Abdul Qadir Al-Jilani, popularly known as Pir Dastagir, whose shrine is in Baghdad. It was introduced in India by Shah Niamatullah (d.1430 AD) and was later promoted in an organised manner by Syed Makhdum Muhammad Gilani (d.1517 AD). The Qadriyah Khanqahs are mostly located in Punjab, parts of northern India and extensively in South India. The famous Urdu poets Hasrat Mohani and Allama Iqbal belong to this order.

(d)The Naqshbandi Order:

The Naqshbandi order was popularised in India through the efforts of Khwaja Baqi Billah (d.1642 AD), who came to India during the reign of Emperor Akbar. His Khalifah or deputy was Shaikh Ahmed Sirhindi, commonly known as Mujaddid-e-Alf Sani. Shah Waliullaj of Delhi, Syed Ahmed of Rae Bareilly and Shah Ghulam Ali were some of the great Sufis of this order. Famous Sufi poets of this order are Mirza Mazhar Jan-e-Janan and Mir Dard.

(e) The Nimatullahi Sufi Order:

This Sufi order owes its origin to Shah Nimatullah Wali, one of the great Sufi masters of Iran, who founded the order at the end of the 14th century AD. The spiritual method of the Nimatullahi order is based on invocation and remembrance of God (zikr), reflection (fikr), self-examination (mohasaba), meditation (moraqaba) and litany (werd). After Shah Nimatullah, the masters of the Nimatullahi order resided in India until the end of the 18th century AD (12th century AH), after which it was shifted back to Iran with the arrival of Sayyed Ma'Sum 'Ali Shah Dakkani to Iran in 1775 AD (1190 AH).

(f) The Shattari Order:

This order was introduced in India by Shah Abdullah Shattari (d.1485 AD) and became popular in Malwa, Jaunpur and Bengal. The eminent Sufi saints of this order include Shaikh Muhammad Alas Qadin of Bengal, Shaikh Hafiz of Jaunpur and Shaikh Muhammad Ghauth of Gwalior.  The famous musician Tansen belonged to this order.

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