Intro

The Chishti Order (Persian: چشتیہ ) (tariqa) was founded by Khawaja Abu Ishaq Shami ("the Syrian") (d. 941) who brought Sufism to the town of Chisht, some 95 miles east of Herat in present-day Afghanistan. Before returning to the Levant, Shami initiated, trained and deputized the son of the local Amir, (Khwaja) Abu Ahmad Abdal (d. 966). Under the leadership of Abu Ahmad’s descendants, the Chishtiyya as they are also known, flourished as a regional mystical order.

The foundation of the order is generally also ascribed to Mu'in al-Din Chishti (c.1142-1236), a native of Sijistan. 

The Chishtis use vocal music in their religious services, and wear clothes dyed with ochre or the bark of the acacia tree.

History and Development

The movement benefited from the successive leadership of a number of famous figures, some of whom are venerated as saints. Two of these leaders - Nizam al-Din Auliya (d. 1325) and Alauddin 'Ali ibn Ahmad Sabir (d. 1291) - established their own branches of the order respectively known Nizamiyyah and Sabiriyyah. These two branches were instrumental in the spread of the order into and throughout India. Over time the movement gradually went into decline, but was revived at the beginning of the nineteenth century by Khwaja Nur Muhammad. Although the order remains one of the most important tariqas in India it has not expanded major influence beyond India and Pakistan.  The tomb of Mu'in al-Din Chishti at Ajmer remains to this day a place of popular pilgrimage.

The early Chishti Sufis of India had adopted the Awarif-ul-Ma'arif of Hazrat Sheikh Shihabuddin Suhrawardi as their chief guide book. On it was based the organization of their khanaqahs and the elder saints taught it to their disciples. The Kashf-ul-Mahjoob of Hazrat Ali Hujwari of Lahore was also a very popular work. Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia used to say: "For one who has no spiritual guide, the Kashf-ul-Mahjoob is enough". Besides these two works, the Malfoozaat (conversations) of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, Naseeruddin Chiragh, Burhanuddin Gharib and Syed Mohammed Gesu Daraz give a fairly accurate idea of the Chishti mystics' ideology.

Even today the Etiquettes (Adabs) of the Chishti Sufis reflect the influence of the Kashf-ul-Mahjoob Kashf-ul-Mahjoob.

Doctrine

The cornerstone of Chishti ideology is the concept of Unity of God. It supplies the motive force to their mystic mission and determines their social outlook. The early Chishti saints however did not write anything about these concepts, but Masud Baksh's Mir'at-ul-Arifeen and his poetical diwan, Nur-ul-Ain, gave currency to these ideas and his works became popular study in the Chishti khanaqahs.

The Chishti Order is also known for the following principles:

Obedience to shaykh/pir
Renunciation of the material world
Distance from worldly powers
Sama (or musical assemblies)
Prayers and fasting
Service to humanity
Respect for other devotional traditions
Dependence on the Creater and not the creation
Disapproval of showing off miraculous feats

The Chishtis look down upon possession of property and pursuit of materialism as a negation of faith in God. They reject worldly goods and material attractions (tarke-danya) and live on futuh (voluntary offerings) which are never demanded as charity.

The Chishti Sufis believe in a peaceful attitude towards life, and consider retaliation and revenge as laws of the animal world. They live and work for a healthy social order, free from all dissensions and discriminations. Contact with the state is greatly discouraged. "There are two abuses among the mystics," says an early Chishti mystic, "jirrat and muqallid. Muqallid is one who has no master; jirrat is one who visits kings and their courts and asks people for money".

The great objective of a mystic's life, according to Chishtis, is to live for the God alone. One should neither hope for Heaven nor fear Hell. Man's love towards God may be of three kinds: (a) Mohabbat-e-Islami i.e. love which a new convert to Islam develops with God on account of his conversion to the new faith; (b) Mohabbat-e-nuwahhibi, i.e. love which a man develops as a result of his effort in the way of following the Holy Prophet Muhammad; (c) Mohabbat-e-khass, i.e. love which is the result of cosmic emotion. A mystic should develop the last one.

The Chishti mystics do not demand formal conversion to Islam as a pre-requisite to initiation in mystic discipline. Formal conversion, they believe, should not precede, but follow a change in emotional life. The Chishti attitude contrasts sharply with, for example, the Suhrawardi principles in this respect.

The guiding principles of the Chishti Order are encapsulated in the famous "Final Sermon" of Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti, delivered just one month before his demise.

Chishtiyyah groups continue to exist in India and Pakistan.

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