(Last Updated on : 16/01/2012)
Suhrawardi's was the only other silsila (principle) which had a considerable following in medieval India. This Islamic order is considered one of the four prominent orders in Sufism. Shihab-ud-din Suhrawardi, a teacher in Baghdad, was the founder of this silsila which was introduced in India by his disciple Jalal-ud-din Tabrizi and Oaha-ud-din Zakariya (1183-1262). The former took his abode in Bengal where he converted a large number of Hindus and established a Khanqah. However, Zakariya was mainly responsible for organising the Suhrawardi silsila in India. His Khanqah at Multan became one of the important centres of religious learning in India.
After Sheikh Ziaudin Jahib Suhrawardi founded the Suhrawardi Order, his nephew Abu Hafs Umar al-Suhrawardi (1145 - 1234) took the responsibility to spread the Suhrawardi Order in various parts of the world. He was sent as emissary to the court of Ayyubid Sultan Malik al-Adil I of Egypt, to Khwarezm-Shah Muhammad of Bukhara and to Kaiqubad I, the Seljuk ruler of Konya by the Khalifa of Baghdad, Caliph an-Nasir. He had done a great job, as numerous Sufis from all over the Islamic world joined the order under his guidance. After his death, Hazrat Jalaluddin Surkh-Posh Bukhari and Hazrat Baha-ud-din Zakariya worked hard to spread the Suhrawardi Order into India. Though the Suhrawardi Order originated in Iraq, it succeeded only in India for taking the shape of a fraternity, along with its infrastructure, internal hierarchy of members and cloisters and a single centre in Multan and Uchch. The Sufis of the Suhrawardi Order have played the principal role in the formation of a conservative 'new piety' and in the initiation of urban commercial and vocational groups into mysticism. The Suhrawardiyya is a strictly Sunni order and it is mainly guided by Shafi'i madhab.
Apart from Abu Hafs Umar al-Suhrawardi, another famous Sufi saint of the Suhrawardi Order, Fakharuddin Iraqi also played a pivotal role in the spreading of the Order. He received formal initiation into the Sufi way under Shaykh Baha'uddin, the head of the Suhrawardiyya Sufi Order. Iraqi was deeply devoted to Qunawi and to the teachings of Ibn El-Arabi and he also got inspirations from a series of speeches, delivered by Qunawi on the esoteric meaning of Ibn El-Arabi's great works. Inspired by the speeches, Iraqi composed one of his own masterpiece works of commentary and poetry, named the Lama'at or Divine Flashes.
Yet another disciple, Jalal-ud-din Surkh Bukhari (died 1291), settled in Ucheh and set up a Khanqah there. His grandson and successor Sayyid Jalal-ud-din organised and strengthened this centre. He converted a large number of tribes. He played an important part in the political and religious life of Sind. Shaikh Rukn-ud-din Abul Fateh, grandson of Shaikh Bahaud-din Zakariya, was the most important Khalifah of this order. He occupies the same high position in the Suhrawardi silsila as Shaikh Nizam-ud-din does in the Chishti order. The whole population of Sind held him in high esteem.
Shaikh Ruknuddin also contributed considerably in popularizing the Suhrawardi Order. In fact the Sultans of Delhi, such as, Alauddin Khilji and Muhammad Tughlaq highly respected him. However, though the Suhrawardi Order declined in Multan after his death, it became remained well accepted in the provinces of Uchch, Gujarat, Punjab, Kashmir and even Delhi. The Suhrawardi Order also became popular in Bengal, at a later period. Apart from the above mentioned great Sufi saints of Suhrawardi Order, some of the other saints and philosophers like Shaikh Sharfuddin Yahya Manairi and Shihabuddin Yahya as-Suhrawardi also made their own contributions to the development of the Suhrawardi Order.
As far as the practices of Suhrawardi Order are concerned these vary from the production of mystical ecstasy to the completely quiescent exercise for 'perception of Reality'. The legends or works of fiction have laid the foundation of the instructional materials of the Suhrawardi Order. However, they contain some materials to the devotees and the materials are essential for preparing the ground for the experiences which the disciple must eventually undergo. It is believed that without those materials, there is a possibility that the disciple may simply develop altered states of mind that make him unfit for ordinary life.
Moreover unlike the Chishtis, the saints of this order led a comfortable life. They made ample provisions for their families and even employed teachers on handsome salaries for the education of their sons. Suhrawardis believed that there was no harm in owning property and dispensing of wealth if the heart was detached.
Suhrawardis actively associated themselves with the government and accepted the posts of Shaikh-ul-Islam and Sadr-i-Wilayat. They exhorted their followers to be nearer to the kings who are the chosen of God, the Almighty. Under no conditions, showing disrespect to them or disobeying their orders is permitted or proper in Shariat. One of the Suhrawardi saints Shaikh Rukn-ud-din Multani was of the view that it was essential for a shaikh to have money, learning or scholarship besides spiritual attainments to satisfy the variety of people who visited him.