The Sultans were identified with those in authority and were later invested with divine attributes and disobedience to them was to be regarded as sinful. Mughal King Akbar was both secular and religious head of the Indian Muslims. Towards the close of the Sultanate there is a more tolerant attitude towards the Hindus and this was especially true in the case of many kingdoms which arose in the provinces with the weakening of the central authority at Delhi.
The religious class consisted of the theologians, the ascetics, the Sayyids, the Pirs and their descendants. Officially the theologians or the 'Ulama' counted most. They manned the judicial and religious offices in the state. They were becoming fanatical and often forgetful of the true tenets of their faith. It was Sultan Alauddin Khilji first who put a curb to their ambitions. They were to decide only on judicial questions and strictly religious problems. Mohammad Tughlaq completely secularised the state. Firoz was more lenient. The ecclesiastical class became a handmaid of the Sultan's political policy and administration.
Among the non-official religious movements were the development of Sufism among the Muslims and the Bhakti movement among the Hindus. The period of individualistic missionary activity begins from the eleventh century onward. Of the earliest missionaries Shaykh Ismail, Abd Allah, Nur-ud-Din can be mentioned. From the thirteenth century their numbers increased and there were important missionaries like Khwajah Muin-ud-Din Chishti of Ajmer, Jalal-ud-Din of Sind, Sayyid Ahmad Kabir of the Punjab and later on others like Baha-ul-Haqq, Baba Farid-ud-Din and Ahmad Kabir. From the fourteenth century the missionaries spread into Western India and the Deccan.
Sufi ideas have been spread throughout India. They have modified some schools of Hindu mysticism which has affected Sufism in India. The Sufis have split up into a number of sects. Sufism is devotional, pietistic and a natural revolt against the cold formalism of a ritualistic religion. Sufism found a congenial home in India with its warm, mystical yearning after union and fellowship with God. Their faith may be thus summarised. God has given all his sons or servants the capacity for union with Him. The Sufis in India were not characterised by religious fanaticism. They adopted Indian rites and principles into their faith. They gave to the Bhakti movement various devotional exercises and charged it with their own experiences of mystic and divine love. The pain of separation was forcibly expressed and was a sign of intensity of love towards God. The separation between God and man was maintained in consonance with the principles of Islam.
As far as the moral life of the people was concerned it was marked by faith, love and piety. Loyalty and charity were appreciated and adhered to; courtesy and hospitality were enjoined upon and properly observed. The intense love of religion among the masses and the development of devotional sects like those of the Sufis were the redeeming feature of the society at that time. It may be emphasized that the developing spirit of tolerance in this age crystallised itself in the reign of Akbar.
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