Identify the relationship between the Sufis and the state from the eighth to the eighteenth century.

The Sufis were a group of religious minded people who turned to asceticism and mysticism in order to seek God In the early centuries of Islam. They did this as a protest against the growing materialism of the Caliphate. In spite of their rigid stances on abstinence and austerity, the Sufi saints accepted grants and donations from the political elites but these were unsolicited.

The Sultans would often grant the saints tax free lands and set up charitable trusts to aid their philanthropy.

The Sufi saints, particularly the Chistis, would accept donations in cash and kind. But these were never accumulated and used immediately for basic requirements like food, housing, clothing and ritual necessities. The Shaikhs who attracted devotees from all walks of life were thus able to establish their moral authority through piety and generosity. Their popularity made the rulers strive for their support.

During the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate by the Turks in India, the Ulema’s demand for introduction of Shariat as state law was rejected. The Sultans did this to reduce opposition from both the muslims and non-muslims already living in the country. The Sufi saints who believed that their spiritual authority was a blessing from Allah, were enlisted by the Sultans in order to garner support from the general population who revered the Sufi saints.

It was a popular believe during this time that the Auliyas could intercede with God in order to improve the material and spiritual conditions of the common people. Thus, Sultans would often visit the dargahs of Sufi saints and even have their tombs built near the dargahs.

In spite of the cooperation and mutual obligation between the state and the saints, there are many examples of conflict between the two groups. Both wanted to assert their authority over the people and thus, emphasized on the prostration and kissing of the feet. Often Sufi saints were addressed with high sounding titles. For example: the disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya addressed him as “Sultan-a-Mashaikh”. (Sultan among Shaikhs)

In later times, other Sufi sects like Suhrawardi under the Delhi Sultanate and the Naqshbandi under the Mughal empire were also associated with the state in different manners. They often accepted courtly offices.