Chishti order
Formationc. 930 CE
TypeSufi order
HeadquartersHerat, Afghanistan
Key people
Abu Ishaq Shami – founder

The Chishti order (Persian: چشتی طريقة, romanizedChishtī ṭarīqa) is a Sufi order of Sunni Islam named after the town of Chisht where it was initiated by Abu Ishaq Shami. The order was brought to South Asia by Mu'in al-Din Chishti in the city of Ajmer.

The Chishti Order is known for its emphasis on love, tolerance, and openness.[1] The Chishti order is primarily followed in Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent. It was the first of the seven main Sufi orders (Chishti, Qadiri, Suhrawardi, Madariyya, Kubrawiyya, Qalandariyya and Naqshbandi) to be established in this region. Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti introduced the Chishti Order in Ajmer (Rajasthan, India) sometime in the middle of the 12th century. He was eighth in the line of succession from the founder of the Chishti Order, Abu Ishaq Shami. There are now several branches of the order, which has been the most prominent South Asian Sufi brotherhood since the 12th century.[2]

Tomb of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, renowned saint of Chishti order

In the 20th century, the order has spread outside Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent. Chishti teachers have established centers in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, Eastern and Southern Africa.

Guiding principles

The Chishti shaykhs have stressed the importance of keeping a distance from worldly power.[3] A ruler could be a patron or a disciple, but he or she was always to be treated as just another devotee. A Chishti teacher should not attend the court or be involved in matters of state, as this will corrupt the soul with worldly matters. In his last discourse to his slaves Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti said:

Never seek any help, charity, or favors from anybody except God. Never go to the courts of kings, but never refuse to bless and help the needy and the poor, the widow, and the orphan, if they come to your door.[4]

Qawwali at Nizamuddin Auliya's shrine

Chishti practice is also notable for Sama: evoking the divine presence by listening to and losing oneself in a form of music and poetry, usually Qawwali.[5] The Chishti, and some other Sufi orders, believe that Sama can help devotees forget self in the love of Allah. However, the order also insists that followers observe the full range of Muslim obligations; it does not dismiss them as mere legalism, as some strands of Sufism have done.[5]

However some Qadiris point out that the Chishti Order and Moinuddin Chishti never permitted musical instruments, and cite a Chishti, Muhammad Ibn Mubarak Kirmani, the Mureed of Khwaja Fareed al-Deen Ganj-e-Shakar, who wrote in his Siyar al-Awliya that Nizamuddin Auliya said the following:[6]

"Sima' (to listen to Qawwali) is permissible if a few conditions are met. The singer must be an adult and not a child or a female. The listener must only listen to everything in the remembrance of Allah. The words that are sung must be free from obscenity and indecency and they must not be void. Musical instruments must not be present in the gathering. If all these conditions are met, Sima' is permissible".

"...Someone complained to the Sultan of the Mashaa’ikh that some of the dervishes danced in a gathering where there were musical instruments. He said, they did not do good as something impermissible cannot be condoned".

— Siyar al-Awliya[6][7]

Furthermore, Nizamuddin Auliya said:[6]

Musical instruments are Haram.

— Fawa'id al-Fu'aad[6][8]


The Chishtis follow five basic devotional practices (dhikr).[9]

  1. Reciting the names of Allāh loudly, sitting in the prescribed posture at prescribed times (dhikr-i jali)
  2. Reciting the names of Allāh silently (dhikr-i khafī)
  3. Regulating the breath (pās-i anfās)
  4. Absorption in meditation on the Divine (murā-ḳāba)
  5. Forty days or more days of spiritual confinement in a lonely corner or cell for prayer and contemplation (čilla)
Old man busy in zikr


Early Chishti shaykhs adopted concepts and doctrines outlined in two influential Sufi texts: the ʿAwārif al-Maʿārif of Shaykh Shihāb al-Dīn Suhrawardī and the Kashf al-Maḥjūb of Ali Hujwīrī. These texts are still read and respected today. Chishtis also read collections of the sayings, speeches, poems, and letters of the shaykhs. These collections, called malfūẓāt, were prepared by the shaykh's disciples.[10]

Spiritual lineage

Main article: Chishti-Sabri Silsila

Sufi orders trace their origins ultimately to the Islamic prophet Muhammad, who is believed to have instructed his successor in mystical teachings and practices in addition to the Qur'an or hidden within the Qur'an. Opinions differ as to this successor. Almost all Sufi orders trace their origins to 'Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib, Muhammad's cousin.

The traditional silsila (spiritual lineage) of the Chishti order is as follows:[11]

  1. Muḥammad
  2. Ali ibn Abu Talib
  3. Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (d. 728, an early Persian Muslim theologian)
  4. 'Abdul Wāḥid ibn Zaid Abul Faḍl (d. 793, an early Sufi saint)
  5. Fuḍayl ibn 'Iyāḍ ibn Mas'ūd ibn Bishr al-Tamīmī
  6. Ibrāhīm ibn Adham (a legendary early Sufi ascetic)
  7. Khwaja Sadid ad-Din Huzaifa al-Marashi Basra Iraq
  8. Abu Hubayra al-Basri Basra Iraq
  9. Khwaja Mumshad Uluw Al Dīnawarī
  10. Abu Ishaq Shamī (d. 940, founder of the Chishti order proper)
  11. Abu Aḥmad Abdal Chishti
  12. Abu Muḥammad Chishti
  13. Abu Yusuf Nasar-ud-Din Chishtī
  14. Qutab-ud-Din Maudood Chishtī
  15. Haji Sharif Zindani (d. 1215)
  16. Usman Harooni (d. 1220)
  17. Mu'īnuddīn Chishtī (Moinuddin Chishti) (1141–1230 or 1142–1236)
  18. Qutab-ud-Din Bakhtyar Kaki (1173–1228)
  19. Farīduddīn Mas'ūd ("Baba Farid", 1173 or 1175–1266)

After Farīduddīn Mas'ūd, the Chishti order divided into two branches:


Mughal princess Jahan Ara's tomb (left), Nizamuddin Auliya's tomb (right) and Jama'at Khana Masjid (background), at Nizamuddin Dargah complex, in Nizamuddin West, Delhi

The Encyclopedia of Islam divides Chishti history into four periods:

The order was founded by Abu Ishaq Shami ("the Syrian") who taught Sufism in the town of Chisht, some 95 miles east of Herat in present-day western Afghanistan.[13] Before returning to Syria, where he is now buried next to Ibn Arabi at Jabal Qasioun,[14] Shami initiated, trained and deputized the son of the local emir, Abu Ahmad Abdal.[15] Under the leadership of Abu Ahmad's descendants, the Chishtiya, as they are also known, flourished as a regional mystical order.[14]

The founder of the Chishti Order in South Asia was Moinuddin Chishti. He was born in the province of Silistan in eastern Persia around 536 AH (1141 CE) into a sayyid family claiming descent from Muhammad.[16] When he was just nine, he memorized the Qur'an, thus becoming a hafiz. His father died when he was a teenager; Moinuddin inherited the family grinding mill and orchard. He sold everything and gave the proceeds to the poor. He traveled to Balkh and Samarkand, where he studied the Qur'an, hadith, and fiqh.[17] He looked for something beyond scholarship and law and studied under the Chishti shaykh Usman Harooni (Harvani). He moved to Lahore and then to Ajmer, where he died. His tomb, in Ajmer, is the Dargah Sharif, a popular shrine and pilgrimage site.

Moinuddin was followed by Qutab-ud-Din Bakhtyar Kaki and Farīduddīn Mas'ūd 'Baba Farid'. After Fariduddin, the Chishti Order of South Asia split into two branches. Each branch was named after one of Fariduddin's successors.

  1. Nizamuddin Auliya – the Chishti Nizami branch
  2. Alauddin Sabir Kaliyari – the Chishti-Sabiri branch

It was after Nizamuddin Auliya that the Chishti Sufism chain spread throughout the Indian Peninsula. Two prominent lines of transmission arose from Nizamuddin Auliya, one from his disciple Nasiruddin Chiragh Dehlavi and the other from another disciple, Akhi Siraj Aainae Hind, who migrated to West Bengal from Delhi on Nizamuddin Auliya's order. Siraj Aanae Hind was followed by his notable disciple Alaul Haq Pandavi settled in Pandava, West Bengal itself. From this chain of transmission another prominent sub-branch of Chishti way emerged known as Ashrafia Silsila after the illustrious saint Ashraf Jahangir Semnani, who was the disciple of Alaul Haq Pandavi in the thirteen century A.D. Later, yet other traditions branched from the Chishti lineage; in many cases they merged with other popular Sufi orders in South Asia.

As a result of this merging of the Chishti order with other branches, most Sufi masters now initiate their disciples in all the four major orders of South Asia: Chishti, Suhrawadi, Qadri, and Naqshbandi. They do however teach devotional practices typical of the order with which they are primarily associated.

The Chishti order has also absorbed influences and merged at times with various antinomian faqiri Sufi groups, especially the Qalandar. Some Chishtis both past and present have lived as renunciants or as wandering dervish.[18]

The first Chishti master in the West was Ḥazrat Pīr-o-Murshid 'Ināyat Khān, who came to the West in 1910 and established centers in Europe and the U.S. His lineage-successors were Pīr Vilāyat 'Ināyat Khān (d. 2004) and Pīr Zīa 'Ināyat-Khān, the current head of the 'Ināyatīyya. This tariqat is unusual in that it accepts seekers of all faiths without asking conversion to formal Islam, a controversial practice but which is customary in the Nizāmi branch going back to Nizāmuddīn Auliya and later made written policy by Shah Kalīmullāh Jahanabadi in the early 1700s CE.

In 1937 the Sufi imam Al-Hajj Wali Akram founded the First Cleveland Mosque, made his Sufi affiliation public and during the 1950s started to introduce new members to the Chishti, making the mosque the first public Sufi center of the United States.[19][20] In more recent times, a more contemporary expression of traditional Chishti Sufi practices can be found in the establishment of the Ishq-Nuri Tariqa[21] in the 1960s, as a branch of the Chishti-Nizami silsila.[22]

In addition, a number of mixed-Sufi type groups or movements in Islam, have also been influenced by the Chishti Order proper.[23] The best known and most widespread example is of the Jamaat Ahle Sunnat, a Sunni Muslim sect with a huge international following, which is in essence not a proper Sufi organization, though adopting many Sufi customs and traditions.[24]

Indo-Islamic rulers

From the 14th century onwards (during the rule of the Tughluqs), the Chishti Order came to be associated with political prosperity for the Indian subcontinent's Muslim kingdoms. The Delhi Sultanate, Bahmani Sultanate, Bengal Sultanate, and various provincial dynasties associated themselves with Shaikhs of the Chishti Order for good fortune. Shrines of prominent Shaikhs were patronised by ruling dynasties, who made pilgrimages to these sites. Often the founding member of a kingdom paid respects to a Chishti Shaikh as a way of legitimising their new state, and this Shaikh became closely associated with the whole dynasty. For example, fourteen successive Bengal Sultans considered Shaikh 'Ala Al-Haq to be their spiritual master.[25]

Several rulers of the Mughal dynasty of South Asia were Chishti devotees, and they associated with the Order in a similar fashion to the Mughals' predecessors. The emperor Akbar was perhaps the most fervent of them. It is said to be by the blessing of Shaikh Salim Chishti that Akbar's first surviving child, the future Jahangir, was born. The child was named Salim after the sheikh and was affectionately addressed by Akbar as Sheikhu Baba.[citation needed]

Akbar also credited the Chishti Shaikhs with his victory at the Siege of Chittorgarh.[25] Akbar had vowed to visit the Chishti dargah, the tomb of Moinuddin Chishti, at Ajmer if he were victorious. He fulfilled his vow by visiting the dargah with his musicians, who played in honor of the sheikh.

Shah Jahan's daughter, Jahanara Begum Sahib, was also a devout follower of the Chishti Order. Shah Jahan's son Aurangzeb patronised various Chishti shrines.

Other notable Chishti shaykhs

See also


  1. ^ Ernst, Carl W. and Lawrence, Bruce B. (2002) Sufi Martyrs of Love: The Chishti Order in South Asia and Beyond Palgrave Macmillan, New Yorks 1234567 4039-6026-7
  2. ^ Rozehnal, Robert. Islamic Sufism Unbound: Politics and Piety in Twenty-First Century Pakistan. Palgrave MacMillan, 2007. Print.
  3. ^ Sufi martyrs of love By Carl W. Ernst, Bruce B. Lawrence, p. 4.
  4. ^ Chishti, Hakim Moinuddin (1991). The Book of Sufi Healing. Rochester: Inner Traditions International. ISBN 0-89281-324-5.
  5. ^ a b Sufi martyrs of love By Carl W. Ernst, Bruce B. Lawrence, p. 5.
  6. ^ a b c d Hussain, Zahid (22 April 2012). "Is it permissible to listen to Qawwali?". TheSunniWay. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  7. ^ Muhammad bin Mubarak Kirmani. Siyar-ul-Auliya: History of Chishti Silsila (in Urdu). Translated by Ghulam Ahmed Biryan. Lahore: Mushtaq Book Corner.
  8. ^ Nizamuddin Auliya (31 December 1996). Fawa'id al-Fu'aad: Spiritual and Literal Discourses. Translated by Z. H. Faruqi. D.K. Print World Ltd. ISBN 9788124600429.
  9. ^ Nizami, K.A. -0141 "Čishtiyya."[permanent dead link] Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, and W. P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2011. Brill Online. Augustana. 6 April 2011.
  10. ^ Böwering, Gerhard. "Cestiya." Encyclopaedia Iranica. Online Edition. Vol. 5. 1992. Web. < Archived 19 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine>.
  11. ^ Muhammad Zakariya Kandhalvi. Mashaikh-e-Chisht. Trans. Majlisul Ulama of South Africa., available at Scribd
  12. ^ Nizami, K.A. "Čishtiyya". Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, and W. P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2011. Brill Online. Augustana. 6 April 2011 <[permanent dead link] -0141>.
  13. ^ ORIGIN OF CHISHTIES Archived 27 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 15 August 2008.
  14. ^ a b The Sufis of Britain: an exploration of Muslim identity By Ron Geaves. Cardiff Academic Press, 2000, p. 87.
  15. ^ Encyclopaedia of Indian philosophy, Volume 2 By Vraj Kumar Pandey. Anmol Publications, 2007, p. 78.
  16. ^ Nizami, K.A. "Čishtī, Ḵhwādja Muʿīn al-Dīn Ḥasan". Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, and W. P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2011. Brill Online. Augustana. 6 April 2011 < Archived 24 November 2015 at the Wayback Machine /subscriber/entry?entry=islam_SIM-1623>.
  17. ^ Haeri, Muneera. The Chishtis: A Living Light. Oxford University Press, USA, 2000. Print.
  18. ^ Frembgen, Jurgin Wasim. Journey to God: Sufis and Dervishes in Islam. Oxford University Press, USA, 2008, pp. 94–95. ISBN 978-0-19-547642-2.
  19. ^ Miller, Rasul (18 March 2020). "Sufi Al-Hajj Wali Akram: 20th Century Black American Muslim Pioneer". Archived from the original on 28 November 2020. Retrieved 15 May 2021.
  20. ^ Miller, Rasul. "The Black American Sufi: A History". Archived from the original on 5 May 2020. Retrieved 15 May 2021.
  21. ^ Popular in South Asia, in particular parts of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. See Annemarie Schimmel, in article 'The Chishti Sufis of South Asia—Tradition and Evolution in the 20th Century' in Anderoon: Sufi Journal, Vol 82, np, nd
  22. ^ Schimmel, as cited above
  23. ^ M Z Akhund 'Sufis in the Subcontinent and their impact on Islamic society' Lahore, Navratna Pubs, Urdu Bazar, 1957. pp 12, 109–115
  24. ^ Akhund, 114–115
  25. ^ a b Maxwell., Eaton, Richard (2004). Temple desecration and Muslim states in medieval India. Hope India Publ. pp. 22–31. ISBN 81-7871-027-7. OCLC 705284564.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  26. ^ *Hayate Makhdoom Syed Ashraf Jahangir Semnani(1975) Second Edition (2017) ISBN 978-93-85295-54-6, Maktaba Jamia Ltd, Shamshad Market, Aligarh 202002, India
  27. ^ Ahamed Mohiyudheen Noorishah Jeelani
  28. ^ Omer Tarin article in 'Muse India' journal online. Special Sufi literature feature,V. No73, May–June 2017]