Chishti Order

Chishti Order

The Chishtī Order (Persian: چشتی - Čištī) is a Sufi order within the mystic branches of Islam which was founded in Chisht, a small town near Herat, Afghanistan about 930 CE. The Chishti Order is known for its emphasis on love, tolerance, and openness.[1] The doctrine of the Chishti Order is based on walāya, which is a fundamental notion of Islamic social, political and spiritual life. The Chishti’s were first exposed to this idea of walāya, from Sufi ideas, but developed two different categories of it: walāya of divine lordship (robūbīyat) and the walāya of divine love (moḥabbat).[2]

The order was founded by Abu Ishaq Shami (“the Syrian”) who introduced the ideas of Sufism to the town of Chisht, some 95 miles east of Herat in present-day western Afghanistan.[3] Before returning to Syria, where he is now buried next to Ibn Arabi at Jabal Qasioun [4] Shami initiated, trained and deputized the son of the local emir, Abu Ahmad Abdal.[5] Under the leadership of Abu Ahmad’s descendants, the Chishtiya as they are also known, flourished as a regional mystical order.[6]

Chishti master Inayat Khan (1882–1927) was the first to bring the Sufi path to the West, arriving in America in 1910 and later settling near Paris, France. His approach exemplified the tolerance and openness of the Chishti Order, following a custom began by Moinuddin Chishti of initiating and training disciples regardless of religious affiliation and which continued through Nizamuddin Auliya and Shah Kalim Allah Jahanabadi. Chishti master Mido Chishty has taken teachings of the order to develop FUZN. This has proven popular in the Middle East, Australia and California.


Key ideas

The Chishti Order is famous for its emphasis on love, tolerance, and openness. The order traces its spiritual origin through various saints all the way to the Islamic caliph Ali and from him to the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

The Chishti saints had two hallmarks which differentiate them from other Sufi saints. The first was their ethical relations to the institutional powers. This meant voluntarily keeping a distance from the ruler or the government mechanism.[7] It didn't matter if the ruler was a patron or a disciple: he was always kept at bay since it was felt that mixing with the ruler will corrupt the soul by indulging it in worldly matters. In his last discourse to disciples, Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti said:

Never seek any help, charity, or favors from anybody except God. Never go the court 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.[8]

The second distinctive dimension was related to the religious practice of the Chishtis. It was proactive rather than passive; a ceaseless search for the divine other. In this respect the Chishtis followed a particular ritual more zealously then any other brotherhood. This was the practice of sama, evoking the divine presence through song or listening to music.[9] The genius of the Chishti saints was that they accommodated the practice of sema with the full range of Muslim obligations.[10]


The Chishti Order can be characterized by the following principles[citation needed]:

  • Obedience to the shaykh and/or pir
  • Renunciation of the material world
  • Distance from worldly powers
  • Supporting the poor
  • Service to humanity
  • Respect for other devotional traditions
  • Dependence on the Creator and not the creation
  • Disapproval of showing off miraculous feats

The early mystics of the Chishti Order in India used two sources as the official guide books of their faith. The first being the ʿAwārif al-Maʿārif of S̲h̲ayk̲h̲S̲h̲ihāb al-Dīn Suhrawardī and the second being Kashf al-Maḥd̲j̲ūb of Hud̲j̲wīrī in which the elder saints would teach their disciples about the organization of their khānaḳāhs. Chishti Mystic Ideology revolved around a few basic understandings. The first being the concept of waḥdat al-wud̲j̲ūd (Unity of Being) which not only determined their social outlook, but was also classified as their motive force to their mystic mission. Chishti Mystic Ideology also looked down upon possession of private property because it was a negation of faith in God, and followed the idea of living and working for a healthy social order that got rid of all conflicts and discriminations. The Chishtis also believed in no form of contact with the state. One source noted this through the saying: ‘“There are two abuses among the mystics”, says an early Čis̲h̲tī mystic, “d̲j̲irrat and muḳallid. Muḳallid is one who has no master; d̲j̲irrat is one who visits kings and their courts and asks people for money”’. Finally Chishti Ideology also entails the basic understanding in living for the Lord alone (summum bonum) and not demanding formal conversion to Islam as a pre-requisite to initiation in the mystic order.[11]


In order to connect with Allah on a personal and emotional level, the Chishtis were known for 5 basic practices.[12]

  1. Ḏh̲ikr-i Ḏj̲ahr, reciting the names of Allāh loudly, sitting in the prescribed posture at prescribed times
  2. Ḏh̲ikr-i Ḵh̲afī, reciting the names of Allāh silently
  3. Pās-i Anfās, regulating the breath
  4. Murā-ḳāba, absorption in mystic contemplation
  5. Čilla, forty days of spiritual confinement in a lonely corner or cell for prayer and contemplation


The Chishti’s are known for their literature of conversations of the shaykhs collected by their disciples called malfūẓāt. Most malfuzats contain specific knowledge about the insight of thought and practice to the Chishti order while others contain poetry and letters written by famous members of the order.[13]

Spiritual lineage

Traditional Silsila (spiritual lineage) of the Chishti order:

  1. 'Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (viz. Ali, the cousin of Muhammad)
  2. Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (d. 728, an early Persian Muslim theologian)
  3. 'Abdul Wāḥid Bin Zaid Abul Faḍl (d. 793, an early Sufi saint)
  4. Fuḍayll ibn 'Iyāḍ Bin Mas'ūd Bin Bishr al-Tamīmī
  5. Ibrāhīm bin Adham (a legendarly early Sufi ascetic)
  6. Ḥudhayfah al-Mar'ashī
  7. Amīnuddīn Abū Ḥubayrah al-Baṣrī
  8. Mumshād Dīnwarī
  9. Abu Ishaq Shamī (d. 940, founder of the Chishti order proper)
  10. Abu Ahmad Chishtī
  11. Abu Muhammad Chishtī
  12. Abu Yusaf Nasar-ud-Din Chishtī
  13. Qutab-ud-Din Modood Chishtī
  14. Haji sharif Zindani
  15. Usman Harooni
  16. Mu'īnuddīn Chishtī
  17. Qutab-ud-Din Bakhtyar Kaki
  18. Farīduddīn Mas'ūd
  19. Alauddin Sabir Kaliyari
  20. Nizāmuddīn Auliyā

From Farīduddīn Mas'ūd chishti order devided into two sub branches namely

  • Chishtī Sabri Who are followerss of Alauddin Sabir Kaliyari.
  • Chishtī Nizami who are followerss of Nizāmuddīn Auliyā.

Historical Eras

  • Era of the Great Shaykhs (circa 597/1200 to 757/1356)
  • Era of the Provincial Ḵhānaḳāhs (8th/14th & 9th/15th centuries)
  • Rise of the Ṣābiriyya Branch (9th/15th century onwards)
  • Revival of the Niẓāmiyya Branch 12th/(18th century onwards[14]

Chishti order in South Asia

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 Chishti Order is now indigenous to Afghanistan and South Asia (mainly India, Pakistan and Bangladesh). It was the first of the four main Sufi Orders (Chishtia, Qadiriyya, Suhrawardiyya and Naqshbandi) to be established in this region. Moinuddin Chishti introduced the Chishti Order in India, sometime in the middle of the 12th century AD. He was eighth in the line of succession from the founder of the Chishti Order, Abu Ishq Shami. The devotees of this order practise chilla i.e. they observe seclusion for forty days during which they refrain from talking beyond what is absolutely necessary, eat little and spend most of their time in prayers and meditation. Another characteristic of the followers of this order is their fondness for devotional music. They hold musical festivals, and enter into ecstasy while listening to singing. In general, the doctring of the Chishti Order in South Asia is based around social equality, tolerance, and spiritual discipline and has been the most prominent Sufi brotherhood since the 12th century.[15]

After Fariduddin Ganjshakar, the Chishti Order of South Asia split into two branches. Either branch was named after one of Ganjshakar's successors:

  1. Nizamuddin Auliya - This branch became the Chishti Nizami branch. Nizamuddin Auliya was the master of Nasiruddin Chiragh Dehlavi who in turn was the master of Khwaja Bande Nawaz. All these are important saints of the order.
  2. Alauddin Sabir Kaliyari - This branch became the Chishti-Sabiri branch.

Over time (principally after the 17th century) many further branches emerged which routinely united or diverged towards other popular Sufi orders in South Asia. Prominent people of later times who trace their spiritual lineage through the Chishti order include:

  1. Ashraf Jahangir Semnani - He further extended the litanies the Chishtiya Nizami branch. His followers became the members of the Chishti Nizami Ashrafiya branch.
  2. Haji Imdadullah Muhaajir Makki - He extended the litanies of the Chishtiya Sabaria branch. His followers became the members of the Chishtiya Sabaria Imdadiya branch.
  3. Shah Niyaz Ahmad- He united the Chishti Nizami order with the Qadriya order to form the Chishtiya Qadriya Nizamia Niyazia branch.
  4. Habibi Silsila - In century 13th Hegira - Silsila Chishtiya Nizamia Habibia emerged at Hyderabad, India - Khaja Habib Ali Shah.

As a result of this metamorphosis 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, prescribe prayers and litanies, only of the order with which they are primarily associated.

Shaykh Mu’in ad-Din Chishti

Known as Gharib Nawaz ("Helper of the Poor") in his land of Hindustan, Shaykh Mu’in ad-Din Chishti was born in the province of Silistan in eastern Persia around 536AH (1141CE).[16] Shaykh Mu’in ad-Din Chishti came from a family of Sayyids; his father Sayyid Ghiyas ad-Din hasan was a descendat of Imam Husayn, his mother Sayyida Bibi Umu’l-wara was a descendant from Imam Hasan. At a young age of nine, Shaykh Mu’in ad-Din Chishti began taking his faith seriously by memorizing the Qur’an. It wasn't until much later when his father died, leaving the family grinding mill and orchard to him as a teenager. Shaykh Mu’in ad-Din Chishti decided to sell his entire inheritance, giving the proceeds to the poor (zuhd), setting off for Balkh and Smarkand where he studied the Qur’an, Hadith, and Fiqh.[17] Shaykh Mu’in ad-Din Chishti later became the most famous of the Chishti saints, who oversaw the growth of the Chishti order in the 12th century.

Other Notable members

The Chishti Order acknowledges six walis, who were all masters of the Chishti Order, the first and most prominent being Shaykh Mu’in ad-Din Chishti, who brought the teachings of the silsilah to India in the twelfth century CE, followed by Shaykh Qutb ad-Din Bakhtiyar kaki, Shaykh hamid ad-Din Suwali nagauri, Shaykh Farid ad-Din Ganj-i-Shakar, Shaykh nizam ad-Din Awilya, and Shaykh Alauddin Sabir Kaliyari.

Other notable members include:

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 York, p. 1 ISBN 1-4039-6026-7
  2. ^ Böwering, Gerhard. “Cestiya.” Encyclopaedia Iranica. Online Edition. Vol. 5. 1992. Web. <http: //>
  3. ^ ORIGIN OF CHISHTIES. Retrieved on August 15, 2008.
  4. ^ The Sufis of Britain: an exploration of Muslim identity By Ron Geaves. Cardiff Academic Press, 2000. Pg 87
  5. ^ Encyclopaedia of Indian philosophy, Volume 2 By Vraj Kumar Pandey. Anmol Publications, 2007. Pg 78
  6. ^ The Sufis of Britain: an exploration of Muslim identity By Ron Geaves. Cardiff Academic Press, 2000. Pg 87
  7. ^ Sufi martyrs of love By Carl W. Ernst, Bruce B. Lawrence. Pg 4
  8. ^ Chishti, Hakim Moinuddin (1991). The Book of Sufi Healing. Rochester: Inner Traditions International. ISBN 0892813245. 
  9. ^ Sufi martyrs of love By Carl W. Ernst, Bruce B. Lawrence. Pg 5
  10. ^ Sufi martyrs of love By Carl W. Ernst, Bruce B. Lawrence. Pg 5
  11. ^ Nizami, K.A. "Čis̲h̲tiyya." 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. 06 April 2011 < -0141>.
  12. ^ Nizami, K.A. "Čis̲h̲tiyya." 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. 06 April 2011 < -0141>.
  13. ^ Böwering, Gerhard. “Cestiya.” Encyclopaedia Iranica. Online Edition. Vol. 5. 1992. Web. <http: //>.
  14. ^ Nizami, K.A. "Čis̲h̲tiyya." 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. 06 April 2011 < -0141>.
  15. ^ Rozehnal, Robert. Islamic Sufism Unbound: Politics and Piety in Twenty-First Century Pakistan. Palgrave MacMillan, 2007. Print.
  16. ^ Nizami, K.A. "Čis̲h̲tī, Ḵh̲wād̲j̲a 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. 06 April 2011 < /subscriber/entry?entry=islam_SIM-1623>.
  17. ^ Haeri, Muneera. The Chishtis: A Living Light. Oxford University Press, USA, 2000. Print.


  • Haeri, Muneera (2000) The Chishtis: a living light Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, ISBN 0-19-579327-7
  • Ernst, Carl W. and Lawrence, Bruce B. (2002) Sufi Martyrs of Love: The Chishti Order in South Asia and Beyond Palgrave Macmillan, New York, ISBN 1-4039-6026-7. Excerpts
  • Farīdī, Iḥtishāmuddīn (1992) Tārīk̲h̲-i iblāg̲h̲-i Cisht Āl Inḍiyā Baz-i Ḥanafī, Delhi, OCLC 29752219 in Urdu with biographies
  • Āryā, Ghulām ‘Alī (2004) Ṭarīqah-i Chishtīyah dar Hind va Pākistān: ta’līf-i Ghulām‘alī Āryā Zavvār, Tehran, ISBN 964-401-200-3 in Persian

External links

  • The 5 minute film Vishwaas Ki Goonj - The Echo Of Faith, brings to us the universal message of Sufism and conveys mankind's ability to practice and uphold the notion of 'oneness of beings'. Directed and presented by filmmaker Basant P. Tolani in 2007, the film has Received an Award and First Prize in Global Festival of Films on Peace and Spirituality 2008 by IFTC (International Films & Television Club) and AAFT (Asian Academy Of Films and Television). The video is available on Youtube.

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