The present study tries to explore the dynamics of, and identify a possible pattern to, the relationship between the Chishti Sufi Silsilah and the Sultanate of Delhi in India during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The available literature studying the relationship between the Chishti Silsilah and the Sultanate of Delhi deals primarily with the relationship between the individual Chishti Sufis and their contemporary Sultans. In such studies, however, the institutional landscape of the Silsilah and the Sultanate is missing. On the contrary, if a study focuses merely on the interaction between the two institutions, the role of the personalities and the significance of the personal factors are overlooked. The present study, therefore, tries to concurrently address the roles of Chishti Sufis and the Sultans of Delhi in their individual as well as institutional contexts.
Soon after the inception of the ChishtI Silsilah in India in the last decade of the twelfth century, Khwajah Mu'in aI-Din Chishti of Ajmer, along with his contemporary Chishti Shaykhs, laid down the principles of the Silsilah. They also carved out a space, an environment for independent action and practice of Chishti principles, free from the interference of the state, for their Silsilah in the Sultanate of Delhi. In fact, from the very beginning, the Chishtis made it a definite policy to keep a distance from the rulers for which the Chishtis practiced the following principles: first, not accepting services under the Sultans; secondly, not accepting lands or jagirs from the Sultans, the ruling elite and other influential people; thirdly, not agreeing to visit of their khanqahs by the Sultans; and lastly, not visiting the 'Court' of the Sultans'' Of Delhi. In addition, the Chishti Shaykhs used their individual judgment in regard to three things: first, the acceptance or rejection of the cash grants or futuh items offered by the Sultans and the umara', secondly, avoiding or admitting the umara' in their company, and lastly, extending help to the Sultans or the Sultanate of Delhi.
During the ensuing decades, the Chishtts expanded the space of their Silsilah by further dissemination of the Chishti principles and more pronounced practice of them in the Sultanate. However, during the fourteenth century the state attempted to encroach on the space of the Silsilah by pressurizing the Chishtis to compromise the extent of the practice of the principles of the Silsilah. In response, the Chis'hti Shaykhs tried to defend and preserve the space of the SilsiIah. Nonetheless, the descendants of the -Chishti Shaykhs, who had by now assumed the status of sajjadah-nashins, or the hereditary guardians of the Chishtt shrines, tried to negotiate the space with the state by adjusting or redefining the limits of the independent space of the Silsilah in view of the state demands. Thus, in the Sultanate of Delhi during the two centuries, the official attitude towards the Silsilah witnessed considerable shifts a number of times. One may discern varied types of responses and interaction between them ranging from mutual respect, despite differences, to stresses and strains.
In studying the relationship between the Chishti Silsilah and the Sultanate of Delhi, the argument is that the relationship between these two institutions can be understood by taking 'space' as central to their interaction. The space was important for both the Silsilah and the Sultanate; for the adherents of the Silsilah to freely practice the Chishti principles, and for the Sultanate for reasons of the perceived political importance of the space, and/or personal and religious/spiritual considerations of the Sultans. The study brings out that there is a discernable pattern to the interaction between the two. The Chishtt Shaykhs maintained a safe distance from the Sultans and the Delhi court, and also tried not to antagonize the political authorities by minimizing any chances of overt conflict with and open defiance of the state. in order to keep a distance from the state and politics, and maintain the space of the Chshti Silsilah, -the Chishtis acted upon the above mentioned principles, and at the same time used their individual judgment in some matters as well.
For arrangement of data, the present study employs a chronological scheme for studying the relationship between, the Chishti Silsilah and the Delhi Sultanate, though it periodizes their relationship in various phases in a thematic manner. After the first two introductory chapters on Sufism and the Delhi Sultanate, the third chapter investigates how the Chishtl Sufis carved out an independent space for their Silsilah in the Sultanate. The fourth chapter explores how the eminent ChishtI Shaykhs, including Baba Farid and Shaykh Nizam aI-Din Awliya', expanded the space of their Silsilah. The fifth chapter analyzes the shift in the state policy towards the Sufi 'under Sultan Muhammad ibn Tughluq, when the state tried to encroach on the space of the Silsilah, and the Chisti Shaykhs tried to defend it. The sixth and the last chapter examines the attitude of the descendants of the Chishti Shaykhs towards the state and political power, as some of them negotiated the autonomous space of the Silsilah with the state.