Islam is one of the major religions in the world. It was promulgated by the Prophet Muhammad in Arabia in the 7th century CE. The Arabic term, ‘Islam’ means surrender.  A Muslim is believed to be one who accepts to surrender to the will of Allah. Allah is viewed as the sole God—creator, sustainer, and restorer of the world. The will of Allah, to which human beings must submit, is made known through the sacred scriptures, the Quran.

Main aspects related to Islam

  • Islam believes that God sent a number of prophets to mankind to teach them how to live accordingly to his law. Jesus, Moses and Abraham are respected as prophets of God. Muslims believe that the final prophet was Muhammad.
  • The emergence of Islam is dated from the time of the migration of Muhammad. It is believed the word of God was revealed to Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel.
  • Muslims based their laws on their holy book, the Quran, and the Sunnah. The Sunnah is considered to be practical example of Prophet Muhammad.
  • Some of the basic tenets of Islam are- belief in one God, belief in Muhammad as the final prophet, and belief that the life on earth is a period of testing and preparation for the life to come after the judgment day when everyone shall be recompensed by God according to the actions performed.
  • The followers of Islam are bound to certain duties: the five ritual prayers every day, a weekly Juma prayer on Friday noons, a dawn-to-dusk fast in the month of Ramzan, a pilgrimage to Mecca for the annual congregation of hajj at least once in a lifetime; and payment for zakat (charity) to the poor and needy.
  • There are two main sects in Islam: Sunni and Shia. Both sects consider the Quran as their holy book, but differences exists which are mostly derived from their different historical experiences, political and social developments. Ex: Differences exist between the sects as to the successor of Prophet Mohammad.
  • Majority of Muslims in India are Sunni.
  • Islam came to India with Arab traders on the west coast but gradually spread across the land after the rising conquest by various Islamic rulers.

Since its arrival in India, Islam brought about a much vibrant fusion of cultures in the country. Many positive influences of Islam can be seen on Indian art and architecture. The interaction between Islam and Bhakthi movement is believed to have contributed to the Sufi movement in India.


It is also known as Tasawwuf. The term Sufi, the word is largely believed to stem from the Arabic word suf, which refers to the wool that was traditionally worn by mystics and ascetics. Sufi schools are found in all sects of Islam

Evolution and main aspects associated with Sufism

  • Sufism came to Indian in medieval times
  • Sufi scholars and preachers trace their ideas and practices to some verses of the Quran and traditions but give them a mystic representation. Also, they have adopted various practices from other major religions as well. Ex: Guru-shishya tradition which is associated with Hinduism.
  • The two primary objectives associated with Sufism are- spiritual development of the person and the service of humanity.
  • Sufism gives emphasis to bridging the gulf between orthodoxy and the religion of faith and devotion.
  • The stages of spiritual development for the Sufis include: Repentance, Abstinence, piety, poverty, patience, gratitude, fear, hope, contentment and submission to divine will. Sufis discourage a materialistic outlook on life.
  • Music plays a prominent part in the life of a Sufi
  • Sufis are organized into various silsilahs. Some of these silsilahs are: Chishti order, Suhrawardi order, Qadri silsila, shattari silsila, Firdausi silsila and Naqshbandi order

Islam like other religions in India came to be associated with social evils and practices which were not in accordance with the teachings of Quran. Various movements were started to rectify this situation. Some of the prominent movements were- Ahmaddiya movement, faraizi movement, tariqah-i-muhammadiyah movement, Aligarh movement. Some of these movements were reformist in nature while some were revivalist in nature (More details on these movements and its impact will be provided elsewhere).