has been dominated by formal orders and organizations like the
Naqshbandi, Chishti, Suhrawadi, Firdawisi, Qaddiri and Shattaris
since around the twelfth century, or about the time in which Islamic
invaders gained dominance in India. All these orders can be found in
India, which has perhaps been the main center of Sufi activity since
perhaps as early as the thirteenth century.
Sufi orders are the Islamic equivalents to the monastic orders of
other religions and individuals in them undergo intense religious
training. However, under the anti-priestly attitude of Islam, Sufis
are usually married and have some worldly occupation, which may be
in the military, political, business or artistic realms. Sufi
initiation takes place in one or more of these orders and links the
disciple to a chain of command through them that is strictly
followed. Sufi orders have strong hierarchies, which they like to
trace back to the family of Mohammed, if not to the Prophet himself,
whom they often claim to represent.
Sufis emphasize loyalty to the order and group work, making the
individual Sufi an instrument of the order and its aims, which often
has its political, if not military concerns. In
this regard Sufi orders are different than the monastic and yogic
movements of Hinduism which emphasize individual practice and are
loosely defined, with little organization, often not going back
further than one's personal guru. Sufis are among the best organized
religious groups in the world.