Sufism is a common term used for Islamic mysticism. The Sufis were very liberal in their religious outlook. They believed in the essential unity of all religions.
Sufism originated in Iran and found a congenial atmosphere in India under the Turkish rule. Their sense of piety, tolerance, sympathy, concept of equality and friendly attitude attracted many Hindus, mostly from lower classes, to Islam. Sufi saints such as Moinuddin Chisti, Nizamuddin Auliya, Fariduddin Ganj-e-Shakar were the pioneer sufïs who are still loved, respected and honoured in India.
The sufis were also influenced by the Christian and Buddhist monks regarding the establishment of their khanqahs and dargahs. Khanqah the institutions (abode of Sufis) set up by the Sufis in northern India took Islam deeper into the countryside. Mazars (tombs) and Takias (resting places of Muslim saints) also became the centres for the propagation of Islamic ideas.
The Sufis were organised into religious orders or silsilahs. These silsilahs were named after their founders such as Chishti, Suhrawardi, Qadi. and Naqshbandis. According to Abul Fazl, the author of the Ain-i-Akbari, there were as many as fourteen silsilahs in India during the sixteenth century. Each order had its own khanqah, which served as a shelter for the Sufi saints and for destitutes, and later developed as a centre of learning.
Ajmer, Nagaur and Ajodhan or Pak Pattan (now in Pakistan) developed as important centres of Sufism. These also started the tradition of piri-muridi, (teacher and the disciple).