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Interfaith Dialogue ( 25 Nov 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Buddhist Mysticism Influenced Islamic Sufism in a Big Way

Islamic Sufism Borrowed Many Doctrines and Practices from Buddhist Mysticism

Main Points:

1.    Buddhism influenced Islamic Sufism in a big way

2.    Muslim Sufis Hussayn bin Mansoor, Attar and Bayazid Bustami travelled to India.

3.    Ibrahim Bin Adham was influenced by Buddhist mysticism.

4.    Khanqah originated on the lines of Buddhist Vihars.

5.    Spiritual practices of breath control, Chakras and Perfections influenced Sufism.


By New Age Islam Staff Writer

25 November 2021



Ibn Arabi institutionalized Sufism on the lines of Vendantist philosophy and Buddhist mysticism. Until then, Islamic Sufism meant strict adherence to the Quranic injunctions on purity of heart, piety, love for humanity and abstention from violence and violent religious ideology. Islamic Sufism till the second century Hijra was based on the Quranic principles and hadiths and the stress was laid on Zikr and Tilawat and inner piety. However, after the 3rd century, Islamic Sufism was influenced by the mystic practices of Vedantic philosophy, Buddhism and Nath Panth that emerged during 7th or 8th century AD. This happened due to the interaction of Muslim Sufis with Hindu Vedantic mystics and Buddhist mystics in India and Afghanistan. Ibn Arabi’s Sufi treatise Fususul Hikam was based on a Sanskrit book Amrit Kund on Vedantiic Advaitavad (Monism). Fususul Hikam popularized Advaitavad (Wahdat ul Wujud) among Islamic sufis. The idea of dissolution of self in the Supreme Soul romanticized the mystic circle. Many Sufis of 8th to 12rh century travelled India and Afghanistan including Sindh which was a seat of Buddhism during that age and leant about the mystic practices of involving physical discipline to acquire greater spiritual development. Hussain Bin Mansur Hallaj, Bayazid Bustami and Fariduddin Attar travelled to India were influenced by the Buddhist mystic practices.  Hadhrat Junaid Baghdadi was influenced by Buddhist mystic philosophy which brought moderateness in his mystic thinking as Buddhism preached moderate path in religious and social practices.


Also Read: Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam Must Discover Their Spiritual Symbiosis for a Conflict-Free, Environment Conscious World


During the middle ages, Buddhism was the dominant religion in the Khorasan and Indian region. Balkh was the centre of Buddhism where famous Sufi Ibrahim bin Adham was based.  He had renunciated his kingship and lived the life an ascetic. His story is very similar to that of Gautam Buddha who renunciated the life of a prince and became a mystic.

 Therefore, Islamic Sufism borrowed many practices and it coined Sufi terms on the basis of Buddhist mysticism.  The practice of deep meditation called Muraqba was based on Dhyan of Buddhism. Islamic Sufism borrowed the practice of rosary for Zikr from Buddhism.

Mahatma Buddha


The tradition of monasteries (Khanqah) originated in Islamic Sufism due to the impact of Buddhism tradition of Buddha VIhars. Since Sufis engages in zikr for the most part of the day and night apart from Quran recitation and prayers, they needed a place where they could sit in seclusion. Therefore, Khanqahs on the lines of Buddhist Vihars flourished in the Islamic world from the third century Hijra. The first Khanqah was built in Ramalla in Syria in the third century hijra.  In the Khanqahs, Majlis of Tarana and Sama’ would be regularly held. The rules for becoming a member of a Khanqah were also formulated on the lines of Buddha Vihar.

In Buddhist mysticism, a spiritual aspirant had to apply for the membership of the Sangha. After he was granted the membership, he would be able to live in a Vihar. There were Ten Commandments for a spiritual aspirant to follow to be a member of Sangha and live in a Vihar. The Ten Commandments or undertakings were as follows:

Ten Commandments of Buddhism for the spiritual aspirants applying for membership of Buddhist Monasteries

I swear that I will not kill any living being.

I swear that I will not commit theft.

I will abstain from uncleanliness.

I swear that I will Not consume intoxicants.

I swear that I will Not tell a lie.

I swear that I will Not eat in forbidden hours.

I swear that I will Not indulge in dance, song and music.

I swear that I will Not use wide and high cot.

I swear that I will Not use scent, oil, ornaments and garlands.

I swear that I will Not accept gold or silver from anybody.

 The spiritual aspirants had to abide by ten rules to enter and live in a Khanqah.

Cleanliness of body and clothes.

Sitting at home and mosque.

Offering prayers in congregation on time.

Night prayers (Tahajjud)

Istaghfar at morning.

Recitation of the Quran in the morning.

 Darood and Zikr between the prayers of Maghrib and Isha.

 Taking care of the needs of the needy and the old.

Not eating eatables of each other without consent.

Not leaving one another without information.

Another point of similarity between Islamic Sufism and Buddhist mysticism is the development of ten virtues or spiritual qualities. In Buddhism, they are called Paramita (perfections). The Buddhist mystic needs to develop these ten spiritual perfection in them. They are following:

Ten Perfections of Buddhism


Good manners


Intuitive wisdom (pragya)







Similarly, the Islamic spiritual aspirants also tried to develop ten spiritual virtues (Haal) in them;


Closeness to God









 According to Buddhist and Hindu Tantra, there are six spiritual chakras in the body. A spiritual aspirant gradually ascends the chakras beginning from the lower chakra to the top chakra.

SiX spiritual Chakras in the body in Buddhism

Muladhar Chakra

Swadhisthan Chakra

Manipur Chakra

Visuddha Chakra

Agya Chakra

Sahasrar Chakra

Muladhar Chakra is situated at the base of vertebral column where the spiritual power is coiled up like a snake. This is why it is called Kundalini Shakti (serpent power). The spiritual aspirant tries to awaken this spiritual power which after being awakened rise up and crosses through the different chakras reaching the Sahasrar Chakra in the head. At each Chakra, a subtle sound is heard.  This sound is called Anahat Nad. In Islamic Sufism. This is called Lataif-e-Sitta (six subtleties) which is an idea borrowed from Buddhist Tantra.  These six Lataif are as follows:

Latifa-e-Nafs (from Navel)

Latifa-e-Qalb (from heart)

Latifa-e-Ruh (From the chest)

 Latifa-e-Sarmahal (From the abdomen)

 Latifa-e-Khafi (From the forehead)

Latifa-e-Akhfa (Skull of the head)

At every stage, the aspirant hears a subtle sound of Allah. In Vedic or Hindu Tantra, the aspirant hears the sound of Om at every stage of Chakra.

The practice of controlling the breath in Buddhism or Hindu Tantra also influenced Islamic Sufism. The Pranayam of Buddhism or Hindu Tantra was adopted by Islamic Sufis and it was termed Paas-e-Anfas. Rechak and Kumbhak in Islamic Sufism was called Habs-e-Dum and Hasr-e-Nafs.


Also Read: A Rebuttal to the Article ‘Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam Must Discover Their Spiritual Symbiosis for a Conflict-Free, Environment Conscious World' By Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam


 Buddhism and Vedanta preach dissolution of self in the Supreme Self which leads to Mukti from the cycle of birth and death. Islamic Sufism adopted this doctrine from Buddhism. The Quran does not preach dissolution of self in the Supreme soul and therefore the doctrine of Fana and Baqa was borrowed from Buddhist and Vedantic doctrine of Monism. In Islamic Sufism, the doctrine of Fana and Baqa was introduced by Sufi Abu Sayeed Kharazi of the 3rd century Hijra. Therefore, from the third century onwards, Islamic Sufism emerged as a distinct religious sect and Sufism was institutionalized by Islamic sufis. They formulated rules and doctrines involving stages of spiritual attainment (haal0 and Maqamat, the institution of Murshid and Mureed and the philosophy of Tariqat vis a vis Shariat was discussed.

 It is due to the influence of Buddhism that the tradition of Tarana and Sama and religious poetry flourished in Islamic Sufism. The Buddhist mystic songs called Charyageet discovered in 1907 by a Bengali litterateur and researcher Dr Harprasad Shastri from the Nepal Durbar Library showed that Buddhist siddhas (accomplished sadhus) composed mystic songs that were sung in accompaniment of musical instruments and dance in the private assemblies of Siddhas. These songs were composed during the 6th and 12th century. Therefore, it can be said that the tradition of Tarana, qawwali and Sama with dance is due to the influence of Buddhist mystic practices.


Also Read: Islam and Buddhism: Integrating the Thought Resources of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) and Gautam Buddha in Contemporary Peace Policies


 Therefore, it can also be said that the tradition ofsufi poetry also has its root in Buddhist mystic poetry. The first Arabic Sufi poet was Yahya Maz Razi in the 8th century AD. Junaid Baghdadi was also an Arabic Sufi poet. Ibrahim Ghawwas, Hussain bin Mansur Hallaj and Ibn Arabi also composed Sufi poetry in the 9th and 10th century AD. Inspired by the Arab Sufi poets, Persian poets also started presenting mystic thoughts and subjects in poetry. Maghribi, Jami, Shabistari, Sherazi, Attar and Rumi are some of the sufi poets who lived between 10th and 12th century AD. Buddhism declined after the 12th century before institutionalizing Islamic Sufism in the Indian subcontinent in particular and Muslim world in general.


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