Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti (RA)-Exponent of Universal Love and Peace
By: Bashir Ahmad Dar
Agar Gaiti Sarasar Bad Girad, Chiragh-e-Chishtiyan Hargiz Namirad.
(If the entire universe is devastated by the storm, the lamp of Chishtis shall not cease to illuminate.)
The Indo-Pakistan sub-continent was witness to the great empires and kingdoms, pompous emperors and mighty rulers swayed through the length and breadth of the land. They dwelt in grand and luxurious palaces but once they disappeared from the land, their memories are restricted to their tombs seen at many places and have become relics of the past. Contrary to it, the tombs of Sufis are ever glittering and attracting large crowds symbolising that even after leaving for the eternal world, they still live in the hearts and minds of their devotees. One of the greatest Sufis who ushered immense contribution in the religious, social and cultural spheres of the subcontinent is Khwaja Moinuddin Sanjri Chishti. Khwaja Sahib, popularly known as “Gharib Nawaz” (Benefactor of the Poor), did earn this title due to his service to humanity and love for the poor and downtrodden. A man of indomitable will and dauntless courage, he dedicated his life to the love of Allah and His creatures. He did succeedd in his mission despite insuperable obstacles and insurmountable difficulties.
Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti took the auspicious birth in Siestan (Southern Iran) on Rajab 14, 530 Hijri corresponding to 1142 C.E. His paternal genealogy is related to Hazrat Imam Hussain (Radiallahu Ta’ala Anhu) and that of his maternal to Hazrat Imam Hassan (Radiallahu Ta’ala Anhu) and thus he is a direct descendant of Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Sallallahu Ta’ala Alaihi Wasallam). His father, Syed Ghiasuddin Ahmad was a very learned and devout person. He carried on a modest business and owned an orchard.His father who had migrated to Khorasan, died at Neshapur in 545 Hijri leaving behind him an orchard and a flour mill. At the demise of his father, Khwaja Moinuddin was in his teens. He left as legacy an orchard and a grinding mill. Once Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin (Rehmatullah Alaih) was taking care of the plants in his garden that a Sufi, Shaikh Ibrahim Qanduzi(Rehmatullah Alaih), happened to pass by. Shaikh Mu’in-u’d-din entertained him in his garden. Hagiologists trace the growth of mystic tendency in him to the blessings of this Saint. In fact, the most powerful factor in giving a mystic touch to his personality at this early stage was the condition of Sijistan which had suffered terribly at the hands of the Qara Khita and the Ghuzz Turks. It drove the Khwaja’s mind inwards and he realized the futility of hankering after worldly glory or looking after worldly goods. The state of affairs of the Muslim world at that juncture was critical. The Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad was staggering.
The Caliph exercised little hold over the once vast empire, whose far-off provinces were declaring independence and getting rid of the Central control. Baghdad, however, the Metropolis of the Caliphate, still continued to be the cultural, spiritual and educational centre of Islam. The young Khwaja who had soon come under the influence of Sufi Ibrahim Qandozi (Rehmatullah Alaih) was affected, too, by the surrounding socio-political affairs. He embarked up on a spiritual pilgrimage which in itself makes a fascinating story, deserving to be better known in detail. He sold all his assets, donated the proceeds in charity and took to mysticism.
He visited the eminent scholars of his age. While on his way to Iraq, he passed through Harvan, in the district of Naishapur. Here , in the Shawwal of 560 Hijri, he was destined to meet the great Sufi Khwaja Ushman Harooni (Rehmatullah Alaih) and was so deeply impressed by his spiritual eminence that he decided to join the circle of his disciples. The Khwaja became a disciple of Hazrat Usman Harooni (Rehmatullah Alaih), follower of Khwaja Ishaq Ghani Chishti (Rehmatullah Alaih), founder of the Chishtia Order. Khwaja Sahib served his Murshid (teacher) for 20 years, spending most of his time in prayers and meditation. This was the period of his preparation for the great mission lying ahead of him. As the great Khwaja become accomplished and perfect in every respect in the spiritual domain, the divine tutor,Hazrat Khwaja Usman Harwani (Rehmatullah Alaih) honoured him with his robe, formally symbolizing his entitlement in the Chisti Order and took him to Haj. Both then proceeded to Makkah and performed the Haj, and then went to Madina and stayed there for sometime, to get the blessings of Prophet Hazrat Mohammad (Sallallahu Ta’ala Alaihi Wasallam).
He accompanied his Murshid (spiritual guide) during these two decades on his arduous mystic journeys and did perform all sorts of personal services to him. Shaikh Mu’in’d-din once told his disciples. “I did not give myself a moment’s rest from the service of my Peer-o-Murshid, and carried about his night clothes during his journeys and stoppages”.
To satiate his thirst for spiritual attainments, he undertook independent journeys and came into contact with eminent Saints and scholars like Shaikh Najm-u’d-din Kubra, Shaikh Najib-u’d-din ‘Abdul Qahir Suhrawardi, Shaikh Abu Sa’id Tabrizi, Shaikh Mahmud Ispahani, Shaikh Nasir-u’d-din Astarabadi and Shaikh ‘Abdul Wahid – all of whom were destined to exercise great influence on contemporary religious life and thought. He visited nearly all the great centers of learning in those days – Samarqand, Bukhara, Baghdad, Naishapur, Tabriz, Aush, Ispahan, Sabzawar, Mihna, Khirqan, Astarabd, Balkh and Ghaznin and aquainted himself with almost every important trend in Muslim religious life in the middle ages. In this process of meeting eminent Sufis, he visited Khwaja Ishaq Ghani (Rehmatullah Alaih).
Thereafter he proceeded to the Holy cities of Makkah and Medina for pilgrimage. After that he went to Sanjar and met Sheikh Najmuddin Kubra (Rehmatullah Alaih) and stayed with him for over two and a half years.Proceededing to Gilan, he paid his respects to the celebrated Sufi Hazrat Sheikh syed Abdul Qadir Jilani (Rehmatullah Alaih), founder of the Qadiria Silsilah (Order) and along with him came to Baghdad. Here he visted Sheikh Ziauddin and Shahabuddin Suhrawardy (Rehmatullah Alaih) (founder of the Suhrawardia Order), the two well-known spiritual luminaries of Baghdad. Passing through Hamdan and Tabrez and meeting men like Khwaja Yusuf Hamdani, Abu Saeed Tabrezi and Sheikh Mahmood lsfahani he reached Isfahan, where he met Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, who later became his chief disciple and after his death, was destined to accomplish his mission in India.
From Isfahan, Khwaja Sahib proceeded to Astrabad where he met Sheikh Nasiruddin, a learned Sufi of the area. Thereafter leaving Astrabad, he arrived in Herat, where he undertook the herculean task of reforming the tyrant Subedar (Governor) Yadgar Muhammad, who oppressed his people. From Sabzwar he proceeded to Balkh where he met the celebrated Muslim scholar Hakim Ziauddin, who eventually became his disciple. From there Khwaja Moinuddin went to Ghazni and waited for the call. Earlier, Khwaja Moinuddin had seen the Holy Prophet in his dream who is said to have blessed him and ordained him to go to India.
Khwaja Sahib arrived in Lahore, in about 586 Hijri where he performed Chilla (meditation and prayers) at the Shrine of Hazrat Sheikh Abul Hasan Ali Hujwiri (Rehmatullah Alaih), popularly known as Data Ganj Bakhsh. Khwaja Gharib Nawaz composed a couplet paying a glowing tribute to Shaikh Hajweri :
“Ganj Bakhsh-e-Har Do Alam Mazhar-e-Noor-e-Khuda,
Na Qisan Ra Peer-e-Kamil, Kamilan Ra Peshwa”
(He is a wealth bestowing Sufi in this world and hereafter and an embodiment of divine light. A complete spiritual guide for the imperfect disciples and a leader of the perfect Saints. )
His moral and spiritual qualities attracted many people to his fold and he appointed his Khalifas in Sabzwar and Balkh. Shaikh Auhad-u’d-din Kirmani, Shaikh Shihab-u’d-din Suhrawardi and many other eminent mystics benefited by his company.
Leaving Lahore he went to Multan, in those days the seat of Islamic learning in India and stayed there for five years to learn Sanskrit and Prakrit. As the tradition says Khwaja Moinuddin (Rehmatullah Alaih) on the directions of Prophet of Islam (SAW) proceeded to India on the noble mission to guide the people to the path of truth and to spread the true religon. That is why he is known as “Ataye Rasul” (Bestowed by the Prophet Mohammad (Sallallahu Ta’ala Alaihi Wasallam)
From there he proceeded to Delhi, arriving there in 1193 A.C. and from there he went to Ajmer, where he settled down for the rest of his life and which later formed the nerve centre of his activities.
Ajmer was not merely the seat of Chauhan power, it was a religious center also where thousands of pilgrims assembled from far and near. Shaikh Mu’in-u’d-din’s determination to work out the principles of Islamic mysticism at a place of such political and religious significance shows great self-confidence.
His life provides a beacon light to all those struggling for a noble cause. In this difficult task, he was assisted in the end by a few disciples but throughout his life he was without any worldly means whatsoever.
As Khawaja Moinuddin arrived in Ajmer, it was the capital of the one of most powerful states of the sub-continent ruled by Prithvi Raj Chauhan. At first no notice was taken of the great Muslim Sufi, but, soon his piety and love of mankind began to attract large number of people who vied with each other in embracing Islam. This was an alarm signal for the Raja. In his discourses Chishti Sufi preached about loving all our fellow creatures, irrespective of religion and status. His key teachings include charity and compassion for the poor and helpless, leading a pure life of devotion to the Divine, and achieving oneness with Allah in the service of his creations.
As an accomplished Sufi, Khwaja Sahib paid a deaf ear to the temptations and threats of the autocratic rulers designed to deflect him from the righteous path. He was not made of ordinary human metal. To counter his activities, the celebrated Hindu magician, Jogi Jai Pal was sent to him. But his magical acrobats were no match to the spiritual authority of Khwaja Moinuddin, and these only recoiled upon his own head. Overawed, he embraced Islam and became a well-known disciple of the Sufi. It was but natural that the preaching actities of the chisti Sufi and their success of and his growing popularity among the masses alarmed the ruler of Ajmer who is said to have ordered him to leave his territory.
The veteran Sufi exhibited enormous patience and by dint of his courage and zeal stuck to the ground. It is said that Shahabuddin Ghauri, who, a year before had sustained a crushing defeat at the hands of Prithvi Raj Chauhan, the ruler of Ajmer, again made preparations, and invaded India, defeating Prithvi Raj and captured him alive.
Khwaja Moinuddin carried on his preaching activities from Ajmer for about half a century. A man of indomitable will and dauntless courage, he dedicated his life to the love of Allah and His creatures. It was on account of these qualities which facilitated conversions to Islam. He achieved his mission despite insuperable obstacles and insurmountable difficulties.
The noble soul of this great Sufi left for the eternal abode on the 6th of Rajabul Murajab , 633 Hijra corresponding to 16th March 1236 C.E. at the ripe age of 97. He was laid to rest in the same prayer room (Hujra) which was the centre of his spiritual activities, throughout his stay at Ajmer. His death was mourned by the people of all the faiths. Shaikh Abdul Haq Muhadith Dehlvi says that the tomb of the Sufi was constructed by Mohammad Hussain Nagori.
Viewing the mission of this great Sufi, it may be said that Khawaja Garib Nawaz was the exponent of the true spirit of Islam. He brought the message of universal love and peace. He did not engage himself in vain metaphysics but rigorously strove to save human sympathy from running into narrow grooves and struck at the very root of parochialism, casteism and religious exclusiveness which were and are being propagated by some vested interests. According to Khawja Moinuddin, the religion is not merely based on rituals and ecclesiastical formalities but “service of humanity” is its sole raison d’etre. Describing the qualities which endear a man to Allah, this great Sufi referred to the following attributes: Awwal sakhawat chun sakhawat darya, doem shafqat -e- chun shafqat-e-aftab, siwam tawazo-e-chun tawazo-e-zameen. (First, river like generosity; second, sun-like affection, and third earth like hospitality.) When once asked about the highest devotion of Allah, Gharib Nawaz remarked that it was nothing but
“Dar mandgaan ra fariyad raseedan wa haajat-e-baichaargaan ra rawa kardan wa gursingaan ra sair gardaneedan”
(To redress the misery of those in distress, to fulfil the needs of the helpless and to feed the hungry.)
The tomb of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer, the uncrowned spiritual monarch of the sub-continent who still reigns over the hearts of millions of people, is the popular place of pilgrimage of the Muslims drawn from all parts of the world.
He ruled over the hearts. The concepts of brotherhood, communal harmony and composite culture originated from his life style and teachings and thereafter were spread by his representative disciples.
Khawaja Garib Nawaz loved humanity in general and the Indians in particular. Indeed he had a mission to bring a social and spiritual revolution.
Perhaps in no other country were the effects of this social and Cultural revolution so marked and so far reaching as in India. Sufism (Islamic mysticism) reached India when it had entered the last and the most important phase of its history the organisation of Sufistic structure of Islam having various denominations, especially Chishtiya, Qadriya, Naqshbandia, and Suharwardia. Among these denominations the Chishtiya order has been supremely successful on all levels of pluralistic society of India based on cultural, religious, and social differences.
He fulfilled the objectives of bringing together the various castes, communities and races, elevating humanity from the swamp of materialistic concerns, which is leading mankind towards destruction today.
Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti was acclaimed as the spiritual head of the sub-continent, loved and adored by all. The spread of Islam in India was, to a large extent, due to the spiritual teachings of Khwaja Mueenuddin and his disciples.
Khwaja Sahib was known for his piety, simplicity and humanitarianism. Once a non-Muslim is said to have approached him with the intention of killing him. Khwaja Sahib due to his spiritual power got foreknowledge of it. As soon as the intending assassin stepped in, he asked him to take out his dagger and kill him. Utterly non-plussed, the man threw off the dagger and implored Khwaja Gareebnawaz to punish him for his evil intentions. Khwaja Moinuddin told him that it was customary with sufis to return evil with good. Thereupon, Khwaja Gareebnawaz prayed for him and he lived and died as a good pious Muslim. Khwaja Gareebnawaz had greatest regard for his neighbours. Whenever a neighbour died, he attended his funeral prayers and prayed for his soul.
The shrine of this most revered Sufi turned popular because of the austerity and piety of its Shaikh, the greatness of his spiritual successors and the patronage of royal visitors. The Muslim rulers of India had great love and regard for this illustrious Muslim Sufi. During his lifetime, the Slave Dynasty had established its rule in Northern India which also included Ajmer and the celebrated Slave Kings, Sultan Qutbuddin and Sultan Iltimush who were devotees of Khwaja Sahib held him in great esteem. Muhammad bin Tuqhlaq(1324-51) was the first Sultan to pay visit to the shrine, but the earliest construction to house the tomb was funded in the fifteenth century by sultan Ghiyasuddin Khalji of Malwa.
To seek blessings for new conquests, fulfilment of vows, and the birth of sons , Akbar the Mughal ruler is said to have visited this shrine fouteen times, sometimes two or three times a year and as a mark of respect visited, sometimes, barefooted. When Salim (Jahangir) was born, Akbar, the famous Mughal Emperor, went on foot from Agra to Ajmer to offer his thanks-giving’s to the Sufi of Ajmer. Mughal Emperors Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb visited Ajmer several times and lavished their bounty on the residents of this sacred city. Jahangir too used to walk in Ajmer barefooted. Jahan Ara, the talented daughter of Shah Jahan, considered herself a spiritual disciple of the Sufi and never slept on a cot while in the city. She wrote a book: ‘Moonis-ul-Arwah‘, describing the lineage of Chishtia Sufis wherein she states that she used to apply the dust lying near the grave of the Saint to her eyes.
Khwaja Sahib is the author of several books including ‘Anisul Arwah’,(giving details of his 28 meetings with his spiritual teacher Sheikh Usman Harooni) and ’Dalil-ul-Arfin’ ‘Ganj-i- Asrar’, ‘Behrul Haqaiq’, ‘Malfuzat-i- Khawaja Moinuddin’, ‘Asrarul Wasileen’, ‘Risala Wajudia’ , ‘Dewan I Moinuddin Chisti’. Among his recorded sayings are:
A true Muslim befriends three things, namely: “Abstinence, disease and death”.
“One who helps the needy is a friend of God”.
“The highest spiritualism is to remember one’s death”.
To conclude we may quote some verses from the Dewan of Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti:
Rebood jan o dilam ra jamal naam i khuda
Nawakht tishna labaan ra naam i khuda
Wisaal i haq talbi hamnasheen namsh baash
Bibeen wisaal i khuda der naam i khuda
(The beauty of the pious name of Allah captivated my heart and mind,
The name of Allah shall bestow lymph to the lips of the thirsty ones,
If you seek the company of Allah, have His name always with you,
See the company of Allah is in the company of the name of Allah)
(The author is a Sufi writer, associated with the Haqani Memorial Trust, can be contacted at email: [email protected])