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Sultanul Hind—the spiritual king of Indian subcontinent: Khwaja Gharib Nawaz R.A

Word For Peace Special 

By Dr Hafizur Rahman

We are celebrating the annual Urs (death anniversary) of Khwaja Gharib Nawaz of Ajmer who was born in 1143 AD in Sanjar, Sistan, Iran and died in 1236 AD in Ajmer Sharif,  India. He was brought up in Khurasan in Iran, while his father Ghayasuddinn died when he was 15. He studied in Isfahan, Samarqand, Bukhara, and then he went to Baghdad in search of a spiritual mentor. There, he met Hazrat Khawaja Usman Harooni in Baghdad. Thereafter, he went to visit the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Eventually, he came to Ajmer in India via Lahore where he lived for the rest of his life and is even resting after death.

It’s a surprising truth that Muslim kings ruled for around 800 years over India and built many historical monuments including the Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Humayun Tomb and Qutub Minar but none of the Muslim rulers is alive in the hearts of people except in the books of history. But unlike kings and rulers, Khwaja  Gharib Nawaz won the hearts of millions of helpless, poor, weaker and underprivileged people and seekers of truth. With divine mercy, he became Gharib Nawaz (supporter of the poor), though his original name is Moinuddin (helper of the religion).

He fulfilled Huqooq ullah (God’s rights) and Huqooqul ibad (human rights) equally and served the weak and poor, loved the unloved and fed the hungry irrespective of caste, creed, gender, and religion. It was his outstanding service and love towards humanity that attracted people from across the society, unlike any rulers.

They loved and followed this Sufi mystic and therefore he was called “Sultanul Hind”, the king of the Indian subcontinent. He then developed the Chishti Sufi order in this subcontinent and became the Sufi mystic with the highest following in the world.

The uniqueness of his Sufi order and his character was that he greatly impacted others by his pious character and selfless service and he accepted and accommodated the local traditions and made them part of his Sufi order.

The message of universal fraternity, harmony, and brotherhood spread by the Sufis saints was so loud and inclusive that even after their union with God (Wisal-e-ilahi), their hospices remain abuzz with the people of all walks of life.

On top of all Indian shrines, the Dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti known as Daghah Khwaja Gharib Nawaz in the heart of Ajmer city surrounded by Tara Gadh hills is the shining example of love, harmony, unity and fraternity.

Maulana Rumi beautifully talks about the human heart:

Ek dil behtar hazaran Ka’be ast

(One heart is far better than a thousand Ka’baas).

He further says:

Bring your heart in your hand; your soothing is more important than a pilgrimage. A single heart is better than a thousand of Ka’abas. The K’aba was built by Allah’s Khalil (friend) Prophet Hazrat Ibrahim (Abraham), while the heart, in contrast, was created and tested by the Almighty God Himself.

The great Sufi saint of India Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti who is also known as Gharib Nawaz of Ajmer often taught the people: love towards all and malice towards none. His disciples and successors held this message of their mentor by tooth and their hospices became the center for spreading universal love and affinity. His disciple Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi often recited the following couplets of Persian poet Abu Said Abul Khair:

“If people spread thorns in your path, you just put flowers in their way; otherwise the entire path would become thorny”.

Today, we Muslims in India must not forget what Khwaja Gharib Nawaz of Ajmer Sharif and Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi taught us.

The abundant love, fraternity and affection shown by the Sufi saints to the common people won their hearts and their hospices (khanqahs were the center of love where the people from all walks of life began to flock to seek succor for their miseries. These Sufi saints respected the local customs and culture to the extent that even many of them became vegetarian due to respect for their non-Muslim brothers. Khwaja Gharib Nawaz, Khawaja Nizamuddin Aulia, Sarmad Shaheed, Bu Ali Shah Qalandar, and many others had become pure vegetarians in respect of their non-Muslim brethren. Their philosophy was simple: live and let live; love and compassion to all, no hate or discrimination on the ground of caste, creed, culture, religion, and gender.

Chishti Sufis continued to adopting of local traditions. For instance in Delhi, Hazrat Amir Khusrau was the one who started celebrating Basant Panchami to make his mentor Nizamuddin Auliya happy. Since then, Basant celebration is continuing on the premises of Dargah Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya.

Being a Persian scholar and follower of a Sufi order, I came across the anthology of Sufi poets like, Rumi, Jami,  Khusro, Shah Niaz be Niaz, Baba Bulle Shah, Shah Zaheen Taji, Bedam Shah Warsi in both Urdu and Persian languages. Their metaphysical and mystic poems were very impressive, moving and touching. This has increased my curiosity to know more about it, I got a chance to attend a 3-day-long Sufi music concert in Delhi, organized by famous music composer and film director Muzaffar Ali with the title of Jahan-e-Khusrau in Humayun tomb. This concert is organized by him every year and attended by world-famous Sufi musicians and vocals from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, and many other countries. However, every year the well-known vocalist Abida Parveen of Pakistan steals the show.  As soon as she starts her melody in the most fascinating and moving voice, the people begin crying in their hearts. It seems as if she is on the direct hotline with the Almighty God. Though more than 2 decades have passed, I still remember the rhythm of her voice and her selection of poems from the anthologies of Amir Khausrau, Baba Bulle Shah, Shah Zaheen Taji, and Shah Niaz Bareilvi.

The following metaphysical mystic poems of Shah Niaz Barelvi recited by Abida Perveen attracted my special attention:

Yaar ko hum ne ja baja dekha, kahin zahir kahin chupa dekha…

I saw my beloved everywhere, somewhere apparent and somewhere hidden.

Kahin mumkin hua kahin wajib, Kahin fani kahin baqi dekha. 

Somewhere He was merely a possibility and somewhere He was imperative. Somewhere I saw Him ephemeral, and somewhere I found him eternal.

Kahin wo badshah takht nashin, Kahin kasa liye gada dekha.

Somewhere, I saw Him a king sitting on His throne, and sometimes I saw Him mendicant with a begging bowl.

Kahin wo dar libas e mashooqan, Bar sare naz aur ada dekha. 

Somewhere He was in the most beautiful attire, displaying His unique charm and attraction.

Kahin ashiq Niaz ki surat, Seena giryan to dil jala dekha.

Somewhere He was like a lover Niaz, beating his chest and heart was in flame.

This unique hymn of God almost mesmerized the entire audience. There was a pin-drop silence as the people felt that divine light is pervading from all sides. After hearing this fabulous hymn, I decided to pay my personal obeisance at his shrine built about 300 years ago in Bareilly.

Though he associated himself with both the Chishti and Qadri orders of the Sufis, he favoured the Chishti order in which the saints were encouraged to reach the maximum number of people whoever they may be. In the footsteps of his predecessors, he also followed the local customs and traditions to win the hearts of people from all creeds and castes. His main emphasis was to clean the heart instead of cleaning the apparent body and clothes.

Dr. Hafeezur Rahman is an author, Islamic scholar, TV host and the founder of Sufi Peace Foundation.

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