Once in a while u come across an interesting idea. U may be sipping ur daily morning coffee, gazing stars at night, having your evening walk, reading newspaper, or may even be deep in ur sleep. If the ‘idea fairy’ is in the mood for fun, she’ll throw in an intriguing thought in ur direction, then hide and watch what u do with it. In my case whenever this happens, I usually end up posting it on my blog. Enjoy ur journey thru the posts n remember, ur comments do matter

Sunday, September 06, 2009


Since childhood I have been always been fascinated of Old Delhi. The lanes, the grand monuments, the bazaar, cast an imposing impression that awed me no end. However among all the magnificent monuments, it was the Dargah of Shaikh Nizam-u’d-din Auliya where I found myself coming back again and again. Since childhood I had been hearing quwwalis. My father bought tapes of all major qawwals and listening to them was good fun. The lyrics were simple, down to earth and struck a chord immediately with the listeners heart. I had learnt from my father that the most popular lyrics were the ones penned by Amir Khusrau, who was also regarded as the father of qawwali. He wrote these lyrics in the praise of his great master Mehbub-e-Ilahi Hazrat Shaikh Nizam-u’d-din Auliya. He was the most prominent Sufi saint of his time. Even today his Dargah is frequented by people from all walks of life who come and pray to the saint to fulfill their desires. Hence when the opportunity came I rushed to visit the famous Dargah. For someone who had never been to the Dargah before, it was a very pleasant experience. Upon entering the premises one could feel calm within and after paying respects to the saint, I joined others in enjoying the live qawwali sung at the dargah. With time I came across several anecdotes of Hazrat Nizam-u’d-din and his disciple Amir Khusrau. Entertaining as they were, they also had in them contemporary lessons of love for the common folk. Recently I had a chance to go through the brilliant historical biography of the saint titled ‘The life and Times of Shaikh Nizam-u’d-din Auliya’ by K A Nizami. An Oxford Press publication, it is a well researched document in which the author has tried to put together the information spread in the mystic literature of pre-Mughal times to provide a glimpse into the life and times of probably the most influential Sufi saint of our country. Produced below are some sections of the book. Hopefully they will provide a glimpse into the times in which the great mystic lived to spread the message of love across the blessed land of Hindustan.

"The Shaikh possessed an extremely attractive personality. A tall handsome figure, fair in complexion, with a fully grown beard, red sleep-laden eyes and a big dastar over his head – there was an aura of inexpressible spiritual serenity round his face. Yet his awe and prestige were beyond measure. Amir Khusrau was not able to sit in his presence for long. He went out several times to regain his composure. When Maulana Burhan-u’d-din Gharib asked him the reason for it he said:”When I am in his presence, there is a trembling feeling in me.’ He gives reason in a verse which translates to:
‘When a mirror is placed before the sun,
How can one see one’s face in it?’

Shaikh’s mother Bibi Zulaikha was a remarkable lady – pious, serene in suffering, and resigned to the will of God. She moulded the thought and personality of her son and demonstrated by example that endurance and moral excellence are possible even in the face of adverse conditions. Her one great concern in life was to educate her son as well as possible. Continuous fasts and endless struggle shattered here health and she did not live long enough to see her son at the height of glory. Whenever she happened to look at the feet of her son, she remarked, ‘Nizam-u’d-din! I see signs of a bright future in you. You will be a man of destiny some day.’ Once, on hearing this remark, the Shaikh asked: ‘But when will this happen?’ ‘When I am dead’, replied Bibi Zulaikha.

Every month when the Shaikh saw the new moon, he offered felicitations to her by placing his head at her feet. On one such occasion, she said: ‘Nizam! At whose feet will you put your head next month?’ The Shaikh burst into tears. ‘To whose care will you entrust me?’ he asked. ‘Tomorrow I will tell you,’ replied the mother. She then directed him to go and sleep at the house of Shaikh Najib-u’d-din. In the small hours of the morning the maidservant came rushing and said that his mother had called him. Nizam-u’d-din hurried to the house. ‘Where is your right hand?’ asked his dying mother. He stretched out his hand. She took it in her hand and said: ‘O God! I entrust him to You.’ So saying Bibi Zulaikha breathed her last. The Shaikh used to say that if she had left a house full of gold and jewels, it would not have given him the same pleasure and consolation that these words gave to his bereaved heart.

Pledges made at the shrine of the Shaikh were considered so sacrosanct that no one ever thought of breaking them. When Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq assigned the government of Gujarat to Shams-u’d-din Damghani, he ordered him to produce a surety of his good conduct. ‘Whatever be your Majesty’s order,’ said Damghani. Firoz Shah asked him to make Shaikh Nizam-u’d-din Auliya his surety. Damghani agreed. Next day he went with the Sultan to the grave of the Shaikh, lifted the cover sheet of the grave in his hand and standing in the direction of Ka’ba, made the Shaikh his surety.

One day a visitor asked him about the relative spiritual qualities of Shaikh Farid and Shaikh Baha-u’d-din Zakariya. His reply was: ’Only one like them can explain it.’ When the visitor insisted, he said: ‘When our Shaikh Farid-u’d-din was overpowered by ecstasy he cried out: Ya Habib! Ya Habib! (O Beloved! O Beloved!) When Shaikh Baha-u’d-din was overpowered by ecstasy he used to say: Ya Ghafur! Ya Ghafur! (O Forgiving One! O Forgiving One!). Find out the difference from this.’

A wandering mendicant came to the Shaikh during the early years of his stay in Delhi and asked for some monetary help. The Shaikh had nothing to offer at that time, and so he asked him to stay for a few days and wait for some futuh. As no futuh came for several days, the dervish decided to leave the khanqah. While permitting him to go, the Shaikh gave him his pair of shoes. The dervish set out and on his way met Amir Khusrau, who was on his annual visit to Delhi from Multan. He had several lakh tankas with him. When the two met, Amir Khusrau enquired about his spiritual master. The dervish informed him about his financial difficulties and narrated all that had happened with him. Khusrau offered his whole wealth to him in exchange for the slippers. With these slippers on his head he reached his master. The Shaikh looked at him and remarked: ‘Khusrau! You purchased them very cheap.’

Shaikh Nizam-u’d-din Auliya resolved early in life to follow the path shown by his spiritual master. During the reign of Balban he had already gained some fame, but by the time Jalal-u’d-din-Khilji came to power he was a prominent figure in Delhi. The Sultan offered some villages for the expenses of his khanqah. The Shaikh declined, saying that it did not behove a dervish to have orchards and villages to look after. Sultan Jalal-u’d-din sought an interview with the Shaikh but it was politely refused. The Sultan then thought of visiting the khanqah without informing the Shaikh. ‘My house has two doors’, remarked the Shaikh, ‘if the Sultan enters by one, I will make my exit by the other.’ The Sultan planned a surprise visit to the Shaikh. Amir Khusrau, who was the Sultan’s mushafdar (keeper of the royal copy of the Qur’an), reported this to the Shaikh, who avoided meeting the Sultan by undertaking a journey to the tomb of his spiritual mentor in Ajodhan. When the Sultan came to know about the divulgence of this secret by Amir Khusrau, he took him to task for it. ‘In disobeying the Sultan I stood in danger of losing my life, but in playing false to my master, I stood in danger of losing my faith,’ replied Amir Khusrau. Jalal-u’d-din was dumbfounded. "

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