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Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 17



By Anna Suvrova

The Ascetic of Pakpattan

While Farid was giving himself up to mortification of the flesh, in the year 1236 Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki passed away during Sama ‘. Farid had to place himself at the head of the orphaned fraternity and so returned to Delhi. However, life of a metropolitan Shaikh, calling for certain diplomatic skills and a flair for politics, was a burden on the unsophisticated and somewhat provincial Punjabi. After Iltutmish’s death in the same year, discords commenced in the midst of the Turkish military aristocracy, which were aggravated by general discontent with the enthronement of the late Sultan’s daughter, Razia. All the Khanqahs in Delhi, to a greater or lesser extent, depended on the donations of the aristocracy and on the religious policy of the authorities. They were therefore compelled to side with some party in the court or influential private person. Inexperienced as Farid was in court intrigues, he still foresaw that in the conditions of dissidence and mutual hostility which had already begun it would not be possible for him to maintain strict neutrality. He preferred to relinquish the honorary authority of the head of the fraternity and leave Delhi, this time forever.

Quiet and peaceful Ajodhan, on the banks of the Sutlej, became the place where the saint was to spend almost thirty years of his life. Today, if you drive along the highway from Lahore to Multan, then take a turn half way along, in Sahiwal, and continue in the direction of the Indian border which passes nearby, after 50 kilometres you will find yourself in former Ajodhan, now Pakpattan, near that very river crossing where Baba Farid’s small mud-house stood many centuries back. Looking at the wide, and in these parts silvery, Sutlej, at the shady thickets of acacias in pink and white blossom, and at lush and green gently sloping hillocks on the horizon, you understand why the saint chose Ajodhan with its gentle and pacifying landscape.

In contrast to Data Ganjbakhsh, Khwaja Mu‘inuddin and his own receptor, Shaikh Farid, had never crossed the borders of the subcontinent, and even within India he had travelled very little, limiting himself to Delhi and Punjab, and to Qandahar in Afghanistan.14 Since wanderings in one’s youth adorn a mystic’s life, apocrypha ascribe to him travels from Baghdad to Ghazna, but these are merely legends, deserving no credit. It should not be forgotten that the final part of the saint’s life coincided with Mongol conquests in Middle East, which were not conducive to travel.

Judging by the malfaat, in the medieval period Ajodhan was far less attractive than in our times. ‘The dark-complexioned tribes of pagans, illiterate, ill-tempered, superstitious and not believing in saints’, inhabited it (Hamid Qualandar 1959: 188). However ill-tempered these tribes might have been, the saint got the better of them: not for nothing is the Islamisation of the entire south Punjab put down to his credit.15 No less challenging was the natural environment: the desert surrounding Ajodhan was teeming with snakes and wild beasts. (Pakpattan has acquired its present blooming appearance owing to a canal which was dug in the colonial epoch.) The saint’s mother Qarsum-bibi was torn to pieces by beasts of prey in the neighbourhood of the town, and Farid himself was ill for a long time after being bitten by a venomous snake.

 As we will recall from Khwaja Mu‘inuddin’s manaqib, hagiographic literature always depicts opposition to the saint’s mission on the part of hostile forces, either occult or historical. Although Ajodhan was inhabited chiefly by pagan tribes, there existed a small Muslim community, which received the new saint with prejudice. The local qad, envious of Shaikh Farid’s popularity, maltreated his family and endeavoured to obtain an official fatwa against him from the higher ‘Ulema of Multan.

When this did not materialize, he sent a hired assassin to Shaikh Farid, whose intentions the saint foresaw in good time, thus escaping death. When the saint then fell seriously ill, it turned out that it was the ill-effect of witchcraft brought on him by the local sorcerer. Fortunately Nizamuddin Awliya and one of Shaikh Farid’s sons succeeded in finding and rendering harmless the magic figurine made of dough, which the sorcerer had entangled in horse-hair and pierced with needles, in order that the victim should suffocate and suffer with acute pain.

Yet, in this inhospitable place, the saint found the long wished-for peace of mind and happiness which he had asked for in the following verse: Az . Azrat-i tu seh chız mikhhamWaqt-i khsh-ob-i dıda-o rahat-i dil My Master, three things I seek from you: Happy times, tears and peace of mind. (Hamid Qualandar 1959: 224)

The tears which the saint sought from God happened to be the most important element of the Chishti concept of tender emotional compassion. An ascetic-hermit, who renounces the world and is indifferent to people’s passions, as has been mentioned already, was not the ideal of the Chishtis. It was incumbent upon a member of this fraternity to have a supersensitive heart, always full of sorrow for the imperfections of the world as a whole, and for the fate of an individual. This sorrow was not destructive, on the contrary it was gentle and sweet, since among the unfortunate it did not evoke protest or fury, but pacification and submission to God’s will. A special role in the relations between the consoler and the distressed was assigned to shared tears with their well-known psychotherapeutic effect of solidarity and relief. The Chishtis’ approach to the needs of the faithful was strictly individual, Shaikh Farid always reasoned to the crowd of people coming to him for help with the words: ‘To come one by one is better than inviting the curse of the evil eye (when you come as a group)’ (Amir Hasan 1992: 160).

In Ajodhan, the type of cloister which became typical of the subsequent development of the Chishtiyya fraternity took shape. It was different from the Khanqahs of other Sufi orders with their more developed infrastructure. Shaikh Farid built near the town mosque a small house of raw bricks (kachcha), consisting of one spacious room, Jamat Khana, where Murıds and visitors used to study, offer prayers and sleep. Only he occupied a separate Hujra; here stood his wooden cot (charpaaı) with string net and beside it lay a prayer rug.

By nature of its organization, jam ‘at Khana was a virtual commune: disciples by turns did the household work - from the collection of brushwood and the cooking of food to the washing of linen and utensils - no household servants were to be found there. The chief manager of this commune was Badruddin Ishaq, the son-in-law and subsequently one of the Khalıfas of the saint; he also used to receive visitors and write ta‘wıdh. The other Khalıfa, who has already been referred to, Jamaluddin Hansawi, was a gifted poet and formerly a wealthy government official or Khaţıb, who relinquished his post and property for the sake of discipleship under the saint. He was responsible for the provision of firewood and food products to the fraternity. He was also entrusted by Shaikh Farid to sign Khilfat-nama, i.e. the documents regarding transfer of authority to a spiritual deputy. Water-carrier and washer man’s responsibilities were fulfilled by the formerly well-to-do merchant Syed Mahmud Kirmani (Amir Khurd’s grandfather). Nizamuddin Auliya, who lived permanently in Delhi and paid only flying visits to Ajodhan, occasionally used to cook food for the refectory, but more often the Shaikh preferred to enjoy his erudition, refined conversation and charm. He was the only inhabitant of the Jamat Khana who was honoured with the permission to sleep on a cot - all the others irrespective of age and status slept on the floor.

Jamat khana was open for visitors till midnight, and access to the saint was in no way restricted. Of course, the main stream consisted of peasants and inhabitants of the neighbouring towns, who came every day to obtain ta‘wı¯dh. In contrast to the inhabitants of other khnqahs,Shaikh Farid did not take money for amulets, and visitors used to pay with sweets and other small offerings. Nizamuddin Auliya recalls that when he had the occasion to write ta‘wdh, he used a hair fallen from the saint’s beard as an amulet.16

Another category of visitors consisted of the sick, people with various complaints and those seeking protection. The saint was particularly considerate towards them and went into the circum-stances of each of them in minute detail. Mainly healing the distressed with prayers and by the power of spiritual perfection, he did not deny to them even practical assistance and intercession before the authorities. Jamali narrates a didactic story about a tax collector who had incurred the wrath of the Governor of Ajodhan and who had had recourse to the saint’s mediation. Suspecting that the supplicant was implicated in abuse of his powers, Farid nonetheless sent a request to the Governor for his pardon. When the response did not favour the tax collector, he was unhappy with the saint.

Farid told him: ‘I appealed for you to the governor, but he has paid no attention to my request. May be, you have also, in your turn, been equally indifferent to the appeals of the unfortunate’. The tax collector repented and promised not to be harsh to anyone in future (Nizami 1955: 51).

The last and the most difficult group of visitors consisted of wandering Darwıshes, Qualandars and other persons laying claim to spiritual superiority. The ethics of the fraternities called for reception of such visitors with accentuated hospitality, giving them the best and, if necessary, even the last of one’s belongings. Hagiographic literature narrates about instances when Sufis from poor cloisters had to sell a prayer rug or their wife’s shawl in order to offer food to their spiritual brethren. Not infrequently the guests got annoyed, were capricious and conducted themselves intolerably. Once a Qualandar burst into the saint’s cell, seated himself on his Sajjada and started preparing a narcotic mixture. Indignant Badruddin Ishaq tried to prevent desecration of the place of prayer of the saint, and then the infuriated Qualandar raised his alms bowl (kachkol) threateningly at him. Shaikh Farid intercepted his hand and apologized on behalf of his murd, who had displayed insufficient tolerance and respect for the guest. The impudent stranger declared that as he had already raised his hand, he would not lower it halfway. ‘So throw the kachkol at this wall’, suggested Shaikh Farid. The Qualandar hurled the bowl at the wall, which fell down immediately, and only then did he calm down (Hamid Qalandar 1959: 131).

In this instance, as always, the saint was guided by the basic Chishtiyya principles of peaceable meekness and boundless forbearance for human foibles.17 He saw his main mission in reconciliation and pacification of people torn by discords and passions. If a devotee presented a pair of scissors to him he replied with a phrase which has now become proverbial: ‘Do not give me scissors, give me a needle. I sew. I do not cut’ (Nizami 1955: 2).

Sources of subsistence of the Jamat Khana were extremely meagre. Chishtis did not allow members of the fraternity to be engaged in professional activity (shughl). Many of Shaikh Farid’s Murıds had to give up a scholar’s career, a government post or their own commercial business, which would have brought an income to the cloister. Shaikh Farid somehow did not like the type of earnings accrued as a result of cultivation of ihya, which was allowed for a Sufi and was not scorned by Khwaja Mu‘inuddin and Hamiduddin Suwali Nagori. He declined even land donations. When the powerful minister Ulugh Khan (later the Sultan of Delhi Ghiyathuddin Balban), having visited Ajodhan, offered some money and the ownership of four villages to the saint, the latter said: ‘Give me the money.

I will dispense it to the dervishes. But as for those land deeds, keep hem. There are many who long for them. Give them away to such persons’ (Amir Hasan 1992: 196). It turns out that the only source of subsistence for the cloister were unasked-for donations or futuh, the regularity and  extent of which could not be foretold. Since Shaikh Farid forbade the community to accumulate donations, keep them in reserve or lay anything up for a rainy day, because this supposedly violated the basic Sufi principle of setting one’s hopes solely on God (Tawakul), all the offerings were instantly distributed among the poor. Once Badruddin Ishaq did not manage till the setting in of night to give away one gold coin as alms, which provoked a virtual fit of rage on the part of the saint, who could not fall asleep till the coin was thrown out of the bounds of the Jamat Khana.

Apart from concerns for the brethren and visitors, the saint’s overgrown family also caused him a certain problem. From three marriages Farid had many children, the majority of whom had died in infancy because of malnutrition. Children were growing up in conditions of extreme poverty, and from time to time one or the other wives interrupted the saint’s meditation with the wail that her child has just now died of starvation. It is paradoxical, but Farid, endowed with universal responsiveness and ready to cry over the grief of anybody and everybody, did not give evidence of similar compassion for his own progeny. Amir Khurd narrates the saint’s shocking, by our moral yardstick, reply to the mother of yet another child who was about to die: ‘What can poor Masud do? If it is how fate has willed it and he dies, tie his legs with a rope and throw him away, and then come back’ (Amir Khurd 1978: 67). It is true that the hagiographer himself was not at all shocked by this reply; for him it rather served as an evidence of the fact that during divine service nothing temporal, even the death of a member of his family, could move the saint.

For that matter, even in this Shaikh Farid was following his Murshid’s example: Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki also did not care too much for his family, and when one of his sons passed away consoled the sobbing wife by telling her that had he come to know of the child’s illness earlier, he would have prayed for his health. But the great Shaikhs of the Chishtiyya fraternity did not burden themselves much with the care of even the surviving and grown-up children. Their education and upbringing was taken care of by tender-hearted neighbours and devoted Murıds: thus, it was Nizamuddin Auliya who brought up and educated Shaikh Farid’s son and grandsons.

This, for us, shocking contrast between unflagging kind-heartedness for strangers and an indifference, verging on cruelty, towards one’s own relatives finds an unexpected echo in the Indian history of our own times, in the character of the modern saint Mahatma Gandhi, whose stern exacting attitude to his wife and children was so sharply at variance with his celebrated gentleness and love for the rest of the mankind.

In spite of an unhappy childhood, devoid of paternal indulgence, those of Shaikh Farid’s children who managed to escape death from starvation in infancy grew up to become quite worthy people. Four out of the saint’s five sons continued his work, propagating the teaching of Chishtis in Punjab. The fifth son, a soldier, served in the army of Ghiyathuddin Balban and died the death of a hero in a battle against the Mongols. The saint’s three daughters, all of them widowed early, were also notable for high moral virtues. About one of them, Bibi Sharifa, her father used to say that had it been permissible for him to pass on spiritual inheritance, i.e. Khilfat-nama and Sajjada, to a woman, he would have made them over to her without any hesitation. Another daughter of the saint, Bibi Fatima, after her husband Badrudin Ishaq’s death, became the object of idle talk among the Chishtis. Since she, as many other members of Shaikh Farid’s family, lived in the charge of Nizamuddin Awliya in his Delhi Khanqah, persistent rumours were spread about their possible wedding, which, however, was not confirmed.

Over all his sons and daughters, relatives and wives, however, Shaikh Farid undoubtedly favoured his adored disciple Nizamuddin Auliya. Of all the khalı¯fas18 it was to him that he bequeathed the sacred regalia of his predecessors and also the predominant status in the fraternity. The saint and his most talented murıd were inter-connected through Muraqaba, constant spiritual concentration on each other and intense emotionalism of companionship, which did not cease even after Shaikh Farid’s death. This loving friendship of a mature man and a youth, quite in keeping with the sublime platonic relations that include a shade of homosexuality, which are widespread amidst Sufis, is marked by many romantic episodes.

Nizamuddin Auliya, like the hero of an Eastern romance, lost his heart to his future preceptor from hearsay, having heard in his adolescence a Quawwalı glorifying his virtues. Later, while being educated in Delhi, he found himself to be a neighbour of Najibuddin Mutawakkil, the younger brother of Shaikh Farid, whose accounts only accentuated the young man’s passionate craving for a meeting with the saint of Ajodhan.

19 It turned out that this emotion was reciprocal, because the gift of mystic clairvoyance had foretold a surprise visit of the young friend to the saint, and on meeting him for the first time he greeted Nizamuddin with the verse:

Aetish-i firqat dilh kabab kardaSailb-i ishtiyqat jnhkharab kardaThe flame of separation from you has burnt hearts into cinders the deluge of passion for you has laid souls to waste. (Amir Khurd 1978: 106) Although Nizamuddin was far better educated than his Murshid and, in contrast to the unsophisticated sage, was a refined intellectual, for his knowledge of people and an understanding of the secrets of spiritual life he is wholly indebted to Shaikh Farid, who possessed an innate wisdom. The latter kept him from the temptation of arrogance,20 so characteristic of educated person at all times, having taught him one of his most important precepts: ‘Acquire knowledge through humility’. When in the presence of the saint people extolled the erudition, eloquence and manners of his favourite, he used to joke that a Pır is only a mashshata, a maidservant beautifying an even otherwise beautiful bride.

Lying on his death-bed, Shaikh Farid had his thoughts riveted on Nizamuddin Awliya, called him all the time and complained to his associates that in his time he himself had been late to the death-bed of Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, thereby depriving himself of the happiness of seeing his favourite disciple by his side during his hour of death. Referring to his favourite son, also Nizamuddin by name, who was an officer in the Sultan’s army, Baba Farid said in his last moments: ‘He is coming to me, but what is the use of it, if I would not go out to meet him?’ (Amir Khurd 1978: 90-1). As can be seen, hagiographic literature is capable of being as dramatic and intensely emotional as the best specimens of fiction. For that matter Shaikh Farid was one of the first mystic poets in the subcontinent whose literary activity manifestly exceeded the limits of operative Sufi poetry as an allegorical expression of spiritual experience, ineffable through other verbal means. Farid has left a considerable number of verses in Persian, later somewhat artificially collected into a Diwan, and a separate corpus of couplets in modern Indian dialects (Multani and Khari Baoli), whose fate is unique in their own way. One hundred and twelve couplets, the so-called salokas included in the ‘primordial’ book of Sikhs Adi Granth (compiled in 1604) are ascribed to Farid.

Thereby he is the only Muslim (not counting Kabir, who, all the same, has to be regarded as belonging to the Indian Bhakti tradition) whose literary output became a part of the scripture of people of another faith. The prevailing tendency on the part of Sikh Gurus, and subsequently Punjabi scholars, to ascribe the section of Adi Granth, called Saloka Pharda or Farıd-banı, to Shaikh Fariduddin Ganj-i Shakar considerably lengthened the age of the Punjabi literary tradition in comparison with other modern Indian literatures, taking it back to the thirteenth century.21 At the same time it is impossible to assume that the early Sufi hagiographers (Amir Hasan, Amir Khurd, Hamid Qualandar and Jamali Kanboh), who have narrated details of the saint’s life and activity so extensively, would not have said even a word about the existence of Farıd-banı in their works.

Less popular, but more reliable is the version according to which Farıd-banıdates from the sixteenth century and is attributed to Shaikh Ibrahim Farid Thani (i.e. to the ‘second’ Shaikh Farid), a descendant and twelfth sajjadanishın of the saint. However, indirect evidence in favour of earlier authorship of Farıd-banı is its obvious thematic and stylistic influence on the verses from the same Adi Granth, belonging to the founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak (1469-1539) himself. It is interesting that Nanak more than once called himself s ¯iru, from Arabic shir (‘poet’) and not the Indian equivalent kavi, which gives an indication of some Muslim model of his creative work, possibly Farid’s poetry. ‘Unless this is to be understood as referring to exclusively to poets writing in Persian, it suggests the contemporary existence of a class of Muslim vernacular poets’ (Shackle 1993: 276).

Saloka Pharıda from Adi Granth, as far as metre is concerned, resembles doh (13+11 mtras per line with a final disyllabic rhyme) and is, like Doha, ideally suitable for mnemonic practice and oral transmission. As far as their contents are concerned salokas are variations on the theme of memento mori, widely used in Indian as well as Muslim gnomic poetry:

pharıdpi ć ćhalırti na jgiohi, jıvadar.o muiohi je tairabbu visri, ta rabbi na visariohiNight ends, but still you sleep; you die while living yet, Though you forget the Lord, still He does not forget. (Shackle 1993: 273)

This couplet serves as an example of how Arabic doctrinal vocabulary was gradually finding its way into the Indian poetical forms, adapting itself to their prosody and to the phonetics of the modern Indian languages, which is characteristic of the early stage of the formation of Sufi poetry in the vernacular languages. The key word in this saloka is the Arabic loan-word rabbu (the Lord). In another saloka words from the same lexical series, Azra¯’ı¯l farishta, the Angel of Death in Islam, are found to be semantically loaded: pharıdbhannıgharı savannavı, t’ut’t’nagara lajjuajarılu pharesat, kai¸ ghari nat’hıajju the lovely pot is broken, its rope has frayed away, In whose house is Azrael a guest today?  (Shackle 1993: 274)

Following the same pattern, that is, by the introduction of Muslim doctrinal terms into the Gujarati metric composition bhujangı, associated with spiritual singing (bhajan) of Hindus, a new genre nasıhat (exhortation), widely used in the medieval literature of Isml Bohras, was ‘incorporated’ into the Gujarati literature. At the same time an indigenous term jpa (nam Jap), meaning multiple repetition of the deity’s name or a mantra, is regarded here as identical with the Muslim dhikr:

Ae dil tum nm jap hirde khudn Na hargıj baith qaim mile havn The name of khuda is to be repeatedly uttered in the heart. Do not sit idle even for a moment. (Jani 1994: 230)

Assimilation of the Sindhi traditional genre form tun¸vero by Muslim mystics and its transformation into the Sufi genre of bait also took place in a similar manner. One of the forefathers of the Sindhi mystic poetry,  Abdul Karim Bulri (1536-1624), introduces the Arabic word Rooh (spirit) in its Sufi context (spirit as the organ for comprehension of God) into the figurative texture of folk song:

panıhrısiri behar.o, jara te pakkhıjıa ass sajjaña tıa, rahiyo he rha me¸A water-maid’s twin pots, or on the lake the geese:  As close as these He dwells, my loved One in my soul.          (Shackle 1993: 280)

And in the verses of Farıd-banı also the images of folk songs are used, depicting the actualities of Punjab countryside: a desolate, flat landscape, lakes with wild geese (apparently, a widely used motif even in Sindhi poetry), a broken pitcher by the well, or so typical for Ajodhan, a figure of a patanı (ferryman): pharıddukkh setdihu gaĩ, slsetrti kharpukrai ptanı, berkappara vti In pain the day is spent, in grief the night is passed. ‘On the shoals,’ the sailor cries, ‘the boat is now stuck fast’. (Shackle 1993: 272)

Farid’s poetry in Persian, of course, is not a mirror image of his poetic output in Multani, using the devices of another language, or, for that matter, even the other way round. Apparently, even the poet himself clearly felt this difference, using in his Persian verses the takhallu¸ ‘Mas‘ud’ and in Multani verses referring to himself as ‘Fard’ (‘Phard’). This dissimilarity might have been determined by the changing tasks of South Asian Sufism at various stages of its development. In Mas‘ud’s words speaks Shaikh Fariduddin, the Muslim mystic of the period of the consolidation of Islam in the subcontinent. He addresses all the faithful and thinks in images of a cosmopolitan lingua franca, widely used in all places and under-stood by the Muslim community as a whole. In Pharid’s language preaches Baba Farid, popular Punjabi saint, whose message is addressed to a limited social environment, which was already conscious of its ethnic and cultural distinctiveness? In all appearances, it was exactly this pronounced linguistic-cultural specificity, characteristic of the later period of development of Islam in South Asia, which was conducive to the inclusion of Farıd-bnıin Adi Granth, the scripture of an ethnically defined religious community.

On the fifth day of Muharram of the year 1265 Shaikh Farid passed away with the pious exclamation ‘Ya Hayy Y Qayyum’ (O Living, O Eternal!) on his lips. The cause of his death was khalah - this was the collective name of various fatal maladies of the bowels, causing acute pain or colic. Neither the family nor the fraternity had enough money to procure a shroud for him. A matter of deep pride for Amir Khurd, the author of Siyar al-Auliya, was the fact that his grandmother Bibi Rani made a donation of her only remaining shawl, which was used to cover the mortal remains of the saint. Shaikh Farid was buried near his own khnqah in a modest tomb made of bricks, and it was only considerably later, in the middle of the fourteenth century, that Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq erected a marble tomb at its place.

It was in this epoch that the cult of the veneration of the saint became widely popular all over the Delhi Sultanate. Even Timur, who swept past Punjab like a hurricane, left Ajodhan alone and considered it necessary to pay obeisance to Shaikh Farid’s tomb. The credit for it mainly goes to the saint’s grandson, Shaikh ‘Ala’uddin, who for more than half a century held the post of sajjadanishn and won the respect of the Delhi sultans and was referred to in highly complementary terms by his famous contemporaries - Amir Khurd, Barani and Ibne Batuta.

The latter, in particular, narrates that Muhammad Tughlaq granted a hundred villages as in‘am for sustenance to the descendants (including ‘Ala’uddin) of the great shaikhs of the Chishtiyya and Suhrawardiyya orders. It means that the traditions of non-collaboration with the Authorities did not continue in the fraternity for long. With the passage of time Shaikh Farid’s life acquires a halo of incredibly fantastic stories about the miracles supposedly performed by him. Later works, which, of course, have to be taken as contrived ones, ascribed to him all sorts of supernatural capabilities - from the ability to fly to resurrection of the dead (it is interesting why in that case the saint did not resurrect his own mother and children). It is exactly in this capacity that Shaikh Farid attracted unexpected attention of the marginal groups of society, particularly, of thugs, who considered him to be their patron. In the practice of veneration of his tomb, rituals also make their appearance, and are connected with magic and pre-Islamic beliefs.

The most well known of such rituals is that of passage through Bahishti Darwaza (Gateway to Paradise). This is the name given to the lateral door leading into the saint’s tomb, which is opened only at the time of his ‘urs, celebrated on the fifth of Muharram. The width of the doorway is approximately seventy centimetres but then its height is not more than ninety centimetres, so one can pass through the door perhaps only by crawling. The difficulty is exacerbated by the fact that on the ‘Urs days Bahishti Darwaza is stormed by thousands of pilgrims, mercilessly pressing each other in order to force one’s way forward. However, the attendants of the dargah assert that by the grace of the saint not a single pilgrim has as yet seriously suffered in this crush. Captain C. M. Wade, who visited Pakpattan in 1832, observed not without irony: ‘A superlative heaven is allotted to those who are first to enter the tomb on the day mentioned. The rush of precedence may, therefore, be better imagined than described’ (Nizami 1955: Appendix E).

The ritual of distribution of consecrated food, a version of Hindu prasad, also makes its appearance in the cult of Farid Baba. In the days of ‘Urs attendants of the dargh distribute jilla, i.e. small cakes covered with a layer of Halwa amongst pilgrims. The origin of this rite is linked to the conversion to Islam of Punjabi fishermen of the Jalhora caste, which considers Baba Farid to be their patron saint. The tradition says that the fishermen came to Ajodhan in order to adopt the true faith, and, according to the custom of their forefathers, brought all sorts of gifts to the saint as earlier they used to present to Hindu priests. But Baba Farid declined all the offerings with the exception of the sweets, which were made by women of the Jalhora (Macchi) caste. One piece of jilla is reverentially eaten by the pilgrim himself and a few other pieces are kept by him carefully, to be taken to the kinsfolk, so that they may also partake of a part of the saint’s bliss.

Beginning with Shaikh Farid the concept of sainthood in South Asian Sufism underwent a certain development: now miracles of humaneness, wrought by a compassionate heart, are considered to be true Karamat. The degree of sainthood is increasingly measured by the criteria of personal asceticism and selflessness. The image of the stern Sufi, inspiring fear and punishing disobedience, is gradually excluded from the stage of ‘enlightened’ cultured Sufism and relegated to the dark periphery of the popular cults of the lower social strata.

Amir Khurd reports that Shaikh Farid’s disciples had collected five hundred of his statements, which became the precepts of the Chishtiyya fraternity (true, in his book he quotes only sixty of them). Among these maxims there many which are downright Christian in spirit: ‘Doing good to others, think, that you are doing good to yourself’, ‘If you want to make the whole world your enemy, strengthen your pride’, ‘Do not abase yourself trying to retain high status’, ‘If you desire greatness, associate yourself with the humble’. These thoughts of wisdom, sounding somewhat abstract in the remote corner of Punjab, became topical for the spiritual successors of the saint, Nizamuddin Auliya and Nasiruddin Chiragh-i Dihli, when they had to protect their right to do good to others from the arbitrariness of the state. The role of Shaikh Farid in the spiritual and social life of the period was lovingly described by his favourite disciple Nizamuddin Auliya:

Despite his longing for solitude, there was no limit to the number of people who were forever visiting him. The door to his hospice was never closed  ... Silver  and  food  and blessings due to the kindness of the Almighty Creator -all were distributed from there to the comers. Yet no one came to the Shaikh for material assistance since he himself possessed nothing. What a marvellous power! What a splendid life! To none of the sons of Adam had such grace previously been available.

(Amir Hasan 1992: 166)

Anna Suvorova is the Head of the Department of Asian Literature at the Institute of Oriental Studies (Russian Academy of Sciences), Professor of Indo-Islamic culture at the Institute of Oriental and classical cultures (Russian State University for the Humanities), member of the International faculty in National College of Arts (Pakistan), fellow of Academic Advisory Board, Centre for Study of Gender and Culture (Pakistan), fellow of Royal Asiatic Society (UK).

Other Parts of the Book, Muslim Saints of South Asia:


Muslim Saints of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries --- Part 1

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries - Part 2

Muslim Saints of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part - 3

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 4

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 5

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 6

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 7

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 8

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 9

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 10

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 11

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 12

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 13

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 14

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 15

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 16

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 17

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 18

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 19

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 20

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 21

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 22

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 23

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 24

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 25

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 26

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part - 27

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 28

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 29

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 30

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 31