By Anna Suvrova
The khanqah in Ghiyathpur resembled not so much a commune as a South Asian gharana, a family-type school, where relatives and kinsfolk of various generations lived together, engaged in one type of creative activity - usually music and, in the present case, Sufism. Here lived permanently the families of Kirmani and the late Badruddin Ishaq, Shaikh Farid’s andchildren and the children of Nizamuddin’s sister, who in the course of time became related to each other through marriage. Apart from them there were many dervishes and murds in the kh nqah, spending their prescribed period of probation there. Some of the disciples, for example, Burhanuddin Gharib or Nasiruddin Chiragh-i Dihli, had their own houses in the neighbourhood. There were no slaves and bond servants in the kh nqah, because the Shaikh adhered to the strict principle: ‘There are no such things as slavery and dominion in the Way’ (Amir Hasan 1992: 83). Indeed, under the Shaikh’s influence, many of his associates set their slaves free.12
Nizamuddin used to spend a greater part of the day participating in congregational prayers and dhikr, attending to his murıds and receiving visitors. Out of humility he used to go to the congregational mosque in Kilugarhi on foot, although he was an excellent horseman, and it was only in extreme old age that he took to travelling in a palanquin. In accordance with the custom laid down earlier by Baba Farid, he was accessible to the persons requiring his help all twenty-four hours of the day round the clock and in any circumstances.
Having finished with his daily duties and having performed the supererogatory night-time prayers, which is an indication of piety of a particularly high order, the Shaikh used to retire to his rooms on the roof, and the only person whom he received at this late time was the poet Amir Khusrow. He brought with him the news and gossip of the court, the aroma of the external world and the ghazals, of which the saint was so fond. The Shaikh listened to the poet with pleasure, from time to time asking again: ‘What else, oh, Turk?’ It is known that Nizamuddin had given Amir Khusrow the nickname
‘God’s Turk’, and if we recall that in the language of that time Turk was synonymous to Muslim, this signified that the Sufi, who was against shughl and collaboration with the authorities, had a profound respect for this man of the world and courtier, who had been in the service of seven Sultans. It is clear that the Shaikh’s relations with Amir Khusrow happen to be a special case of mutual attachment of two eminent persons, to whom no rules or formalities whatever were applicable.
Nizamuddin Awliya’s personality had a profound influence on Amir Khusrow’s creative work - enough to say, that eulogies (madh) of the Shaikh are included in all the five poems of his Khamsa, and also in the mathnawıs The Key of Victories (Mifth al-futuh), Nine Heavenly Spheres (Nuh sipihr), Duwal Rani and Khizr Khan (Duwal Rnı-o-Khidr Khan), and in the prose chronicles, The Treasures of Victories (Khaz’in al-futh) and A History of Delhi (Tarkh-i Dehl). But the few lines of the epitaph written by Amir Khusrow on his preceptor and friend’s death have been retained longer than every-thing else in the descendants’ memories. For ages these have been handed down by qaww ls (singers) and are sung even today in Nizamuddin’s darg h: Gorı sove sej par mukh par d’ale kes
Chal Khusro g’har apne rain bhaıchah des the fair beauty has fallen asleep on her bed, tresses hiding her face.
It is time now to go home, Khusrow, night has set ineverywhere.The sense of this brief doha in Hindawi language is determined by the popular Sufi motif, which has been brilliantly studied by E. Bertels in his work The Tress and The Face (Bertels 1965: 109-25). Just as dark tresses fall on a light-complexioned face, day gives place to night. But tresses - Amir Khusrow has not used here the Persian words zulf or gesu, which would be conventional in such a context, but the Indian kes (from Sanskrit kesa) - are also a metaphor for the Divine Essence in its concealed aspect, and also as a symbol of plurality, hiding the Unity. So that the gloom, which has enveloped the world after the saint’s death, is also the darkness of ignorance, yet another veil, separating the Sufi from the Truth.Of course, one may perceive something mystic in the fact that Nizamuddin Awliya, his favourite Amir Khusrow and his persecutor Ghiyathuddin Tughluq passed away in the course of the same year 1325.
The poet, who outlived the saint by only half a year, was buried in close proximity to him, and his tomb today on the territory of the dargah, I think, excels the Shaikh’s sepulchre in beauty and richness of décor. Finding himself after death in the walayat, i.e. within the limits of the spiritual authority of Nizamuddin, it is as if Amir Khusrow himself also partly became a walı: in any case offerings are made at his maz r, and qawwalı, glorifying the friendship between the shaikh and the poet, are performed at the threshold of his tomb. Believers attached special importance to the territorial proximity of these two burial sites - all the misfortunes which befell Delhi in the middle and second half of the eighteenth century, and which led to the complete pillage of the capital, were explained by them by the fact that in 1748 the Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah was buried between the tombs of the saint and the poet.
Although Amir Khusrow’s relations with his spiritual preceptor became a favourite subject of research for Indian scholars, the memory of the saint was truly perpetuated by another disciple, Amir Hasan Sijzi (1254-1336), who has been referred to repeatedly in this book. He was a remarkable lyric poet, who was constantly compared with SA‘di, the author of several poetical dıwans and mathnawıs. Although not possessing the fecundity of Amir Khusrow, he was his equal in the vitality of his talent.
If Amir Khusrow was connected with the Shaikh from his youth (thanks to his grandfather), then Amir Hasan, native of the same Badaun, found himself in his field of influence when he was already an elderly person. Hagiographic tradition ascribes to Amir Hasan a dissipated mode of life, which came to an end thanks to a meeting with the Shaikh. Jamali Kanbuh asserts in Siyar al-‘arifın that while returning from Mehrauli after ziyarat to the tomb of Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, Nizamuddin saw Amir Hasan drinking wine in the company of revellers on the bank of the tank Hauz-i Shamsi. Amir Hasan supposedly knew the Shaikh by sight already from Badaun and, having noticed him, exclaimed with bravado:
Your piety has not diminished my sinfulness; What is more powerful - your piety or my sinfulness? (Nizami 1992: 45) Whatever the truth of this episode, Amir Hasan subsequently repented of his sins and became a constant visitor to Ghiyathpur. Here he started taking down the Shaikh’s discourses and accounts, having explained to him the purpose of his work as follows:
I have heard the Shaykh say many times that the novice must consult a book on the Sufi masters and their guidelines for spiritual progress. Since no collection has been made of the inspiring teachings of the master’s predecessors, I have compiled those of your blessed words which I have heard and till now I have not shown them (to anyone) awaiting your command, that I might do what you want in this regard. (Amir Hasan 1992: 113)
The Shaikh looked through Hasan’s notes and approved his style. After that he kept an eye on the poet’s work, repeating for him whatever he did not manage to write down, and even filling up the blanks in his manuscript. The famous book Faw’id al-Fu’ad which took shape as a result contains the account of 188 meetings with the Shaikh in the course of 1308 to 1322. By completing his work Amir Hasan Sijzi created a new genre of Sufi literature - malf .at. Perhaps this is the only genre of Indo-Persian literature, the invention of which can not be ascribed to Amir Khusrow.14
Of course, saints’ discourses were written down even earlier,15 however they usually go side by side with biographical information (elements of ţabaqat), eulogies of the saints (elements of manaqib) and appraisals of contemporaries and descendants (a striking example of such a composite hagiographic genre is Amir Khurd’s Siyar al-awliy’). Faw’id al-fu’ad almost exclusively consists of Nizamuddin Awliya’s monologues, and the compiler’s commentaries have been reduced to a minimum. Apart from that, Amir Hasan’s book was completed during the saint’s lifetime, and its text was apparently authenticated by him personally,which is why none of the later hagiographers has cast doubt on the authenticity of this work.
The material of Faw’id al-fu’ad embodies in flesh the dry episodic bones of historical chronicles - this is particularly striking when one reads Amir Hasan’s book simultaneously with Barani’s Tarıkh-i Fırozshahı. Beliefs and superstitions, the tenor of daily life and ethos of the people of that distant epoch, come to life in unassuming stories ‘from life’ and in anecdotes. At the same time the text of malf.at also raises certain questions. It is natural that most of the stories and recollections of the Shaikh have to do with his murshid Baba Farid. However, the man most frequently alluded to next is not one of the other great shaikhs of the Chishtiyya, but Baha‘uddin Zakariya Multani, founder of the competing fraternity, with whom Baba Farid’s relations were quite strained.
On the other hand Khwaja Mu‘inuddin Sijzi is, on the whole, mentioned in the book only in passing. Among the quotations from books of eminent theologians the first place belongs to al-Ghazzali - the Shaikh quotes his The Revival of the Sciences of Religion (Ihy’ ‘ulum ad-dın) thrice. At the same time in his discourses there are neither any quotations of, nor references to, Ibn al-‘Arabi, who was, in a doctrinal sense, far closer to him. He quotes discourses of Abu Sa‘id Abul Khair Maihani whenever there is an opportunity, but keeps absolute silence about Jalaluddin Rumi, whose Mathnawı¯ was the handbook of Indian mystics. Either such were the predilections of Nizamuddin Awliya himself, or this is how Amir Hasan Sijzi selected the material of the conversations.
Being a connoisseur of poetry, the Shaikh also paid close attention to music: he not only regularly conducted Sama ‘in his cloister, for which he even suffered in the memorable maz. Har, but he was also the first to introduce the practice of public qawwalı, which attracted a large audience (whereas sama ‘was meant only for the initiated). Even today Nizamuddin Awliya’s dargh is a centre of the art of qawwlı, in which the outstanding Indian performer of this genre Muhammad Hayat Khan participated. The Shaikh’s attitude towards Sama ‘was characterized by the same prudence and duality as that of al-Hujwiri.
In particular, on the authority of a corresponding hadıth, he was against the use of the flute and other wind instruments during musical auditions, considering only percussion instruments to be permissible. According to the Shaikh, Sama ‘should be considered neither absolutely prohibited nor undoubtedly permissible, and its lawfulness depends on who is the performer and who are the audience. The Chishti tradition of compiling treatises on Sama ‘, as already mentioned, began with Hamiduddin Suwali Nagori. The Shaikh continued it by asking his disciple Fakhruddin Zarradi to write a treatise on the principles of ‘audition’ (U l as-sama ‘), where the saint’s views regarding the benefit and purpose of musical auditions are quoted, particularly the bait (couplet):
Har wajd ke az sam ‘hsilyad.
Zawqe ast ke az wahmısyad.
Every ecstasy (wajd) that is derived from sam ‘Is a taste which relieves the soul of anxiety.(Lawrence 1983: 77)
Nizamuddin’s intellect was not dependent on age: even in his old age he retained in his memory a great number of verses and musical melodies, astonishing the audience with the accuracy of his quotations and correctness of taste - chronologically the last episodes of Faw’id al-fu’ad, where he discusses the meaning of ghazal, date back to 1322, when he was already eighty years old. The Shaikh died on 3 April 1325, and Barani writes as if after his death the inhabitants of Delhi, having lost their main intercessor, anticipated the imminent onset of doomsday. To a certain extent they turned out to be right, because hard times began both for Delhiites and the Chishtiyya fraternity.
The dramatic reign of Muhammad bin Tughluq (1325-51) was accompanied by endless insurrections and revolts by provinces of the Delhi Sultanate, which were inclined to separatism. Under these conditions the Sultan, apprehending opposition of the Sufis in general and of the Chishtis in particular, put obstacles in the way of their missionary and philanthropic activity and resorted to unjustified repression, expropriating the property of khnq hs and awqaf. For that matter, Tuhgluq did not spare even the leading ‘ulama, whom he, not without reason, suspected of disloyalty.
Nasiruddin Chiragh-i Dihli, whose lot it was to be at the head of the fraternity at such a difficult time, tells about the decline being endured by the Delhi khnqh:These days the number of darwishes has decreased. In the days of the Shaykh [Nizm ad-dn Awliya] darwishes used to come by twenties and thirties, and the Shaykh used to keep them as guests for three days ... When there was u rs, the Shaykh [Nizam ad-dn] would invite all lashkardars [men of the army] and darwishes would arrive from all sides ... Nowadays there are neither such soldiers, nor such slaves, nor such armies. All have deteriorated. Men have to wait [in vain] for the darwishes to come.16 (Trimingham 1971: 23)
When still in favour, prince Khizr Khan started building a mosque next to the khnqah, one of the halls of which represented a qubba, where the Shaikh was intended to be laid to eternal rest. However, lying on his death-bed, Nizamuddin for some reason changed his mind and expressed his wish to be buried in the open. Which is where his mausoleum now stands. It has a ribbed cupola resting on pillars, surrounded by a high fretted balustrade and crowned with a heavy spire (two gilded balls, strung on a spike), which resembles the top of a Hindu pinnacle, or shikhara. Initially the mazar was erected by the same Muhammad bin Tughluq to whom, whatever one may say of him, many saints of the subcontinent owe their fine tombs.
Nevertheless, in its modern appearance the mausoleum has no resemblance to the specimens of architecture of the Delhi Sultanate.The material (white marble) itself, the shape of the cupola (regular spherical dome with the base cut off low), enamelled overhead interior with golden inlay, as well as the composite capitals of the pillars - everything points to the fact that the mausoleum was rebuilt in the Mughal epoch. However, adjacent to the mausoleum the mosque Jama‘at-khana Masjid, which was completed by Firoz Shah, has retained its original appearance.
This grand structure, made of red sandstone and consisting of the central prayer hall and two cupolated chambers, is considered to be the earliest of the South Asian mosques of the Delhi style, built in absolute conformity with the principles of Islamic ritual architecture. The absence in it of a rectangular courtyard, enclosed with lodgings, as is customary in congregational mosques (jmi‘masjid), indicates that Jama‘at-khana Masjid was used for local purposes, exclusively for visitors of the kh nqah (Desai 1971: 33).
On entering the dargah of Nizamuddin Awliya, a pilgrim tarries for a while in the first courtyard in order to buy offerings for the saint: rose petals, sweets and incense sticks. More well-to-do visitors offer perfumes and aromatic oil (‘iţr), because the saint was fond of them in his lifetime, and also chaddar, a coloured sheet of cloth, used for covering the sepulchre. Then the pilgrim passes on to the second courtyard, where sitting at the edge of a shallow reservoir he performs ritual cleansing (wudu’), in consecutive order first washing the palms and hands, then the face and neck and finally his feet.
At the reservoir men and women’s ways diverge. The former enter the tomb from the central entrance, touch the threshold with a hand or, falling on their knees, kiss it. Having entered the tomb, they walk round the sepulchre several times, throwing handfuls of rose petals on it. They give their offerings to the special attendant mujawir, who sits by the maza¯r with a green box for offerings of cash. In exchange for ten to twenty rupees the muja¯wir gives a pilgrim a packet with consecrated articles, which include a handful of rose petals, a pinch of fragrant ashes of burnt incense and some sweets.
Women also go up to the main entrance, but only in order to pray or to kiss the threshold - they can go inside only through the lateral door. Their offerings are taken from them in the vestibule, separated from the burial-vault by means of a dense lattice. Since women were always the most ardent devotees of Mahbb-i ilahı (the Beloved Divine, as Nizamuddin Awliya was tenderly called) and also the most generous donators of his dargah, it seems particularly disappointing to me that even here they are held in a dark chamber, far from their favourite saint. But according to the couplet of Shah Nasir, a poet of Delhi of ygone days:
sham‘a ke zer-i qadam hai manzil-i iqlım-i ‘ishq
sar se jo guzre use kaisa safar hai dur ka
The destination of the clime of Love is right under the foot of the candle. Still what a long journey for those who started from the head’!
Since in the annexe, crowded with women pilgrims, it was no less dark than under the foot of the candle, one could only hope that women would be the first to reach the territory of Love.
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: