By Anna Suvrova
It has already been mentioned that Baha’uddin Zakariya did not countenance musical auditions. At the same time most of all he liked to listen to how Fakhruddin ‘Iraqi recited his ghazals. As it was even for the Chishtis, poetry was for him the most adequate means of expression of mystic experience. It is mentioned in Fawa’id al-fu’ad that he would stand in the doorway of his room, continually repeating the bait: O beauty, cast a glance once more on me, For I’ve strayed not - may God my witness be! ‘What could he have been thinking?’ Nizamuddin Awliya comments upon this episode, ‘Nobody knows what the verse connoted for him, or what he derived from its constant repetition’ Amir Hasan 1992: 198).
In any case Baha’uddin did not succeed in banishing Sama’ from the khnq h in Multan for all time: nowadays qawwals perform the bait from a famous ghazal of Fakhruddin ‘Iraqi at the gates of his tomb. Nukhustın bde k-andar jam kardandZi chashm-i mast-isqıwam kardand the eternal wine poured out in the goblet, Was borrowed from the saqı’s intoxicated eyes. (Safa 1984: 580)
Tradition has it that other disciples of the Shaikh were shocked to learn that this ghazal was being sung in local taverns to the accom-paniment of the harp. They complained to the Shaikh who asked ‘Iraqi to recite the complete ghazal. On listening to the end of the verse, Baha’uddin Zakariya was so deeply moved by it that he declared ‘Iraqi’s training completed. He ordered him to give up discipline, presented him his own khirqa and later appointed him his khalıfa. ‘Iraqi’s devotion to his pır expressed itself in many of the verses which he wrote. One of them stated: If you ask of the world who is the guide of mortals, you will hear from the heavens nothing but ‘Zakariya’. (Amir Khurd 1978: 109)
Amongst Baha’uddin Zakariya’s and Qadi Hamiduddin Nagori’s disciples there were quite a number of merchants and craftsmen by birth, who continued to lead a temporal life and visited the khanqah only from time to time. Particularly glorified in hagiographic literature were the weaver Ahmad Naharwani, the butcher Shaikh ‘Ainuddin, Shahi Muy Tab (Hair-Rope Maker who was Nizamuddin Awliya’s boyhood friend from Badaun), Mahmud Muyina-Duz (Tailor of Fur) and the artisan Hasan Afghan. Faw id al-fu’ad refers to their virtues and saintliness over and over.
Hasan Afghan, in particular, was endowed with such extra-sensory faculties that, in spite of being illiterate, he could among other written texts make out the lines of Qur’ran because, thanks to his internal sight (bașırat) he could see the radiance emanating from them. Baha’uddin Zakariya used to say about him: ‘If tomorrow they ask me to bring forward one person from my household (dargah) as a representative to face judgment on behalf of all the others, I would select Hasan Afghan’ (Amir Hasan 1992: 90).
Undoubtedly the most striking figure amongst Baha’uddin Zakariya’s associates was his khalıfa, Jalaluddin Surkhposh Bukhari (1198-1292), from whom begins the Ucch branch of the fraternity, called Surkh-Bukhari. Tradition ascribes to this mystic, who, judging by the nickname Surkhposh, used to dress himself in red clothes, the conversion of Chinghiz Khan himself to Islam. The legend says that on the way from Bukhara to India Jalaluddin was taken prisoner by the Mongols, who threw him into a fire. However, the saint came out of the flame unharmed, and this miracle made such an impression upon Chinghiz Khan that he adopted the true faith and gave his daughter in marriage to Jalaluddin.
Although Baha’uddin Zakariya could rightfully be proud of all his disciples, he often used to say that he would have exchanged all of them for Jamaluddin Hansawi, perhaps because he was a talented poet. To this Shaikh Farid used to reply, using with good effect the name of his murıd (derived from jamal, i.e. beauty), that such an exchange is possible only when one is referring to property (mal), but not to beauty (jaml). Over a period of fifty years Baha’uddin Zakariya was the chief saint and patron of Multan. The constant raids of Mongols, in connection with which the local rulers and military leaders often had recourse to his spiritual intercession, furthered the consolidation of his fame. Baha’uddin Zakariya died in extraordinarily mysterious circumstances, narrated by Amir Hasan without any comment:
One day a disciple brought a letter, and gave it to Shaykh Sadrad-din (his son and successor), saying: ‘A man gave me this letter and said, “Take it to Shaykh Bahaud-din Zakariya”.’ Shaykh Sadr ad-din, when he read the address on the letter, turned pale. He went and gave that letter to Shaykh Baha ad-din Zakariya. The Shaykh, on reading the letter, turned aside and uttered loud cries. That night Shaykh Baha ad-din Zakariya - may God have mercy upon him – died. (Amir Hasan 1992: 328)
Nowhere in hagiographic literature, including even Amir Khurd’s exhaustively detailed work, could I find any hint as to the sender of the fatal letter or its contents. It runs strangely counter to the artistic laws of hagiographic genre, where each and every story, anecdote and parable is meticulously explained in order to edify the reader. The khnqah in Multan reached its maximum prosperity under Ruknuddin Abul Fath (died in 1335), who was called Rukn-i lam (Support of the world) by the faithful.
He was, as they call it, a hereditary wali: besides his grandfather, the founder of the fraternity, and his sajjadanishn father he had his mother as well, the already referred to Bibi Pakdaman, who was also considered a saintly woman. Baha’uddin Zakariya had predicted an exceptional spiritual career for his favourite grandson when he was still in his mother’s womb, and as soon as the boy was four years of age, tied his own turban around his head (by-passing Sadruddin, to his displeasure) in token of the transmission of baraka to him.
Permanently residing in Multan, Ruknuddin Abul Fath often visited Delhi on the invitation of the Sultans. For each visit he was paid two hundred thousand tanka at his arrival and five hundred thousand at his departure. Mubarak Shah Khalji and Ghiyathuddin Tughluq made an attempt to take advantage of Ruknuddin’s presence in the capital to counterbalance Nizamuddin Awliya’s influence. However, it came to nothing, because the thriving shaikh of the Suhrawardiyya nurtured a feeling of true admiration for the head of the Chishtiyya order, who had fallen out of favour, and used to visit him regularly in Ghiyathpur. Since Nizamuddin himself never visited the royal court, he used to hand over to Ruknuddin all the applica-tions and petitions of the people of Delhi to the court and strove to ensure that they were duly considered.
Every time Ruknuddin left Ghiyathpur and went to the court, his takht-i rawan (a portable throne) was overloaded with papers and rolls containing complaints. The court was entered after passing through three courtyards. Ruknuddin had a serious problem with his leg and limped, which is why he would travel through the first two courtyards in his palanquin and then was greeted by the Sultan in the third one. The petitions would be brought in, and Ruknuddin would remain at the palace until all the requests had been granted. Shaikh Ruknuddin was a peculiar harbinger of death: he was one of the last to see Nizamuddin Awliya and his enemy Ghiyathuddin Tughluq alive. Thus, the saint arrived in Afghanpur to meet the Sultan, returning from his campaign in Bengal, dined with him in the specially built pavilion and departed, not waiting for the evening reception. A few minutes after his departure the ill-fated pavilion collapsed, burying the Sultan under its debris, while Ruknuddin miraculously escaped death. Later in the same year he called upon Nizamuddin Awliya, seeking his blessings before departure for Hajj.
Sulţn al-masha’ikh informed the guest that he had had a vision during which he saw Prophet Muhammad calling him to his presence.
Having a presentiment that it was the end, Ruknuddin was overcome with tears and took leave of his friend. In less than a week he was leading izamuddin’s funeral prayer. Although intimacy with the rulers enriched Ruknuddin’s khnqh and consolidated his influence, it ultimately brought him misfortune (which once again confirmed the correctness of the Chishtis’ attitude towards authority). In the year 1328 the Governor of Multan, Kishlu Khan, rose in rebellion against Muhammad bin Tughluq.
Ruknuddin, as had once his grandfather before him, sided with the ruler of Delhi. Having allowed himself to be involved in political conflict, he consented to his younger brother ‘Imaduddin (who bore a resem-blance to Muhammad bin Tughluq in face and figure) becoming a substitute for the Sultan in the royal palanquin at the time of the battle of Abuhar. ‘Imaduddin was killed, and the Sultan, having taken advantage of premature rejoicing and confusion in the camp of the enemy, was able to gain victory.
Unintentional complicity in his own brother’s death broke Ruknuddin down: he completely withdrew from temporal affairs and did not even wish to intercede on behalf of the inhabitants of Multan, who became a victim of the Sultan’s august anger. The hundred villages, granted by Muhammad bin Tughluq to the khnqah in Multan as reward for the assistance rendered, were little consolation to him.
In the year 1333 the cloister in Multan was visited by Ibn Battuta, who talked to the saint and contributed a lot to the dissemination of his fame in the western lands of Islam. In the conversation with Ibn Battuta, Ruknuddin spoke in the main about humility and control over one’s lower or animal soul, repeating the ayat: ‘And I do not regard my soul free from [shortcomings], the soul is certainly an enjoiner of evil except that [soul on which] my Fosterer has had mercy’ (12: 53). Maybe feelings of guilt and repentance were still tormenting him. The Arab traveller learnt from the saint’s disciples the story of his miraculous escape in Afghanpur and that of his brother’s death, which he has recounted in his travel notes (Ibn Battuta 1929: 207-9).
The same Ibn Battuta recounted in his Rihla that Ruknuddin had nominated his grandson, Shaikh Hud, as a successor, but that his nephew Shaikh Isma‘il had challenged the claim. Muhammad bin Tughluq gave his verdict in favour of Shaikh Hud whom an unpredictable Sultan later suspected of the financial misuse of awqaf income and issued orders for the seizure of the property of the Multani khanqah. The disgraced Shaikh Hud planned to flee beyond the frontiers of the subcontinent, to Transoxania, but his plan was disclosed.
This time the infuriated Sultan accused Shaikh Hud of complicity in yet another Mongol invasion of Multan and on the pretext of this wholly fabricated charge of high treason Baha’uddin Zakaria’s great-grandson was put to death. From his martyrdom began the decline of the khanqah in Multan, and the centre of the Suhrawardiyya fraternity shifted to Ucch, where Jalaluddin Surkhposh Bukhari’s descendants were in charge. The cult of Baha’uddin Zakariya, Rukn-i ‘a lam and other members of this family is one of the most authoritative in today’s Pakistan. In Multan, which is indeed famous for its tombs, reminders of the saints are everywhere - from the fort mound from where the city came into being to the Baha’uddin Zakariya University in one of the new localities. Rukn-i ‘a¯lam’s tomb, a universally recognized masterpiece of Islamic architecture of the times of the Delhi Sultanate, dominates the city landscape, being its highest point, and from where Multan can be seen spread before the eyes. The dome of the tomb, being twenty metres in diameter, is the second largest in the subcontinent.
Ghiyathuddin Tughluq, who had earmarked it for himself, erected the tomb in the year 1320. However, Muhammad bin Tughluq arranged otherwise, having buried the father in Tughluqabad (near Delhi), he gave the grand mausoleum to his favourite saint. Ruknuddin’s mazar is a model of the so-called Multani architectural style, no analogies of which exist in South Asia. It is a three-storeyed, domed building, consisting of octagons of different diameters, placed one over the other. Eight round buttresses that taper gracefully upward support the lower tier, built of delicate salmon-pink bricks. They resemble the Central Asian corner columns or guldasta and impart a powerful, heavy monumentality to the base of the mausoleum.
The upper octagon, smaller in diameter, is thickly inlaid on pink brickwork with bands of blue and turquoise glazed tiles decorated with a floral pattern: these are the window frames and wall medallions. The eight arched openings of the second tier look like windows from below; actually they are arched doors, through which one can reach the roof of the lower octagon, enclosed with a fretted parapet. The roof of the upper tier is decorated with small cupolas having dark blue tops, which in their shape and colour are a replica of the tower cupolas of the lower tier, and they in their turn represent variations of décor of the main sphere of the mausoleum.
Two wooden fretwork windows let light in at ground level, while eight windows of the second tier illuminate the inside of the huge dome. Ruknuddin’s tomb is one of the few ritual structures in the subcontinent which has not been totally rebuilt since the fourteenth century, yet at the same time it looks as if it has been erected recently.
A few years back its restorers were honoured with the prestigious Agha Khan Architectural Award. However, the interior of the building bears the obvious imprint of later alterations, in particular, the saint’s mazar, the stone balustrade around it and the marble canopy, which date from 1930. The only original detail surviving in the interior is the fretted wooden mihra¯b in the western wall, one of the oldest in South Asia.
Not far from Ruknuddin’s mausoleum, on the same fort mound, is his grandfather’s tomb, built even before the death of Baha’uddin Zakaria’s in 1262, and, what is noteworthy is that it was at his own expense, which is yet another evidence of financial independence, unique for a dervish. Probably the history of the Multani architectural style begins with Baha’uddin Zakariya, since his tomb also consists of two tiers, with only the lower one having a traditional square base, whereas the upper one is octagonal. The material and décor of the tomb are the same - bricks and blue ceramics. It features the earliest example of blue tilework in the subcontinent. In the year 1848, during the siege of Multan, the cupola and part of the upper tier were destroyed by the British cannon shells, but were restored later. In 1952 a spacious brick verandah with a painted wooden ceiling was added to the mausoleum, from where the massive carved wooden doors lead into the small burial chamber. There, under a fretted wooden canopy the mortal remains of the saint and his son Sadruddin are laid to rest.
Behind Baha’uddin Zakariya’s tomb a mosque has subsequently been built. It is less than three feet from the back wall of the small Hindu temple of Prahlad Mandir. Its presence inside the dargah enclosure proves that in the Indian subcontinent a Muslim such as Baha’uddin Zakariya, who was most rigorous and intolerant to ‘unbelievers’, is not immune to being in close proximity to kafirs, even if posthumously. It is supposed that the temple was built on the site of an earlier sanctuary of the Sun god, about whose legendary image - a golden statue, embellished with jewels - the Chinese traveller Xuan Zang had written at length when he visited Multan in the year 614. The statue is mentioned frequently in books on history and geography in Arabic (for example in the works of Abul Hasan ‘Ali al-Mas‘udi). The Arab authors erroneously considered it to be Buddha’s statue.
Hundreds of smaller mazars and graves are scattered around the mausoleum, some of which are quite recent: all the male representatives of this vast family in the course of seven hundred years are being laid to eternal rest in the dargah in Multan.
I, as always, was interested in finding out, where the women, who had given birth to so many saints, were buried. It turned out that they are laid to rest inside Bibi Pakdaman’s tomb, situated to the south of the fort, in Basti Daira locality. It is a typical ‘residential’ oblong tomb with a flat roof and an arched verandah in front, surmounted by two small cupolas. In the centre of a hall stands the high wooden cenotaph of the woman who was Baha’uddin Zakariya’s daughter-in-law and Ruknuddin’s mother, and whose nickname P kdaman means ‘innocent’, ‘virtuous’. Other women of this family have been laid to rest in the tah-khana (basement) of this building.
As with other tombs of women saints, men are barred from admittance to Bibi Pakdaman’s dargah, which has female keepers. Adjacent to the tomb there is a sacred well, on the surface of which floats a carpet of rose petals which are brought as an offering to the saint. Women pilgrims perform ablution in this fragrant water in order to be healed of diseases, mainly barrenness. The branches of the banyan tree growing close to the reservoir are gay with a great number of multicoloured shreds of cloth and threads - it is considered that the supplicant’s wish will be fulfilled once the threads rot or crumble to dust. Obviously Bibi Pakdaman’s baraka has a specialized curative property, in addition to being connected with female fertility, whereas supplications are made to the males of her family in connection with a wider range of problems.
In the courtyard of Ruknuddin’s tomb a band of qawwals plays continuously. Side by side with them one may come across beggars and dervishes of the most preposterous appearance - with tousled hair, wearing flowing robes, decorated with iron bangles and necklaces. Some of them belong to the marginal sect Jalaliyya, and are considered to be beshara‘. The Jalali order claims its lineage from Jalaluddin Surkhposh Bukhari and is historically connected with the Surkh-Bukhari branch of Suhrawardiyya. Jalali dervishes did not have a permanent residence; they roamed all the time from Multan to Ucch and back. They were kept out of musafir-khana which is why they passed the night in tents and cardboard boxes close to the walls of the dargah. At the sight of a Jalali dervish it is easy to understand why Baha’uddin Zakariya had an aversion to juwaliqs. However, there is something paradoxical in the fact that the moderate and respectable Suhrawardiyya fraternity caused such an abnormal sprout to grow on the South Asian soil: although the Spiritual Sovereign of Multan did his best to guard himself from the local substratum, it overtook him within the limits of his own silsila, and that too in most deviant and aggressive forms.
Other Parts of the Book, Muslim Saints of South Asia: