By Sadia Dehlvi
Jun 09, 2011
Initiated in the Chishti Sufi order, I find Ajmer to be the Ka’bah of my heart. On the 6th of Rajab, June 9 (the seventh Islamic month), I look forward to participating in the 799th Urs festivities of Khwaja Gharib Nawaz. Along with hundreds of thousands of devotees, I queue for long hours to touch the threshold, usually getting my chance in the middle of the night.
I love to sit in the Begum Dalan, the pillared marble porch constructed by Jehanara, daughter of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, and listen to the qawwals singing in the courtyard all night long.
Musicians come to seek the blessings of Khwaja because the beginnings of Sufi music assemblies are attributed to him. Late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan attributed his success to Khwaja’s benevolence and so does A.R. Rahman. Innumerable qawwal groups of the subcontinent arrive at the dargah to sing praises of Khwaja:
“Baruti mehfil shahana mubarak bashad, saqia badao paimana mubarak basahad, ilahi ta abd astana-e-yar rahe, yeh asra hai gharibon ka barqarar rahe…”
(Felicitation to thee for this blessed majestic assembly, O wine pourer, felicitations on your goblet of sacred wine. Oh God, may this threshold of the beloved exist for ever, may this refuge of the poor remain forever…)
The Chishti Sufi order derives its name from Chisht, a small town near Herat, Afghanistan. Khwaja Abu Ishaq Shami of Damascus established the Sufi order in Chisht where many of his spiritual successors lie buried. These include Shaykh Abu Ahmad Abdal Chishti, Shaykh Abu Muhammad Chishti, Khwaja Abu Yusuf Chishti and Khwaja Maudud Chishti whose spiritual mantle fell on Khwaja Haji Sharif Zindani. He mentored Khwaja Usman who came from Herwan, a town in Iran.
On initiating him as a disciple, Hajji Sharif Zindani placed a four-edged cap on Khwaja Usman’s head explaining, “First is the renunciation of the world, second the renunciation of the Hereafter. Third, renunciation of the self and lastly, the renunciation of all else other than God”.
Khwaja Usman lived in the company of his Master for 30 years and died in the holy city of Mecca. A site of pilgrimage, it was demolished by the Saudi authorities some decades ago. It is said that Khwaja Usman prophesied that his own grave would not remain, but that of his disciple Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, would remain till the Day of Judgment.
The Chishti order gained popularity through the teachings of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. An outstanding figure in the history of Islamic mysticism, Khwaja bought the philosophy of Islamic spirituality to India. Born in Sejistan in 1142 AD, Khwaja is known as Hasani and Hussaini, for his mother was from the family of Imam Hasan, and father from the family of Imam Hussain, both grandsons of Prophet Mohammad.
Drawn to mystics from early childhood, the quest for knowledge took Khwaja to centres of learning in Samaqand and Bukhara. While travelling in Iraq, Khwaja met Shaykh Usman Herwani and joined his circle of disciples. For two months Khwaja Moinuddin stayed with Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani in Baghdad, where he met another eminent Sufi, Shaykh Shihabuddin Suharwardi.
Khwaja was bestowed with the title of “Gharib Nawaz”, Patron of the poor, in Medina. It was there that he received a spiritual inspiration to settle down in the Indian town of Ajmer.
Khwaja laid down the founding principles for the Chishti order: “Develop river-like generosity, sun-like bounty and earth-like hospitality”. Gharib Nawaz stressed renouncing wealth, encouraging self-discipline and prayer. He preached tolerance, advocating respect for all religions. Khwaja did not differentiate between love, the lover and the beloved. He believed that while the Hajjis, pilgrims, walked around the Kaabah, those with Divine knowledge circled the heart, for God resides in the hearts of those who love Him.
Khwaja’s inclusive message of peace and brotherhood brought hundreds of thousands to the fold of Islam. The Chishti order produced great Sufi masters, including Qutubuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, Baba Farid, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, Naseeruddin Chiragh Dilli and Alauddin Sabir of Kaliyar. The Nizami and Sabri orders are among the numerous branches of the Chishti order. The Ajmer dargah, considered the most sacred in South Asia, attracts pilgrims from different religious and economic backgrounds in the quest of the Sufi master’s blessings.
Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam.
Source: The Asian Age