By Sadia Dehlvi
Sept 04, 2013
I often visit the Dargah of Sarmad Shaheed, the most famous Majzub, intoxicated Sufi of India, on the steps of Jama Masjid. Sarmad’s Dargah is painted in red signifying his fury and martyrdom, while the adjoining Dargah of his mentor Hare Bhare Sahab is painted in green, signifying calm.
An Armenian Jew, Sarmad embraced Islam and changed his name to Mohammed Said. A trader from Persia, Sarmad arrived in Delhi in 1654. He stayed with Khwaja Syed Abul Qasim Hare Bhare, a Qadri Sufi, and became his disciple. Prince Dara Shikoh was amongst the devotees of Sarmad.
A popular story about Sarmad relates to the Friday prayers at the Jama Masjid. Once Sarmad stood naked, apart from the crowd, for the congregational prayers. Halfway during the prayers, Sarmad accused the Imam leading the prayers saying, “Whatever is your intent is under my feet.” As a result of the blasphemous accusation, Sarmad faced a court inquiry where he said, “While praying the Imam was thinking of how to raise money for his daughter’s wedding. The wealth he seeks was under my feet.” The Imam is believed to have confessed that he was indeed thinking of money while praying. Later, a treasure was found under the spot where Sarmad stood.
Sarmad used to walk around wearing only a loin cloth. There are many legends surrounding his execution. According to one, Sarmad would recite just the first part of the Muslim declaration of faith, “La illa ha Illallah”, meaning there is no god but God, and would not recite the latter part of the declaration which affirms Prophet Muhammad as the messenger of Allah. A board of Quazis called by Emperor Aurangzeb asked Sarmad why he did not recite the full sentence, accusing him of heresy. Sarmad replied, “I am so engrossed in negation that I have not yet reached the spiritual station of affirmation.”
Aurangzeb had Sarmad executed in 1660, near Jama Masjid. According to legend, Sarmad held his decapitated head after being executed, reciting the full declaration of faith. It is widely believed that Sarmad’s wrath would have destroyed Delhi had his spiritual mentor, Hare Bhare Sahab, not intervened and calmed the Sufi’s fury. Among the literary works attributed to Sarmad Shaheed are a collection of 22 letters — “Rukaat-e-Sarmad” and “Rubaiyyat-e-Sarmad”. One of Sarmad’s own verses prophesises his execution:
“It is a long time since and the fame of Mansur has became an old relic
I will exhibit with my head the gallows and the cord.”