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Islamic Personalities ( 12 March 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Khwaja Qutub: A towering Sufi

By Sadia Dehlvi

12 March 2010


Initiated in the Chishti Sufi Order, I feel a deep connection with the Chishti Masters, finding spiritual rejuvenation at their thresholds. Some days ago, a large number of devotees gathered at the dargah of Khwaja Qutub Bakhtiar Kaki in Delhi to partake of the barakah, spiritual blessings at the urs festivities. Urs means wedding, for the passing away of a Sufi is seen as a union with the Beloved, the Creator.

Sufis do not die in the ordinary sense of the word, but are “hidden” from the world. They are true martyrs who have annihilated themselves in the way of Allah. Of them, the Quran says, “and say not of those who are slain in the way of Allah. ‘They are dead’. Nay, they are living, though ye perceive it not”. (2:154)

An enchanting story affirms the divinity of the modest area around Khwaja Qutub’s tomb at Mehrauli. While flying over the city of Delhi on his throne, the Prophet King Solomon noticed nur, the light descending towards the ground. On enquiry from the angels, Solomon learned that the area would be the final resting place of one of God’s friend. It is widely believed that heavenly showers constantly pour on the city of Delhi.

There are different legends on how Khwaja Qutub got the title of Bakhtiar Kaki. The most accepted one narrates that his wife used to take provisions on credit from a nearby grocer to feed her starving family. One day, the grocer taunted her, saying that her family would have starved had it not been for his kindness. Khwaja Qutub learnt of the remark and forbade the taking of provisions on credit. Pointing to a niche in the wall, he told his wife to recite “Bismillah” and take bread from it. The kak, bread, continued appearing miraculously till his wife revealed the secret to others.

Khwaja Qutub, the spiritual successor of Khwaja Moinuddin of Ajmer, earned the title of Qutub ul Aqtaab, the central pole in the spiritual hierarchy. He came from Ush, a Sufi stronghold in Central Asia. The young mystic travelled to Baghdad where he became a disciple of Khwaja Moinuddin, following him to India. The Master instructed him to stay in Delhi where Sultan Iltutmish welcomed him.

The Sultan remained an ardent devotee, visiting  Khwaja twice a week. The local clerics resented Khwaja’s popularity and used his love for musical assemblies to stir up controversies. On learning of his disciple’s troubles, Khwaja Moinuddin came to Delhi and asked Khwaja Qutub to accompany him to Ajmer. When the two great Sufis began their journey, the citizens of Delhi came out on the streets and followed them for miles. Led by Sultan Iltutmish, the people wept and picked up the dust the Sufis walked on as a holy relic. Touched by the display of affection, Khwaja Moinuddin ordered Khwaja Qutub to continue residing in Delhi, where Khwaja established the city’s first Sufi centre.

Despite his intimacy with the Sultan, Khwaja Qutub led an ascetic life steeped in poverty. He taught austerity purifies the soul, bringing it close to God, and that the biggest tribulation was separation from the Lord. He said that friendship with God requires accepting afflictions and bounties, expressing gratitude to Him a thousand times a day.

Khwaja Qutub believed that sama, musical assemblies, kindle the fire of love, providing nourishment for the soul. In the year 1237, the Chishti Master went into a spiritual state of ecstasy while listening to mystic verse and died in an ecstatic state after four days. The couplet was by the Persian Sufi poet of Chisht, Shaykh Ahmed Jam: 

Kushtagan e khanjar e taslim ra

Har zaman az ghaib jane digar ast

(Those who are slain by the dagger of submission

To them new life returns from the Unknown, at every moment of Time)

Sultan Iltutmish led the funeral prayers and Qutubuddin Aibak, the founder of the Slave Dynasty, named the Qutub Minar to perpetuate the memory of one of the greatest Chishti Sufi Masters.

 — Sadia Dehlvi holds Sufi gatherings of Zikr, Remembrance of God with the intent of polishing the mirror of the heart. She maybe contacted at

Source: The Asian Age, New Delhi.