By Sadia Dehlvi
Mar 21, 2014
Mian Mir, a Sufi of the Qadri order, holds a pivotal rank in Sikh history for laying the foundation stone of Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar, upon the request of Guru Ram Das who considered him the most pious man of the time.
Muslim mystics and Sikh Gurus were affectionate and respectful towards one another. Mian Mir often travelled to Amritsar to meet Guru Arjun Dev and whenever the Guru visited Lahore, he met the Sufi. The quest for God united Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs.
Mian Mir’s ancestors came from Sindh. At the age of 12 the young mystic went into the jungles to practice self-mortification. After studying traditional and rational texts, Mian Mir turned to Sufism. He soon began to draw huge crowds. Fame became a burden and he migrated to Sirhind in pursuit of seclusion.
Mian Mir returned to settle in Lahore, refusing to accept any financial assistance and returned all gift offerings. He would say that people mistook him for a beggar, whereas he was rich with God’s company. His life was based upon complete trust in God, epitomised by his once throwing out water on a hot Lahore evening so that none of it remained for the next day.
Emperor Jehangir learnt of the outstanding Sufi, inviting him to the royal court. Overwhelmed by Mian Mir’s spiritual discourse, he refrained from offering Mian Mir any gift, except a prayer mat. Along with his son Dara Shikoh, Emperor Shah Jahan called twice on Mian Mir at his home in Lahore. He presented the mystic with a turban and prayer beads. Mian Mir kept the prayer beads but returned the turban. Despite attention from the rulers, he remained aloof from worldly authorities.
Dara Shikoh was introduced to Mian Mir’s through his foremost disciple Mullah Shah. The prince despised the religious orthodoxy of the clerics and became deeply influenced by the teachings of Mian Mir, subsequently becoming a disciple of Mullah Shah. Both Dara and his sister Jehanara remained ardent followers of Mian Mir.
Mian Mir was fond of musical assemblies, but practiced a self-control that stopped him from going into states of spiritual ecstasy. He did not encourage wearing the traditional patched Sufi cloak, lest it amount to publicity and attract gifts. He wore a turban of coarse cloth and a cotton cloak, washed his own clothes in the river while urging his disciples to remain clean. Before his death, Mian Mir was struck with a severe stomach ailment but he did not allow the state physicians to treat him.
Mian Mir died in 1653 AD and is buried in Lahore. Emperor Shah Jahan built Mian Mir’s mausoleum. Later Ranjit Singh had the tomb repaired and renovated with money from the royal exchequer. The Maharaja attended the Urs, death anniversary celebrations, regularly and made handsome contributions. Mian Mir’s Dargah continues to be venerated by Muslims and followers of the Sikh faith.
Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam.