February 05, 2017
yearly Urs of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya is a reminder of Delhi’s composite
The 713th Urs or death anniversary of
Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya recently was marked by Qawwalis by the Nizamis and
others to highlight the tradition of religious integration and Sufism started
by the saint. According to Sadia Dehlvi, a votary of the Sufiana Kalam, the
Auliya died at the age of 82 (some say 90) in AD 1325, corresponding to 725
Hijri. As per his wishes “Sama singers” (creating the ambience) accompanied the
funeral procession in which thousands of devotees participated amid recitations
from the poetry of the Persian mystic Sheikh Saadi, the key verse being : “O,
you, who draws the gaze of the World/On what does your gaze linger?”.
Among the pall-bearers was Mohammad bin
Tughlaq, who had just ascended the throne. The saint wanted to be buried under
the open sky but Tughlaq built a dome over the grave. “The original mausoleum,
of which not much remains, was repaired by Firoz Shah Tughlaq who hung four
huge golden cups in the four recesses of the dome. The marble balustrade
surrounding the grave is the gift of Khurshid Jah of Hyderabad. Another
nobleman, Faridun Khan built the present dome in 1562. Later kings and nobles
made additions and alterations to the Dargah complex,” says Sadia.
The Mughals were greatly devoted to the
saint. After his victory in the first Battle of Panipat, Babar paid homage at
the Dargah. When Akbar escaped an assassination attempt in Delhi he attributed
it to Nizamuddin’ s blessing and visited the grave with his mother, Hamida Bano
Begum, Humayun’s second wife. As a matter of fact, the site for Humayun’s tomb
was selected in the vicinity of the mausoleum as a mark of respect to the saint
by his first wife, Haji Begum. When Shah Jahan as Prince Khurram rebelled
against his father Jahangir, the latter prayed for divine help at the Dargah,
close to which lies buried the colourful Emperor Mohammad Shah Rangila.
What was it that drew both royalty and the
hoi polloi to the Auliya? It was his message of equality and secularism. He
celebrated festivals like Basant and the practice continues to this day.
Nizamuddin’s mysticism embraced all sections of society as perpetuated by
preceding and succeeding Sufis, 22 of whom lie buried in Delhi, making it known
as the “Threshold of the Khwajas” As such it is the revered seat of Sufi
mystics honoured by both Muslims and Hindus.
Proof of this is amply provided by their
attendance at the Thursday Qawwalis at different Mazar. One remembers a Brahmin
woman who came every Thursday to the shrine of Hazrat Kalimullah from Chandni
Chowk on foot, bringing a whole basket of Laddoos for distribution and often
going into “haal”. Such fits of ecstasy were the inspiration for the Rubais
(quatrains) of Sarmad Shaheed whose own tomb is situated, next to that of his
mentor, Hare Bhare Sahib below the steps of the Jama Masjid. Qawwalis,
incidentally, were started in India by Hazrat Nizamuddin’s chief disciple, Amir
Khusrau who blended mysticism into his poetic works.
When mysticism comes into poetry, it
imparts to it an additional fervour, not only in the East but also in Europe.
The charm of John Donne’s poetry lies in its mystic thought and in that of
those who followed him right down to our own century. In ancient India
Patanjali recommended seven stages of sanctification to be experienced by the
follower of the Divine path of mysticism, recounts Rajendra Sarup Bhatnagar in
his book, “Mysticism in Urdu Poetry”.
The same path was divided by the Buddha
into four stages which have to be crossed by the seeker of the Absolute. The
author then works his way down to Muslim mysticism or Sufism. Those who choose
this path, Tasawwuf, follow the principle, ‘lay aside what thou hast in thy
head to give way to what thou hast in thy hand, and not to retreat from
whatever befalls thee on the road to God-realization (Tawhid). Abu- Ali
al-Rudhari points out, “Tasawwuf is to alight and abide at the Beloved’s door,
even though one is driven there from.” The Beloved here, of course, is the
Almighty. He who seeks this sort of knowledge needs the guidance of a Pir or
Sheikh. It is interesting to note that many of the early mystic poets of Urdu
were dervishes. Bhatnagar formerly of the Department of Philosophy, Allahabad
University, mentions the interaction of Muslim holy men with Indian yogis as
early as the eighth Century in South India. They both influenced each other.
In the North, Sheikh Fariduddin Ganj
Shakar, who lived in the 13th Century, was a disciple of Khwaja Qutubuddin
Bakhtiar Kaki of Mehrauli, Delhi and a follower of the Chisti Silsila
(tradition) started by Khwaja Moinuddin. Sheikh Farid was the one who laid the
foundation for the incorporation of mystic thought into Urdu poetry. “Waqt-I-Sahr Waqt-I-Munjat Hai/Khez Daran
Waqt Ki Barkat Hai” (the time of dawn is the real time for
supplication/Awake because this is the time for the award of divine grace), he
Sayyid Muhammad Husaini Gisudaraz Shahbaz,
who died in 1421, was a disciple of Khwaja Nasiruddin Chiragh Delhi, the
spiritual successor of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Shahbaz is regarded as a
learned Sufi poet like Shah Ahmad, Siraj, the great Shah Mir and Mazhar
Jan-e-Janan, who renounced the world for ‘Shauq or the passionate love of God’.
Wali Dakhni, the father of Urdu poetry as we know it, made his mark in Sufism
with the famous exclamation, “O, Beloved, no thought of anything except of Thee
enters into my heart’. His argument was that God could not be realized by those
who used reason to search for him. That was the contention of Zahuruddin Hatim
too. Mir Taqi Mir, who lifted up the veils of the Ghazal, was a mystic of note
and followed the path shown by Ghazali and Ibn al-Arabhi. To him Bhatnagar
gives the credit for casting ‘a far-reaching influence on the development of
Sufi poetry’ and influencing Ghalib too, who preferred to be buried close to
Nizamuddin’s tomb. The saint’s Urs was further evidence of the Sufi tradition
and those who attended the function in large numbers bore testimony to its
secular credentials, with no barrier dividing Muslim, Sikh or Christian. Or how
else could Bisheshwar Prasad “Munawwar” of Lucknow, who died in 1970, have made
his valuable contribution to Indo-Muslim mystic thought?