A young Chishti dervish

A young dervish living in Ajmer, who belonged to the Chishtiyya order, every day sat in meditation near the dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. He always stayed there until the lights were brought to the dargah. It was his habit to leave a little later in order to say the sunset prayers in the nearby Sufi khaneqah. One day he received the permission to travel from his pir. He travelled at first to Lahore, which in those days took several weeks to reach. After visiting the Sufi places in Lahore he went to buy some food at the local bazaar. There he saw something peculiar. He saw a painting of a Sufi who wore an unusual type of pointed hat….

Thou art the blessing

Yesterday, together with my youngest son, I made a trip to Leyden in order to visit a shop called WARP 9, which specialises in science fiction articles. After having bought a video I persuaded him to come with me to a second hand bookshop as possibly some books in the field of Star Trek could be found therein. We passed the Oriental Antiquarium wherein formerly the famous publisher Brill was settled. (Of course if it was up to me we would also have visited this place, but there are rather poorly equipped in the field of science fiction). In the second hand bookshop my son found nothing that interested him, but I found a real treasure. I found the critical…

When a man comes to see you

A book on Sufism that I’ve edited came out several months ago and I put a copy thereof in the mailbox of a friend, who had made 2 of the photo’s that were used in the book. A week later I found out that he was not at home as I received a letter from Bokhara in Uzbekistan. He had travelled to this place (he told me when he came to visit me) in order to go to Qasr-e-Arefin, where you can find the tomb of shaykh Bahauddin Naqshband. You may know of the Khwajagan, the ‘Masters’, one of them being the murshid of Khwaja Abu Ishaq Shami Chishti, the founder of the Chishti order. Several centuries later Bahauddin Naqshband…

The ‘Urs of Sayyid Bukhari

Looking ahead of us, the oasis village of Uch Sharif, nestled deep in the eastern Punjab of Pakistan, emerged from the desert. As we entered it was throbbing with people. Today was not only Friday, Jum’ah, but the ‘urs of a famous saint, Sayyid Bukhari. An ‘urs is a yearly celebration of the death date of a famous wali (friend) of Allah. In Pakistan and the Indian sub-continent Islam was spread, upheld and revitalised by Sufis. The people who loved these men often built beautiful structures around their tombs, sometimes with an adjoining mosque. These darbars as they are called became places for Muslims to come to, and by the life-example and barakah of the dead wali, to remember, possibly…

Magical Mystery Tour

Several years ago a Chishti shaykh and his son arrived from the East for a visit in England. The English disciples invested lots of energy in trying to get visa for the two of them for France and Spain and all in vain. The shaykh could get a visa, but the authorities refused to give a visa for the son as they were afraid that he would stay in Europe and try to find a job. They did not know that there was no economic motive for the journey. Anyhow neither of them obtained the necessary visa. The idea was to travel to the Spanish town of Granada in order to visit a Sufi community in that town. But how…

‘Urs Celebrations in Ajmer, India

My wife, and I have travelled to Ajmer to be present at the ‘urs (death anniversary) of our shaykh who expired in 1996. The ‘urs celebration took place on two days, the 26th and 27th of February. The dates are different each year as they are based on the Islamic calendar. Most of the activities took place at the chillah, a hill with the cave wherein Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti performed his retreats. After the qul, the closing ceremony, there was a function which started at about 22.00 P.M. at the dargah of Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti. About 40 people then walked two times round the shrine of Gharib Nawaz (The Patron of the Poor) as he is also known. Then we…

Sufi Travel

Fernando Pessoa has something interesting to say about travel: A glimpse of open country above a stone wall on the outskirts of town Is more liberating for me than an entire journey would be for someone else. I’ve listened today to an author who writes travel books. He was making a long journey by train. He was sitting on some sacks of grain, while being absorbed in his thoughts. His train then passed a city known because of its sacred places for the Sufis. Suddenly it was as if he saw a kind of ‘window’, which offered a view of the world of imagination. Some Sufis have travelled in the beginning of their lives and then became residents, while other…

Jamali

The Indian Sufi Jamali was very fond of travelling and embarked on long journeys. He was a famed poet who was even known in Herat. (my wordprocessor is changing Herat into heart…!). After visiting Mecca and Medina Jamali visited the Maghrib, the Yemen, Palestine, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and even Sri Lanka to see the footprint of Adam. It is said that he travelled in the same manner as a qalandar, and with the dust of his travels on him he arrived in Herat and visited the famous Jami. He sat down next to him. Jami was rather annoyed and asked him what was the difference between him and an ass. Jamali then answered by pointing out the distance between…

The ‘Urs of Kwaja Moinuddin Chishti

In October this year (according to the Islamic calendar the main activities will be from the 1st up to and including the 6th of Rajab; the most important day being the 6th of Rajab) the ‘urs of Mo’inuddin Chishti will be celebrated. I have attended it 3 times, the first time arrived on the day before the ‘urs when I could see a flag procession taking place. Depending on the visibility of the moon the date thereof can be established.. It is a rather colourful occasion, especially because of the qalandariyya dervishes who participate. At the dargah complex where Mo’inuddin Chishti is buried there is a sama’ khaneh (an auditorium for sufi music). This will start a day later than…