Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya, the beloved of God, once asked a dervish who lived outside the city of Badaon why he lived there. The dervish replied, that a travelling companion of his had asked him to stay there till he returned. His companion had not returned till then, but he was staying there to keep his promise.
Bibi Zulaykha, the mother of Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya, often said to her son: “You will be a man of destiny some day!” He, one day on hearing this remark asked: “But when will this happen?” “When I am dead”, replied Bibi Zulaykha.
When Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya started to live in Ghiyaspur it was a place without any human habitation. Later on many people settled there. Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya then thought of living elsewhere at a quieter place. He was thinking about this when one day a man with extremely charming features, but lean and thin and with an other-worldly expression on his face, came to him and strongly protested against his desire to settle away from society. This traveller recited the following verse:
Aan ruz keh mah shodi namidaanesti
K-aangosht namaa’i ‘aalami khaahi shod
When you appeared like a moon on that day, did you not know,
That the world would point its finger towards you?
He further told him to behave in a way, that he was not to put to shame the Prophet on the Day of Judgement. He exhorted Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya to be busy with God and also look after His creatures. The shaykh was so impressed with what the visitor said, that he made up his mind to remain at Ghiyaspur. The shaykh brought some thing for the visitor to eat, but he left without touching it.
For some time Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya had extremely little to eat. When starvation became endless, a bowl was put at the door. People could put in it anything to eat. At the time of sunset the bowl was taken in and emptied on the dinner-cloth.
A beggar once happened to pass by. He thought that the food on the cloth was left over of the dinner. He collected everything and left. Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya smiled and said: “It appears that there is still imperfection in our work and for that reason we are being kept in hunger”.
Initially there were only two murids in the service of Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya. There was a saintly woman in the neighbourhood who earned her livelihood by spinning thread. She purchased flour for what her labour fetched her and baked her bread at the time of sunset.
Once when the shaykh and his two disciples were starving for four days in succession the woman sent them some flour, which she had saved. The shaykh asked his murid Kamaluddin to mix it with water and put it in some vessel to boil.
It had not been fully boiled, when a dervish suddenly appeared and shouted: “If you have anything to eat, don’t hold it from me”. Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya asked him to wait a little as the pot was boiling, but the dervish was impatient. The shaykh got up and brought it to the dervish.
The dervish lifted the pot and smashed it on the ground with the words: “Shaykh Farid has bestowed his spiritual blessings on shaykh Nizamuddin. I break the vessel of his material poverty”. It is said that thereafter the shaykh’s halqa (circle) of murids widened and enormous unasked for gifts started pouring in.
Baba Farid gave his blessings to Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya. While appointing him as his caliph, he prayed to God for his bright future and good fortune and remarked:
To derakhti shawi ke dar saaya’e-to khalqi beyaasaayad
You will become a tree under whose shadow people may find rest.
Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya remarked after being appointed as a caliph of Baba Farid:
“This position is very high and beyond my capacity to shoulder… For me your kindness and favour is enough”.
When Baba Farid found him hesitant to accept this responsibility he prophesied: “This task will be efficiently performed by you”.
When Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya still persisted in his request, Baba Farid remarked in great excitement:
“Nizam! Take it from me, though I do not know if I will be honoured before the Almighty or not, I promise not to enter paradise without your disciples in my company”.
Thereafter Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya left Ajodhan, where Baba Farid stayed, for Delhi. In Hansi he showed the document wherein he was appointed as a caliph to Mawlana Jamaluddin, who recited the following verse:
Khodaa’iye jahaan raa hazaaraan sepaas
Ke gawhar seporda be gawhar-shenaas
Lets give a thousand times thanks to the Lord of the world,
That he has entrusted the jewel to a jeweller.
Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya became the spiritual caliph and successor of Baba Farid at the age of 23. He had an open door policy and many disciples were accepted in the Chishti tariqa. He infused a new spirit in the Chishti order. Through his work many new khanaqahs were created all over the Indian subcontinent. Hazrat Amir Khusraw has said:
Shod selk-e-farid az to manzum
Ze aanast ke shod laqab nezaam
You’ve arranged the beads of Farid in an orderly rosary
That is why your title of honour has become Nizam.
PS: Nizam (pronounce: Nezaam) means joining in a row,, stringing (pearls); arranging, governing, regulating; adorning; making verses; order, disposition, arrangement; a string of pearls or beads or that upon which they are strung; composition of verses; custom, habit, mode, way of life, institution; the right way, right line; foundation, basis, constitution. I’ve left out: a white line on the tail of a crocodile, lizard or fish.
Ziauddin Barani describes several aspects of the work of Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya:
“One day I was present in the assembly of sultan al-mashaykh and was busy listening to his life-infusing discourse from sunrise to midday. That day large numbers of people got initiated into the discipline of sultan al-mashaykh and received his spiritual blessings. During this time it occurred to my mind that sultan al-mashaykh used to be restrictive in admitting people to his spiritual discipline, but was now admitting people all and sundry – special and ordinary – into the (Chishti) tariqa. I wanted to ask the shaykh about this change”.
“The shaykh’s spiritual insight got an inkling of what was passing in my mind. He said: ‘You put questions to me about everything. Why don’t you ask me why I am admitting all visitors to my discipline without any enquiry?’”
“I trembled and placed my head at the feet of sultan al-mashaykh and submitted: ‘For some years this query was in my mind and it occurred to me today also and the shaykh has come to know about it’.”
“Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya then observed: ‘God Almighty has, in His wisdom, given a special characteristic to every age and the people of that age develop their customs, habits and traditions accordingly in a distinct way. This so much so, that the temperament of the people of one generation and their nature does not agree with that of the preceding generation. This has been proved by experience. The real purpose of initiation and being a disciple is severance of all ties from that which is other than God and involving people in Him as has been explained in books on spiritual discipline’.
‘The former Sufi pirs did not admit anybody in their discipline unless they saw total severance of material ties in a human being. But from the time of shaykh Abu Sa’id Bin Abi’l-Khair to the days of shaykh Saifuddin Bakharzi, and from the time of shaykh ash-shuyukh al-‘alam Shihabuddin Suhrawardi to the days of shaykh ash-shuyukh al-‘alam Fariduddin – all of them friends of God whose exalted spiritual rank and blessings are beyond explanation – there were huge crowds surrounding them, like kings, nobles, celebrities, elite and other people, who out of fear of the Day of Judgement sought shelter under the protection of those lovers of God. These great friends of God admitted all people, special and ordinary, into their discipline and granted the mantle of repentance to them’.
‘Regarding your question about my admitting murids without restriction, here is another reason: I frequently hear that many people who join my discipline abstain from sinful acts, offer prayers in congregation and keep themselves busy in litanies and supererogatory prayers. If I tell the conditions of initiation in the beginning and do not grant the mantle of repentance (khirqa-i-tawba) and blessings upon them, which is equal to the mantle of initiation as a murid (khirqa-i-iradat), they will be deprived of whatever good thus comes to them’.
‘There is another reason (for admitting murids without restriction): I am permitted by a perfect shaykh (i.e. Hazrat Baba Farid) to initiate people without any recommendation, any intermediary, any hitch. When I find a Muslim approaching me with humility, eagerness and submissiveness and he says: “I repent from all sins”, I take him at his word and initiate him in my discipline…’.
“The sultan al-mashaykh smiled after recalling his appointment as a spiritual caliph of Hazrat Baba Farid: ‘I perform this task (of being a caliph) well at times, but not so well at others. Those who spend their lives in aspiring for it and obtain it through stratagem, lie and fraud, how can they perform this delicate work well? Besides, when a friend of God about whom I am certain and have seen with my own eyes (i.e. his own murshid), that he was one of those blessed with deep inward knowledge and had on his body the same dervish mantle which shaykh Bayazid, Hazrat Junayd and others who loved God had on his bodies, has promised this to me (i.e. that he would not put his foot in Paradise without my murids), I don’t refuse admission of people into my discipline’.”
By means of the following warning it was made clear to all murids to be humble and unassuming:
Mawlana Burhanuddin Gharib was a senior murid of shaykh Nizamuddin Awliya. As he was an old man of seventy years, he sat leaning on a folded blanket. Tow other murids, i.e. ‘Ali Zambeli and Malik Nusrat, reported to shaykh Nizamuddin Awliya that Mawlana Burhanuddin Gharib sat like a shaykh on his carpet.
Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya was distressed at this report and when Mawlana Burhanuddin Gharib came to him to pay his respects to him, he did not speak to him. Somewhat later on Mawlana Burhanuddin Gharib received the order of Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya to leave the place without delay. When staying in the house of a fellow murid he again received the request to leave. No one who was not in the good book of Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya could be a welcome guest in any house.
Mawlana Burhanuddin Gharib then went to his own house and was overwhelmed with grief. Several fellow disciples came to console him. No one had the courage to plead for him before the shaykh.
Amir Khusraw took courage in both hands and broached over the matter once, but there was no response from Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya. Then Amir Khusraw thought of making a dramatic mercy appeal to the shaykh.
With his turban wrapped round his neck as the criminals do when they give up to mercy, he appeared before his murshid. The shaykh was moved to see him in that posture and asked the reason. He requested Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya to pardon Mawlana Burhanuddin. The shaykh told him to bring Mawlana Burhanuddin to his presence. Amir Khusraw brought him to the shaykh in the same posture of criminals. The shaykh pardoned him.
The jealousy and slander in a Sufi community is something of all times. People are people. Negative and egoistic characteristics manifest themselves in political acts also in a Sufi tariqa. The previous story doesn’t only show betrayal among murids, but also loyalty, friendship and true brotherhood, because some fellow murids stood by shaykh Burhanuddin Gharib through thick and thin. Hazrat Amir Khusraw even pleaded his case before Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya.
The two people who have slandered shaykh Burhanuddin Gharib have disappeared further on from the stage of Chishti Sufism, but shaykh Burhanuddin Gharib has played an important role.
He is now called “shaykh”, because Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya has appointed him as his spiritual caliph. Perhaps Hazrat Nizamuddin Aliya was truly angry at shaykh Burhanuddin Gharib, but there are also reasons to believe that he was playing to be angry. He of course knew that the terrible incident also created a teaching situation to all the murids and he could observe how they behaved therein. He would also have known that shaykh Burhanuddin Gharib would be able to pass this test successfully.
There are indeed reasons to believe that Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya was aware of the true situation. At the first meeting between the two it was announced that Burhanuddin, a poor man (gharib also means poor), had arrived. Hazrat Nizamudin Awliya then said about the newcomer, that “he is indeed poor now, but the whole world will come to know him”. Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya later on observed: “Burhanuddin Gharib has both eyes on me and does not attend to any other”.
When, much later on, he gave shaykh Burhanuddin Gharib dominion (wilayat) over the Deccan he quoted the Qur’anic verse “Today I have perfected your religion and completed my bounty to you” in reference to the degree of spiritual perfection of shaykh Burhanuddin Gharib.
When a number of murids one day were discussing the famous Sufi Bayazid Bastami, Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya remarked: “We too have a Bayazid”, thereby indicating shaykh Burhanuddin Gharib.
The disciples of shaykh Burhanuddin Gharib recorded about their murshid that never in his life did he disrespectfully turn his back towards his master’s dargah in Delhi. During the last few years of his life, which were marred by constant illness, shaykh Burhanuddin Gharib confessed that he only remained alive in order to fulfil the instructions of Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya.
Shaykh Burhanuddin Gharib himself has described his relationship with his murshid in terms of a very close spiritual relationship, in which he has directly inherited the substance of the authority of the Chishti shaykhs.
Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya once told the following amusing story: “A dervish was asked which verse of the Qur’an he liked best. This dervish replied: ‘Eat always’ (as implied in Qur’an 13:35 which says: Its food is everlasting )”.
A dervish was visiting Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya. Somebody stole the frock of this dervish while he was taking ablutions for the prayers. The dervish started enquiring loudly about it. Lest it disturbed Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya in his prayers, shaykh Nasiruddin, who happened to be present, gave his own garment to him. The next morning when Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya came to know about it, he was pleased with shaykh Nasiruddin and bestowed upon him his personal garment.
A man, named Kafur, visited Nizamuddin Awliya and said: “I have orders to give something in charity every Friday for the sake of the soul of sultan Ghiyasuddin Balban. If you permit it, I’ll send something to you very Friday’. The shaykh agreed and the money came to him as promised.
One day when in a sama’ meeting Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya raised his hands overpowered by ecstatic feelings. Soon he had an inner admonition that one who accepted guaranteed payment had no right to raise his hands in this way. Perhaps he was reminded of this saying of shaykh Sa’di:
Raising the hands in ecstatic dance
Is permitted to you only,
If you have drawn away your skirts
From both the worlds.
He decided to refuse the gift and never again did he accept any guaranteed payment. This incident took place in the beginning of the ‘work’ of Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya.
Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya never allowed debates in his khanaqah. It was against the Chishti principles of spiritual training. He rejected Mawlana Jalaluddin Awadhi’s request for holding periodical debated among the scholars of the khanaqah. Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya did not discourage a quiet exchange of opinions in the khanaqahs, which had within its confines many erudite scholars. Mawlana Fakhruddin Zarradi, Mawlana Wajihuddin Pa’ili and others could be very stimulating to the other scholars by their erudite elucidation and clear exposition of several subjects.
It appears that discourses on different themes were approvingly listened to by Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya. We find Mawlana Fakhruddin Zarradi discoursing on principles of tibb (Unani medicine) before the shaykh and Qazi Muhyiuddin Kashani taking part in the elucidation of ahadith (traditions) of the Prophet.
A scholar from Nagawr requested Hazrat Nizamuddin to enrol him as his murid. The shaykh did not accede to his request, but asked him to tell honestly what his real intention was in becoming a disciple. The visitor was not prepared to disclose his mind, but when the shaykh repeated his question he confessed that he was granted some land in Nagawr, but was not allowed to occupy it. Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya asked him: “If I write a recommendatory letter and give it to you, will you give up the idea of becoming my murid?’ The man agreed. The shaykh gave him this letter and he left.
Muhammad Hajji had just returned from the pilgrimage to Mecca. Instead of enjoying inward peace and serenity, he was distracted and disturbed at heart. He sought the blessings of Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya by means of one of the murids of the shaykh. Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya directed him to recite the following verses of the Qur’an 48:4 seven times a day with his right hand on his chest:
It is He Who sends down serenity
Into the hearts of the believers,
That they may add faith to their faith,
For to God belong
The forces of the heavens and the earth
And God is All-knowing and All-wise.
A grandson of shaykh Najibuddin Mutawakkil, who was a good for nothing (i.e. the grandson not the shaykh) placed an inkpot, pen and paper before Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya and asked him to write a letter of recommendation to a certain important person, so that he is able to get something from him.
“How can I write to him?” the shaykh responded. “He doesn’t come to me, but tell me what you expect from him and I will give it to you”. “Give me what you like, but write the letter also” said the visitor. “No” replied the shaykh. “It is not the custom of dervishes in our tariqa to write letters, particularly when I have never seen him and he has never come to me”.
The man started to abuse the shaykh: “Nizamuddin, you are the murid of my grandfather and his slave. I am the descendant of your master. I ask you to write this letter and you do not do it”. So saying he raised the inkpot, threw it on the ground and rose to depart.
Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya stretched his hands, caught hold of his clothes and said: “You go away displeased. Cast aside your anger and then you can go”.
Qalandandariyya and other types of wandering dervishes visited the khanaqah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya. Despite all the arrogance and insolence with which they behaved at times, the shaykh treated them with consideration and courtesy. He fulfilled their demands. He had his own justification for his patience before such people.
He said: “This sort of behaviour should also be tolerated. Many people come, place their hands at the feet and bring presents. Such people should also be there and should be allowed to come and speak whatever they like”.
The shaykh thus made it clear that such action mitigates the insolent behaviour of others.
During the silent hours of the night Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya bolted the door to his room. No one tried to approach him at that time, but the light could be seen in his room. He often recited the following Persian couplet:
Baare be-tamaashaaye man o sham’ biyaa
Kaz man dam-ki namaanad o az way dudi
Come sometimes to see me and the candle,
When my breath leaves me and smoke comes from the candle.
Most of the time the shaykh spent the night in prayers, meditation and study. He once told a murid that in the early hours of the morning some ideas and verses flashed across his mind, which gave him immense spiritual pleasure. Some of his time at night was spent in study. He read books and noted down his comments on them or on separate sheets of paper. His eyesight was good and he could easily read closely written manuscripts in candle light.
One day a man came to see Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya when he was having his midday rest. Akhi Mubarak, an inmate of the khanaqah, sent him away. At that very moment the shaykh saw Hazrat Baba Farid in a dream, telling him: “In case you have nothing to give to a visitor, at least receive him cordially”.
Thereafter the shaykh gave instructions to the inmates to wake him up whenever a visitor came to see him. He always asked on getting up from his siesta: “Has any visitor come?”
One day while walking by the side of the river Jumna Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya saw an old woman drawing water from a well nearby. He stopped there and asked her why she was putting herself to this unnecessary strain when the Jumna flowed nearby.
The woman replied that she and her husband were poor people. The water of the Jumna increased their appetite and created hunger. So she drank the water of the well.
Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya was deeply moved at his reply and tears appeared in his eyes. He asked one of his companions to enquire of that woman how much she needs for her daily expenses and send her all she needs without fail.
Shaykh Ruknuddin Abu’l Fath came to enquire about Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya when the Chishti shaykh was in his last illness. The visitor recited a hadith to the effect that prophets are given an option by God to live somewhat longer in the world if they so desired. He added that since the friends of God (Awliya) are the successors of the Prophet, they could also pray to God for an extension in their life-span.
Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya burst into tears as he heard this and said: “I have seen the Prophet in a dream, saying: ‘Nizam! We are anxiously waiting for you’.”
As soon as he uttered this sentence the entire audience, including the distinguished visitor, began to weep. Everybody present felt that it was the last glow of a setting sun.
In the last days of his life, he devoted himself so completely to prayer, that he would pray several times and yet be unaware of this. He would inquire from the people whether he had offered them. He would genuflect, he would weep, he would eat very little, and continually repeat:
Mirawim o mirawim o mirawim.
We go and we go and we go!
He did not allow anything to be kept or retained in the house. He ordered his devoted khadim Iqbal to distribute all the grain amongst the needy, the poor and the destitute. On a particular occasion he gave one praying carpet, turban and a set of clothes to Mawlana Burhanuddin Gharib (he was the one who was accused of acting like a shaykh by sitting on a carpet) and ordered him to proceed to the Deccan. He gave one turban, one set of clothes and a praying carpet to shaykh Ya’qub and allowed him to proceed to Gujarat. He did the same for Mawlana Shamsuddin Yahya. Hazrat Nasiruddin Chiragh of Delhi was present, but he did not give him anything that day. Those present were surprised.
On Wednesday, after the noon prayers, he summoned Hazrat Nasiruddin Chiragh of Delhi and confided to him the staff, the sandals, the praying carpet, the rosary, the special robe and the other sacred relics of Hazrat Baba Fariduddin Ganj-e-Shakar and said to him: “You should live in Delhi and bear the tyranny and the harsh treatment of the people”.
For four months and a few days he was continually ill. On Wednesday, the 18th of Rabi-us-Sani in A.H. 725 (1325 C.E.) he breathed his last after sunrise. His passing away brought to a close an important epoch of spiritual attainments and literary achievements.
Shaykh Ruknuddin of Multan enquired from Iqbal: “Did the shaykh fix any place for his burial?”
“Yes,” replied Iqbal, “in this garden”.
“If the shaykh came to this place, where did he sit?” enquired shaykh Ruknuddin.
Iqbal pointed to an orange tree under which, he said, the shaykh used to sit. Shaykh Ruknuddin offered two rakaat of prayer there and exactly at that spot his grave was dug.