The Chishti Sufi Hazrat Nasiruddin Cheragh is the spiritual successor of Hazrat Nezamuddin Awliya. The conversations of the shaykh are recorded in the Khayr al-Majales [The Best of Assemblies]. This is how The Best of Assemblies came about:
Shaykh Nasiruddin Cheragh-e-Delhi fasted almost regularly. Even in his old age he meticulously followed this routine. One day he tells his student Mawlana Hamid Qalandar [The Best of Assemblies; p. 71 of the Persian text; assembly 19]:
ما پیر شده ایم، روزه می توانیم داشت، تو چرا نمی توانی؟
I have grown old, but I can fast; why can’t you fast?
‘Old’ is pir in the Persian language. The beginning of the above sentence can also be translated: “I have become your spiritual guide [pir]”. Hamid then tells his spiritual guide that he has started practicing taking less food.
The shaykh then asks Hamid: “What did you dream?” Hamid explains that he has seen his spiritual guide authorizing him to write down his lectures. Shaykh Nasiruddin then asks him to bring the written text to him. This ultimately results in the book the Khayr al Majales [The Best of Assemblies].
Hazrat Nezamuddin Awliya checked the growth of the ascetic tendencies in his murid Hazrat Nasiruddin. In his old age, near his death, Hazrat Nasiruddin tells Hamid, the author of the Khayr al-Majales with tears flowing from his eyes [Best of Assemblies; p. 46]:
اگر فرمان شیخ نبودی که در شهر می باید بود و جفا و قفای خلق می باید کشید ، کجا من و کجا شما
When my shaykh had not given me the order to stay in the city and bear the difficulties caused by other people, you and I would never have met.
Hazrat Nasiruddin adds that he “would have been in the wilderness, in the mountains and in deserts.”
A Sufi, however, should not behave as if he is someone different from and superior to the people. According to Hazrat Nasiruddin awareness of the problems of the people is important. A Sufi should mix with people of different temperaments and professions. He gives this advice in the Best of Assemblies:
با همه خلق همچو خلق باش
Behave with the people as if you’re one of the people.
The Suhrawardi Sufi poet Jamali has written the Sayr al-‘arefin [The Spiritual Journey of the Gnostics]. He opens a chapter about Hazrat Nasiruddin with a poem. He says therein among other things:
تنش اداب ظاهر را ادیبی
دلش امراض باطن را طبیبی
چراغی مسجد اقصای مقصود
نصير الدين ملت شیخ محمود
His body was a teacher of outward manners.
His heart was a healer of inward diseases.
He was a lamp guiding you to the distant destination.
He was Nasiruddin Mellat Shaykh Mahmud.
Students of Hazrat Nezamuddin Awliya have the habit to mention their problems to shaykh Nasiruddin after the death of their murshid. He listens to them patiently but doesn’t hesitate to remark that “complaining about the times was not the practice of our Chishti shaykhs [Best of Assemblies; p 87].” They, however, tell him:
ام روز جای شیخ ما شما اید – روا باشد که درد بشما بگویم
Today you sit at the place of our shaykh. It is suitable that we tell our worries to you!
Shaykh Nasiruddin happens to be always grateful to his murshid, Hazrat Nezamuddin Awliya, who had shaped his personality and had given a new and purposeful orientation to it. After the death of his spiritual guide and teacher he writes:
مجلس یار همانست ولی یار کجا؟
The assembly of the friend is the same, but where is the friend?
Dictators, tyrants and corrupt rulers are of all times. Shaykh Nasiruddin likes to recite this poem [Best of Assemblies; p. 37]:
دنیا شه را و قیصر و خاقان را
دوزخ بد را بهشت مر نیکان را
تسبیح فرشته را ثنا مر انسان را
خانان ما را و جان ما جانان را
Let the world be for the King, Caesar and the Emperor.
Let Hell be for the evil ones and Paradise for the good people.
Let angels be active with recitations and human beings chant words of praise,
But let the Beloved be for me and my life be for the Beloved.
Shaykh ‘Abdul Haqq gives this description of Hazrat Nasiruddin:
طریقهٴ او فقر و صبر و رضا و تسلیم بود
His path was spiritual poverty, patience, contentment and submission.
Hazrat Nasiruddin tells a rather curious tale in the Best of Assemblies [see pp. 13-4 of the Persian text] wherein he mentions some of the characteristics of the station [maqam] of a shaykh: There once was a dervish, who went into the desert. He there met a pir. The pir told him: “When you go back into the town, then ask for ‘Abdullah Hajeb in so-and-so an area of the town. When you meet him give him my salaams and ask him to recite the Fateha for the benefit of the preserving of my faith.”
The dervish returned to the town and asked for the house of ‘Abdullah Hajeb. He approached him and then told him about the salaams and the request of the pir. Then ‘Abdullah recited the Fateha. Afterwards he said to the dervish that he could go.
The dervish, however, told him: “Khwaja, I need to know who this pir was!” ‘Abdullah Hajeb replied: “Go and do not ask questions about these things!” The dervish persisted: “I really need to know who this pir was!” After repeating this for some time, he received this answer from ‘Abdullah Hajeb: “It was Khwaja Khedr.” The dervish then remarked: “I have already met several pirs in the desert. How do you know it was Khedr?”
‘ Abdullah Hajeb answered thus: “I have recognized him.” The dervish responded thus: “This the station of the shaykhs [maqam-e-masha’ikh]. How is this feat possible while you are wearing ordinary clothes?” (It so happened that ‘Abdullah Hajeb was not wearing clothes showing that he belonged to a Sufi order).
‘ Abdullah Hajeb explained it thus: “That which the shaykhs do in the corner of the Sufi centre, I am doing in the streets, on the market and in the palace.”
This implies that – although he occupied himself with the work of this world – he was able to reach the position of a shaykh. How? He met good people (khalq-e-neku). Being occupied with this world did not harm him. That is why Khedr asked him to recite the Fateha for the benefit of preserving his faith.
Hazrat Nasiruddin refers to his murshid Hazrat Nezamuddin Awliya as explaining what the work of the Sufis implies:
- You shouldn’t have worries about food and clothes because a dervish who has such worries can’t achieve the higher goals of life.
- You should always be active with the remembrance of Allah, both when alone and with others.
- You should never talk to others with the object to attract their hearts to yourself… You should do so for the sake of Allah alone. No personal ambition should be involved therein and there shouldn’t be any sign of hypocrisy therein.
Hazrat Nasiruddin classifies the people into three categories based on their spiritual experience [see pp. 109-110 of the Best of Assemblies]:
خلق سه نوع اند: عوام و خواص و اخص الخواص
General seekers, elect and the elect of the elect. The veil of the general seekers is disobedience [sin معاصی]. The veil of the elect is being unaware of the Divine [forgetfulness غفلات ] and indulgence in lawful pleasures [مباحات]. The veil of the elect of the elect is good works [virtues حسنات].
Hazrat Nasiruddin expects that the person belonging to the elect of the elite excels in his good acts. The good acts of the elite are shortcomings for the elect of the elect. He thereby shows that the demands become higher for more advanced spiritual travellers.
Hazrat Nasiruddin points to the power of jadhb, Divine attraction, in this teaching:
آنرا که جذبه در می آید او صاف ذمیمه ازو دور میکند و او را مخلص میگرداند
When Divine attraction overtakes you, it purifies you of all blamable qualities and renders you sincere.
Hazrat Nasiruddin presented this teaching after experiencing a spiritual state himself. The Best of Assemblies calls it bewilderment [hayrat]. When returning to himself, Hazrat Nasiruddin recites a Persian poem of shaykh ‘Ayn al-Qudat al-Hamadhani:
برخاسته ز جان و تن می باید
سر آمده ز خویشتن می باید
در هر قدمی هزار بند افزون است
زین گرم روی بند شکن می باید
I should rise up against my soul and my body.
I should be strong in regard to myself.
More attachments appear at every step:
I should quickly break those attachments.
This becomes possible with the help of the above- mentioned Divine attraction.
Hazrat Nasiruddin asked one day during the last year of his life how old he was. He received the reply: “Eighty-two years.” He responded by saying: “Ah, it has become too much. I should get ready to depart.”
From early morning till late at night he had to attend to all sorts of visitors, who informed him about their problems. One day he told the author of the Best of Assemblies with tears in his eyes:
بارها میخوهم قیلوله بکنم ، بر می کنند که اينده آمده است ، بر خیزید
“I wish to take a rest at mid-day very often, but they wake me up, saying: ‘A visitor has come; get up!’” Even early in the morning, when people are usually energetic, he was found completely worn out.
Soon after saying that he should get ready to depart, he became ill because of the plague. Hazrat Nasiruddin survived for seven days. After the seventh day, he surrendered his life to Allah. Hazrat Nasiruddin breathed his last on September 20, 1356 C.E.