The Master of Time


A Chishti pir told this story to a disciple:

“When I travel on my own by train I prefer to take a first class ticket. When it is possible to travel together with a dervish, then I buy a second-class ticket for both of us. I remember having made a long journey by train together with a dervish. We made a stop in Lahore and walked to a tea-stall in Anarkali, just opposite a China glass store. The dervish and I drank some tea. A man in a red dress left this China glass store and walked in our direction. He looked like a qalandar and we shared our food with him.

A little later the qalandar took some rest in the shade of a tree and as we were tired because of our journey we sat down in the grass and, before we knew it, we were fast asleep as well. I had a dream. The dervish and I were standing in front of an old inn or what people in days long gone by would call a caravanserai. People in its kitchen were busy cooking food. We asked one of the cooks some questions about this inn. The cook said that the caravanserai belonged to the qalandar and that we were his guests.

We stayed in the inn for some time. The town, in which this inn was situated, was not the same town as Lahore. It was an immense town whose limits could not be seen. It went on and on in all directions without any visible end. The inhabitants of this peculiar town all were dressed in costly clothes, they had excellent manners and the market was filled with goods coming from all parts of the world. On Friday everyone went to the community prayer and everyone was active in the remembrance of God for some time afterwards.

When we awoke we saw that the qalandar was still resting in the shade of a tree. A few minutes later we went to the railway station and bought a newspaper. To our great surprise we noticed that eighth days had passed!

We continued our journey. We crossed the border and after a long journey by train we arrived in Ajmer, Rajasthan. We walked to a guesthouse and went in to book our rooms. A little later, to our great surprise, the same qalandar we had met in Lahore stood in front of this guesthouse.

He asked us if we could give him some food after sunset. He made it clear that he could be found at Dargah Bazaar, which is near the shrine of Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti. When we located the qalandar he was flirting with a prostitute. A short time later the sun went down and thereafter we saw the strange qalandar again. He was praying the Maghreb prayer in a nearby mosque.

When we returned to our guesthouse there was a knock on the door and the qalandar asked us if we could help him in regard to his clothes. He asked us if we would be so kind as to take his clothes to a nearby lake called Ana Sagar and give them to a dhobi (washerman). We were rather tired and we tried to say no. We made it clear that at this late a time there would be no washerman near the lake. However our ‘no’ was of no use as he convinced us to go. He left his clothes in our room, so that they could be washed.

So, we went to the lake. We however went without his clothes as we still thought it to be a strange request. It took us twenty minutes to arrive at the border of Ana Sagar. To our great astonishment there were many washermen available. The time had suddenly changed into noon. It was a bright day, so everything could clearly be seen. We returned to our guesthouse and there it was midnight and dark. We now took the clothes and returned to the lake and handed them over to a washerman who was willing to wash them.

On our handing over the clothes to the qalandar we asked him to give us some explanation. He then explained that next to the outer senses there are a number of inner senses, one of which is imagination. The series of events could all be explained by means of the force of imagination. When we returned to Lahore we talked to a local Sufi called Madho Lal Husayn, who explained that this qalandar was undoubtedly someone who was abu’l waqt or a master of time”.