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Some Great Sufi Saints

Hazrath Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani RA (d. 583\1208)

Islamic society is essentially dynamic and not static. The work of reform within, has all along been undertaken by the saints, and the work of reform from without has been performed by the ulemas, the learned people.

Hazrath Sheikh Abdul Qadir RA of Jilan, better known as Ghousal Azam, Piran-e-Pir, occupied a unique position. He successfully combined in himself, the two roles. He was the outstanding saint and the leading learned man of unquestioned greatness. He was not only an outstanding saint, sage, scholar and a reformer, but also Defender of Faith. He achieved immortality by dint of his strength and nobility of character, modesty, humbleness, pursuit of truth, self-discipline, renunciation, sacrifice, service, faith, hope and belief.

He was born on the 1st of Ramadan 491 AH in the city of Jilan (Iraq). He was a direct descendent of Hazrath Imam Hasan RA and Hazrath Imam Husain RA, the two distinguished sons of Hazrath Ali RA and Bibi Fathima RA, and maternal grandsons of Holy Prophet SAW. He was also related to Hazrath Khwaja Garib Nawaaz RA of Ajmer both maternally and paternally, and whom he met twice in his lifetime.

After receiving his early education at home and at a school in Jilan he proceeded to Baghdad in pursuit of knowledge and learning there. After completing his education, he became a teacher in the school of his teacher-Hazrath Qazi Abu Said RA. He proved a very successful teacher and students came from far off to attend his classes.

Not long afterwards, he entered the mystic order by becoming a disciple of Hazrath Qazi Abu Said Al Mubarak RA. He passed his days in spiritual exercises, rigours and self-discipline. In this condition of absorption he wandered for full twenty five years in Iraq. He was known as “Mehboob-e-Subhani” (Beloved of Allah).

After great trials, tribulations, privations, hardships and rigours he obtained fame, following respect, prestige and above all, the crown of immortality.

Throughout his life he exhibited very many supernatural powers. He had to exhibit those powers in order to fulfil his mission in life, which was the propagation of Truth. Society was at its lowest ebb spiritually and he assigned to himself the task of reconstruction, renovation, regeneration and reorientation of society in order to re-establish a new social order based on love, righteousness, truth and justice. He breathed his last at the age of ninety two years on 11 Rabi-Us-Sani 583 AH.

The Qadri Order of the Sufis, now spread throughout the world, owes its very existence to him. The Order now claims myriads of people in its fold, in different countries and climates, having different names and nomenclatures, belonging to different nations and guided and inspired by, and devoted to the great guide and leader - Ghousal Azam, Piran-e-Pir.

Hazrath Ghousal Azam (RA) was an outstanding scholar of eminence and repute. His preachings and discourses swayed the masses and the classes. There can be no doubt that the world can still learn much from his writing, teachings, sayings and preachings. His message is a sacred trust. His life is a shining example of victory of truth and righteousness over the forces of darkness and deception.

Hazrath Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti RA (d. 633\1236)

Hazrath Khwaja Moinuddin Hasan Chisti Sanjari RA, popularly known as “Khwaja Gharib Nawaaz” (the Benefactor of the Poor), was the founder of the Chistiya Order of Sufis in India. He is one of the most outstanding figures in the history of Islamic mysticism.

He was born in 536 AH (1141 AC) in Sijistan (Persia) to parents directly descended from the Holy Prophet of Islam. He received his early education and training from his father. At an early age he renounced the world and became a devoted mureed (disciple) of Hazrath Khwaja Usman Harooni RA, a great sufi mystic of his time.

During 20 years of hard training in Islamic mysticism under this great religious master, the young seeker of Truth had the opportunity of meeting Khwaja Abu Ali Ishaq Shami RA (of Chist), the founder of the Chistiya Order, Sheikh Abdul Qader Jilani RA (of Baghdad), the founder of the Qadiriya Order, Sheikh Shahabuddin Suhrawardi RA, the founder of the Suhrawardi Order, Khwaja Auhaduddin Kirmani RA and Khwaja Mahmud Isfani RA - great names in the illustrious galaxy of Muslim saints.

After having completed his mission in the Middle East, he was divinely inspired from Mecca and Medina to go to Ajmer (India) to preach the gospel of Universal Truth and Brotherhood through Sufism. He made his first stop at Lahore where the great scholar and saint, Shaikh Al-Hajwari RA (Hazrath Data Ganj Baksh) lies buried. After receiving spiritual illumination he went to Multan, a rendezvous of saints and scholars from the Middle East. It was from here that he settled in Ajmer at the age of 52 in the teeth of staunch opposition and conducted his sacred mission all over the sub continent for 44 years before passing away in 633AH (1236 AC).

His Khalifas (spiritual descendants) carried on his grand mission with amazing success throughout India for over 300 years, among whom were the following:-

1.     Hazrath Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki RA (Delhi)

2.     Hazrath Khwaja Fariduddin Masood “Ganj Shakar” RA (Pak Patan)

3.     Hazrath Makhdoom Allauddin Ali Ahmed “Sabir” RA (Kalyar)

4.     Hazrath Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia “Mehboob Elahi” RA (Delhi)

5.     Hazrath Khwaja Naseeruddin Mahmood “Roshan Chirag” RA (Delhi)

HAZRATH KHWAJA QUTBUDDIN BAKHTIYAR KAKI RA (d. 634/1237)

He was the first spiritual successor of Hazrath Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti RA. He was a picture of patience and forbearance. He suffered extreme hardships and privations during his mujahedas (devotional practices) and riyazat (strivings). He offered 3000 darood o salaams every night in praise of the Holy Prophet SAW, Zikr of Almighty Allah and 95 rakaats of namaaz daily (including nights). In the concluding years of his life he used to recite and complete the Holy Quraan twice every day. He has written a masterpiece in “Fawaid-us-Salikin” which contains all those delicate points, instructions and life-long experiences which are necessary for a Sufi to achieve perfection in this divine creed. He had 27 Khalifas (spiritual successors) who carried on his teachings in Sufism in different parts of India. He is sometimes referred to as Shaheed-e-Mohabbat (Martyr of Allah’s love) because he died in a state of wajd (ecstasy). He is buried in Delhi, India.

HAZRATH BABA FARIDUDDIN GANJ SHAKAR RA (d. 661/1263)

After the untimely demise of Hazrath Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki RA, the mantle of India’s spiritual leadership in the illustrious Order of Sufis fell upon the shoulders of Hazrath Baba Fariduddin RA. He was one of the most brilliant stars of the Chistiya Order of Sufism, In addition to his spiritual attainment, he was also a flowing river of knowledge that quenched the thirst of millions of eager aspirants. His spiritual knowledge and knowledge of the Prophet’s Islamic laws were perfect in every respect. He placed great emphasis on the acquiring of knowledge, which he regarded as higher than all kinds of devotions in the name of Allah.

Because of the political upheavals in Delhi, he moved the centre of the Chistiya mission to the peaceful seclusion of Ajodhan which became the fountainhead for divine knowledge and blessings. His Khanqah became a university of Islamic teaching and spiritualism, where thousands of aspirants, scholars and dervishes flocked to receive training and guidance under the patronage of the great saint. It came as no surprise when Emperor Akbar later changed the name of Ajodhan to Pak Patan (the holy town).

Hazrath Baba Fariduddin RA is held in high esteem for his arduous mujahedas which enabled him to reach the pinnacle of perfection and glory in the realism of Sufism. He enjoys 21 titles of which Ganj Shakar became the most popular. He also made mureeds in the Qadiriya Silsila of Sufis. He is buried in Pak Patan, Pakistan.

HAZRATH KHWAJA NIZAMUDDIN AULIA RA (d. 725/1323)

He was also known as “Sultan-ul-Mashaikh” (distinguished leader of the Sufi Saints of his time in India) and “Mehboob-e-Elahi” (Beloved of Allah). He succeeded Hazrath Baba Fariduddin RA as the highest spiritual leader in India. In addition to his spiritual attainments and perfection, he was a most distinguished scholar and an administrative genius. His Khanqah in Delhi became the reservoir of Divine Wisdom and Knowledge, religious learning and moral and social training for over 50 years.

He founded Khanqahs all over India, and sent his trained Khulafas who acquitted themselves most brilliantly in their missionary duties especially in imparting lessons in Truth and Love. He saw seven kingdoms of Delhi rising and falling. He never visited the courts of any of the ruling monarchs, neither did he permit them to come near him all his life, thus observing one of the most important principles of Sufism in this respect.

Charity and piety were deeply ingrained in his life because he himself had tasted the bitter pills of poverty and privations in his childhood and youth. He lived and died for the welfare of the poor of India. He is buried in Delhi, India.

Among his mureeds (followers) was one Hazrath Amir Khusro RA - a great Sufi, a wealthy merchant who gave up all, an intellectual giant of many languages, an artist, a prolific author, a genius musician (he invented the Sitar), a versatile composer, and above all a most dutiful and devoted mureed.

HAZRATH KHWAJA NASIRUDDIN MAHMOOD RA (d. 757/1358)

More popularly known as Roshan Chirag and Chirag-e-Delhi. He joined the circle of Hazrath Nizamuddin Aulia’s (RA) disciples and was initiated as a mureed and then as his spiritual successor. He was the last of the recognised Khulafas of the Golden Age of the Chistiya Order in India and rose to the occasion while playing his role brilliantly under the most trying circumstances by the will of Allah and the blessings of his predecessors. He kept up the traditions of the Chisti Order most honourably with great diligence and foresight and his popularity as a great scholar and spiritualist of his time reached as far as Iraq, Egypt, Arabia and Iran.

Delhi continued as before to be a great centre of Islamic learning and Sufism. Thousands of scholars attended his centre of Islamic learning for the perfection of their education and wisdom in spiritualism. His rare generosity and unheard of magnanimity enabled him to enjoy high esteem in the Sufi world. He is a unique symbol of Forbearance and Humility. He is buried in Delhi in India.

HAZRATH KHWAJA MAKHDOOM ALI AHMED SABIR RA (d. 690/1291)

More popularly known as Hazrath Sabir Paak (RA). He has a highly amazing life story in the history of Sufism in India. He was quite a different flower from the fragrant garden of the Chistiya Order. He was a direct descendent of Hazrath Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani RA and nephew of Hazrath Baba Fariduddin RA (who was his Pir o Murshid). He was a picture of “patience personified.”

At the age of 31, Hazrath Baba Fariduddin RA appointed him as the spiritual leader of Kalyar in Northern India where religious values were deteriorating. However, a mighty conflagration engulfed the city of Kalyar because the Imam and the Governor refused to accept him. He was compelled to show his wrath to uphold the glory of Divine Truth and its noble principles. He spent the rest of his life engrossed in an overwhelming contemplation (sukr). He is buried in Kalyar, India.

His only mureed and Khalifa was Hazrath Khwaja Shumsuddin Turk RA of Panipat, India.

HAZRATH KHWAJA SHAH SULEMAN TAWSAWI RA (d. 1268/1851)

Hazrath Khwaja Suleman Tawsawi RA was born in 1184 AH (1770 AC) in Punjab, India. He was four years old when he received instructions in Quraanic studies. After studying Persian he left for the town of Kot Mihan where he learnt Arabic. Here he met Hazrath Khwaja Noor Mohamed Moharwi RA (a khalifa of Hazrath Shah Fakhruddin Dehlwi RA) and became his mureed at the Mazaar Shareef of Hazrath Sayed Jalal RA.

When he was 21 years old his Peer bestowed the Khilafath on him and later stationed him at Tawsa Shareef in Punjab. He spent 60 years here and spread the message of Islam to the masses. People came from far and wide to this humble village, 30 km from Ghazi Khan. Mosques and Madressas were built, some fifty ustaads were teaching in his Madressas, each one equivalent to a Darul Uloom.

Hazrath Khwaja Suleman Tawsawi RA lived till the age of 84 and during this period he confirmed Khilafath on seventy of his mureeds. One of the most notable of these Khulafas was Hazrath Khwaja Hafez Mohamed Ali RA of Khairabad, near Lucknow in India.

HAZRATH HAFIZ SAYED KHWAJA MOHAMED ALI SHAH KHAIRABADI RA (d. 1266/1849)

Hafiz Paak RA (as he was popularly known) is the direct descendant of the Holy Prophet SAW, following the lineage of Hazrath Ghausal Azam RA. He was one of the leading Khulafas of the great illuminary of Punjab (India), Hazrath Khwaja Suleman Tawsawi RA.

He was born in 1192 AH (1778AC). He committed the Holy Quran to memory and enrolled as a student in Khairabad, later proceeding to Shahjahanpur and finally to Delhi.

On the specific instructions of his Sheikh he started the process of Peeri Mureedi. Thousands of people pledged ba’it on his hand. He established his Khanqah in Khairabad. It proved to be the cradle of learning which later became famous as the Khairabadi school of thought. He was a very practical man who attracted a number of knowledge-thirsty and spiritual-hungry personalities from the length and breadth of India. He also spent ten years in the Haramain (Mecca and Medina).

Hafiz Paak RA was referred to as the “Shibli of the Era” and “Sultan-ul-Mashaikh”. He kept away from kings and affluent arrogant people. He passed away on 19 Zil Qada 1266 AH at the age of 71. One of his most well known Khulafas is Hazrath Khwaja Habib Ali Shah RA, the Pir-O-Murshid of Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA.

HAZRATH KHWAJA HABIB ALI SHAH (d. 1322/1904)

Hazrath Habib Ali Shah RA was born at Hyderabad, Deccan, India. He was the fourth son of a philanthropic billionaire, Nawab Ahmad Yar Khan Muhyud Dawlah. His birth was the miraculous prediction made by Hazrath Khwaja Hafiz Muhammad Ali Shah RA of Khairabad, India, who made regular spiritual and educational visits to Hyderabad, that a “spiritual” child will be born in the Nawab’s house. Although the wife of the Nawab had passed child-bearing age, a child was born.

When this child grew up he renounced his title and an estate worth several billion rupees and entered the realms of true faqiri. He showed his ameeri in later life when he hardly had any material possessions and yet during his trips to the blessed city of Ajmer Shareef he was seen distributing countless rupees to the needy and indigent.

The city of Khairabad was a centre of learning and the Khanqah was a popular focal point for the training of ulema. He received his spiritual training here under Hazrath Khwaja Hafiz Mohamed Ali Shah RA who was the Shaikh and teacher at the centre. Before long, the Shaikh appointed him as a Kutub of Kokan and instructed him to serve the community of the cosmopolitan city of Mumbai (Bombay).

He left for Bombay where he established a centre in Dockyard Road, Majgown, which still exists today, perpetuating the legacy of selfless service for which its founder was famous. Hazrath Habib Ali’s entire life speaks of profound spirituality, unblemished service and countless miracles. His spiritual lineage or Silsila was the Chistia, Qadiria as well as various other orders. He not only made mureeds (disciples) but trained them to serve as khulafas (spiritual successors). He sent his renowned khulafas to the different parts of the world with the specific instructions that they provide selfless service to humanity and that they propagate Islam in its pristine purity, restraining from indulging in futile debates and vain arguments.

Hazrath Khwaja Habib Ali Shah RA visited the mazaars of Auli-Allah in India and it was during his meditation at the tomb of Hazrath Khwaja Nasiruddin Chiraag RA in Delhi that he was instructed to post his capable Khalifa, Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA to South Africa in 1895.

Hazrath Khwaja Habib Ali Shah RA passed away in Bombay on 6 Zil Haj 1322 (1904). It was decided that his body be taken to Hyderabad by train so that he could be buried there. The normally twenty-four hour train journey took three days because of the multitudes of people that gathered at every major station along the route and insisted on offering Janaza prayers. Eventually, on 10 Zil Haj, his body was laid to rest next to the mosque in the city of his birth.

But his spirit lives on, not only in Hyderabad but wherever he has sent his faithful Khulafas, including the southern tip of the distant continent of Africa through Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA. He also wrote twenty-five books on Tasawwuf.

His Khulafas among others are:-

Hazrath Hajee Shah Goolam Mohamed Soofie Saheb Siddique, Hazrath Sayed Hafiz Mohamed Ali Shah, Hazrath Shah Mohamed Ibrahim Soofie Siddiqui, Hazrath Shah Maqbool Ilahi, Hazrath Dawood Ali Shah. (May Allah’s blessings be upon them).

Tha Sajjada Nasheens of his Khanqah at Hyderabad were:-

Hazrath Sayed Hafiz Mohamed Ali Shah RA, Hazrath Habib Sani RA, Hazrath Shah Hafiz Pasha Habibi RA (1979-1989).

The present Sajjda Nasheen is:- Hazrath Jawaad Pasha Habibi (1989 to present).

Authors’ Note: Hazrath Khwaja Suleman Tawsawi RA was the Pir O Murshid of Hazrath Khwaja Hafiz Muhammad Ali Shah RA, who was the Pir o Murshid of Hazrath Khwaja Habib Ali Shah RA, who was the Pir o Murshid of Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA.