Category: Muslim Contribution

How Needs of Millions of Poor People were Satisfied Through Great Sufis in India

Sufis helping poor

In India the needs of thousands of men used to be satisfied through the Sufi saints; in countless homes the hearths were lighted because of their benevolence; a vast number of people lived in their Khanqahs (spiritual seminaries) as permanent guests enjoying all the reasonable comforts of life. At the dinner-spreads of the Sufi ascetics no distinction was observed between the rich and the poor, the friend and the foe, and the kindred and the stranger.

The dinner-spread of Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia was proverbial both for its extensiveness and sumptuousness of the meals served on it.

At the Khanqah of Sheikh Saifuddin Sirhindi, a Mujaddidiya divine of the 17th century, 1400 persons used to dine every day and every one of them was served with food of his own choice.1

Another Chishti saint of the late 17th and early 18th century, Syed Mohammad Saeed alias Shah Bheek, it is reported by his biographer that, apart from the 5,000 votaries who lived permanently in his Khanqah, an equal number from among the daily visitors also joined in at the meals with the result that about 10000 persons dined with him regularly.

Once Roshanuddaula, who was a Seh-Hazari (meaning a Mansabdar commanding 3,000 soldiers) feudal lord of the Court of Emperor Farrukh Siyar of Delhi, presented Shah Bheek Rs. 70,000/- for the construction of the Khanqah. Shah advised him to leave the money and go and have little rest and construction work would commence in the afternoon. After Roshanuddaula had retired Shah Bheek sent the entire money to widows and other needy and indigent people of Ambala, Thanesar, Sirhind and Panipat through the ascetics of the Khanqah. When Roshanuddaula returned in the afternoon, Shah Saheb said to him:

“You could never have earned so much Divine reward by the construction of the Khanqah as you have by serving so many poor, helpless persons and hermits. What would an humble ascetic like me do with a palatial building ?”

On another occasion, Emperor Farrukh Siyar, Roshanuddaula and Nawab Abdullah Khan sent him promissory notes worth Rs. 3,00,000 along with their petitions. The divine had all the money distributed in the neighbouring towns and among indigent families of good birth.2

As Maulana Manazir Ahsan Gilani had very appropriately observed:

“The Khanqahs of the Sufi saints served as the connecting link between the rich and the poor. Even reigning monarchs paid tribute to the courts of these august men. Take the case of Sultan-ul-Mashaikh. It has been shown how Khizir Khan, the heir- apparent to the throne of Delhi, was his bondman (meaning a devoted disciple). Sultan Alauddin Khilji used to collect the tribute from all parts of the country, but there was one treasury in which he also had to deposit the submission money………………………………..The Khanqahs were the channels through which the share of the poor and the needy used to reach them throughout the land This is what was implied by the well-known saying that ‘the property of the Sufi is at everybody’s disposal.’ ”

“This confluence of poverty and riches, i.e. the holy Order of the Sufis to which the rich and the poor alike paid homage was the agency by means of which the needs of innumerable destitute Muslim families were satisfied. Indeed, there was no phase in the whole era of Muslim supremacy in India, and no province, in the entire sub-continent, in which the Prophet’s command that ‘it should be taken from those among them that are rich and given to those among them that are poor’ was not dutifully carried into practice by the Sufi saints, especially by those among them who, by some extraordinary circumstance, had come to acquire influence over the rich and privileged sections of the community; the fortunes of the distressed sections would then literally wake up.” 3

 

1. Nuzhat-ul- Khawatir, Vol. V

2. Manazir Ahsan Gilani: Nizam-i-Talim wa Tarbiyat, Vol. II, pp. 221-222

3. Manazir Ahsan Gilani: Nizam-i-Talim wa Tarbiyat, Vol. II, p. 220

P.S. The article has been created from the works of great Islamic scholar Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (Ali Miyan).

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How Great Sufis were Instrumental in Propagation of Knowledge and Learning in India

Imam GhazaliThe Sufis of India were great patrons of learning. Some of them were outstanding men of letters themselves. Their belief was that it was impossible to know God without knowledge, and also that ‘an ignorant Sufi is the devil’s plaything’. There are instances when they refused to admit in their folds votaries of striking promise and aptitude until they had completed their education. In future posts on this blog it would be shown in sufficient detail that how the remarkable educational and literary progress of India under the Muslims was due, directly or indirectly, to the encouragement given by the Sufi divines.

The two of the greatest scholars and teachers of the 14th century, Qazi Abdul Muqtadir Kindi and Sheikh Ahmad Thanesari were the spiritual proteges of Khwaja Naseeruddin Chiragh-i-Dehli. The renowned 17th century educationist and teacher, Maulana Lutfullah of Kora Jahanabad was a Sufi saint of the Chishtiya Order and through his pupils, and pupils of his pupils, educational activity was kept going till the 19th century, . More often than not, the Khanqah (Spritual Seminary) and the Madrassa (Islamic Religious Education Institution) formed the natural complements to each other. The Khanqah-i-Rasheediya of Jaunpur, the Madrassa of Shah Pir Mohammad at Lucknow, the seminary of Shah Waliullah at Delhi and the Khanqah of Maulana Rasheed Ahmad at Gangoh were the best examples of it.

P.S. The article has been created from the works of great Islamic scholar Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (Ali Miyan).

Extraordinary Courage of Great Sufis Against Tyrannical Rulers and its Impact on Indian Society

Sufi Rumi

A most valuable service rendered by the holy Sufi saints was that they stood fearlessly against the unjust and degenerate ways of powerful despots and tyrannical rulers, and saved the kingdom and the society, in general, from the consequences of their follies by boldly telling the truth at their face. Inspired by their example, people also shed fear and became courageous and straightforward. The history of Muslim rule in India offers many number or instances when Muslim saints threw the consideration of personal safety to the winds and fulfilled, at the gravest peril of their lives, the Islamic duty contained in the Prophet’s Tradition that a most superior form of Jihad is to speak the truth in front of a tyrannical  ruler.

Sheikh Qutbuddin Munawwar was a Chishti saint who lived in solitude at the time of Sultan Mohammad bin Tughlaq. On one of his tours the King happened to pass through the area in which the saint lived, but the saint did not come to meet him. The King later summoned him to Delhi. When the saint entered the royal palace, the court nobles, ministers, heralds and attendants were standing in a double row in front of the throne. On seeing this imposing spectacle, his young son Nuruddin, who was with him and had never been in a king’s court before, was seized with fright. The Sheikh admonished him sternly, “Glory is for God, Baba Nuruddin”, he said to him in a loud voice. His son later said that as soon as he heard these words, he fell a new strength surging within him, all the fear disappeared and the Court grandees began to look to him as meek as goats.

The King complained to the saint, “When i was in your neighbourhood you neither counselled me nor honoured me with visit.”

The Sheikh replied, “The Dervish (A muslim ascetic) does not consider himself worthy of royal society. In his solitary corner he prays for the King as for the general body of Muslims, He will now beg to be excused.”

After the interview the King confided to a nobleman that he had noticed with all the spiritual leaders with whom he had the occasion to shake hands, that their hands trembled at the time, but Sheikh Munawwar’s grip was so firm that he seemed to be completely unaffected by the event.

The King then presented to him a purse of one lakh (100000) gold coins whereupon the Sheikh exclaimed, “Glory be! Two seers of pulses and rice and a pice (a former monetary unit of India) worth of ghee are enough for the dervish. What will he do with all this money ?” After great persuasion and on being advised that the King would be antagonized by a blank refusal, he agreed to accept 2,000 pieces which too he distributed among his brother-saints and other poor and indigent people before returning from Delhi.”1

To take another instance, again from the reign of Sultan Mohammad bin Tughlaq, Maulana Fakhruddin Zarradi had a strong aversion to meeting him. He used often to say that he saw his head rolling in his royal court (meaning that he will not hesitate to speak the truth in his presence and the King will not forgive him and behead him). At last he was called by the Sultan to his court.

“Give me some good advice”, the Sultan asked,

“Suppress anger”, the Maulana said.

“What anger ?”, asked the Sultan.

“The anger of the wild beasts”, the Maulana replied.

The king grew red in the face at the reply, but he kept quiet. After this the royal meal was ordered. The King shared his vessel with the Maulana and sometimes even fed him with his own lane. The Maulana ate with apparent dislike. When the meal was over, the Maulana came away.2

The Sufi saints upheld steadfastly the traditions of detachment, fearlessness and undaunted championship of truth though those were the days of absolute monarchy and despotic rule. The Kings too, under the force of their spirituality, felt compelled to allow them the freedom to perform their duty even when they showed no consideration to the forthright and honest Ulema (Muslim religious scholars). The spiritual leaders guarded zealously their self-­respect and dignity before mighty rulers, chieftains and noblemen right till the last days of the Mughal Empire.

It is reported that Emperor Shah Alam was once present in the Mehfil-Simaa of Khwaja Mir Dard when troubled by a painful leg he could not help stretching it a little. The Khwaja protested, “It a against the decorum of the society of the fakir (Dervish) to sit like this”. The Emperor apologized and indicated his discomfort upon which Khwaja Mir Dard remarked, “If you were not feeling well, what was the need to come ?”4

1. Siar-ul-Aulia, pp. 253-55

2. Siar-ul-Aulia, pp. 271-72

3. Among the Sufis this term is applied to an assembly in which hymns are sung to produce spiritual ecstasy.

4. Gul-i-Ra’ana, p.171

P.S. The article has been created from the works of great Islamic scholar Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (Ali Miyan).

How Great Sufis Morally and Socially Reformed the Indian Society

Maulana Rumi Quote

The virtuous Sufis would call upon those taking bai’at (the oath taken by a person at the time of becoming disciple the of a saint) at their hands to;

  • Offer earnest repentance for their sins
  • Make a solemn affirmation of loyalty and obedience to God and the Prophet.
  • Refrain from licentiousness and self-­indulgence, injustice, oppression and violation of the rights of others.

These pious teachers addressed themselves to the moral elevation of their disciples by

  • prescribing measures for the eradication of vices like vanity, malice, jealousy and lust for wealth and power.
  • They urged their disciples to remember God and to do well to His creatures and practice self-abnegation and contentment.

Besides the bai’at which symbolized forging of a special link between the guide and the disciple, the revered teachers also exhorted and gave good counsel to whoever came to them and strove to awaken in their hearts the love for the Divine and the ambition to seek His pleasure and to strive with all his might for self-correction and inner reform.

Illustrative of the powerful, inspiring and morally regenerating influence exercised on the society by the Sufi leaders through their tremendous sincerity, moral excellence, preaching and instruction is the following extract from the renowned historian, Ziauddin Barni, depicting the social conditions prevailing in India during the reign of Alauddin Khilji.

The leading Sufi saints at the time of Alauddin Khilji were Sheikh-ul-Islam Nizamuddin, Sheikh-ul-Islam Alauddin and Sheikh-ul-Islam Ruknuddin. A world received enlightenment from them and took the bai’at at their hands. Sinners were inspired by them to repent for their sins and thousands of evil-doers and habitual defaulters of Namaz (Daily 5 times Muslim Prayer)  abandoned their evil ways and became devout worshipers; a strong fer­vour was created among them for religious deeds and their repentance attained perfection. The obligatory duties of worship and Divine ordinances in the other spheres of life began to be observed as a matter of course. Excessive attachment to worldly desires and aspirations, which lies at the root of most of the evils, got reduced under the force of the high morality, asceticism and profound self-denial of these spiritual masters……………… People grew truthful as a result of their blessings; they became honest in the management of worldly affairs and were fired by the ambition to improve and evolve their inner selves due to the inspirational influence exercised by the laudable moral conduct, abstinence and spirituality of the Sufi leaders……..”1

The historian goes on to say:

In the last years of Sultan Alauddin’s rule the general moral level had improved so much that a majority of the people abstained from drink, adultery, gambling and other social and moral perversions. The major sins were shunned as equivalents of infidelity. Muslims refrained from open usury and hoarding for fear of each other’s censure. Adulteration, deceit and under-­weighing were eliminated from the market.1

It is manifestly impossible to give a coherent, historical picture of the reformation brought about in public morals by the Sufi divines in few lines. It is enough to know here that the Sufi saints have made an enormous contribution towards the evolution of a healthy, conscientious environment in India which is the nation’s greatest asset and which has provided it with worthy leaders and redeemers at every critical turn of history.

Leaving aside the intervening centuries, the material on which is widely available in the memoirs and biographies of the spiritual leaders, we give an instance from the life of Syed Ahmad Shaheed, a religious reformer and Sufi saint of the 19th century, to show the extent of the moral impact of his personality on society. It is recorded in connection with his brief stay in Calcutta that;

the liquor business in that great city was suddenly brought to a standstill. The liquor merchants complained to the authorities that though they wore paying the taxes regularly, they had been forced to close down their business since the arrival in the city of a saint under whose influence more and more Muslims were getting reformed daily and taking the vow not to indulge in intoxicants any more. They did not even look at the liquor shops now.”2

These venerable divines enjoined upon their new disciples to observe

  • fairness in monetary dealings
  • paying back of debts
  • scrupulous satisfaction of the claims of others.

To cite an example, the great Sufi Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia was bidden emphatically by his spiritual mentor, Khwaja Fariduddin Ganj Shakar to do his level best always to placate the opponent and render to everyone what was his due.

Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia owed a person some money and a book he had borrowed from someone had got lost. When on arriving Delhi, he went to settle these accounts, the person to whom he owed the money remarked, “It seems you are coming from the society of Muslims” while the owner of the book said, “Is it always like that at the place from where you are coming ?”3

People likewise were imbued with the desire to oblige and be of help to others under the guidance and instruction of the Sufi saints. During the entire course of the long Haj journey, Syed Ahmad Shaheed and the large band of his companions missed no opportunity to do an act of public service. While they were sailing down the Ganges they came across a boat which was laden with cotton at the landing-ghats of Mirzapur. The owner of the cotton was in need of labourers to remove it to the godown. Seeing his plight, Syed Saheb at once told his companions to unload the boat and so energetically did they apply themselves to the task that in a couple of hours the whole cotton was taken off and deposited in the godown. People who witnessed the deed were left thoroughly amazed;

“What sort of men they are” they commented among themselves“They did not even know the cotton merchant and yet they have toiled so hard for him without charging a pie. Surely, they are the devout men of God.”4

What was achieved by the Sufi divines in India in the sphere of general moral upliftment was solely the result of their evolved spirituality and loftiness of character. No government, no law no other institution could bring about so much improvement in so many people or keep them so steadily within the bounds of moral propriety and rectitude.

 

  1. Condensed from Tarikh-i-Firoz Shahi by Ziauddin Barni p. 346
  2. Waqa-i-Ahmadi
  3. Fawaid-ul-Fuwad, pp.14
  4. Seerat Syed Ahmad Shaheed, pp.249

P.S. The article has been created from the works of great Islamic scholar Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (Ali Miyan).

Who Saved Islamic Beliefs from Corruption During 17th Century in India

Mujaddid Alf i Saani

Owing to various natural and historical factors, India had come to be the nerve-centre of religious and spiritual correction and reform during the declining phase of Islamic supremacy. Proselytizing and reformationist activities made such an advance in India that many other countries were also influenced by them. Religious preachers and renovators were born here who on the strength of their earnestness, learning and popularity, the effectiveness of their appeal and the great number of people who profited by their efforts and by their natural harmony with the real spirit of Islam and its call constituted the choicest examples of Islamic missionaries and reformers.

The most elevated among these religious guides and redeemers was Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi (d. 1624) upon whom men of vision and understanding have conferred the title of Mujaddid Alf-i-Sani (the Renovator of the Second Millennium). It was he who;

  1. Renewed and strengthened the bond of Indian Muslims with Islam
  2. Saved the Shariat from being corrupted by innovations and the apostasy of the extremist Sufis, as they were openly inclined towards the pantheistic doctrine of Wahdat-ul-Wajood (God is everything and everything is God).
  3. It was he again, who rescued the Mughal Empire from the whirlpool of irreligiousness it had got caught into.
  4. Put a check on the highly dangerous movement for the unity and amalgamation of faiths (Deen-i-Ilaahi)
  5. Put a check on the revival of Brahmanism.
  6. The great devotee of Allah and indefatigable crusader in His cause, Aurangzeb, too, was a product of his mighty struggle.

The Sufistic Order founded by him still endures, besides India, in countries like Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Kurdistan and Syria.The popularity this Order acquired through the efforts of his disciple, Allama Khalid Shahrazori Kurdi (d. 1826) in Arabia, Kurdistan, Syria and Turkey has not come by the way of any other Sufi System1

1. Usman-us-Sanad: Asfat Mawared fi Tarjuma Hazrat Saiyyadna Khalid, and Mohammad Amin Ibn Omar Abideen: Sallul Husam-il-Hindi Le Nusrat-i Maulana Khalid Naqshbandi

P.S. The article has been created from the works of great Islamic scholar Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (Ali Miyan).

What Muslim World Lost and India Gained During Tartar Invasion

Tartar invasion

A sort of intellectual stagnation had come over the Muslim World after the Mongol invasion. Minds had become sterile and blindly imitative. Intellectual activity was brought almost to a standstill. The picture of degeneration became complete with the approach of the 14th century when lethargy and inertia crept also into the other branches of life. With a few exceptions, like Ibn-i-Khaldun, the Islamic World could not produce anyone during the period under review who was above the general level of mediocrity.

But India, on account of its physical remoteness from the scene, managed comparatively to escape from the ravages of the decay. The Tartars who had descended upon the World of Islam like a terrible scourge, spelling ruin and destruction wherever they went, could not spread their tentacles fully over India because of its geographical isolation. Consequently, a major proportion of the finest brains of the Muslim World had sought safety by migrating to India and settling down here as permanent citizens. Because of them intellectual activity here was kept going for a considerable length of time, brisk endeavors continued to be in evidence in the literary field, and men of learning and wisdom did not cease to come forward who can rightfully be ranked among the foremost thinkers and scholars of Islam.

One discovers, for example, in the writings of Sheikh Sharafuddin Yahya Maneri (d. 1370), Sheikh-ul-Islam Shah Waliullah Dehlavi (d. 1762), Shah Rafiuddin Dehlavi (d. 1817) and Shah Ismail Shaheed Dehlavi (d. 1830) new literary values and original modes of thinking that are generally absent from the works of their contemporaries in the other parts of the Muslim World.

The Indian Muslims have during all the stages of their career produced such exalted personalities as have been the envy of the world. Even under the British regime, where a deliberate policy was pursued to liquidate them intellectually and economically,1 they did not stop sending forth eminent legislators, administrators, mathematicians and educationists and such brilliant masters of the English language whose proficiency and skill was acknowledged by Englishmen themselves.

 

1. Hunter, W.W. : Indian Musalmans

P.S. The article has been created from the works of great Islamic scholar Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (Ali Miyan).

What is Akbar Nama and Ain-i-Akbari ?

Akbarnama-construction

Abul Fazl and Fyzee were the choicest glories of the court of Akbar. Irrespective of their religious and spiritual views and conduct and the harm they did thereby to the cause of Islam in India, they were without a doubt among the most outstanding men of their time not only in India but the whole literary world. Both of them were gifted with exceptional mental faculties, a rare love for learning and an extraordinary poetic and literary taste and aptitude. Fyzee deserves a place among the all-lime masters of Iran for his Persian poetry, while Abul Fazl’s Ain-i-Akbari and Akbar Nama are marvels or knowledge and wisdom and observation and analysis. Says Carra de Vaux of Akbar Nama :

“Akbar Nama is an extraordinary literary work; it is overflowing with life, ideas and facts. A study of it reveals that all the fields of human existence have been thoroughly examined and the conclusions thus reached have been critically arranged and analysed. The eyes arc dazzled by the continuous evolution of ideas it contains. It is a literary document of which the entire oriental civilization can be proud. The persons whose mighty intellects have introduced themselves through this voluminous book seem to be far ahead of their age in administration and state craft, and not only in administration and slate craft but religious philosophy as well. These poets and thinkers saw the material world with a highly penetrating eye. They were given to observe everything very deeply and to preserve in their minds what they saw. They used to experience every thing personally and examine their own views and notions against the background of facts. On the one hand, their mode of expression was rich and eloquent, and, on the other, they supported and fortified their statements with facts and figures.”1

 1. Carra de Vaux: ‘Penseur de I’slam’ (Paris, 1921)

P.S. The article has been created from the works of great Islamic scholar Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (Ali Miyan).