Muinuddin Chishti of Ajmer
Muinuddin Chishti of Ajmer is a hallowed name amongst Sufi saints of Bharat. He is generally known as Garib Nawaz, the friend of the poor beseechers. Akbar ‘the Great’ made several visits to his shrine many times starting and ending the journey on foot. This must have added greatly to his status.
He is projected as an example of Sufi saintliness and secularism who tended to all needy persons irrespective of their faith. However, little is known about the major role that he played in the Islamization of Bharat and which he continues to play even today after 800 years of his death. We give below his life sketch from ‘Siya-al-aqtab’ compiled in the mid-seventeenth century as quoted in P.M. Curie’s book “The Shrine and cult of Muinuddin Chishti of Ajmer.” (Oxford)
“Muinuddin Hasan al-Husaini al-Sijzi Chishti was well known for his miracles and asceticism and was endowed with all the merits of perfection. He had high status and was a great healer. He was a Saiyid by true descent. There is no doubt about his genealogy. He wore the cloak of poverty (faqr) and discipleship from Imam al-Awliya Usman Harwani. Through his coming to Hindustan, the way (tariqa) of Islam was established there. He destroyed the darkness of unbelief and ‘shirk’ which had prevailed there since time immemorial through revealing clear reasons and arguments. For this reason Muinuddin is called Nabi-ul-Hind (the prophet of Hind, i.e Bharat). For seventy years his ablution was not broken without him washing before prayer. On whomsoever his propitious glance fell, that man was immediately brought to Allah. Whenever a sinner came into his illuminated presence, he immediately repented. (accepted the true faith of Islam).”
“Each time he finished reading the Quran, a voice came from the unseen world saying, O Muinuddin ! your recitation has been accepted.”
“Although it has been stated that Muinuddin could produce any amount of gold through his miracles, it is certain that he had no dearth of money. It is related that in the kitchen of Muinuddin so many meals were cooked every day that all the impoverished people of the whole city could eat their fill. The servant in charge of this used to go every day before the saint for the expenses. He used to stand with his hands joined in respect. Muinuddin used to take a corner of his prayer rug aside and reveal sufficient treasure. He used to tell the servant to take enough gold from this treasure to cover the kitchen expenses for that day.”
“It is told that once when he went to perform the pilgrimage to the holy tomb of the Prophet Muhammad, one day from the inside of the pure and blessed tomb a cry came: “Send for Muinuddin.” When Muinuddin came to the door he stood there and he saw that presence speak to him. “Muinuddin, you are the essence of my faith; but you must go to Hindustan. There is a place called Ajmer, to which one of my sons (descendants) went for a holy war, and now he has become a martyr, and the place has passed again into the hands of infidels. By the grace of your footsteps there, once more shall Islam be made manifest, and the Kafirs be punished by God’s wrath.“
Accordingly Muinuddin reached Ajmer in Hindustan. There he said: “Praise be to God, May He be exalted, for I have gained possession of the property of my brother.” Although, at that time there were many temples of idols around the lake, when the Khwaja saw them, he said: “If God and His Prophet so will, it will not be long before I raze to the ground these idol-temples.”
Then follow many stories of the Khwaja over coming those Hindu deities and teachers who were strongly opposed to his settling down there. Amongst such people was an employee of Rai Pithaura (Prithvi Raj Chauhan). The Khwaja recommended his case to Rai Pithaura who turned down the request.
It appears that shorn of miracles the story simply is that the Khwaja came to Bharat determined to eradicate idolatry and paganism and establish Islam in its place. He met a lot of resistance from the local governor of Rai Pithaura and even by Rai Pithaura himself. With the help of the immense treasure at his disposal and having converted many gullible Hindus to his faith, he became strong enough to invite Rai Pithaura to convert to Islam. Having failed to persuade him the Khwaja went to Ghazni or sent a message inviting Sultan Shihabuddin Ghori to attack Bharat. Shihabuddin made unsuccessful invasions. Rai Pithaura always allowed him to go back unmolested after his defeat. Ultimately, however, he defeated Prithvi Raj Chauhan and killed him. Muinuddin has a unique position as pioneer of Islam in Bharat in spite of strong opposition of the Hindus. This theme appears throughout in the Siyar al-Awliya where Muinuddin is credited with the Islamic conquest of Bharat. ‘
Having settled his opposition and converted Jogi Ajaipal to Islam, Muinuddin moved into the former’s temple which was later converted into his Dargah. There is evidence in the Siyar al-Aqtab, to suggest it. Sculpted stones, apparently from a Hindu temple, are incorporated in the Buland Darwaza of Muinuddin’s shrine. Tradition says that inside the cellar is an image of Mahadeva in a temple on which sandalwood paste used to be placed every day by a Brahmin. The shrine still employs a Hindu family to prepare the sandalwood paste which is now presented on the grave of Muinuddin. At the least, it serves as a useful explanation to his followers of why Muinuddin, elsewhere portrayed as a powerful evangelist (Missionary of Islam), is buried on ground sacred to the Hindus.
The ‘Siyar al-Arifin’ sums up the life work of this prince of saints, the refuge of the poor and a fore runner of Hindu-Muslim unity. “Through his (Muinuddin) coming to Hindustan the ‘way of Islam’ was established here. He destroyed the darkness of unbelief. Because of his coming …. the darkness of unbelief in this land was illumined by the light of Islam.” Amir Khurd includes two verses which contrast the situation in Bharat before and after Muinuddin’s arrival: as per him, before, all of Bharat was ignorant of the orders of religion and law.
“All were ignorant of Allah and His Prophet. None had seen the Kaba. None had heard of the greatness of Allah.” After Muinuddin arrived in Bharat, “Because of his sword, instead of idols and temples, there are Mosques, Mimbars and Mihrabs in the land of unbelief.“ “In the land where the sayings of the idolaters were heard, there is now the sound of Allah-Akbar.”
Yet, almost every Prime Minister and President of Bharat has humbled himself at the Mazar of this slaughterer of Hindus and destroyer of their temples. Recently Sushma Swaraj, M. P. disclosed in the Parliament that Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan, Railway Minister who professes to be an atheist has also been to this Mazar to seek its blessings. Is it ignorance, blind faith or political exhibitionism ? Who can say?
The daily average of votaries staying at the Khanqah of Syed Adam Bannuri (d. 1643) is one thousand. They took their meals at the Khanqah. A great throng of men, including hundreds of theological doctors, followed the saint wherever he went. It is stated in Tazkira-i-Adamiya that 10,000 (ten thousand) persons formed his entourage during his visit to Lahore in 1642. Seeing the phenomenal popularity of Syed Bannuri, Emperor Shah-jehan became so apprehensive that he thought of a plan to send him out of Bharat. He sent to him a large sum of money and then suggested that as possession of money made the Haj pilgrimage obligatory for a Muslim he should waste no time in proceeding to the Hejaz to discharge the duty. The saint, thereupon, migrated from Bharat.24
Hazrat Mujadid’s celebrated son and spiritual deputy, Khwaja Mohammad Masoom (d. 1668) had as many as 9,00,000 (nine lakhs) disciples who did the Bai-at and repentance at his hand. Of them, 7,000 rose to be his Khalifas.
It is recorded about Shah Ghulam Ali in Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s ‘Asar-ul-Sanadeed’ that “not less than 500 destitute persons used to live in his Khanqah. All of whom were fed and clothed by him.25
“Unprecedented scenes of popular enthusiasm were witnessed during the missionary tours of the famous divine and spiritual leader of the 19th century, Syed Ahmad Shaheed, as also during his journey to Calcutta, while on his way to Arabia for the Haj. In many of the towns that fell on Syed Saheb’s route few persons were left who did not offer baiat and repentance at his hand. At Allahabad, Mirzapur, Varanasi, Ghazipur, Azimabad (Patna) and Calcutta, specially, his disciples must have run into lakhs. The limit was that at Varanasi, the indoor patients of the Sadar Hospital sent to him a petition begging that since they were unable to move out he might condescend to visit them in the hospital so that they could take the baiat. About a thousand persons became his disciples every day during his two months stay at Calcutta. From morning till late at night a stream of men and women would pour in where he was staying. There was hardly any time left for Syed Saheb to attend to his personal needs. When it became impossible to administer the vow to everyone individually, it was arranged for the aspirants to collect in a large house where Syed Saheb went and initiated them into the fold. Seven or eight turbans were unrolled on the ground when he went there, and the aspirants were told to hold them at different places, while one end of them was held by Syed Saheb himself. He then taught them the fundamentals of the faith and read out the oath in a loud voice like Azan which they repeated, and thus, the ritual was completed. This was done seventeen or eighteen times each day.
Islamization of Kashmir
Kashmir is a typical example of Islamization, both by sword and by the Sufis. Amongst the Sultans who used force to Islamize Kashmir the most notorious is Sikandar-but-Shikan (Iconoclast). About this Sultan (1389-1431) Kalhan in his “Rajtarangini” says: “The Sultan forgetting all his royal duties took pleasure day and night in destroying idols. He destroyed the idols of Martand, Vishnu, Ishan, Chakravarty and Tripureshwar. Not a forest, a village or a town or a city escaped where the Turushk and his Minister Suha left any temple undestroyed.”
But the real credit of Islamizing Kashmir goes to the Sufis. Sikandar was a passing phase having lived only 42 years. Conversion by Sufis was a continuous process almost imperceptible which lasted centuries. Sikandar’s conversions were caused by utter terror. Sufis created conditions where Hindus voluntarily came to them and got converted.
Amongst the Sufis who played a major role in converting Hindu Kashmir to Muslim Kashmir, Shaikh Nuruddin popularly known as “Rishi Nur” holds a high place.
Burning Down of Charare Sharif
On the night of 10-11 May, 1995 his mausoleum known as “Charar-e-Sharif” was burnt down by the Muslim terrorists. The Bharatiya press, as usual, described it as “the sacred Dargah of Sufi Saint Nuruddin Nurani” (India Today), “Symbol of secularism, a most valuable symbol of cultural identity” (Front Line), “Abode of Rishis” (The Economic Times), without going into the antecedents of this alleged secular symbol of cultural identity. The communist leader Indrajeet Gupta described him as “the symbol of communal unity.” As a senior communist leader he should have known about the role of these Sufi saints who destabilized Russia. Bennigsen, considered an expert on Soviet Islam, says “These Sufi orders are among the most intractable and dangerous adversaries of the Sovet regime because (they) are the only authentic anti-Soviet mass organisation movement in the Muslim regions of U.S.S.R. ….. nucleus for communal and even national movements in the Muslim regions”27
“In the Caucasus, Sufi orders had organised most of the Muslim resistance to Russian rule, before disappearing after 1928. They turned up after World War-II in a less political form, concentrating their energies on mystical pursuits ….. This is the appropriate posture for periods when Islam is recouping its forces for another round against infidels.”28
The final result of Sufi activities was a break up of the U. S. S. R., liberating the Central Asian Muslim States, the revolt spreading from Azarbejan-a Muslim state of U. S. S. R.
Shaikh Nuruddin was initiated into the order by Ali Hamdani. In order to know Shaikh Nuruddin, it is therefore necessary to know his pir Syed Ali Hamdani.
As the name suggests, Ali Hamdani belonged to Hamdan in west Iran. In order to contribute to the Islamization of infidel Bharat, Syed Ali Hamdani sent one of his disciples Syed Tazuddin to Kashmir to find out the conditions there. Syed Tazuddin was well received by the then Sultan Shahabuddin (1354-73). The Sultan gave him facilities for making his Khanquah at a place 9 miles north west of Shrinagar. It is now known as Shahabuddin Pura.
Having received a favorable report regarding the possibilities of proselytization in Kashmir, Hamdani reached there in 1381 CE along with a force of seven hundred disciples. Mir Saiyed Ali Hamdani was imbued with the searing missionary zeal.. it took the form of temple demolition and the forced conversion of many Kashmiris.
The first conversion that he affected was of the Brahman priest of Kali Mandir Shrinagar. The then Sultan Qutubuddin on persuasion by Hamdani destroyed the temple and allowed Hamdani to build his Khanquah on that site. The seven hundred disciples of Hamdani spread over the whole of Kashmir, constructed their Khanquahs in different places and made them centres of converting Hindus to Islam. In this work, they were covertly and overtly helped by the Muslim Sultans.
Hamdani lived in Kashmir for 3 years, after which he died on his way to Mecca. Nuruddin belonged to the Silsila of Syed Ali Hamdani. The destruction of temples and building of Khanquahs by Hamdani and his disciples had created some sort of a reaction in the Hindu public against the Sufis. Shaikh Nuruddin, therefore, chalked out a different course. At that time, a Shiv devotee lady of the name Lal Didi or Lal-Ded was roaming about in Kashmir singing devotional songs. She had earned great fame, love and respect of the Kashmiri people. Shaikh Nuruddin projected himself as a similar mendicant. In Brahmin Kashmir, Rishi was the highest appellation used for Hindu seers who had reached the final stage of communion with God. Nuruddin styled himself and his disciples as Rishis to take advantage of this Hindu psyche. The Rishis of old used to clad themselves in striped tiger skins. This school of Rishis adopted a similar dress made of striped woollen cloth.
The principal disciples of Nuruddin were Bamuddin, Jainuddin, and Latifuddin. All these three were Brahmins by birth and had been converted to Islam by Shaikh Nuruddin. Brahmins were the natural teachers of the Hindu society and enjoyed great respect. A converted Brahmin was, therefore a very great force in converting his erstwhile Hindu followers to Islam which was projected as a divine faith. The credit of converting Hindu Kashmir to Muslim Kashmir of today is shared equally by Sultans like Sikander-But-Shikan and Sufis like Hamdani and Rishi Nuruddin whose mausoleum was burnt down by the terrorists to embarrass the government of secular Bharat and which the government of Bharat promised to restore at a cost of crores of rupees collected as revenue, mainly’ from the Hindus.
(This is the concluding part of this 3 part series)
24. S. Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi : Muslims in India, p-52-53
25. Ibid, p-53
26. Ibid, p-43-54
27. Daniel Pipes : In the Path of God, p-269