Nizamuddin Auliya: How Urdu Poetry Portrays Him Loved by Hindus & Muslims Alike

Dealing with different people endowed him with deep insight into human nature and brimmed his discourses

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Nizamuddin Auliya: How Urdu Poetry Portrays  Him Loved by Hindus & Muslims Alike

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Referred to as Mehboob-e Ilahi (‘the Beloved of God’), Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya (1238-1325) belonged to the Chishtiya silsila, his predecessors being Fariduddin Ganjshakar, Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki and Moinuddin Chishti.

His dargah (hospice) in Ghiyaspur, then a suburb of Delhi, now known as Basti Nizamuddin, drew all manner of folk from different faiths, the young and the old, the illiterate and the educated, the rich and the poor.

In medieval India, where power revolved around the twin axis of the Sufis and the Sultans, Hazrat Nizamuddin remained steadfast in maintaining his distance from the Sultans and being close to the people who thronged his jamaat-khana for zikr, langar, and sama.

Experienced in dealing with different sorts of people and endowed as he was with deep insight into human nature, his discourses were brimful with ilm-e ladunni (‘inspired knowledge’) that was revealed through qissas and kahanis (parables and stories).

Sufism's soulful discourse

In the Fawaidul Fuad, a record of the Sufi master’s conversations (known as malfuzat in the Sufi tradition) compiled by Amir Hasan Sijzi, Hazrat Nizamuddin is believed to have said that the first lesson about Sufism is neither about prayers nor organised rituals. Instead it began with mastery of the maxim: ‘Whatever you do not like to be done to yourself, do not wish it to happen to others; wish for yourself what you wish others also.’

Altruism, renunciation, distribution of food to the poor, and above all, forbearance and peaceful relations among people – these emerged as constant concerns in his conversations. Control over nafs (the baser instincts) was to be practiced for the nafs was the cause of all evil just as qalb (the human soul) produced peace, resignation and good will.


Amir Khusrau Was Nizamuddin's Twin Flame 

No mention of Hazrat Nizamuddin is complete without a reference to Amir Khusrau, his best-known poet-disciple. Intertwined for generations in popular memory, not least because of the many apocryphal stories associated with Khusrau’s great love for the Hazrat, immortalized in the many qawwalis the poet taught the qawwal-bacchas in the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin – compositions that are still sung by their descendents 700 years later – Khusrau’s name crops up whenever there is talk of the Sufi master.

Such was the intense love Khusrau had for his pir that he himself passed away shortly after his master’s death and was buried close by. In fact, according to the Hazrat’s own instructions, pilgrims first go to Khusrau’s grave to offer fateha and only then to Nizamuddin Auliya’s.

Love for his ‘nijam’ flows like a coursing river through much of Khusrau’s verses, as in:

Mujhe apne hi rang mein rang de rangile

Tu to sahib mere mehboob-e ilahi

(Colour me in your colours, O colourful one

You are my master, O beloved of God)

And these lines composed when Khusrau heard of his Master’s passing away when he was far away accompanying Sultan Ghiyasuddin on his Bengal expedition:

Gori sowey sej par mukh par daarey kes

Chal Khusrau ghar aapne saanjh bhaii chahu des

(My beloved sleeps on the couch a lock of hair falling over her face

Come, Khusrau, it is time to go home as night falls all around)


'Mile Do Murshidon Ko Qudrat-E-Haq Se Hain Do Taalib'

Here is Mirza Ghalib, 19th-century Delhi’s pre-eminent poet who lies buried close beside Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s hospice, making a light-hearted reference to Khusrau’s by-now legendary love for his master in referring to Sirajuddin Ahmad Khan of the Loharu family, who was his shagird (pupil) and took islaah (correction) from him:

Mile do murshidon ko qudrat-e-haq se hain do taalib

Nizamuddin ko Khusrau Siraajuddiin ko Ghalib

(Two masters have found two students by the Power of Truth

Nizamuddin found Khusrau and Sirajuddin found Ghalib)

Nizamuddin continued to exercise the imagination of the Urdu poet for centuries after his death. Here is Sir Muhammad Iqbal writing:

Farishtey padhtey hain jisko wo naam hai tera

Badi janab teri, faiz-e aam hai tera

(The name that angels recite, that name is yours

Your threshold is great, you work for the public good)


That he continued to draw drew people of all faiths is evident from Darshan Singh Duggal who wrote a nazm entitled ‘Mahbub-i Ilahi’:

Har ik farq ki khaatir hai aastana tera

Sabhi ne dil ki muradein yahan se payii hain

(Your threshold is accessible to people of all kinds

Everyone has received their heart’s desires from here)

Confluence of Urdu and Sanskrit in Lyrics

Even a contemporary poet such as Shahryar, with a thoroughly modern sensibility, has written an entire ghazal on Nizamuddin ji drawing attention to the milli-juli sanskriti that is exemplified in Hazrat ji’s life and legacy:

Nisbat rahe tum se sada Hazrat Nizamuddin ji

Mangun main kya is ke siwa Hazrat Nizamuddin ji

Ankhon pe yuun chhaye ho tum har ja nazar aaye ho tum

Kaisa junun mujh ko hua Hazrat Nizamuddin ji

Hathon se tum ne jo kiya raushan wafa ka ik diya

Anndhi ki zad men wo jala Hazrat Nizamuddin ji

Lete thhe Allah naam jo japte thhe dil mein Ram jo

Tum ne kiya sab ka bhala Hazrat Nizamuddin ji

Khusrau ki ankhon se kabhi dekhe agar tum ko koi

Ahval hoga us ka kya Hazrat Nizamuddin ji


'Jab Se Meri Jabeen Pe Tere Dar Ki Dhool Hai'

Pandit Anand Mohan Zutshi, better known by his pen name Gulzar Dehlvi, never missed a single urs at the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin till he died two years ago aged 93. Of the many verses he wrote for his Khwaja, he was fond of reciting this one:

Jab se meri jabeen pe tere dar ki dhool hai

Kaanta bhi raaste ke mere haq me phool hai

(Ever since the dust of your door is on my forehead

Even the thorns in my path bloom like flowers for me)

Hazrat Nizamuddin’s own master, Shaikh Fariduddin Ganj-i Shakar also known as Baba Farid, had blessed him saying: ‘You will be a tree under whose shadow the people will find rest…’ Indeed, it came to be so and, in an increasingly divided world, his dargah in Basti Nizamuddin remains a rare oasis of harmony.

(Rakhshanda Jalil is a writer, translator and literary historian. She writes on literature, culture and society. She runs Hindustani Awaaz, an organisation devoted to the popularisation of Urdu literature. She tweets at @RakhshandaJalil. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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