Moinuddin Chishti

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Shaykh Muʿīn al-Dīn Chishtī
Ajmer Sharif Dargah 1893.jpg
An 1893 photograph of the Shrine of Muʿīn al-Dīn Chishtī in Ajmer, India, from Douglas James' Bombay and Western India: A Series of Stray Papers (London: Sampson Low and Co., 1893), Vol. I, p. 338
Preacher, Mystic, Founder;
Reviver of the Faith, The Envoy to India, Supporter of the Religion, Gharīb Navāz
Venerated in Traditional Sunni Islam, but particularly in the Sunni mystical orders of Sufism and in the Hanafi school of Sunni law[note 1]
Major shrine Shrine of Muʿīn al-Dīn Chishtī, Ajmer, Rajasthan, India
Patronage City of Ajmer[note 2]
Muʿīn al-Dīn Chishtī
Title Reviver of the Faith
Born 536 AH/1142 CE
Chishti region in Herat, Afghanistan
Died 633 AH/1236 CE
Ajmer, Rajasthan, India
Ethnicity Persian
Era Islamic golden age
Religion Islam
Denomination Sunni
Jurisprudence Hanafi
Creed Maturidi
Main interest(s) Mysticism

Chishtī Muʿīn al-Dīn Ḥasan Sijzī (1142–1236 CE), known more commonly as Muʿīn al-Dīn Chishtī or Moinuddin Chishti,[6] or reverently as a Shaykh Muʿīn al-Dīn, was a Sunni Muslim mystic, preacher,[7] ascetic, religious scholar, and philosopher from Sistan,[8] who eventually ended up settling in the Indian subcontinent in the early thirteenth-century, where he established the famous and widespread Chishti order of Sunni mysticism.[9] This particular order became the dominant Sunni Muslim spiritual group in medieval India, and many of the most beloved and venerated Indian Islamic saints in the Sunni tradition have been Chishti in their Sufi affiliation, including Niẓām al-Dīn Awliyāʾ (d. 1325) and Amīr Khusraw (d. 1325).[10] As such, Muʿīn al-Dīn Chishtī's legacy in traditional Sunni Islam rests primarily on his having been "one of the most outstanding figures in the annals of Islamic mysticism."[11]

Although little is known of Muʿīn al-Dīn Chishtī's early life, it is probable that he travelled from Sistan to India as a refugee due to the increasing prevalence of Mongol military action in Central Asia at this point in time.[12] Having arrived in Delhi during the reign of the sultan Iltutmish (d. 1236), Muʿīn al-Dīn moved from Delhi to Ajmer shortly thereafter, at which point he became increasingly influenced by the writings of the famous Hanbali scholar and mystic ʿAbdallāh Anṣārī (d. 1088), whose famous work on the lives of the early Islamic saints, the Ṭabāqāt al-ṣūfiyya, may have played a role in shaping Muʿīn al-Dīn's worldview.[13] It was during his time in Ajmer that Muʿīn al-Dīn acquired the reputation of being a great spiritual preacher and teacher; and biographical accounts of his life written after his death report that he received the gifts of many "spiritual marvels (karāmāt), such as miraculous travel, clairvoyance, and visions of angels"[14][15] in these years of his life.

The tomb (dargāh) of Muʿīn al-Dīn became a deeply venerated site in the century following the preacher's death in 1236. Honored by members of all social classes, the tomb was treated with great respect by many of the era's most important Sunni rulers, including Muhammad bin Tughluq, the Sultan of Delhi from 1324-1351, who payed a famous visit to the tomb in 1332 to commemorate the memory of the saint.[16] In a similar way, the later Mughal emperor Akbar (d. 1605) visited the shrine no less than fourteen times during his reign.[17] In the present day, the tomb of Muʿīn al-Dīn continues to one of the most popular sites of religious visitation for Sunni Muslims in the Indian subcontinent,[18] with over "hundreds of thousands of people from all over the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent assembling there on the occasion of [the saint's] ʿurs or death anniversary."[19] Additionally, the site also attracts many Hindu devotees, who have also venerated the Islamic saint since the medieval period.[20] In 2007, the shrine of Muʿīn al-Dīn suffered a bomb blast at the hands of ultra right-wing Hindu nationalist extremists, leading to the deaths of three devotees and the injuries of seventeen others; the shrine has been completely restored since then.[21][22]

Life[edit]

Born in 1142 in Sistan, Muʿīn al-Dīn Chishtī was a teenager when his father, Sayyid G̲h̲iyāt̲h̲ al-Dīn (d. c. 1155), died,[23] leading to the latter leaving his grinding mill and orchard to his son.[24] Although the young Muʿīn al-Dīn was initially hoping to continue his father's business,[25] the Mongol conquests in the region seem to have "turned his mind inwards,"[26] whence he soon began to develop strong contemplative and mystic tendencies in his personal piety.[27] Soon after, Muʿīn al-Dīn gave away all of his financial assets, and began a life of destitute itineracy, wandering in search of knowledge and wisdom throughout the neighboring quarters of the Islamic world. As such, he visited the famous seminaries of Bukhara and Samarkand, "and acquired religious learning at the feet of eminent scholars of his age."[28] It is also entirely probable that he visited the shrines of Muhammad al-Bukhari (d. 870) and Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (d. 944) during his travels in this region, who were both widely-venerated figures in the Sunni world by this point in time.[29]

While traveling to Iraq, the young Muʿīn al-Dīn encountered in the district of Nishapur the famous Sunni saint and mystic Ḵh̲wāj̲a ʿUt̲h̲mān (d. c. 1200), who initiated the willing seeker into his circle of disciples.[30] Accompanying his spiritual guide for over twenty years on the latter's journeys from region to region, Muʿīn al-Dīn also continued his own independent spiritual travels during the time period.[31] It was on his independent wanderings that Muʿīn al-Dīn encountered many of the most notable Sunni mystics of the era, including Abdul-Qadir Gilani (d. 1166) and Najmuddin Kubra (d. 1221), as well as Naj̲īb al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Ḳāhir Suhrawardī, Abū Saʿīd Tabrīzī, and ʿAbd al-Waḥid G̲h̲aznawī (all d. c. 1230), all of whom were to exercise great influence in contemporary Sunni religiosity and were destined to become some of the most highly venerated saints in the Sunni tradition.[32] Due to Muʿīn al-Dīn's subsequent visits to "nearly all the great centers of Muslim culture in those days," including Bukhara, Samarkand, Nishapur, Baghdad, Tabriz, Isfahan, Balkh, Ghazni, Astarabad, and many others, the preacher and mystic eventually "acquainted himself with almost every important trend in Muslim religious life in the middle ages."[33]

Arriving in India in the early thirteenth-century, Muʿīn al-Dīn first travelled to Lahore to meditate at the tomb-shrine of the famous Sunni mystic and jurist Ali Hujwiri (d. 1072),[34] who was venerated by the Sunnis of the area as the patron saint of that city.[35] From Lahore, Muʿīn al-Dīn continued forward on his journey towards Ajmer, which he reached prior to the city's conquest by the Ghurids.[36] It was in Ajmer that Muʿīn al-Dīn got married at an advanced age; and, according to the seventeenth-century chronicler ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq Dihlawī (d. 1642), the mystic actually took two wives, one of whom was the daughter of a local Hindu raja.[37] Having three sons—Abū Saʿīd, Fak̲h̲r al-Dīn and Ḥusām al-Dīn by name—and one daughter named Bībī Jamāl,[38] it so happened that only the latter inherited her father's mystic leanings,[39] whence she too was later venerated as a saint in local Sunni tradition.[40] After settling in Ajmer, Muʿīn al-Dīn worked at firmly establishing the Chishti order of Sunni mysticism in India, and many later biographic accounts relate the numerous miracles wrought by God at the hands of the saint during this period.[41]

Journeys[edit]

Chishti visited the seminaries of Samarkand and Bukhara and acquired religious learning from scholars. He visited centers of Muslim culture and acquainted himself with important trends in Muslim religious life. He became a disciple of the Chishti saint Usman Harooni. They travelled the Middle East together, including visits to Mecca and Medina.[42]

Journey to India[edit]

Gareeb Nawaz Sarkar turned towards India, reputedly after meeting Muhammad at his resting place and was directed by him himself to move to Hind and spread the message of truth. After a brief stay in Lahore, he reached Ajmer along with his disciple and settled down. In Ajmer, he attracted a substantial following, gaining the respect of the residents of the city. Chishti promoted understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.[43]

Establishing the Chishti Order in South Asia[edit]

The Chishti Order was founded by Abu Ishaq Shami (“the Syrian”) in Chisht some 95 miles east of Herat in present-day western Afghanistan. Moinuddin Chishti established the order in India, in the city of Ajmer in Rajasthan.[43]

The central principles that became characteristics of the Chishti order in India are based on his teachings and practices. They lay stress on renunciation of material goods; strict regime of self-discipline and personal prayer; participation in samā' as a legitimate means to spiritual transformation; reliance on either cultivation or unsolicited offerings as means of basic subsistence; independence from rulers and the state, including rejection of monetary and land grants; generosity to others, particularly, through sharing of food and wealth, and tolerance and respect for religious differences.

Moinuddin, in other words, interpreted religion in terms of human service and exhorted his disciples "to develop river-like generosity, sun-like affection and earth-like hospitality." The highest form of devotion, according to him, was "to redress the misery of those in distress – to fulfill the needs of the helpless and to feed the hungry." It was during the reign of Akbar (1556–1605) that Ajmer emerged as one of the most important centers of pilgrimage in India. The Mughal Emperor undertook a journey on foot to Ajmer. The Akbarnāma records that the emperor's interest in Ajmer first sparked when he heard some minstrels singing songs about the virtues of the wali who lay asleep in Ajmer.[43]

Moinuddin Chishti authored several books including Anīs al-Arwāḥ and Dalīl al-'Ārifīn, both of which deal with the Islamic code of living.

Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki (d. 1235) and Hamiduddin Nagori (d. 1276) were Moinuddin Chishti's celebrated caliphs or "successors", who continued to transmit the teachings of their master through their disciples, leading to the widespread proliferation of the Chishtī Order in India.

Among Quṭbuddīn Baktiar Kaki's prominent disciples was Fariduddin Ganjshakar (d. 1265), whose dargah is at Pakpattan, modern Pakistan. Fariduddin's most famous disciple was Nizamuddin Auliya (d. 1325) popularly referred to as Mahbūb-e Ilāhī "God's beloved", whose dargah is located in South Delhi. Equally famous was his other disciple Ali Ahmed Alauddin Sabir whose dargah is in Kalyar Sharif. The Sabiri silsila is spread far and wide in India and Pakistan and to this day devotees and their descendants add the title of Sabri to their names.

From Delhi, disciples branched out, establishing dargahs in several regions of South Asia, from Sindh in the west to Bengal in the east and the Deccan Plateau in the south. But from all the network of Chishti dargahs, the Ajmer dargah took on the special distinction of being the "mother" dargah of them all.[43]

Dargah[edit]

Dargah of Moinuddin Chishti, Ajmer

The dargah of Chishti, known as Ajmer Sharif Dargah or Ajmer Sharif, is an international waqf, an Islamic mortmain managed by the "Dargah Khwaja Saheb Act, 1955" of the government of India. The Dargah Committee, appointed by the Government, manages donations, takes care of the maintenance of the outer area of shrine, and runs charitable institutions like dispensaries and guest houses for the devotees, but does not take care of the main shrine (Astana e Alia) which is under the custody of Khadims.[44]

Dewan of the Dargah[edit]

Dewan Syed Zainul Abedin at his Office in the Dewan Haweli, Ajmeer Sharif

Dewan Syed Zainul Abedin is the direct descendant in the 22nd generation of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.[45] Meanwhile, according to the APEX Court of India he is the Hereditary Sajjadanashin Spiritual Head of the shrine of Ajmer Dargah. On the other hand, in the aspect of genealogical lineage (family tree); presently he is the most direct descendant of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti.[46][47][48][49][50][51]

Others buried in the Maqbara enclosure[edit]

The Mughal generals Sheikh Mīr and Shāhnawāz Khān were buried in the enclosure of Chishtī's Maqbara after they died in the Battle of Deorai in 1659.

Popular culture[edit]

A song in 2008 film Jodhaa Akbar named Khwaja Mere Khwaja composed by A. R. Rehman pays tribute to Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.[52][53]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Salafi Sunnis by and large do not venerate saints, whence they do not venerate him.
  2. ^ In Islamic tradition, patronage on the part of saints is not declared formally but, rather, is accepted organically by the consensus of the community.

Sources[edit]

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  2. ^ Ḥamīd al-Dīn Nāgawrī, Surūr al-ṣudūr; cited in Auer, Blain, “Chishtī Muʿīn al-Dīn Ḥasan”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE, Edited by: Kate Fleet, Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas, Everett Rowson.
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  52. ^ "Jodhaa Akbar Music Review". Planet Bollywood. Retrieved 25 May 2015. 
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External links[edit]

Media related to Moinuddin Chishti at Wikimedia Commons