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|Born||536 AH or 1142 CE
Chishti region in Herat, Afghanistan
|Died||6th Rajab 633 AH
˜ March 15, 1236 CE
Tomb Of Moinuddin Chishti, Ajmer, Rajasthan, India
|Other names||Gharib Nawaz|
Moinuddin Chishti (1141 - 1236) also known as Gharib Nawaz (Benefactor of the Poor), was an imam, Islamic scholar and philosopher from South Asia. Chishti introduced and established the Chishti Order of Sufism in the Indian subcontinent. The initial spiritual chain or silsila of the Chishti order in India, comprising Chishti, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, Fariduddin Ganjshakar and Nizamuddin Auliya—each successive person being the disciple of the previous—includes the great Sufi saints of Indian history. Various Mughal emperors were followers of Chishti.
Early life and background
No reliable information is available regarding his life before he settled in Ajmer.
Moinuddin Chishti is said to have been born in 536 AH/1141 CE in Chisht in a city between Afghanistan and Iran and is a "sayyid", a direct descendant of Muhammad through Sayyid Ali Akbar. His parents died when he was fifteen years old. He inherited a windmill and an orchard from his father. During his childhood, Chishti was different from other children and kept himself busy in prayer and meditation. He later disposed of his property and other belongings and distributed the money to the poor. He renounced the world and left for Bukhara in search of knowledge and higher education.
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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.
Journey to India
Chishti turned towards India, reputedly after a dream in which Muhammad blessed him to do so. After a brief stay in Lahore, he reached Ajmer along with Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad, 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.
Establishing the Chishti Order in South Asia
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.
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.
He, 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.
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.
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.
Dewan of the Dargah
Dewan Syed Zainul Abedin is the direct descendant in the 22nd generation of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. 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 geneological lineage (family tree); presently he is the most direct descendant of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti.
Others buried in the Maqbara enclosure
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.
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Media related to Moinuddin Chishti at Wikimedia Commons