As a student I was taught that in Indian Subcontinent, it was the Sufi saints of Chishti establishment, who had made significant contribution to the spread of medieval Islamic civilisation. The mystic idea of Sufism from time to time drags me to the abodes of Sufi saints. A couple of days back I was at the shrine of Burhan Al – Din Gharib at Khuldabad. While talking to the Imam and local devotees, I came to know that the shrine is a major draw not only for Muslims but also for Hindus. Ever year, during the ur, a grand mela is organised near the shrine, which attracts thousands of people from near and far.
Sufism has a thousand years of history in India. In the later part of the 11th century AD, the north-western part of the Subcontinent was home to a number of Sufis. In the late 12th century, when most of the great Sufi orders began to crystallize in different parts of the Islamic World, the Chishti order first became established in North India. The Chishtiyya originated in the town of Chisht in Afghanistan. Muin-al-Din Chisthi (1233 AD), to whom tradition identifies, was the founder of Indian Chishtiyya. Nizam al –Din Awalia (1325 AD) was however the first Chishti master to make a profound impact.
According to an account of the court historian Barani:
“Owing to the influences of the Shaikh (Awalia), most of the mussalmans of this country developed interest in mysticism, prayers, and aloofness from the world and came to have faith in the Shaikh. The hearts of men having become virtuous by good deeds, the very name of wine, gambling and other forbidden things never came to anyone’s lips”.
Burhan Al – Din Gharib (1337 AD) was one of the two key disciples of Awalia, who had settled at Khuldabad.
Khuldabad is a suburb of Daulatabad nestled on the Sahyadri foothills. When Daulatabad became the temporary capital of the Delhi Sultanate under Muhammad Bin Tughluq, a number of Chishtiyya Sufis were forced to migrate here from Delhi. The Sultan apparently believed that the Sufis could by persuasion bring many of the inhabitants of the Deccan to become Muslims. Before the forceful order of Sultan, Nizam al – Din Awalia had sent some Chishtis to south including Daulatabad. One such disciple was Burhan Al- Din Gharib’s brother Muntajib – al – Din. Subsequently, Awaila started sending his disciples in connection with the Tughluqus imperial expansion. But the Sufis did not engage themselves in conversion. They also had shown their reluctance to migration. However after settling down at Deccan, they helped to spread the Islamic intellectual tradition in the region.
Burhan Al- Din Gharib right from his childhood was impulsive to Islamic lore. At the age of six or seven, he would say the confession of faith and retire into a room to perform zikr. At 16, he decided to remain celibate against his mother’s wishes, and fasted continuously until she finally gave up her insistence that he marry.
Burhan had a close spiritual relationship with Nizam al –Din Awalia. On the journey from Delhi to Daulatabad, Burhan Al-Din Gharib had carried a cot alongside him, on which was kept the staff of Nizam al – Din.
When Buhan Al – Din Gharib first met Nizam al –Din Awalia, he was a poor man. But Awalia had remarked that he is indeed poor now, but the whole world will come to know him.
According to Mir Khuwid, a writer:
“He was a good balm to those disappointed in lore and passion, and he was a good remedy for the pain of the lovers and jesters of the day. He had a distinctive style of dancing. The companions of Gharib were called Burhanis among the lovers”.
In the Chisthiyya tradition, the centre of activities was called Jama at Khana (house of gathering). Festivals were held on the death anniversary (urs) of major saints, and food was blessed and distributed to all faiths. Pilgrimage to tombs was not worship of the people buried there, but a worship of God that looked to be saint as a kind of intermediary. Disciples often found guidance from deceased saints in dreams after spending time meditating at their tombs. This location of Jama at Khana required a bit of isolation.
The desire for privacy was probably the reason for the selection of Khuldabad, several miles away from the Daulatabad Fort, as the site for Burhan Al – Din Gharib’s Jama at Khana.