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It is through the inward development of personality that individual
human beings are able to perform those creative acts, in the outward
field of action, that cause the growth of human societies. 1

Irrespective of what Professor Toynbee meant by inward

development, I take it to mean spiritual development and quite
conveniently so as the lines to follow shall try to demonstrate.
A focused understanding of spiritual values, or spiritual
development for that matter, necessitates an insight into what we
mean by spirit. The English word spirit is derived from the Latin
spiritus meaning breath and wind. Now wind is that which can not
be seen or perceived except through the effect that it creates such
as the blowing of leaves or the fluttering of a flag. Similarly, we
distinguish between a living body and a dead corpse by pointing out
that there is this invisible thing which we call spirit and which
pervades the former and is absent in the latter and thus may be
termed the source of life.2 It is not coincidental that this invisible
thing is called r in Arabic deriving from the same root word (RW)
as r meaning wind.
In the Islamic tradition, particularly in Persian language, another
word that is used as a synonym for r is man literally meaning.
Thus spirit is that which is a source of life as it governs the body as
well as that which provides meaning, wholeness and coherence to it,
possesses inwardness and interiority, and is identified with the
realand therefore also, from the Islamic point of viewpermanent,
and abiding rather than the transient and passing.3
So much for the literal meaning of the word spirit. Of the various
intellectual schools of Islamic thought, those that have made
pioneering efforts to understanding the world of spirit are the
philosophers, mutakallimn and Sufis. It is however, the Sufis to
hazard a platitude who have made the most insightful, penetrating
and far reaching contribution to the study of the spirit and all
pertaining to it. No study, therefore of the links that ought to exist
between spiritual values and world peace would be worthwhile
without making mention of the Sufis.
Taawwuf or Sufism, as it is more popularly known to the English
speaking world, is the esoteric and spiritual path of Islam.
Fortunately, it is not the kind of esotericism which so often divorced
See Khaliq Ahmad Nizami, State and Culture in Medieval India (New Delhi: Adam
Publishers & Distributors, 1985), p.179, quoting Arnold Toynbee, A Study of
History, abridged edition, p.212.
See Murta Al-Zabd, Tj al-Urs min Jawhir al-Qms
See Seyyed Hossein Nasr (ed.), Encyclopaedia of Islamic Spirituality (Lahore:
Suhail Academy, 2000), vol. 1. p. xvi-xvii. Also see William Chittick, The Vision of
Islam (Lahore: Suhail Academy, 2005), pp. 93-98.

from external forms, falls into the abyss of modern forms of

spirituality. It, rather, is so harmoniously fused with the exoteric
teachings of Islam that both work in a complementary fashion.
The last few decades have seen a consistent rise in the works
dedicated to the study of Sufism, its origin, development and impact
with the result that one could hardly venture to say anything
excitingly new about it. What needs to be emphasized, however,
even if it runs the risk of simply repeating an all too well known fact,
is the ethical character that pervades the whole of Taawwuf. Imm
Qushayr (d.465 AH) for instance, narrates on the authority of AlKittn (d.322 AH):

Sufism is moral conduct; He who improves his moral conduct further,
advances in his taawwuf.4

The whole thrust of upholding moral conduct is the realization of

peace; peace with oneself i.e., with ones body, mind and spirit, with
ones neighbours, ones community, ones society and peace with
humanity at large. Where this peace is not being achieved, it can
conveniently be conjectured that spiritual and therefore moral
values are being compromised and tampered with.
The question that needs to be asked at this point is, how this peace,
which seems to be getting ever so elusive that one is almost
inclined to pronounce it utopian, is to be achieved in practical terms
through the realization of spiritual values. In a bid to answer this
pertinent question, I have taken Shaykh Nim al-Dn Awliy as a
role model. Why he of all the people? The answer to this question
would unfold with the unfolding of his saga in the pages to follow,
but briefly:
It is generally believed that rifts, wars and differences arise mainly
out of misinformation, misrepresentations and communication gaps.
Should these be resolved or minimized, it may be expected that
differences would naturally dissipate. However, modern times have
ironically proved the exact opposite to be equally true with the
result that never before has the crisis of peace been as strongly felt
as it is today. Flow of information has increased, more and more
people are travelling from one point of the globe to the other giving
rise to pluralistic societies, communication gaps between peoples
and nations are decreasing as globalization is allegedly bringing
them closer and it is becoming ever more difficult to misrepresent
others for fear of being seen live by millions of people. As a result of
all these changes, it could have been expected of man to naturally
snuff out mutual differences and thrive peacefully learning from his
past mistakes and assiduously working for a better future. But this
was not to be. Pluralism, instead of prompting man to move from
narrower concentric circles to wider ones, and to learn newer
See Abd al-Karm al-Qushayr, Al-Rislah Al-Qushayriyyah, Urd trans. by Dr
Pr Mammad asan (Islamabad: Islamic Research Institute, 1988), p.512.

lessons of brotherhood, fraternity and mutual respect and

understanding, has lead to disastrous results. It has rendered
peaceful co-existence an existential sham. It would do well at this
stage to look back into the archives of history and study those
societies which have experienced social and religious pluralism and
yet been at peace with themselves. Shaykh Nim al-Dn Awliy
happens to be living at one such juncture of history when Muslims,
although a tiny minority, had taken substantial control of North India
and yet were rubbing shoulders with Hindus at almost every level of
the society. Perhaps at the political level they were viewed as
outsiders and maleechas. Hindus might also have been forced into
entering into treaties of peace with the Muslims. But such a peace is
always shattered the moment there is an opportunity which
presents itself for one to throw the yoke of political and social
subjugation aside and acclaim his freedom.
It would not have been possible for Muslims to survive for ten long
centuries in India had there not been other factors involved in
placating the Hindus on account of their several defeats at the
hands of Muslims. Of these factors, perhaps one that concerns us
most here is the gradual rise in the number of Muslim Sufis pouring
into India as a result of the Mongol invasion of Muslim lands from
the 13th century onwards. Actual peace between Muslims and
Hindus was achieved at the hands of these spiritual masters and
Shaykh Nim al-Dn Awliy was one such master. What was it
about him that made him an ambassador of peace, not only for the
Muslims, rather for the indigenous population of India as well? What
was it that made him equally adorable and respected by the rich
and the poor, the king and the peasant, the elite and the
commoners, the educated and the illiterate and the Muslims and
non-Muslims alike is what we shall try to find out in the lines to
Muammad ibn Amad more popularly known as Shaykh Nim alDn Awliy was born in Badyn, India on the last Wednesday of
the Islamic month of afar in circa 642/1244. Both his paternal and
maternal grandparents had originally migrated from Bukhra after it
was invaded and burned down by the Mongols.
He lost his father very early in his life and was reared as an orphan
by his poverty stricken yet extremely pious mother. Shaykh Nim
al-Dn would throughout his life recount the indelible impression his
mothers spiritual training had left upon his young self. He acquired
his early education in Badyn and among others was taught by
Shd Muqri and Al al-Dn Ul, both of whom he mentioned
with the profoundest of respect in his later life.5
I am heavily indebted to two sources with regard to the life sketch and teachings
of Shaykh Nim al-Dn Awliy. The first is Amr asan Al Sijzs Fawid alFud. This is one of the most authentic malft (literally, pronouncements and
sayings) literature available comprising of Shaykh Nim al-Dns sayings,

He lived in Badyn for sixteen years and then proceeded to Delhi

to complete his education. His life in Delhi was one of continuous
struggle and toil against financial odds. Often there would be
nothing to eat at home. On such occasions his mother would tell
him: Nizm al-Dn! Today we are the guests of God.6 Shaykh
Nizm al-Dn would always feel spiritually rapturous at these words
and when several days would have passed without there being a
shortage of food, he would long for these words and the ecstatic
feeling that he felt after it.7
In Delhi, he encountered some of the best scholars of his age and
had the opportunity to study under some of them. His assessment
of some of his own teachers speaks volumes of his own nature, his
future bent of mind and spiritual attitude. To quote an example; one
of his teachers was Khwja Shams al-Mulk under whom the Shaykh
had learnt forty sections of Maqmt al-arr. Balban (d.
686AH/1287AD) had appointed him on an important post and as a
result he had collected considerable wealth. Later, he fell out of
favour in the eyes of the Sultan and all his wealth was confiscated.
When government officers came to his house to confiscate his
property and belongings, Shaykh Nim al-Dn was at the Khwjas
residence. The Khwja was extremely grieved at the loss of his
wealth and asked Shaykh Nim al-Dn to pray for its return.
Shaykh Nim al-Dn was agonized to see his teacher so deeply in
love with material wealth and lamented his state.8
In Delhi, one of the Shaykhs favourite teachers was Mauln Kaml
al-Dn Zhid under whose tutelage he studied adth in particular
Ra al-Dn asan ghns Mashriq al-Anwr.9 The Shaykh was
also known for his debating skills and had become quite popular
among his fellow students as Nim al-Dn Bath (debater) and
Nim al-Dn Mafil Shikan (the crusher of academic assemblies).10
When Shaykh Nim al-Dn Awliy was twenty,11 he went to visit
Shaykh Fard al-Dn Ganj Shakar at Ajodhan (modern Pakpattan,
Pakistan) and was initiated in the Chistiyyah silsilah (chain). On his
anecdotes, aphorisms, conversations and other details pertaining to his life. The
reason being that Shaykh Nim al-Dn had himself read parts of the malft,
approved of its contents and added some details himself. The second is Siyar alAwliy by Sayyid Mubrak Alaw Kirmn popularly known as Amr Khwurd. The
Kirmn family had closely been associated with not only Shaykh Nim al-Dn
Awliy, rather his spiritual master Bb Fard al-Dn Ganj Shakar (d.664 AH/1265
AD) as well. For a detailed account on the authenticity of both these and other
works on Shaykh Nim al-Dn Awliy see Khaliq Ahmad Nizami, The Life and
Time of Shaikh Nizamuddin Aulia (Delhi: Idarah-i Adabiyat-i Delli, 1991), pp.6-12.
See Sayyid Mubrak Alaw Kirmn, Siyar al-Awliy translated by Ijz al-aq
Qudds (Lahore: Markaz Urd Board, 1980), p.224.
Ibid., p.224.
See Khaliq Ahmad Nizami, The Life and Time of Shaikh Nizamuddin Aulia (Delhi:
Idarah-i Adabiyat-i Delli, 1991), pp.32-33 quoting Durar Nim (MS).
See Sayyid Mubrak Alaw Kirmn, Siyar al-Awliy, p.206
Ibid., p. 206.
Ibid., p. 206.

initiation, he was given the following instructions by his spiritual

1- Never incur any sort of debt upon yourself.

2- Ensure the happiness of your enemy and give everyone his due

It was these teachings which imprinted themselves upon the young

heart of Shaykh Nim al-Dn Awliy and were to be the hallmark
of his future life. At the tender age of 23, Shaykh Nim al-Dn was
appointed khalfah (successor) by Shaykh Fard al-Dn and told to
proceed to Delhi where he was asked to shoulder the stupendous
task of guiding people to righteousness. After moving from one
place to another in Delhi, he finally settled in Ghiythpr a suburb of
Delhi then. Today it is situated in Delhi and is known as Nim
iy al-Dn Baran in his Trikh-i-Froz Shh has tried to capture
not without hyperbole though, the circumstances in which Shaykh
Nim al-Dn Awliy had been asked to work and here I will be
quoting in summarized form from the Barans work. He says:
Sultan Muiz al-Dn [Qayqabd (d.689AH/1290AD)] left the capital
city and went and settled in Kaylo Kher [a suburb of Delhi then]
where he built a beautiful palace within an exquisite garden on the
banks of River Jamna. He then shifted to the palace with his
aristocracy, his loved ones and workers. When the rich saw that the
Sultan had started residing in Kaylo Kher, they also built fine houses
there and in very short time Kaylo Kher became densely populated.
The king and his company then started indulging in all kinds of
voluptuousness and conviviality which slowly permeated the lay man
so much so that, singers, performers, courtesans appeared in every
part of the country and debauchery and lewdness became rampant.
Mosques and khnqhs became empty, wine bars opened
everywhere; balconies of houses were filled [with prostitutes]; there
was hardly a remorseful or sorrowful soul to be seen and not a street
remained without advertising a master singer. All that the nobility
was left with was drinking, gathering friends in assemblies flowing
with youth and beauty and competing with other in chess, dice and

Shaykh Nim al-Dn Awliy was greatly distressed by these

circumstances and decided to leave Ghiythpr [which was a Delhi
suburb and settle down in Patyla but a certain incident indicated
otherwise.14 He then resolved to stay in Ghiythpr and continue his
See Nithr Amad Frq, Introduction to Amr asan Al Sijzs Fawid alFud translated by Khawaj asan Thn Nim (Lahore: Al-Fayal publishers,
n.d.), p. 74. The text of the book starts from page 154. As a prelude to it,
Professor has written a copious introduction on the life of Shaykh Nim al-Dn
Awliy, Amr asan Al Sijz and his Fawid al-Fud. In this case, he is quoting
from a manuscript of Nafis al-Anfs which are the malft of Burhn al-Dn
See iy al-Dn Baran, Trkh-i-Froz Shh translated by Sayyid Mon alaqq (Lahore: Markaz Urd Board, 1969), pp.218-220.
Amr asan Al Sijz, Fawid al-Fud, p. 374-5.

work there. Fortunately Baran has once again captured the

situation obtaining in Delhi after Shaykh Nim al-Dn Awliy had
settled there and had been disseminating his teachings for roughly
two decades now, particularly in the period 705-715AH/13061316AD, i.e. the last ten years of Sultan Al al-Dn Khilj
(d.715AH/1316AD). He says:
All praise be to God! What wonderful times have the people
witnessed during the last few years of the Al period! On the one
hand the Sultan did away with all forms of intoxicants, debauchery,
lewdness and impermissible things through enforcement of the law.
On the other hand, Shaykh Nim al-Dn Awliy opened the doors of
his discipleship and accepted all and sundry as his murds. He would
ask them to repent and grant them a cap and miswk (one of the
many tree twigs used to clean the teeth). A great many people [by
the mere fact of being the Shaykhs murd] and out of remorse and
shame started abstaining from wickedness. If they happened to fall
into evil after recanting from their evil ways, the Shaykh would ask
them to repent again. Men and women, old and young, businessmen
and the lay, slaves and servants, even the young children started
praying Ishrq (late morning, i.e. after the sun has clearly risen)
prayers. The rich erected huts from Ghiythpr to Delhi for those who
wanted to pray, wells were dug and water was made available for the
performance of ablution. People started discussing matters related to
the performance of obligatory and supererogatory acts. Even the
local amrs, armed esquires, clerical staff, sergeants and many of the
kings slaves became the Shaykhs murds. There was hardly a
locality where gatherings of pious people were not held; sufi sam
(songs of religious devotion) became common Even members of
the kings household became murds of the Shaykh. In general
Muslims stopped discussing liquor, gambling debauchery, obscenities
and indecencies. Amr asan Al Sijzs Fawid al-Fud was much
in demand as were some other books on taawwuf and sulk (the
spiritual path). The price of lotas (washing bowls for cleanliness from
impurities) and asht (wash basin made of rubber) had increased

To cut a long story short, Shaykh Nim al-Dn Awliy spent the
rest of his extremely eventful life in the precincts of Ghiythpr. His
khnqh was thronged by people from all walks of life who had
resolved to make peace with themselves and their Lord through his
towering personality.
The Shaykh had always had a feeble and frail demeanour and his
constant fasts had taken their toll on his health as well. In his last
See iy al-Dn Baran, Trkh-i-Froz Shh, pp.500-506. Amr Khwurd also
quotes at length from Barans asrat Nmah where a discussion ensues between
Baran (who owing to his elitist leanings was not too comfortable with the idea of
the Shaykh according discipleship to all those who came to him) and the Shaykh
in which the Shaykh described in much detail why he allowed all and sundry to be
initiated into his discipleship. The summary of the whole discussion was that the
Shaykh was aware through his close and trustworthy disciples that most of those
who became his disciples recanted from their evil ways and took to prayers and
repentance so why should he hold back his discipleship from them. See for more
details Amr Khwurd, Siyar al-Awliy, pp.542-545.

days he once said to some of his close disciples: I had decided to

make Raf al-Dns brother, Taq al-Dn N my heir but he passed
away. Now I make Raf al-Dn my heir. He shall take care of my
khnqh and darweshes therein after me. When we heard this we all
started crying. Then the azrat kept his hands on both Raf alDns shoulders and said: Son! Never preserve anything in the
evening for the next morning and never take revenge from your
enemies.16 According to Amr Khwurd even as he lay on his deathbed, he called his would be successor Nar al-Dn Mamd (more
popularly known as Chirgh-i-Delh), prayed for him and advised
him to keep feeding the poor because that was the hallmark of our
predecessors.17 Moreover, he called all his relatives and pointing
towards Iqbl, his foremost servant, told them: If he withholds
anything at home and does not distribute it among the poor, he
would be responsible on the Day of Judgement.18 On the 18th of
Rab al-khir 725AH corresponding to 3rd April 1325AD, Shaykh
Nim al-Dn Awliy breathed his last after a prolonged sickness.
In the lines to follow, we shall cast a quick glance at the Shaykhs
cardinal teachings which in our humble opinion if disseminated
among world nations would render the world a much happier place
to live in.
Dr. Khaliq Ahmad Nizami has correctly pointed out that the
Shaykhs moral and spiritual teachings centred around three basic
1- To teach man the moral and spiritual significance of obeisance to
the Lord of the Universe;
2- To bring happiness to human heart in this distressed and
struggling world; and

3- To inculcate respect for moral values and reduce sin. 19

Since Shaykh Nim al-Dn Awliy was living in a society which was
teeming with both Muslims and Hindus, it would befitting to observe
See Khawja Sayyid asan Nim, Nim Bansr (Dehli: Khawja Awld Kitb
Ghar, 1960), p.330. This book is basically an incomplete translation of Rja Kumr
Har Dyos Chehel Rozah (literally, forty days). Rja Kumr Har Dyo was a prince of
the Deccan city of Dyo Gr. He had embraced Islam at the hands of Shaykh Nim
al-Dn Awliy and was named Amad Ayz more popularly known as Khwja
Jahn or Amad Jahn Wazr. Chehel Rozah comprises of his memoirs from the
time the author meets Amr asan Al Sijz during one of his campaigns to Dyo
Garh until the death of Shaykh Nim al-Dn Awliy. The interesting thing about
the book is its close collaboration with historical events as mentioned by Sijz and
Amr Khwurd. Since the author rose to political importance during the life of
Shaykh Nim al-Dn Awliy (in fact he would later go on to become the Prime
Minister of the Muslim State of India) he was able to provide a great deal of
information which is otherwise wanting in the writings of Amr Sijz and Amr
Ibid., p.333.
Amr Khwurd, Siyar al-Awliy, p.275.
See Khaliq Ahmad Nizami, The Life and Time of Shaikh Nizamuddin Aulia, p.91.

the kind of treatment he accorded to individuals of both the

communities and see how true he was to his ideals as mentioned
above. We shall first consider the Muslims.
On a more retrospective note however, and sadly so, Muslim
communities of the world today are as torn apart among themselves
as they are in their relation with the other. Perhaps at times
Muslims find themselves more truthful to, sincere with and
accommodative of the other than they would with other Muslims. If
one keeps this phenomenon in mind, it becomes virtually senseless
to talk of the Shaykhs two pronged approach because what the
Shaykh would have to suggest for the Hindus would stand true for
the Muslims and perhaps vice versa.
One of the most charming qualities of the Shaykh was that he
strongly believed in teaching through anecdotes and stories. What
should be kept in mind however, is that the historical authenticity
and significance of these anecdotes was not as important as the
moral lesson that was to be drawn from it.
In the lines to follow, I am going to classify the Shaykhs teachings
into various headings but due to lack of space, it would not be
possible to relate the anecdotes which the Shaykh so copiously
mentions regarding each teaching of his. However, I would make
mention of the sources where the anecdotes occur in the footnote.
Shaykh Ni m al-D n Awliy s spiritual teachings
On Obedience to God
Shaykh Nim al-Dn Awliy said: Obedience to God is of two
kinds; lzim (intransitive) and mutaadd (transitive). Intransitive
obedience is that in which benefit is derived only by the person
performing that act of obedience and it includes prayers, fasting,
ajj (pilgrimage), zakt (almsgiving) and invoking the name of God.
Transitive obedience is that in which benefit accrues upon others as
well. The reward for this sort of obedience knows no limits and
bounds. Moreover, sincerity is a condition for intransitive obedience
to be acceptable to God, while no matter how you perform the
transitive obedience you would be rewarded for it. And then the
Shaykh related that once Shaykh Ab Sad Ab al-Khayr was asked:
How many paths lead to God? He replied: As a rule every particle
of this universe leads to God, but no path is shorter and quicker
than bringing peace to a mans heart. Whatever we [the Sufis] have
received, we did so through this way.
Man should only busy himself with two things. Firstly, stay away
from whatever act distances man from God. Secondly, bring peace
to others hearts.20
On Spiritual Life


Amr Khwurd, Siyar al-Awliy, p.630-631.

In the 33rd session of part 4, Amr Sijz writes that the Shaykh
started talking about famous scholars of past times. Who knows
where they went and what they did? Their fame is only due to their
good conduct and dealing with people. This is the spiritual life and it
is not easy to acquire. Shibl and Junayd lived long ago, yet [they
live in peoples heart] as if they were only around yesterday or the
day before. All this is because of their good conduct and dealing
with people.21
On another occasion, he said while talking about serving and
helping others: Man Khadama Khudima (One who serves shall be
On Self-praise
In the 67th session of part 4, Amir Sijz says: Today the Shaykh
talked about pride and haughtiness. He related that once Umm alMuminn Sayyidah ishah was asked when a man becomes evil?
She replied: When he thinks that he is good. 23
On Self-control
Amr Sijz mentions in the 35th session of part 2 of Fawid al-Fud
that the Shaykh talked about patience, forgiveness and control of
anger and said: It is always best to tolerate others through
patience and forgiveness and one should try not to think about
revenge and then he recited the following verses:
He who troubles me may God give him peace,
May every flower that blossoms in the garden of his life be
Then he said: If someone puts thorns in your way and you reply by
putting thorns in his, then there would be thorns everywhere. This is
the behaviour of the common people. They will return good if good
is done to them and will return evil if evil is done to them. As for the
darweshes, they return good only whether others do good to them
or bad.24
On another occasion, while discussing the relation between self
control and enmity, the Shaykh said: There is the nafs (self) and
there is the qalb (heart). If someone approaches you with the self,
you should approach him with the heart because the self is given to
enmity, retaliation and conflict while the heart is the seat of peace,
contentment and forgiveness. So, when you counter the self with
the heart, you shall see that the self is overcome. However, when
self is countered with another self, then there shall be no end to
conflict and hostility.25
Amr asan Al Sijz, Fawid al-Fud, p.408.
Ibid., p.306.
Ibid., p.492.
See Amr asan Al Sijz, Fawid al-Fud, p.281-282. Compare this with Ibid.,
p.526-7 and Cf. Khawja Sayyid asan Nim, Nim Bansr, p.332.
See Amr asan Al Sijz, Fawid al-Fud, p.346.

On the socially outcaste (Prostitutes)

According to Jawmi al-Kalim, during the time of Urs (birth
anniversary) especially that of Shaykh Fard al-Dn, Shaykh Nim
al-Din always sent food and money to those who failed to
participate. In fact he would send money and food to pimps and
prostitutes. There were cases when prostitutes came to his khnqh
complaining of not having received their share whence the Shaykh
ordered his principal servant Iqbl to compensate them for the
So far we considered those examples from the Shaykhs life and
teachings which may be seen as holding good exclusively for
Muslims. Now, we would like to relate some incidents from the
Shaykhs life which depict his stance towards Hindus and his interest
in amicable relations between both Muslims and Hindus based upon
his universal principles of love and human equality.
Amr Ayz writes in his Chehel Rozah while relating about his first
visit to the Shaykh:
He [Shaykh Nim al-Dn Awliy] ordered azrat (title of respect)
Khusro to recite for him his latest poems. Khusro read a few ghazals
and azrat (Shaykh Nim al-Dn) was extremely pleased. He then
said, We told you [earlier] to write some of your poems in Hind as
well so that Muslims are drawn to the language of the Hindus and
then only would the barriers and foreignness and strangeness that
exist between them dissipate. Amr Khusro held his palms together
and replied that he had already begun and then proceeded to recite
some of his Hind verses which I enjoyed but couldnt understand
much because they (the poems) were in Purb language which I
didnt understand.27

While lecturing on the need of considering everyone better than

oneself whether that man was a sinner or not, the Shaykh once
remarked that Khwj amd al-Dn Sawl always said about a
particular Hindu that he was a believer. Then he explained that one
doesnt know what future has in store for him. Ones good deed
might be ones last one and similarly ones evil deed might be ones
last deed and there might not be time to repent.28
The Shaykh once related an incident about Prophet Ibrhm (peace
be upon him) to show that God doesnt like discriminating between
human beings: He never ate unless there was a guest with him.
Once when one of his guests turned out to be a polytheist, Prophet
Ibrhm did not offer him anything to eat. God immediately sent a
revelation admonishing him by saying: We have granted him life.
Cant you give him some bread?29
Khaliq Ahmad Nizami, The Life and Time of Shaikh Nizamuddin Aulia, p.75, f.n.3
& 4.
See Khawja Sayyid asan Nim, Nim Bansr, p.27.
See Amr asan Al Sijz, Fawid al-Fud, p.260.
See Ibid., p.478-479.


Amr Sijz reports that once his salary was held back and his
financial situation became a source of great concern for him. When
he went to visit the Shaykh on his regular Friday meeting, Shaykh
Nim al-Dn Awliy related an incident: There was once a wealthy
Brahman who lived in a city. The ruler of the city confiscated all his
wealth and reduced him to poverty. Anyhow, he was roaming in the
city when he met a friend who asked him how he was doing.
Perfectly fine! the Brahman replied. The friend asked, How could
you be happy when everything of yours has been snatched from
you? At least my sacred thread is with me, replied the Brahman.
After relating the incident, Shaykh Nim al-Dn Awliy asked Amr
Sijz, Did you get the message? He replied in the affirmative.
Amr Khusro was an all time favourite disciple of the Shaykh. He
once told Amad Ayz, My azrat views [the people of] all nations
and religions in the same way.30
I would like to quote one last passage from the verse of Amr
Khusro who was once trying to attack any feeling of superiority that
a Muslim or for that matter any religiously devout person might
relish on the basis of his official doctrines.
A Muslim hajji proceeding to Mecca met a Brahman pilgrim going to
Somnath. Owing to the strength of his devotion, the Brahman was
measuring the ground with his body and the stones of the road had
torn off the skin of his breast. Whereto, friend? the hajji enquired, I
have been travelling like this for several years, the Brahman replied.
But God has given you your two feet; why do you crawl on your
breast instead of walking upon them? Ever since I have dedicated
my life to my idol, I crawl towards him on my breast and my heart,
the Brahman replied. Khusrau comments on this tale that: You, who
laugh at the Hindus for being idolators, at least condescend to take a
lesson from the sincerity of their faith. [It is true, that] the arrow of
the idolater is shot at a wrong target, but towards that target it was
moving straight. How much more pathetic the condition of one who,
knowing the true object of his life, nonetheless shooting in a wrong
direction. Go on thy path like a straight arrow, O my master, so that
they may rightly call thee the warrior of the Lord. 31

The incidents that have been mentioned here virtually form the tip
of the iceberg. Several incidents have been cited by various authors
to highlight the Shaykhs natural inclination towards working for a
peace-loving, harmonious society where the supreme objective
would be the acquisition of true happiness. True happiness can only
be achieved according to the Shaykh once some spiritual traits have
been instilled in ones heart. These spiritual traits again are not the
monopoly of a particular religion at the expense of another.
Khawja Sayyid asan Nim, Nim Bansr, p.28.
See Muneera Haeri, The Chishtis: A Living Light (Karachi: Oxford University
Press, 2000), p.143. Quoting from Muhammad Habib, Politics and Society during
the Early Medieval Period (Delhi, 1974), p.342.


Fortunately, all great religions have some sort of mechanism for the
realization of these spiritual traits.
This is of course not to say that all religions stand on the same
footing as far as believers are concerned for then religions would
lose all meaning. For then I might as well be a Hindu or a Christian
or even a witch-doctor rather than a Muslim. When this starts
happening, religion turns into a fish market where confusion and
mayhem are natural virtues and then it is further reduced to
treacherous humanism where God becomes redundant, even
despicable and sophists are born who raise the standard of Man is
the standard. What is actually needed is a spirit of tolerance. A
spirit of tolerance for different religions while holding on fast to the
life line of ones own religious tradition. Edward Gibbon has put it in
the most beautiful and sublime terms possible.
The spirit of tolerance may arise from very different attitudes of
man. There is the toleration of the philosopher to whom all religions
are equally true; of the historian to whom all are equally false; and of
the politician to whom all are equally useful. There is the toleration of
a man who tolerates other modes of thought and behaviour because
he has himself grown absolutely indifferent to all modes of thought
and behaviour. There is the toleration of the weak man who, on
account of sheer weakness, must pocket all kinds of insults heaped
on things or persons whom he holds dear. Obviously these types of
tolerance have no ethical value. On the other hand they
unmistakably reveal the spiritual impoverishment of the man who
practices them. True toleration is begotten of intellectual breath and
spiritual expansion, and it is the toleration of a spiritually powerful
man who will follow his own faith in all sincerity, can tolerate and
appreciate all forms of faith other than his own. 32

This forms the bottom line of Shaykh Nim al-Dn Awliy s

teachings as well. He seems to be following three basic principles all
of which have been thoroughly reinforced by the Islamic tradition.
1- . All creation is Gods family.
2- . To assume Gods character traits or Divine
3- . The best among people is he who is most
helpful to people.

How these noble teachings are to be disseminated in the society is

the vital question of course.
1- Get hold of spiritual masters. From where? (You dont pluck
spiritual masters from a regular tree down the road). Like all
precious commodities they are the hardest to find and a good
deal of hard work is required to locate them. Usually they try
to escape crowds and throngs of people, which also indicates
See Khaliq Ahmad Nizami, State and Culture in Medieval India (New Delhi: Adam
Publishers & Distributors, 1985), p.190. Quoting from Muhammad Iqbal, Islam and


that the pseudo-spiritualists that we see all around us are

really pseudo.
Fortunately, Amr Khwurd has preserved for us a rare writing of the
Shaykh (the Shaykh never wrote anything except for some sporadic
notes for himself) in which he has mentioned the traits of a
successful spiritual master (shaykh):
a- He should have attained to all spiritual stations so that he may
guide others in the proper manner.
b- He should be ib al-adab (a man of etiquettes) so that he may
teach his disciples adab (etiquettes).
c- He should be generous and not brag about himself.
d- He should have nothing to do with the disciples wealth.
e- He should teach through anecdotes and try to abstain from
direct instruction wherever possible.
f- He should discipline his disciples as leniently as possible and not
resort to harsh means.
g- He should enjoin upon his disciples what he has been directed to
do himself and forbid his disciples from whatever he himself has
been forbidden.33

2- In todays world, perhaps nothing is as powerful and well

armed as the Media. It is known to make and break images.
Step no.2 seems to be Get these spiritual values instilled in
the media. Unfortunately, the media has become embroiled
with so much deception, some of its own making and some of
the making of others, that half the time it is simply locating
and relocating itself. The media can help a great deal by
removing the veneer and false masks of pretense that seem
to have become such an essential part of our lives that we
almost dread facing reality.
In conclusion, let it be said that any change for the better should
come from within. For as God says in the Quran:
{Srat al-Rad (thunder), 13:11}

Verily Allah does not change a peoples condition unless they change their inner
When the inner is cleansed and purified, its light shall shine and
illuminate the outer. Only then will our claims to understand and
appreciate and even practice the noble teachings on tolerance,
unselfish love for the other and our endeavours to establish peace
in this world be meaningful.
See Sayyid Mubrak Alaw Kirmn popularly known as Amr Khwurd, Siyar alAwliy translated by Ijz al-aq Qudds (Lahore: Markaz Urd Board, 1980),
p.545. Cf. p. 506 where Amr Khwurd has also said that the Shaykh once wrote:
That towards which the ulam (religious scholars) invite with their words, the
mashikh (spiritual masters) invite with their conduct.