Mystic Poet Scholar With Long Locks

By Sadia Dehlvi

Khwaja Bande Nawaz dargah, Gulbraga

Khwaja Bandanawaz Gesudaraz was once carrying the palanquin of his Master, Shaykh Naseeruddin Chiragh Dilli, on his shoulders. His long locks of hair got entangled in the wheel but he chose not to wince, continuing the journey till the destination. On learning of the incident, the Shaykh recited a couplet conferring upon him the title Gesudaraz, one with long locks, and Bandanawaz, one who comforts. It was Shaykh Burhanuddin, a disciple of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya who first introduced the Chishti Order in the Deccan, but it was Khwaja Gesudaraz’s efforts that turned it into a mass movement.

Khwaja Gesudaraz was born in Delhi in 1321, given the name Syed Muhammad Hussaini. His family came from Khurasan and had migrated to Delhi where they were living for twelve generations. When Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq shifted his capital to Daulatabad in the Deccan, the family migrated to the South, settling in a place called Roza Khuldabad.

After the death of his father, the fourteen-year-old returned to live in Delhi. Having heard of Hazrat Naseeruddin Chiragh Dilli’s piety, he became his disciple and served the Master with devotion. Pleased with the disciple’s achievements, within six months Hazrat Naseeruddin, the inheritor of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s spiritual mantle, declared Khwaja Gesudaraz to be his leading khalifa and spiritual successor. In Delhi, Khwaja Gesudaraz continued his education in religious sciences for another two decades.

The erudite and prolific Khwaja Gesudaraz wrote in Arabic, Persian, Hindawi and Dakhani and Sanskrit, often dictating four or five books at a time. His biographers say he authored around forty books, though some accounts claim the number to be around a hundred. No other Sufi of the Chishti Order has authored as many books. Khwaja Gesudaraz is called the Chishti Sultan al Qalam, king of the pen.

The subjects of these books include a commentary on the Quran, biographies, prophetic traditions, jurisprudence, poetry, letters and discourses. Notable among these are Asmar -ul – Asrar (Nocturnal Secrets), Khatima, Hadaiq-ul-Uns and Hazair-ul-Quds. In the Asmar -ul – Asrar, he wrote: ‘Everyone who traverses the path to God is bestowed with a particular aptitude. God has bestowed upon me the gift of explaining His secrets.’ His commentaries on classical works of Sufism—Awarif-ul-Maarif, Fusus-al-Hakim, Risalah –e-Qushayrriyah and Kitab Adab al Muridin—remain important mystic manuals.

“Everyone who traverses on the path to God is bestowed with a particular aptitude, God has bestowed upon me that of explaining His secrets”—Khwaja Gesudaraz

Khwaja Gesudaraz was a true Sufi, who taught love, amity, and devotion to the One God. Mystical love formed the core of his teachings, and for him there is no existence without love. He wrote that God creates love because He has to manifest Himself to Himself. It is man’s duty to strive to reach God through the two special avenues of purification of the soul and absolute contemplation, which meant emptying the heart of all else except the love of God.

Khwaja Gesudaraz disputed Ibn al Arabi’s theory wahdat ul wujood, the Oneness of Being, that had begun to influence Indian Sufis, particularly the earlier Chishti Masters. The Shaykh favoured the theory of wahdat ul shuhud, everything flows from Him, which was being advocated by the fourteenth century Sufi Alauddawla Simnani.

Khwaja Gesudaraz remained at the head of the Chishti Order in Delhi for more than four decades. However, in November 1398 AD, the mystic left Delhi with his family and disciples with the intention of migrating to Daulatabad. During the journey, they halted at many places including Gwalior, Chanderi, Baroda and Cambay. The Khwaja’s discourses along the 10-month journey to the Deccan were recorded by his eldest son and disciple, Akbar Hussaini, in the famous book, Jawami-al-Kalim.

In the year 1400 AD, Khwaja Gesudaraz visited his father’s tomb in Khuldabad and considered residing there. Meanwhile Firoz Shah, Sultan of the Bahmani Kingdom (r. 1397–1442 AD) invited the mystic to make his home in the capital city of Ahsanabad, now called Gulbarga, which is presently in the state of Karnataka.

The Khwaja accepted the invitation and the Sultan built a khanqah for him near the fort. Some twenty years later, Khwaja moved to another place nearby, where his dargah stands today. Ahmad Shah Bahmani built a beautiful mausoleum over his grave. The hundred-year-old Khwaja died on 16 Dhul Qada 825 Hijri/November 1442 AD.

Khwaja Gesudaraz’s dargah complex is a vast enclosure which houses a mosque, madrassa, assembly halls and other facilities. Today, almost six hundred years later the outstanding mausoleum remains a sanctuary of peace that continues to spread the message of tolerance, love and brotherhood.

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