July 15, 2008
The annual ten days Urs commemorating the death anniversary of one of the most revered Sufi Saints of India, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, who is also referred as the ‘Garib Nawaz’, which means 'the one who shows kindness to the poor', comes to an end on July 15 at his magnificent mausoleum (dargah) at Ajmer. During these ten days millions of devotees visit and pay respect and offer floral tribute to the saint for the favours that they had received or seeking favours of different kinds.
Eminent political leaders make it a point to present ‘cheddars’ amidst fanfare and media glare to be offered at the tomb of this medieval saint whose spirituality and love of humanity has been attracting thousands of devotees not only during his lifetime but even after his death year after year for the past 772 years. This shrine is also known as the ‘Dargah Sharif’ (Holy Tomb).
Not only during the ten days Urs, but throughout the year, devotees, pilgrims and tourists throng the mausoleum of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. People of all walks of life and faith from all over the world, irrespective of their caste, creed and belief, visit this great shrine to offer flowers and devotion. The rich and the poor stand side by side to pay homage and respect to this divine soul.
The mystic saints in Islam known as the Sufis were instrumental in spreading the ethical and spiritual values of Islam. Through spiritual attainment, piety and humanism they won over the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people. They preferred to live among the masses of people, especially among the poor and downtrodden rather than living aloof from the society in mysticism and penance. Their service and love inspired the people and enabled them to realize the Eternal Truth.
Among the Sufi saints of medieval times, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti not only gained great spiritual and moral power but also manifested through practice his love and dedication to humanity without any worldly resources.
Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti was born in Sajistan, East Persia in the first half of the twelfth century (around 1139). Right from his childhood he manifested a spiritual bent of mind. At the age of 16, following the death of his parents, Moinuddin came under the influence of a spiritual leader and gave up his worldly belongings, distributed the money among the poor and took up the life of an ascetic. He visited great centers of Islamic learning at Samarkand, Bokhara and other places and sought the guidance of a spiritual guide (Pir). Thereafter, he proceeded to Mecca and Medina on religious pilgrimage (Haj).
From Medina Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti proceeded to India and passing through Bokhara, Heart, Lahore and Delhi and meeting a number of Sufi saints arrived at Ajmer in Rajasthan at the age of 52 in 1290. At that time Ajmer was under the rule of Prithviraj Chauhan.
At Ajmer, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti attracted a large number of followers and acquired a great deal of respect amongst the residents of the city. Those who came in touch with him, especially the poor and downtrodden received kindest treatment and blessings from him and many became his disciples. His simple teaching made great impact on common masses and his message of universal love and peace transcended the entire humanity without the distinction of creed and caste. His strong faith in the unity of God provided the necessary ideological background to his mission of bringing about an emotional integration of the people amongst whom he lived.
Apart from the common people even the rulers and kings, both Hindu and Muslim used to visit the Khwaja and seek his intervention to solve their problems. However, he neither sought any favour nor any land grant from these rulers. He lived a simple life relying on cultivation or alms.
Generosity to others, especially through sharing of food and wealth and tolerance and respect for different religions were the cardinal points of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti’s teachings.
Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti interpreted religion in terms of human service and asked 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.”
In order to continue his mission of service to humanity, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti founded the so called Chishti Silsila (Order of Sufis) in India and sent his disciples to different parts of India to carry on his mission.
After living a simple and dedicated life in the service of common people, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti passed into eternity at the ripe age of 97 in 1236. After his death a mausoleum (dargah) was erected on his tomb at Ajmer by Iltutmish, the Sultan of Delhi. It was beautified and enlarged later by the Mughal Emperors Humayun and Akbar. The tomb is a square white marble structure with a domed roof and two entrances.
The mausoleum of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, popularly known as ‘The Dargah Sharif’ (holy tomb) has been a center of pilgrimage for both Muslims and Hindus. However, the terrorists did not even spare this shrine that represents communal harmony and universal brotherhood. On 11th October 2007, when thousands of Muslim devotees were breaking their day-long Ramzan fast, the terrorists triggered a bomb inside the dargah complex that killed three persons and injured seventeen. In spite of this the spirit of the pilgrims to this shrine of the most revered Sufi Saint of Medieval India has not dampened and the stream of devotees has become a sea of humanity during these ten days of Urs.