Ashraf Jahangir Semnani

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Ashraf Jahangir Simnani
Hazrat Khawaja Syed Makhdoom Ashraf Jahangir Simnani Noor Bakhshi
HazratMakhdoomDargah.jpg
Hazrat Ashraf Jahangir Simnani's mausoleum at night in Kicchocha Sharif, India.
Order Various, Ashrafi (founder)
Born 1285 AD - 1308 AD / 683 - 708 AH
Semnan, Iran
Passed away

1405 - 1425 AD / 808 AH - 829 AH
Kichocha Sharif, India.

Map of Burial Place
Urs Date 26 to 29 Muharram
Title(s)

Jahangir (Holder of the world) Ghous-ul-Alam

Mahboob-e-Yazdani
Predecessor Hazrat Ala ul-Haq Pandwi
Successor Hazrat Abdul Razzaq Noor al-Ayn

Hazrat Khawaja Syed Makhdoom Ashraf Jahangir Semnani Noor Bakhshi (Urdu and Persian:سیداشرف جهانگیر سمنانی) was a legendary Sufi saint of Persian origin who was affiliated with fourteen different Sufi orders. He made a notable contribution to the advancement of the Chishti silsilah in particular.

He left his home at early age and travelled extensively through many prominent places witihin the Islamic world. During his travels he met many illustrious personalities of his time before settling in Kichhauchha Sharif where his Khanqah became the focal point for those on the spiritual path. He was an ardent supporter of Hazrat Ibn Arabi's theory of Wadhat ul-wujud (Unity of Existence).

Contents

Family & Lineage

Hazrat Khawaja Syed Makhdoom Ashraf Jahangir Semnani was born in 708 AH (1308 AD) in Semnan, Iran, which had been the capital of the then governing authority for approximately 800 years.

His father, Hazrat Sultan Sayyad Ibrahim Noor Bakhshi Qutbuddin governed the region with utmost justice and sincerity for 20 years. Apart from being a noble and respected governor, he was also a proficient scholar of theology and inwardly inclined to tasuwwuf (mysticism). Approximately twelve thousand Islamic institutions functioned under his regime.

His mother, Bibi Khadija Begum, daughter of Khwaja Ahmad Yasavi who was a distinguished Sufi of his time and founder of The Yasaviyya order, was also from a lineage of notable mystics and saints. She was a very religious and pious lady and devoted most of her time in prayer and recitation of the holy Quran. She was renowned for fasting during the day and her punctuality in observing the tahajjud (late night) prayer.

Hazrat Ashraf Jahangir Semnani was a direct descendent of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, his daughter Fatimah (ra), through her son Hazrat Imam Husain ibn Ali Ra.gif and his great grandson Hazrat Jafar Sadiq Ra.gif.

The lineage of Syed Makhdoom Ashraf Semnani is as follows:

  • Syed Makhdoom Ashraf Jahangir Semnani, son of
  • Sultan Syed Ibrahim Noor Bakhshi, son of
  • Sultan Syed Imaduddin Noor Bakhshi, son of
  • Sultan Syed Nizamuddin Alisher, son of
  • Sultan Zahiruddin Mohammad, son of
  • Sultan Tajuddin Bahlol, son of
  • Syed Mohammad Noor Bakshi, son of
  • Syed Mehdi, son of
  • Syed Kamaluddin, son of
  • Syed Jamaluddin,son of
  • Syed Hasan Sharif, son of
  • Syed Abu Mohammad, son of
  • Syed Abul Moosa Ali, son of
  • Syed Ismail Sani, son of
  • Syed Abul Hasan Mohammad, son of
  • Syed Ismail Arij, son of
  • Hazrat Jafar Sadiq, son of
  • Imam Mohammad Baqir, son of
  • Imam Zain-ul-Abideen Ra.gif, son of
  • Imam Husain Ra.gif, son of
  • Hazrat Ali Ra.gif, cousin and son-in-law of
  • The Holy Prophet Muhammad ﷺ

Education

Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf was blessed with immense ingenuity, intelligence and knowledge. He commenced his religious education at the age of 4 and a half with the memorisation of the Quran. 2 years and 8 months later, by the age of 7, he had memorised the entire Quran as well as each of the seven forms of qirat and particularly excelled in the study of tafsir (Quranic exegesis), hadith, fiqah (Islamic jurisprudence) etc. By the age of 14 years old, he had mastered all the subjects including theology and philosophy maturing into an extremely accomplished and proficient scholar. Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf had astounded even the greatest scholars and theologians from as far afield as Baghdad with his remarkable talent, which was noted in the form of a couplet in the famous Persian book Lataif-e-Ashrafi:

Chuna Mashhoor Ghasht Az Darse Talim,
ke Pas Ahle Funun Kardand Taslim

His popularity excelled in his early education,
that the learned men acknowledged his ability

After completing his education, Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf spent much of his time teaching. Amongst his pupils was his nephew Hazrat Abdul Razzaq Noor al-Ayn - the 11th direct descendant of the Great al-Ghawth al-A'zam, Hazrat Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani.

Coronation

Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf was only 15 years old when his father passed away and he was naturally crowned as his successor. He was proclaimed the sixth sultan of Semnan in a ceremony which took place around 733 AH. Ruling over Semnan with utmost integrity and impartiality for twelve years, he was embraced by the people as a just and sincere king. During his reign, he became a salik (traveller of the spiritual path) and became a seeker of marifa (inner knowledge gained through mystical means). It was in the pursuit of this knowledge that he would spend time in the company of holy men and mystics. As a young man, Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf made the choice to be the disciple of the great Kubrawiya Sufi Hazrat Ala ad-Dawla Semnani, although he did not agree upon his view of Wahdat al-Shuhud. He therefore travelled to Kashan to study under Sheikh Abdur-Razzaq Kashani, an enthusiastic interpreter of the works of Hazrat Ibn al-Arabi. Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf studied the Futuhat al-Makkiyya and Sheikh Abdur-Razzaq Kashani's Istilahat al-Sufiyya (Dictionary of Sufi Terms) under that great master of Wahdat al-Wujud.

One night, Hazrat Khizr (as) honoured him with his presence in a dream. He informed Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf of the wazifa associated with the name of Allah, which was to be practiced without the movement of the tongue. He practiced this wazifa for two years until the great saint Hazrat Uwais Qarni appeared in his dream, from whom he inherited Uwaisi wazifas, which contributed greatly to his spiritual development. For almost 3 years, he was so engrossed in the blessings and spiritual progression acquired through what he had learnt from Hazrat Uwais Qarni that he lost all desire to continue as sultan of Semnan.

Relinquishment of Throne

As time progressed, his thirst for acquiring marifa increased and at the age of 25, on the 27th of Ramadan, Hazrat Khizr (as) once again appeared before Sultan Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf in a dream. He ordered Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf to abandon the throne and make way for India where his Pir (spiritual guide), Hazrat Sheikh Ala ul-Haq Pandwi, a famous Chishtiya saint and a disciple of Hazrat Sheikh Akhi Sirajuddin, was waiting for him.

When he awoke, he immediately notified his mother about his dream and seeked her permission to fulfill his his divinely commissioned task. Upon hearing this, his mother revealed that prior to his birth it was prophesied by Khwaja Ahmad Yasavi that a great saint would be born who would illuminate, inspire and guide those immersed in darkness. She gladly approved of his mission and with her blessings, he made preparations to travel towards India and appointed his younger brother Mohammad as successor to his throne.

Journey towards India

Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf, on leaving his country, was seen off by thousands of soldiers. During this period Hazrat Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani became his companion. They visited all the important Sufi centres in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf is reported to have visited Basra in Iraq where he reached the shrine of the famous saint Hazrat Hasan al-Basri. He also paid his respects at the shrines of many other prominent Awliya before meeting great personalities of Karbala and Baghdad. From Baghdad, he travelled to Damascus before making way to Madina Al Munawarah where he spent a few months at the resting place of the Holy Prophet ﷺ. He also travelled to Mecca in order to perform the Hajj pilgrimage.

Travelling through Khorasan, Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf visited Mashhad, before seeking out the association of Khwaja Bahauddin Naqshband and also kept company with other Naqshbandi masters, among them Hazrat Khwaja Muhammad Parsa.

Then taking the route through Multan and Uch Sharif to India, he met Hazrat Makhdoom Jahanian Jahangasht Jalaluddin Bukhari, grandson of the renowned saint Jalaluddin Surkh-Posh Bukhari. On receiving his spiritual blessings, he was told Hazrat Sheikh Ala ul-Haq Pandwi was anxiously waiting for his arrival in Pandua Sharif.

He then reached the shrine of the famous saint Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (Data Ganj Bakhsh) of Lahore where he derived spiritual blessings and guidance. Delhi was his next stop and there he met Hazrat Khwaja Bande Nawaz Gaisu Daraz.

Moving eastwards, Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf reached Maner in Bihar, where a great saint by the name of Hazrat Makhdoom Sharfuddin Ahmed Yahya Maneri had passed away the same day and was awaiting burial. Before his demise, he requested that his janazah (funeral) prayer should be performed by one travelling towards to the west who has renounced his throne, is a Hassani and Hussaini (a descendant of both Imam Hassan Ra.gif and Imam Hussain Ra.gif, the grandsons of the Prophet ﷺ) and a Hafiz with knowledge of each of the seven forms of qirat. Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf was already aware of this beforehand by means of Kashf (relevation), hence his detour in Bihar. The disciples of Hazrat Makhdoom Sharfuddin eagerly awaited his arrival and although Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf did not want perform the funeral prayer out of humility, he conducted the service in accordance with the will of the saint.

During the night in the khanqah where Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf was staying, Hazrat Makhdoom Sharfuddin appeared before Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf and presented him with his khirqah (cloak). In the morning, Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf demanded the khirqah from the khadim (keeper) of the shrine but his request was denied. The khirqah was later placed on Hazrat Makhdoom Sharfuddin's tomb and as Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf stretched out his hands, it extraordinarily came to him. He put on the garment and entered a state of wajd (ecstasy) whilst reciting the following couplet:

Mora Bar Sar Chun Bowad Az Lutf Afsar,
Bar Aamad Rast Mara Khirqah Dar bar.

The worldly crown has been on my head,
by his kindness this cloak will better suit my body.

Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf departed from Maner and made his way towards Bengal. After arriving in Malda in West Bengal, he was ready to make the final part of his journey and advanced towards Pandua Sharif where his Pir-o-Murshid was waiting for him in anticipation. As he neared his destination, Hazrat Ala ul-Haq Pandwi awoke from his sleep and notified his followers that Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf's arrival was imminent. Hazrat Ala al-Haq Pandwi and his myriad of followers went out with a doli (a suspended carriage which carries noble people, usually supported by two or four men) to greet Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf. As soon as Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf saw his Sheikh, he placed his head on his Pir-o-Murshid's feet and tears of joy flowed from his eyes. After embracing his Pir-o-Murshid, he recited the following couplet:

Che Kush Bashad Bad ke az intazare,
Ba omide Rasad Omidware .

What a good thing that after waiting so long,
the hopeful has reached his destination.

Initiation into the Chishti Order

From this outskirts of Pandua Sharif, Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf was carried in the doli (carriage) to his Pir's Khanqah, accompanied by Hazrat Ala ul-Haq Pandwi and his disciples. As soon as they reached the Khanqah, Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf dismounted the carriage and placed his head at the door as mark of respect. He was then served with a meal by the sheikh himself who fed him four handfuls of boiled rice and paan (betel leaf). Shortly after, Hazrat Ala ul-Haq Pandwi initiated Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf as his mureed (disciple), receiving ijaza (permission) in the Chishti Nizami Order. He was naturally overjoyed and recited the following couplet:

Nehadah Taje Doulat Bar Sare Man,
Ala ul-Haq Wadeen Ganje Nabat.

Hazrat Ala al-Haq Wadeen has placed
the majestic crown upon my head.

Spiritual Chain

His silsila (spiritual chain), via the Chishti order, is traced back to the Beloved Prophet ﷺ as follows:

This was his last initiation as he had already become a member of most Sufi Orders. He is said to have had Khilafat from fourteen different Orders.

Journey to Kichhauchha Sharif

After a number of years in the service of Hazrat Ala ul-Haq Pandwi, he was granted Khilafat and instructed by his Murshid to leave for Jaunpur. Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf who had deep attachment to his mentor, was reluctant to leave his company, but on persuasion he set out for Jaunpur, accompanied by a large number of people.

Before he left, Sheikh Hazrat Ala ul-Haq Pandwi showed him in a vision (Kashf) where his tomb would lie. What Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf saw was a circular lake with a small hill within it, and he was told that he would be buried upon the hill.

Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf then left Pandua and came to Muhammadabad Gohna in the Azamgarh district, Uttar Pradesh. Here, he held discussions with the local scholars. He read to them a book he had written on the lives of the Pious Caliphs. Some of the ulama criticised the book on the ground that it contained more details about Hazrat Ali Ra.gif compared to the other three Caliphs.

They called him to the mosque on Friday to explain his point of view. A local scholar, Saiyid Khan, defended Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf by saying:

The ulama could have (with some justification) objected to his praising of Ali Ra.gif, if the work were by a non-Saiyid and not by a Saiyid. Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf was himself a Saiyid so he had every right to use exalting words about his ancestors.

In Zafarabad

Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf then came to Zafarabad (near Jaunpur) and soon acquired a great reputation. Sheikh Haji Chiragh-i-Hind, a local Suhrawardi saint, did not like the idea of his settling at Zafarabad. It is said that a scholar of Sarharpur, Shaikh Kabir, who had initially thought of becoming a disciple of Shaikh Haji, joined the circle of Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf's disciples. This further annoyed Sheikh Haji, and he used all his means to disturb Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf and his disciples; but he did not succeed.

After staying at Zafarabad for some time, Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf came to Jaunpur where he was well received by the Sharqi ruler, Sultan Ibrahim. At that time Sultan Ibrahim had sent an expedition to capture a fort and was concerned about it. He approached Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf for his blessings and it so happened that his forces succeeded in capturing the fort. The Sultan and his sons developed great faith in him. Sultan Ibrahim expressed his desire to offer him some gifts to but he declined.

Hazrat Qazi Shihabuddin Daultabadi, the chief qazi of the Sultan, was impressed by the spiritual eminence of Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf and became his disciple. This considerably enhanced the prestige and position of Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf in the eyes of the people as the Qazi was a distinguished scholar of his time. Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf conferred his khirqa and khilafat on him.

Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf had considerable influence on Sultan Ibrahim Sharqi. When Raja Ganesha captured the throne of Pandua and began to oppress the Muslims, Sheikh Noor Qutb-e-Alam Pandwi, eldest son and spiritual successor of Hazrat Ala-ul-Haq Pandwi decided to intervene. He wrote a letter to Sultan Ibrahim Sharqi of Jaunpur to come to the aid of the Muslims of Bengal and free the Muslims from the clutches of Raja Ganesha. Sheikh Noor Qutb-e-Alam Pandwi also wrote a letter to Sheikh Makhdoom Ashraf, requesting him to induce the sultan of Jaunpur to invade Bengal which he did so. Later, Ibrahim Sharqi marched with his army into Bengal where Raja Ganesha submitted to him.

With his followers Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf travelled northwest through Awadh, but he did not find the place that he sought until he came to Bhadod. At Bhadod, a man named Malik Mahmud was the local landholder. He waited upon Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf and showed him much kindness, and he accompanied the Sheikh in his search for the place that he had seen in his vision.

Then there came into view a circular tank. When he saw it, the Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf said that this was the place that his Sheikh had revealed to him. Malik Mahmud suggested that though the situation was agreeable, as it had water on all four sides of it, there was a difficulty.

Battle with a Jogi

A Jogi resided in the place, and Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf could only settle there if he had the power to confront this Jogi. Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf pronounced: "The truth came and falsehood perished! Lo! Falsehood perished! What is difficult about driving out a body of unbelievers?" He then ordered a servant to tell the Jogi to depart from there. The Jogi sent back a reply that he had five hundred disciples with him. He said: "If any man could oust me by spiritual power, so be it! But to make me leave would be no easy matter."

There was one man who on that very day had become a disciple of the Sheikh. He was called Hazrat Jamal al-Din Rawat. The Sheikh told Hazrat Jamal al-Din to go forth and give an answer to the Jogi's display of powers. When Jamal al-Din hesitated to do this, the Sheikh called him close and took some paan out of his own mouth and with his hand placed it in Hazrat Jamal al-Din's mouth. When Hazrat Jamal al-Din ate the pan he was overcome by a strange exaltation. Bravely he set out for battle. He came to the Jogi, and he said:

We do not think it is acceptable to give a display of miracles (karamat). Nevertheless we will give an answer to each of the powers (istidraj) that you display!

The first trick that the Jogi showed was that columns of black ants advanced from every direction towards Hazrat Jamal al-Din but they vanished when Hazrat Jamal al-Din looked resolutely towards them. After this an army of tigers appeared, but Hazrat Jamal al-Din said: "What harm can a tiger do to me?" At this all the tigers fled. After this the Jogi threw his staff into the air. Hazrat Jamal al-Din then asked for the staff of Sheikh Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf, and threw it into the air. The Sheikh's staff beat down to the ground that of the Jogi. When the Jogi had exhausted his tricks, he said: "Take me to the Sheikh! I will become a believer."

Hazrat Jamal al-Din took the Jogi's hand and brought him and made him prostrate himself at the feet of the Sheikh; and the Sheikh instructed him in the words of the profession of faith in Islam. At the same time all the Jogi's disciples became Muslims and they made a bonfire of their religious books. The Sheikh gave the converted Jogis a place upon the banks of the lake, and he prescribed austerities and spiritual exercises for them according to his own path.

Establishment of Ruhabad (Kichhauchha Sharif)

After this Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf commanded the dervishes to bring their baggage. He allotted places to all his followers so that each could build his separate cell (hujra). In the space of a few days Hazrat Malik Mahmud built a khanqah for the Sheikh, and he made his own children and servants profess themselves disciples of the Sheikh. The Sayyids of the neighbourhood also came to visit and gave their allegiance. Within three years the bare ground was transformed into a bed of roses.

The Sheikh gave the place the name of Ruhabad (Abode of the Spirit), and he gave to the khanqah the name of Kathratabad (Abode of Multiplicity).He prophesied that the place would be a great light in future ages, and that great men of their day, "Men of the Unseen" (rijal al-ghayb), and many saints of God would visit there and acquire merit.

Demise of his Sheikh

In 800 AH, Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf's Pir-o-Murshid, Hazrat Sheikh Ala ul-Haq Pandwi passed away. Upon hearing the news, Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf returned to Pandua Sharif where Hazrat Mohammad Noor Qutb-e-Alam Pandwi, the eldest son of Hazrat Ala-ul-Haq Pandwi was made his spiritual successor. Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf and Hazrat Noor Qutb-e-Alam were both fellow students and disciples of Hazrat Sheikh Ala ul-Haq Pandwi.

Travels

The establishment of this territorial base at Kichhauchha in eastern Awadh did not put an end to the Sheikh's extensive travels through the lands of Islam. The leader of the Jogis, now given the name of Kamal, accompanied the Sheikh on some of his travels.

Malik Mahmud, the local magnate who had aided and encouraged Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf in the founding of the khanqah at Kichhauchha was not forgotten by the Sheikh in the course of his travels. On his return to Kichhauchha, Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf presented him with a glittering stone that relieved thirst and weariness.

Hazrat Nizam Yamani writes in Lataif-e-Ashrafi:

Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf related: When we reached the mountain of al-Fath, we came across a band of dervishes, who had set foot on the path of trust in God (tawakkul), and for thirty years they had remained constant in this path. Among them was an elder called Sheikh Abu'l-Ghayth, who was their leader. He gave (me) a stone, the glitter of which surpassed any jewel, and he related its countless qualities.

One of its particularities was that if any traveller bound it in his waist, however far he travelled on the road, he would not grow tired. If he placed it in his mouth when he thirsted, he would be refreshed with water. Likewise when he hungered, he would be satisfied. In this manner he related many such properties of the stone. Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf to satisfy him accepted the stone from him. When Hazrat returned to Ruhabad (Kichhauchha), he gave it to Hazrat Malik Mahmud. Some of his companions asked him regarding this, and he replied that it was suitable for Malik.

This narrative was recorded by Hazrat Nizam Yamani who became Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf's dedicated mureed when the latter passed through Gharib in Yemen and he remained attached to the Sheikh for the rest of his life. A disciplined scholar, Hazrat Nizam Yamani collected his teacher's malfuzat (utterances), thereby compiling the famous Lataif-e-Ashrafi (utterances) and Maktubat-e-Ashrafi (letters).

It is narrated that twelve thousand non-believers accepted Islam on the course of his travels. Hazrat Nizam Yamani, in Lataif-e-Ashrafi, has recorded that wherever Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf went, he delivered lectures in the local language as well as writing books in the local language, leaving them for the benefit of the locals.

Miracles

Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf was on a supreme status of mysticism and spirituality and thus demonstrated various karamat (miracles) at different stages through his life.

  • It is related that once Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf was passing through Banaras with his disciples. One of the disciples was fascinated by an idol in a temple. The caravan of Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf had marched some distance before it came to their attention that a disciple had been left behind at the temple, affixed on this idol. Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf instructed one of his followers to go and tell the idol to come with him. The follower went to the temple and did as he was instructed. To everyone's amazement, the previously inanimate idol metamorphosed into a human being and followed the disciple.
  • A woman once came to the khanqah with her dying son and asked Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf to pray for his life. As she was pleading with him, the boy passed away at which point the woman began to weep and exclaimed: "You are a Waliullah (friend of God); bring my son back to life." Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf replied "life and death are in the hands of God; there is little a slave can do". Upon hearing this, the woman wept even more and witnessing her grief, Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf said "I forgo ten years of my life so this boy can live for a further ten years." After making a supplication for the boy's life, Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf ordered him to stand up in the name of God and he did so, and lived on for a further ten years.
  • One morning, after returning from Pandua Sharif, Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf was sitting with his disciples after the Ishraq prayer. Soon after, some foolhardy people arrived with the intention of ridiculing the great saint. They brought a coffin along containing a man who was foolishly playing dead and asked Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf to conduct the funeral prayer. Initially, he refused but they were so persistent that Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf instructed one of his mureeds to perform the funeral prayer in order to satisfy them. After the prayer was conducted, the group of people waited for the man in the coffin to arise but much to their dismay, he lay dead. The news of this incident rapidly spread around the town and created great commotion among the people. Hazrat Nizam Yamani recited a couplet regarding the incident:

Kase Ku Az Buzurgan Khanda Giraft,
Bajuz Girya Azo Digar Che Ayad.

He who ridicules the elders,
will get nothing but tears.

The cat of Kamal the Jogi

It had occurred to a disciple of Sheikh Ashraf Jahangir, Qazi Rafa al-Din by name and an inhabitant of Awadh, that in former times there were sheikhs whose glance had power over animals and birds; but he did not know whether such people existed at the present day. The sheikh when he learnt of this, smiled and said "Perhaps."

Now Kamal the Jogi had a cat which sometimes used to pass in front of the sheikh. He ordered the cat to be brought to him and began a discourse on a holy topic. The sheikh's face gradually assumed such expression that all present were struck with fear. The cat also listened to the discourse and was so affected that it fell down unconscious; when it came to its senses again, it began to rub the feet of the sheikh and then those of the other companions. After this it became a habit that when the sheikh was talking upon divine mysteries, the cat never left the holy gathering. When travellers were about to come to the khanqah, it used to indicate their number by mewing; from this the servitors of the would know for how many guests to lay the cloth for the meal. At the time when food was served, the cat also was given a portion equal to that of others who were present, and sometimes it was sent to bring members of the company who had been summoned. It would go to the room of the person who had been called and by mewing insistently or banging at the door would make the person understand that the sheikh had summoned him.

One day a party of dervishes had arrived at the khanqah. The cat mewed as usual but when the food was sent it appeared that it was short by one portion. The sheikh returned to the cat and said: "Why have you made a mistake today?" The cat immediately went away and began to sniff at each of the dervishes of the party. When it came to the head of the band it jumped upon his knee and made a mess. When the sheikh saw what had happened he said: "The poor cat has done nothing wrong: this man is a stranger." The head of the band immediately cast himself at the feet of the sheikh and said

I am a dahriyya (materialist). For twelve years I have travelled through the world wearing the garments of Islam. It was my intention that if it should so befall that some Sufi recognized me, I would accept Islam. Up to now none has known my secret: but that cat has revealed it. Today I accept Islam....

The cat remained alive until after the demise of the sheikh. One day the successor of the sheikh had put a pot of milk upon the fire in order to cook milk rice and it chanced that a snake fell into the pot. The cat saw this and circled around the pot: he would not budge from the place and he mewed several times, but the cook did not understand and drove him out of the kitchen. When the cat saw that there was no way of making the cook understand, he leapt into the boiling liquid and surrendered his life. The rice had of course to be thrown away, and with it a black snake was discovered. The Sufi remarked that the cat had sacrificed his own life for the sake of the dervishes, and a tomb should be built for him.

Passing on

According to Khanzinat'l Asfiya, at the beginning of Muharram in 808 AH, Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf's health began to deteriorate. Prior to his demise, he instructed his closest of mureeds to prepare his grave and construct his dargah (shrine). On 28 Muharram 808 AH, between Zuhr and Asr prayers, Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf left this world.

Although this is commonly attributed as the date of his death, Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf's letters seem to suggest that he lived at least upto 1415 AD and beyond.

His Urs (death anniversary) is held each year between 26 and 29 Muharram. His shrine in Kichhauchha Sharif is famous for being very effective in helping those affected by Jinn and his name is still invoked for this.

Khilafat (successorship)

Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf remained celibate his whole life and thus had no children of his own. Shortly before his demise, he appointed his nephew Hazrat Abdul Razzaq, the 11th direct descendant of the Great al-Ghawth al-A'zam, Hazrat Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani, as his successor. The Sheikh reserved great compassion for him and gave him the title "Noor al-Ayn".

Works & Views

He completed several works including Basharatu'l-Ikhwan, Fawa'idu'l-Ashraf, Basharatu'z-Zakirin, and Tanbihu'l-Ikhwan, which taught people the importance of understanding the esoteric meanings of the technical terms of Sufism. His Miratu'l-Haqai'q and the Kanzud-Daqai'q were addressed to those more advanced in the field of Sufism. These works, along with his letters the Maktubat-i Ashrafi, promote a deeper understanding of Wahdat al-Wujud.

His view is that the Being (Wujud) and Appearance (Shuhud) are identical to an extent that existence of everything is through God’s Essence (Haqq). Wahdat al-Wujud or the Unity of Being does not signify the unity of Being with the world in a pantheistic sense but a realisation by the servant ('abd) that the Divine Essence is manifest in creation. He interprets the death of self mainly in terms of a spiritual ascent in the direction of the Divine and argued that its prerequisite is total severance from attachment to mundane existence. He describes the union mainly in terms of the return of the soul to the Creator; and this idea is not in conflict with the Qur'an. He quotes Hazrat Jalaluddin Rumi on the Persian term Hama Ust (All is He):

I died as mineral and became a plant, I died as plant and rose to animal, I died as animal and I was a Man, Why should I fear? When was I less by dying? Yet once more I shall die as Man, to soar With angels blest; but even from angelhood When I have sacrificed my angel-soul, I shall become what to mind e'er conceived, Oh, let me not exist! for non-existence, Proclaims in organ tones: To Him we shall return.

Some of the letters of Hazrat Makhdoom Ashraf were addressed to the sultans and the ulama. He emphasised the importance of consultation with different leaders as essential for good governance, and he urged them to promote the welfare of the community. Although his emphasis was on the enforcement of the Shari'ah, the underlying notion of this was to ensure that justice was given to common people.

Sayings & Quotes

So long as one is not disinterested in the affiliations and attractions of the world, one will not be benefited by frequent prayer and desirable ascetic practices.
He who does not take to rigours and ascetic practices will not acquire the wealth of vision.
Sainthood means that an individual continues to exist after annihilation and is endowed with purity and serenity.
Do not view anyone with contempt, for the friends of God are often hidden.
The enlightened should see manifestation of the Glory of God in all creation.
The censured one is he who neither discloses the good, nor hides the evil.
The dead are aware of the coming of a pilgrim and his concentration, for the spiritual world has a subtlety, specifically, that that the spirits of the saints take notice of even a little concentration of the pilgrim.

Sources

  • Maktubat-i Ashrafi
  • Lata’if Ashrafi
  • Nafahat al-Uns, Jami
  • Akbar-ul-Akhyar
  • Mirat-ul-Asrar
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