Hazrat Syed Hafiz Haji Abu’l Hasan Bin Usman Bin Ali Al-Jalabi Al-Hujwiri (ra) (also spelled Hujweri, Hajweri, Hajveri, Hajvery) also known as Data Ganj Bakhsh (the master who bestows treasures) or Data Sahib was a great Persian Sufi scholar, writer and poet who lived during the 5th Century AH (11th Century AD). He significantly contributed to the spreading of Islam in South Asia.
Lineage and Family
Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra) was both a Hasani and Husseini Syed.
- Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra), son of
- Hazrat Mohammad Usman (ra), son of
- Hazrat Abu’l Hasan Ali (ra), son of
- Hazrat Abdur Rahman (ra), son of
- Hazrat Shah Shuja (ra), son of
- Hazrat Abu’l Hasan Ali (ra), son of
- Hazrat Hasan Asghar (ra), son of
- Hazrat Zaid (ra), son of
- Hazrat Imam Hasan , son of
- Hazrat Ali .
Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra) was the ninth descendant of Hazrat Ali . After the tragedy of Karbala, many of the descendants of Hazrat Ali dispersed to foreign lands and among them were the forefathers of Hazrat Ali Hujveri who migrated to the Ghaznavid Empire, which is now modern-day Afghanistan.
Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra) was also blessed with direct lineage to the Holy Prophet ﷺ through his mother who was a descendant of Hazrat Imam Hussein . His mother was greatly devoted to religious worship and was committed to bettering the welfare of the poor and the suffering.
His maternal uncle was highly respected and had the title of "Tajul Auliya". Adjacent to the mausoleum of Hazrat Tajul Auliya lays the mausoleum belonging to the mother of Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra).
Although the family lived in fairly affluent circumstances, they were held in high esteem for their piety and religious devotion.
Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra) was born in the city of Ghazni during the reign of Mahmud of Ghazni where his family had settled. He was known as Ali Al-Jalabi Al-Hujwiri (ra), as he had lived in Jalab and Hujwir, two different quarters (Mohallas) within the city of Ghazni.
The exact date of Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra)’s birth is not known, with estimates ranging from 400 AH to 406AH. Little is known of his early life or his education.
After having completed his studies, he travelled extensively in order to acquire knowledge from well-known scholars as well as to pay homage to saints. He is reported to have travelled for forty years, during which he always offered his Friday prayers in congregation.
He travelled to Syria, Iraq, Persia, Kohistan, Azerbaijan, Tabaristan, Kerman, Khorasan, Transoxiana amongst other places and met several prominent Sufis of the time. In Khorasan alone he is reported to have met 300 Sufis. He relates in Kashf-ul-Mahjoob:
It would be difficult to mention all the Sheikhs of Khorasan. I have met over three hundred saints in Khorasan alone residing separately and who had such mystical endowments that a single one of them would have been enough for the whole world. They are the luminaries of love and prosperity on the spiritual sky of Khorasan.
After the acquisition of academic knowledge in the fields of his search, he diverted his energy in quest of an accomplished spiritual teacher (Murshid-e-Kamil). He travelled great distances in search of a personality who could satiate his thirst for spirituality, rather than mere academic superficial knowledge. Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra) states in Kashf-ul-Mahjoob:
Theologians have made no distinction between 'ilm (knowledge) and ma'rifat (gnosis), except when they say that God may be called 'alim (knowing), but not 'arif (gnostic), since the latter description lacks Divine blessing. The Sufi Sheikhs give the name of ma’rifat (gnosis) to knowledge that includes both religious practices and states; the knower of which could express his state they would call ‘arif (gnostic).
On the other hand, they give the name of ‘ilm (knowledge) to every knowledge that is devoid of spiritual and religious practice, and one who has such knowledge they call 'alim (knowing).
One, then, who knows the meaning and reality of a thing they call 'arif, and one who knows merely the verbal expression and keeps it in his memory without keeping the spiritual reality they call 'alim. For this reason, when the Sufis wish to criticize a rival they call him danishmand (possessing knowledge). This seems objectionable, but the Sufis do not intend to blame the man for having acquired knowledge, rather they blame him for neglecting the practice of religion, because the 'alim depends on himself, but the 'arif depends on his Lord.
Initiation into the Sufi Order
Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra) was accepted as a murid (spiritual disciple) by Hazrat Sheikh Abu’l Fadl Muhammad bin Al-Hasan Al-Khuttali (ra). His silsila (spiritual chain) is traced back to the Beloved Prophet ﷺ as follows:
- Hazrat Sheikh Ali Hujwiri (ra), disciple of
- Hazrat Sheikh Abu’l Fadl Al-Khuttali (ra), disciple of
- Hazrat Sheikh Abu’l Hasan al-Husri (ra), disciple of
- Hazrat Sheikh Abu Bakr Abdullah Shibli (ra), disciple of
- Hazrat Sheikh Junaid al-Baghdadi (ra), disciple of
- Hazrat Sheikh Abu’l Hasan Sari al-Saqati (ra), disciple of
- Hazrat Sheikh Maruf al-Karkhi (ra), disciple of
- Hazrat Sheikh Dawood Taa'ee (ra), disciple of
- Hazrat Sheikh Habib al-Ajami (ra), disciple of
- Hazrat Sheikh Hasan al-Basri (ra), disciple of
- Sayyidina Ali ibn Abi Talib , Khalifa of
- Sayyidina Muhammad ibn Abdillah, ﷺ
Hazrat Sheikh Al-Khuttali (ra) is described by Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra) in Kashf-ul-Mahjoob:
He is the teacher whom I follow in Sufism. He was versed in the science of Quranic exegesis and in traditions (riwayat). In Sufism he follows the doctrine of Junayd. He was a disciple of Husri and a companion of Sirawani, and a contemporary of Abu Amr Qazwini and Abu'l- Hasan bin Saliba. He spent sixty years in sincere retirement from the world, for the most part on Mount Lukam. He displayed many signs and proofs (of Saintship), but he did not wear the garb or adopt the external fashions of the Sufis, and he used to treat formalists with severity. I never saw any man who inspired me with greater awe than he did.
It is related that he said: ‘The world is but a single day, in which we are fasting, i.e. we get nothing from it, and are not occupied with it, because we have perceived its corruption and its "veils" and have turned our backs upon it.’
Once I was pouring water on his hands in order that he might purify himself. The thought occurred to me: ‘Since everything is predestined, why should free men make themselves the slaves of spiritual guides?" The Sheikh said: ‘ O my son, I know what you are thinking. Be assured that there is a cause for every decree of Providence. When Allah wishes to bestow a crown and a kingdom on an ordinary man, He gives him repentance and employs him in the service of one of His friends, in order that this service leads him to nobility and honour."
Many such fine sayings he uttered to me every day.
He died at Bayt al-Jinn, a village situated at the head of a mountain pass between Baniyas and the river of Damascus. While he was counting last breaths, his head was resting on my bosom. At that time I was feeling hurt, as it is the nature of man to feel sad on departure of his close associate. The Sheikh said to me:
‘O my son, I will tell you one article of belief which if you firmly follow, will deliver you from all troubles. Whatever good or evil Allah creates, do not in any place or circumstance quarrel with His action or feel aggrieved in your heart.'
He gave no further injunction, but yielded up his soul.
Other teachers and Sheikhs associated with Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra) are:
Abu’l-Abbas Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Ashqani (ra) (or al-Shaqani)
Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra) describes him:
He was an Imam in every branch of fundamental and derivative sciences of religion, and an accomplished venerable in all respects. He had met a great number of eminent Sufi Sheikhs. He is counted among the eminent Imams and Sheikhs. His doctrine was based on ‘annihilation’ (fana), and his expressions used to be highly complex. Some fools imitated him and have adopted his difficult writing style. When in its spiritual meaning it is not laudable to imitate then how it is right to imitate a mere expression! I was very intimate with him, and he had also a sincere affection for me. He was my teacher in some sciences. In my whole life I have never seen anyone, who held the Shariat in greater veneration than him. He kept himself detached from all created things.
Because of his complicated writings on account of the subtlety of his theological expositions only an Imam of profound insight could derive instruction from him. He always had a natural disgust of this world and the next, and would constantly exclaim, ‘I yearn for a non-existence that has no existence.’ And he used to say:
‘Every man desires for impossible, and I too have desire for impossible, which I surely know will never be realized, namely that Allah should take me to a non-existence that will never return to existence, for stations and miracles are all veils and troubles and the man is becoming a suitor of his own veil. It is better to get annihilated in vision than being remain in constant state of veil. Almighty Allah is a Being that is not subject to none being, what loss would His kingdom suffer if I become a nonentity that shall never be endowed with existence?’
This is a sound principle in a real annihilation.
Abu’l-Qasim bin Ali bin Abdullah al-Gurgani (ra)
He was unique and incomparable Qutb of his time. His initial state was excellent and strong. He performed long journeys with conscientious observance (of Shariat). All the aspirants of his time were whole heartedly inclined to him and seekers of the path of Truth had full faith on him. He possessed marvellous power of revealing the inwardly states of novices (kashf-i waq'a-i muridan). He was well learned in various branches of knowledge. All his disciples because of their knowledge and conduct are ornaments of the society in which they move. God willing, he will have an excellent successor, whose authority the whole body of Sufis will recognize, namely, Abu Ali al-Fadl b. Muhammad al-Farmadhi who has fully committed himself to the service of his Sheikh and has turned his back on all (worldly) things. Through the blessings of that (renunciation), Allah has made him the spiritual mouthpiece (zaban-i hal) of that venerable Sheikh.
Abu Ahmad Muzaffar bin Ahmad bin Hamdan (ra)
Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra) describes an interesting experience pertaining to Qawwali in Kashf-ul-Mahjoob:
One day I came into his presence, when the weather was extremely hot, wearing a traveller's dress and with my hair in disorder. He said to me: ‘Tell me what you wish at this moment.’ I replied that I wished to hear some music (sama). He immediately sent for a singer (qawwal) and a number of musicians. Being young and enthusiastic and filled with the ardour of a novice, I became deeply excited as the strains of the music fell on my ear.
After a while, when my ecstasy subsided, he asked me how I liked it. I told him that I had enjoyed it very much. He said:
‘A time will come when this music will be no more to you than the croaking of a raven. The influence of music only lasts so long as there is no contemplation, and as soon as contemplation is attained, music has no power. Take care not to accustom yourself to this, lest it grow part of your nature and keep you back from higher things.’
Abu’l Qasim Abdul Karim Bin Hawazin al-Qushayri (ra)
In his time he was a wonder. His rank is high and his position is great, and his spiritual life and manifold virtues are well known to the people of the present age. He is the author of many fine sayings and exquisite works, all of them profoundly theosophical, in every branch of science. Allah rendered his feelings and his tongue secure from anthropomorphism (hashw). I have heard that he said:
‘The Sufi is like the disease called birsam, which begins with delirium and ends in silence; for when the disease sets in, you are dumb."
Sufism has two sides: ecstasy (wajd) and visions (numud). Visions belong to novices, and the expression of such visions is delirium (hadhayan). Ecstasy belongs to adepts, and the expression of ecstasy, while the ecstasy continues, is impossible. So long as they are only seekers they utter lofty aspirations, which seem delirium even to those who aspire (ahl-i himmal), but when they have attained, they cease, and no more express anything either by word or sign. Similarly, since Moses was a beginner (mubtadi) all his desire was for vision of Allah; he expressed his desire and said, ‘My Lord, show me [Yourself] that I may look at You.’ (7:139). This expression of an unattained desire seemed like delirium. Our Apostle, however, was an adept (muntahi) and firmly established (mutamakkin). When his person arrived at the station of desire, his desire was annihilated and he said, ‘I cannot praise Thee duly.’
Arrival in Lahore
One night Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra) saw his spiritual guide and teacher Hazrat Sheikh Abu’l Fadl Al-Khuttali in a dream saying to him: "O, my son! we have appointed you as the qutb of Lahore. Be prepared and start forthwith for Lahore." He replied, "Your Holiness has already appointed Khwaja Hasan Zanjani as the qutb of Lahore. What is the need for this humble being in his presence there? What is the importance, significance, and implication of the order of your holiness?" Thereupon his spiritual guide and teacher said: "O my son! Do not argue with me and leave for Lahore without loss of time."
Around 431 AH, in the reign of Mahmud Ghaznavi, he left Ghazni for Lahore along with Hazrat Abu Sa'eed Hujwiri (ra) and Hazrat Hammad Sarkhasi (ra).
When he had reached the outskirts of the city, it had grown dark. He stayed outside the city and entered it in the morning. To his great surprise, he saw a funeral. On his inquiring, he learnt that it was the funeral of Hazrat Sheikh Khwaja Hasan Zanjani (ra), who had passed away the previous night. He led the funeral prayers.
Miracle in Lahore
After he had permanently settled in Lahore, he constructed a monastery for himself and also a mosque. When the mosque was under construction, the Ulama of the city raised a storm of opposition to the effect that the mosque was not exactly aligned towards the Qibla. He remained unconcerned about this opposition and objection. When the mosque was complete he invited the Ulama, Sufis, saints, and leading citizens to it and they all offered prayers behind him. After the prayers were over, he addressed all those present, saying: "People have expressed doubt concerning the alignment of the mosque. I request you to close your eyes and meditate and then decide whether it is correct or not." Thereafter he meditated and the curtains were removed from the eyes of the people. All of them saw that the sacred Ka'ba was before their eyes and that the mosque direction had been correctly aligned.
He spent the rest of his days there guiding, teaching, and inspiring the people and preaching and propagating the doctrine of truth. Thousands of unlettered persons became alims, hoards of people accepted Islam, the misguided began to follow the Path, the insane recovered reason and sanity, the imperfect became perfect (in knowledge) and the sinners became virtuous under the influence of Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra).
One of the earlier converts was one Rai Raju, the Naib (Viceroy) of Lahore during the time of Sultan Maudood. On conversion to Islam he was named Sheikh Hindi. His descendants have been since that time the custodians of the mausoleum.
Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra) is said to have passed away on the twentieth of the month of Rabi-ul-Awwal 465 AH although the date, month and year are all conjectural. Others have estimated his passing on to have occurred between 481 AH and 500 AH.
His urs takes place on the twentieth and the twenty-first of Safar every year.
Sayings & Teachings
Respect of Great Sufis towards Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra)
Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti (ra)
Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti (ra), the great saint of Ajmer, came to Lahore to meditate for forty days at the sacred alter of Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra) and after receiving spiritual enlightenment; Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti (ra) expressed his gratitude and out of love and devotion uttered the following couplet whilst in an ecstatic trance:
Ganj Bakhsh-e faiz-e aalam, mazhar-e nur-i Khuda
Naqisaan ra pir-e kaamil, kaamilaan ra rahnuma
An attempted translation of this inspiring couplet:
The giver of bounties, the benefactor of the world [and] manifestation of the light of God,
To the imperfect, a perfect spiritual guide, and to the perfect, a guide.
It is from this time that Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra), came to be known as Data Ganj Bakhsh (the master who bestows treasures/bounties).
Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani (ra)
It is stated that Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani (ra) during one of his gatherings said,
I, Abdul Qadir, would have taken him as my Spiritual Guide if I was born in his time.
Kashf-ul-Mahjoob (Unveiling the Veiled) is held in high esteem as the first important treatise on Sufism. Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra) was a prolific writer, perceptive and discriminating in his choice of topics.
Kashf-ul-Mahjoob was written in response to the request of his fellow townsman Hazrat Abu Sa'eed Hujwiri (ra) who put the following questions to him:
Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra) starts the reply with the following, regarding the current status of Sufism:
Sufism is obsolete in our age and particularly in this country (India) where majority of the people is captivated with worldly lust. They have turned away their faces from being satisfied with the decree of the Truth. The divines and those who pretend to have knowledge of the path have formed a conception of Sufism which is conflicting to its basics.
The object of the book seems to set forth a complete system of Sufism, and the author’s attitude throughout remains that of a teacher instructing a student.
It will not be a boasting opinion to mention Kashf-ul-Mahjoob as the primary source on the laws of mysticism. It elaborates all the stages of the Path of Sufism in such a manner that in the words of the author the seeker studying and following the book would not need the auspicious guidance of a Sheikh (spiritual guide). He has touched upon the doctrines held by the different sects of Sufis, in which he enumerates special doctrine of each.
The work has always been applauded by majority of the theologians and Sheikhs representing different schools of thought and it has been always a source of excellent guidance to the seekers of the Path. It leads one to straight path and mind of the seeker is enlightened with the purity of Shariat and reality of the Truth and he feels independent of any doubt or uncertainty.
The great saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya (ra) said regarding the book:
For one who has no spiritual guide, the Kashf-ul-Mahjoob is enough
Hazrat Ali Hujwiri (ra) wrote a few more books but he himself mentions in Kashf-ul-Mahjoob that they were stolen by other people. He says:
I have already written few books on this subject, but all these efforts of mine went in vain as some pretenders picked out selected passages from them to impress their followers as it was their work and they destroyed rest of the works. This sort of people considers such sadism and denial as Allah’s blessing. Some did occupy themselves willingly but failed to gain anything from it. Some gained the knowledge of works, but did not comprehend the meaning. Such people only like the expressions thereof and think that the memorization and copying of such expression is the Sufism. This is their misfortune.