Khwaja Gharib Nawaz, a noble saint resting in Ajmer

by Abbas Adil

Famous lyrics of

“Shah ast Hussain, Badshah ast Hussain,
Deen ast Hussain, Deen e Panah ast Hussain,
Sar dad, na dad dast, dar dast-e-yazeed,
Haqaa key binaey La ila ast Hussain”

“Ruler is Hussain, Emperor is Hussain,
Religion is Hussain, Sheild of religion (Islam )
is Hussain, Gave his head but not his hand to yazid, Maintainer of the truth is no one but Hussain” by Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti Allayhirahma, popularly known as Khwaja Gharib Nawaz (protector of the poor), was born in 1141 C.E. at Sanjar in the Sistan province of Iran. He was a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed.
The Urs – observed between the first and sixth days of the Hijri month of Rajab – is also the much sought –after occasion when “Jannati Darwaza” (door to heaven) is opened for the devotees. People from all religions offer chadar and floral tributes at the grave of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti.
At the beginning of the sixteenth century Maulana Jamali, author of Siyar al-Arifin, undertook the pilgrimage to Ajmer. He refers to the existence of families of attendants long established at the shrine, and the significant quantity of gifts brought to it by Hindus as well as Muslims.
To quote in support the view of Sheikh Jamali, a mystic and historian of the times of Humayun, “Every year, many distinguished men come to kiss the dust of the Astan (Dargah of Ajmer) and present amounts of cash to the khadims of this magnificent tomb, and pay them their respects. (1)
Sultan Mahmud Khilji also built a mosque near the shrine, known as the Sandal Khana especially for the khadims.
The Tarikh-i- Daudi mentions that; Sher Shah Suri himself went to Ajmer to perform the pilgrimage in 1554 C.E. and gave large alms to the faqirs of the khanqa and performed the necessary ceremonies of going around it.
Akbar was the first Mughal Emperor to take an interest in t Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty, and with his imperial patronage the fortunes of the shrine dramatically improved. Akbar visited the grave of Khwaja Moinudin Chisty fourteen times.
Akbar visited the Shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti every year, on annual Urs, on the birth of a Prince and between successes in his military campaigns. He was always found paying thanks giving pilgrimage at the Shrine and lavishly pouring cash and kind as Nazar on Khadims. The young Emperor firmly believed that all his successes were due to spiritual blessings of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty whom he considered his Pir. (2)
Akbar converted his residence into a palace which is still in the possession of the descendants of Shaikh Daniyal, known as Mahal Valas among the Khadims. (3)
Each of Akbar’s visits to Ajmer was celebrated by his making substantial offerings at the shrine, conferring endowments on it beautifying it. He also arranged for the management of the shrine and for the treatment of pilgrims, and for the extension of mosques and khanqas in the territory. A lofty college and high spacious palaces were built on the road to Ajmer.
Akbar initiated the building of the mosque (Akbari Masjid) which is named after him at the shrine; in 1571 C.E. he had the mausoleum of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty further embellished.
It was not only Akbar and the Khilji Sultans who adorned Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty’s tomb. By the early 17th century the dargah was clearly an impressive establishment with a considerable staff financed by the endowments and offerings of devotees. There was already accommodation for the staff, facilities for the pilgrims’ ritual ablutions, monumental gateway (the Buland Darwaza), at the entrance of the shrine, and a lavishly decorated mausoleum for the saint.
Emperor Jahangir believed that he owed not only his ‘very existence’ to Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty but also his throne Tuzuk-i Jahangir mentions that the king presented 36000 rupees to the servants, who, by way of loyalty, had bored their ears.
In the three years he was at Ajmer, Jahangir visited the shrine nine times. He gave the dargah one of its cauldrons (degs) and on the inaugural occasion he lit the fire beneath it himself and the contents of the pot fed five thousand poor, as well as himself and his wife, Nur Mahal. Jahangir had made a vow that they should place a gold railing with lattice-work at the enlightened tomb of the revered Khawaja. In the month of (Rabi II) it was completed and it cost 110,000 rupees. (4)
Shah Jahan’s daughter Jahan Ara Begum, was a loyal follower of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty and as an expression of her devotion, she had a porch of white marble built over the main entrance to the saint’s mausoleum known as the Begumi Dalan that has been recently decorated.
In 1888 C.E., the walls and pillars were painted a rich red, gold and blue, at the expense of the Nawab Mushtak Ali Khan of Rampur.
In the 19th century the dargah was not entirely neglected. A succession of Maharajas endowed it with a series of villages.
Maharaja Jai Singh of Jaipur in 1730 C.E. gave approximately 42961 tolas of silver to Kwaja Moinuddin Chisty’s grave.
The Scindia family was devoted to the shrine. Bishop Heber, who visited Ajmer shortly after the beginning of British rule noted that the Scindia family, while masters of Ajmer, were magnificent benefactors of its shrine. They spent annually 2000 rupees on the distribution of food to the poor at the two Id festivals.
Shivaji Maharaj who is venerated in Maharashtra paid deep respect to the shrines of Muslim saints in Deccan and made large endowments for Muslim saint’s tombs. He had great respect for Pir Shaik Yaqub Baba Aulia of Konkan and the Sufi saint Baba Sharifuddin.
In 1793 C.E. the Nawab of Karnatak, Muhammad Ali Khan Wala Jah, built the Karnataki Dalan as a shelter for the pilgrims to the shrine.
In1800 C.E. the Maharaja of Baroda presented a chatgiri with which to cover the ceiling of the mausoleum.
In 1911 December 23 Queen Mary of Britain visited Ajmer and its shrine. She gave 1500 rupees to the shrine.
The present main gate of the dargah was built by the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1915
The dargah at Ajmer Sharif today attracts lakhs of people – Muslims, Hindus, Christians and others – from the Indian sub-continent and from other parts of the world, depicting a rare blend of religions. People assemble at the shrine during the week-long Urs every year to beseech for fulfilment of their prayers.

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