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Hazrat Amir Khusraw

I’ve been active during the month of Ramadan to write something every day about Hazrat Amir Khusraw. Each of the following numbers contains the material written during each day:

1. Hazrat Amir Khusraw asks a question. The first line is in Persian and the second is in Urdu:

Teshna raa che mibaayad
Melaap ko kyaa chaahiye

What is required for the thirsty person?
What is required for union?

2. This verse shows the loving union existing between Hazrat Amir Khusraw and his murshid Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya:

Man to shodam to man shodi
Man jaan shodam to tan shodi
Taa na-guyad kasi pas az in
Man digaram o to digari

I have become you and you have become me.
I have become the soul and you have become the body.
Let nobody say after this,
That I am other and you are another.

3. This is a translation of ghazal 69 to be found on p. 63 of the Diwaan-e-Amir Khusraw:

Many a night I was with a moon; ?
Where are all those nights gone??
Now it is night again, but it is dark, ?
Because of the smoke of my cries: ‘O Lord!'
Those were happy nights, the ones I've spent with her: ?
Sometimes drunk and sometimes merry-headed. ?
My world becomes dark, ?
When I remember those nights.
I used to tell the tale again and again ?
Of her eyebrows and eyelashes, ?
Like children reciting at school ?
The chapter of the Qur'an starting with Nun and the Pen.
What would happen ?
If one night she would ask ?
How a stranger below her wall ?
Would pass these lonely nights?
Soul of each body, come! ?
In order that lovers, ?
Who are bodies without soul, ?
May live again in your street.
Although you robbed me of heart and soul, ?
Look at my present state: ?
How beautifully that smile came ?
From your lips into my eyes!
Don't grieve for your soul, ?
Although the friend may slay you, Khusraw! ?
Because in many groups there are beautiful people, ?
That act in such a way.

This is how the Persian text sounds like:

Basi shab baa mahi budam kojaa shod aan hama shabhaa ?
‘Knun ham hast shab, leken siyaah az dud-e-yaarabbhaa ?
Khush aan shabhaa ke pishash budami ga mast o ga sarkhush ?
Jahaanam mishawad taarik chun yaad aaram aan shabhaa
Hami kardam hadis-e-abru o mozgaan-e-u har dam ?
Chu teflaan sura-e-nun wal qalam khaanaan be maktabhaa ?
Che baashad gar shabi porsad ke dar shabhaaye tanhaa'i ?
Gharibi zir-e-diwaarash cheguna mikonad shabhaa
Biyaa ay jaan-e- har qaaleb ke taa zendah shawand az sar ?
Be kuyat ‘aasheqaan kaz jaan tohi kardand qaalebhaa ?
Agar che del be-dozdidi o jaan inak negar haalam ?
Che niku aamad aan khanda darin dida az aan labhaa
Maranj az bahr-e-jaan khosraw agar che mikoshad yaarat ?
Ke baashad khubruyaan raa basi zinguna mazhabhaa

4. This is an oath of Hazrat Amir Khusraw:

Man be-daan nazram ke gar miram be-suyam benegari
Bin ke chu man chand kas morda-st dar baazaar-e-‘eshq

This is my oath: I’ll die so that you may look at me.
See how many have died like me in love’s bazar!

5. Qawwals often sing this ghazal, part of which will be given below:

‘Aql aamad din o doniyaa shod kharaab
‘Eshq aamad har do ‘aalam kaamyaab

Reason came: religion and world were ruined.
Love came: the two worlds were flourishing.
I am an infidel of love, I have no use for Islam.
Every vein of me has become a thread.
I do not need the belt of the Christians [...]
They say that Khusraw is an idolater.
Yes, yes, I do!
I do not care about this world and its people.

6. Hazrat Amir Khusraw writes this in his prose work E’jaaz-e-Khusrawi:

A dervish who sits in a corner worshipping God, but has the desire to go to the royal threshold to ask for bread is like one who observes the fast, but has a tremendous appetite for food, or like one who while standing in prayer continues to think about the shops of caterers and confectioners.

Verse:

Many people observe the Ramadan fast and observe the prayers,
But in their heart of hearts onion and garlic prevail.

7. These two lines are the last poem written by Hazrat Amir Khusraw. He wrote them while being grief-stricken because of the death of his beloved murshid:

Gori so’e sej par mokh par daale kes
Chal khusraw ghar aapne saanjh bha’i chahun des

Beauty sleeps on the bed, her face covered with long tresses.
Hurry home Khusraw, the night has set over this place.

Hazrat Amir Khusraw followed Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya in the grave about six months later.

8. Hazrat Amir Khusraw is said to have declared after the death of Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya: “My end is now not far off, for the shaykh had told me that I would not survive him long”. The building we now see, which has been erected on the grave of Hazrat Amir Khusraw dates from the time of Baber. It contains this inscription:

No god, but God and Muhammad is His Messenger.
The earth was exalted by the erection of this tablet in the reign of Baber, the ghazi emperor.
Mir Khusraw, the king of the world of poetry, that ocean of accomplishment and sea of perfection:
His prose was more pleasant than flowing water and his poetry purer than sweet, limpid waters;
The matchless nightingale of melodious songs and the peerless parrot of sweet speech!

When I placed my thoughtful head on my knee to compose a chronogram on his death, two chronograms occurred to me: ‘The peerless’ and ‘The parrot of Sweet Speech’ [...].

Hazrat Amir Khusraw has died on 27 September 1325.

9. We’ve clearly seen the immense love of Hazrat Amir Khusraw. He himself has presented us with these somewhat boasting lines:

‘Eshqbaazi ze Khusraw aamuzand
Layla o Majnun ar konun baashand

If Layla and Majnun would be now alive,
They would learn the game of love from Khusraw.

10. Hazrat Amir Khusraw has written the ‘Matla’ al-Anwaar’, a work of 3,310 verses in a period of just two weeks. He tells this simple anecdote in it:

A youth asks an old traveller how he fares so well. The traveller answers: “I guard my words carefully and speak only when it is truly useful”.

11. In the eighteenth part of the ‘Matla’ al-Anwar’ Hazrat Amir Khusraw deals with the transitoriness of life and the ‘treachery of the sky’, the old age and the necessity for a really able preceptor. This subject is continued in the 19th part, which concludes in a very touching lament for his loneliness and the absence of friends.

“We also,” he says, “had a friend and a companion. Not a weed is now left of that garden. Why seek for the inmates? The very dwellings are no more! [...] Those dead do not alas get the permission to come back from their distant abode. I die in longing for them - would that I was really dead and with them!”

12. This is the end of a ghazal (with the opening line: Sabza naw-khiz ast o baaraan dur-feshaan aayad hami):

I do not know how sleep comes to your eyes,
When such cries for help come from your lane all night.
May the rose bower of your beauty
Grow fresher each moment, for why else
Does Khusraw begin early every morning
To sing and lament like the nightingale?

13. In the autumn of 1314, prince Khezr Khan summoned Hazrat Amir Khusraw and requested him to compose a work on the prince’s courtship and marriage to a Hindu princess. The request probably appealed to Hazrat Amir Khusraw on a number of levels. The prince and the poet both followed the Chishti Sufi Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya, suggesting that they knew each other outside of the royal court and shared similar views.

Hazrat Amir Khusraw complied with this request. At the end of the romantic tale called “Duval Rani wa Khezr Khan” Hazrat Amir Khusraw writes this advice:

Ba ‘eshq awez dar kaar-e-elaahi
Maju az zohd-e-khoshk aabi ke khaahi

To perform godly work depend on love.
Dry asceticism will not give you the water you desire.

14. This is a short tale given in the aforesaid romance:

There once was a mouse that dreamed it was a camel. It was happy in heart and mind. The mouse was happy on account of its sound sleep and [as a camel] it roamed here and there in happiness. Suddenly a heavy burden was put on the camel. It was a troublesome burden of 100 manns. The miserable mouse became helpless under that burden and on account of that misery, it killed the camel. It is good to interpret these sweet dreams so that the wrong meaning does not make an impression.

15. This is a ghazal to be found in the same source:

O Fortune! Favour me for just a moment.
Don’t bring difficulties to me.
Graft in this manner: Graft the beloved to the friend.
Remove the veil from the moon’s cheek,
Bringing the festival after the fast to me like the Night of Power .
The memory of the beloved is in my heart.
My life is like the earth beneath his feet.
That upright cypress is in my vision keeping my eyes open day and night.
I am the shah who, like a line of decorations, prevents the wind from rubbing its feet upon earth.
A response from the beloved’s lip.
You are aware that without you, what remains in my heart?
What is this burning produced in my chest from our separation?
My blood began to boil a little at the end, so I took a little wine in the glass.
If the hard stone [heart] receives a wound, it immediately cries out.
You are this stone, bringing problems into my life.
I took a hundred blows of separation and remain silent.
The warrior reaps with the sharp sword.
The sorrow in the liver comes from that sword.
You know that you are unable to snatch the sewn fruit except through the soul’s reaping.

16. When staying with the Chishti pir in Ajmer I noticed that when someone was ill “The Tale of the Four Dervishes” was read aloud near the bed of the person who was ill. Many Chishtis are of the opinion that the recitation of this Sufi allegory will restore to health those who are ill. Amina Shah adds that “the allegorical dimensions of the adventures of the dervishes contained in it are a part of a teaching-system, which prepares the mind of the Seeker-after-Truth for spiritual enlightenment”.

Some people state that this tale has not been written by Hazrat Amir Khusraw, but stems from a later period. Legend has it however, that Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya was ill and that Hazrat Amir Khusraw told him the tale of the four dervishes. After his recovery Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya gave his blessing to this tale and said:

“Who listens to this story will, if God so wishes, be in health.”

17. Doris Lessing has compared 3 tales attributed to Hazrat Amir Khusraw, i.e. “The Generosity of Hatim Tai” up to and including “The Tale of the Dervish and the Faqir” with a tale of Idries Shah that has undergone a cleaning version, referring to “The King Who Decided To Be Generous”. Idries Shah adds to ‘his’ tale:

This traditional story [...] succinctly illustrates important Sufi teachings. Emulation without the basic qualities to sustain that emulation is useless. Generosity cannot be exercised unless other virtues are developed as well. Some people cannot learn even from exposure to teachings, the latter being represented in the tale by the first and second dervishes [in the tale of Hazrat Amir Khusraw].

Doris Lessing mentions that these 3 tales of Hazrat Amir Khusraw are precise and sharp, with instructions for students in a certain phase of study (as well as other dimensions, of course) and in a form appropriate for its existence for that phase, while the tale as told by Idries Shah has the charm and the affability.

18. This is the tale “The Generosity of Hatim Tai” as attributed to Hazrat Amir Khusraw:

Once upon a time, the second dervish said, a certain Arabian King was jealous of Hatim Tai, and advanced upon him to do battle. But Hatim, deciding that it was not right for him to spill innocent blood just to maintain his own position, went and hid in a mountain cave, merely to make sure of his own safety.

As soon as his enemy, Naufal, heard that Hatim Tai had disappeared, he seized all his property, and offered a reward of five hundred gold pieces for the King.

One day, a certain poor old man and his wife were collecting wood near Hatim’s cave. The woman said: “If only we could find Hatim Tai and take him to Naufal, we would be rich and our labours and sufferings would be at an end”. “Why should such a thing happen to change our fate?” her husband asked her.

But Hatim had overheard. He stepped out from his hiding-place and said: “Friend, I am Hatim Tai. Take me to Naufal and collect the reward”.

19. The old man answered: “Truly, this would make sure of our own wellbeing, but what will he do to you? I could not have your blood on my hands; and, irrespective of how long I have to live, I would still have to answer to God”. “I come out of my own free will and you are not blameworthy in any way,” said Hatim.

Again and again the ancient refused. But Hatim now said: “Unless you take me I shall myself go to Naufal and tell him that you were hiding me in the mountain cave...”.

20. The old man was arguing about this, when other people who were around, hearing the altercation, collected and recognizing their former King, arrested him and took him to Naufal. The old man followed them, loudly lamenting, with his wife.

When Naufal said: “Who apprehended him?” some miscreant said: “Who but me?” and someone else claimed that with great difficulty he had tracked Hatim down. Both demanded the reward.

The old man stood silently, weeping for Hatim, his King. Then Hatim said: “This is the truth! This old man is the cause of my being brought here. This is my own witness, from my own tongue. Come, reward him!”

Naufal called the woodcutter forward and asked him to tell the real facts, which the old man recited correctly from beginning to end.

When he heard of this ultimate generosity of the refugee King, Naufal was astonished. He said: “Hatim Tai! Your generosity has not even stopped at giving up your own life”.

Instead of the money, the liars were given an equal number of lashes. As soon as this was done, the usurping King realised that to harbour feelings of enmity towards a man of the character of Hatim Tai was far from the requirements of chivalry. He took Hatim by the hand, saying to him: “If your being is so, why should you not be so?” He gave five hundred gold coins to the old woodcutter and restored his kingdom to Hatim Tai.

21. The second of the two tales following the tale about the generosity of Hatim Tai provides a situation wherein a dervish makes it clear that it is hard to be generous. He gives the advice to learn the bases of generosity and then act upon those bases. This is his explanation:

“Before you can be generous, you must have three qualities which you practise, just as in poverty. These are endurance, fear of the divine and remembering. Until you have these, do not try to be generous. A generous man, even though he may do wrong, is a friend of God”.

22. Hazrat Amir Khusraw wrote a masnawi “Nine Spheres” wherein he chronicled all the achievements of a certain King. Besides giving a short sketch of Muslim rule in India, he presents many aspects of Indian culture. Hazrat Amir Khusraw knew Sanskrit and Hindu philosophy. He refuted the idea that the Hindus were Mushrik, i.e. pluralist:

Nist hendu aarche ke dindaar chu maa

Although Hindus are not people of our religion,
Yet on certain points they hold similar ideas.
They affirm that life is one and eternal
And that God created everything out of nothing.

After completing this mathnawi he was rewarded richly by the King:

I never received a more generous gift from any ruler in the past,
As I got from a generous King like you.

23. Once Hazrat Amir Khusraw went to Panipat as the personal envoy and representative of another King to offer some presents to a renowned Sufi, i.e. Hazrat Qalandar Sahib. He was received with due regard. Hazrat Qalandar Sahib was greatly moved on hearing his poetry and then recited his own.

On hearing them Hazrat Amir Khusraw began to weep. On seeing this the Sufi asked: “O, Khusraw. You only weep. Have you understood something?” Hazrat Amir Khusraw promptly replied: “I weep for this reason that I have not understood anything”.

Hazrat Qalandar Sahib was greatly pleased with this reply and the result was that he accepted the presents sent by the King.

24. Hazrat Amir Khusraw made a talisman of the paper on which he had written all the words and phrases of love and affection concerning him, which his spiritual guide and teacher, Hazrat Nizamudin Awliya, had said about him. He made a will to the effect that the sheet of paper containing these words and phrases should be buried with him in his grave, so as to be a possible source of his salvation.

25. Hazrat Amir Khusraw has visited the court of several kings. To one of them he courageously stressed the equality of human beings: “Though my value may be, a little less, than that of yours, yet, if our veins were to be cut open, our blood will come out of the same colour”.

26. Hazrat Amir Khusraw became the companion of a young prince Khan Malik Muhammad. Prince Muhammad was a patron of the arts and a warm, generous and charming individual. He was fond of poetry and attracted the best poets around him. Hazrat Amir Khusraw stayed five years in his company. The Mongol army attacked the Punjab and the prince was killed, while Hazrat Amir Khusraw was taken prisoner. He has written a powerful elegy, describing the death of the prince, “which has turned the whole world upside down”. It starts thus:

Is this an earthly occurrence or has a disaster appeared from the sky?
Is this a calamity or has the day of judgment appeared to the world?
The flood of iniquity has reached the foundations of the world
Through the crack that appeared in India this year.
The assembly of friends is scattered like flower petals by the wine,
It seems that the season of autumn has appeared in the garden.

27. Hazrat Amir Khusraw has written a historical poem, the “Qiraan as-Sa’dain” in which he sings the praise of Hindustan (India), the home of true Islamic life:

Happy be India with its splendour of religion,
Where Islamic laws enjoy perfect honour and dignity.
In learning Delhi now rivals Bokhara.
Islam has been made manifest by the rulers.
From Ghazna to every shore of the ocean
You see Islam in its glory everywhere.
Muslims here belong to the Hanafi creed,
But sincerely respect all the four schools.
They have no enmity with the Shafiites and no fondness for the Zaidites.
With heart and soul are they devoted to the path of the community and the Sunna.
It is a wonderful land, producing Muslims and a favouring religion,
Where even the fish comes out of the stream as a Sunnite!

28. The Chishti pir we’ve met in Ajmer often recited by heart a ghazal of Hazrat Amir Khusraw in Persian and then provided us with this translation:

I said: ‘What is bright like the moon?’ He said: ‘The cheek of Mine’.
I said: ‘What is sweeter than sugar?’ He said: ‘The talk of Mine’.
I said: ‘What of the ways of the lover?’ He said: ‘It should be faithfulness’.
I said: ‘Do not show cruelty’. He said: ‘It is the work of Mine’.
I said: ‘What is death for a lover? He said: ‘Pangs of My separation’.
I said: ‘What is the cure for life?’ He said: The sight of Mine’.
I said: ‘Are you spring or autumn?’ He said: ‘The envy of My beauty’.
I said: ‘What puts swiftness to shame?’ He said: ‘The speed of Mine’.
I said: ‘Are You a beautiful damsel or a fairy?’ He said: ‘I am the King of the beautiful’.
I said: ‘What of humble Khusraw?’ He said: ‘He is a lover of Mine’.

29. As this compilation has been written in Ramadan it is fitting to end with a ghazal, which has been often recited by Me’raj Ahmad Zizami and his group of qawwals. ‘Eid, the Day of Festival after the month of fasting, starts in a special way for Hazrat Amir Khusraw:

Apni to wohi ‘eid hai jis waqt ke hamdam
Chehra nazar aa jaaye lab-e-baam kisi ka

My ‘eid starts at the moment
I see the face of the beloved at the terrace.
We strangers celebrate ‘eid in your street.
Different ‘eids for everyone:
To see you, beloved is my ‘eid!
[...]
During the evening of the final day of fasting I looked at you.
This is my ‘eid, no matter if the moon will appear or not.
[...]
Nizamuddin, beloved of God:
May all beloveds be a sacrifice to your face.
[...]

30 or 1.

 

Sources:

Michael Boris Bednar (2014): The Content and Form in Amir Khusraw’s Duval Rani va Khir Khan; Journal of the Royal Asiastic Society; vol. 24.

Amir Khusraw Dehlawi: (1380): Diwaan-e-Amir Khusraw Dehlawi; Publ. Negaah.

Alyssa Gabbay (2010): Islamic Tolerance - Amir Khusraw and pluralism; Routledge.

Mumtaz Husain (1986): Amir Khusrow Dehlawi; National Amir Khusrow Society.

Paul Losensky & Sunil Sharma (2011): In the Bazaar of Love - The Selected Poetry of Amir Khusrau; Penquin Books.

Dr. Muhammad Wahid Mirza (1962): The Life and Works of Amir Khusrau; Panjab University Press.

Prof. Nadir Ahmed et al. (2007): Writings of Amir Khusrau; vol. 1 & 2; Islamic Thought and Science Institute.

Annemarie Schimmel (1980): Islam in the Indian Subcontinent; E.J. Brill.

John Seyller: (2001): Pearls of the Parrot of India - The Walters Art Museum Khamsa of Amir Khusraw of Delhi; University of Washington Press.

Zahurul Hassan Sharib (1999): The Culture of the Sufis; Sharib Press.

Id. (2006): The Sufi Saints of the Indian Subcontinent; Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers.

Sunil Sharma (2005): Amir Khusraw - The Poet of Sultans and Sufis; Oneworld.

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