EARLY SUFIS IN THE CHISHTI ORDER
Sufis in the Chishti order
Many people think that Khwaja Mo’inuddin
Chishti is the founder of the Chishti order.
This is not correct, so in the following
article I intend to tell something about
his spiritual ancestors and briefly something
about their teachings.
order of the Sufis derives its name from
Chisht (pronounce: Chesht, hence Cheshti).
Chisht is a small town near Herat in Afghanistan.
When travelling and arriving in Herat I
intended also to visit Chisht, but it was
said that the road was not safe, because
of dacoits, so I abandoned the idea.
The first one
to call himself Chishti was Abu Ishaq Shami.
As the name Shami implies he came from Syria
or even from Damascus (ash-Sham). He met
a Sufi who directed him to settle in Chisht
and from that day on he is known as Abu
Ishaq Shami Chishti. He died in 940 C.E.
in Damascus and lies buried on mount Qasiyun,
where later on also Ibn al-‘Arabi
was buried. Looking at the date of his death
we can say that the Chishtiyya order is
one of the oldest, if not the oldest now
still existing Sufi order.
Some of his sayings are:
excels all in bliss (this shows the ascetic
character of classical Sufism).
2. The worldly people are impure while the
dervishes are pure in their souls. These
two different natures cannot therefore mingle.
successor of the founder of the Chishtiyya
order, Khwaja Abu Ishaq Shami Chishti, is
called shaykh Abu Ahmad Abdal Chishti. The
father of the shaykh for some time tried
to keep him back from the Sufi path. He
of course did not succeed as his son became
an eminent Sufi. It is related about the
shaykh that he did not sleep for thirty
years. He was absorbed in meditation. He
breathed his last on the 3rd of Jamada II
at the age of ninety-five in 356 A.H. (corresponding
to the 16th of May 967 C.E.). He was buried
at Chisht in Afghanistan.
of his sayings is: ‘Fire
does not affect the true believer in God’.
Shaykh Abu Muhammad
Chishti was invested as the head of the
Chishtiyya order by his father Abu Ahmad
Chishti about whom we have already reported.
The appointment of a son as a successor
is an exception with the Chishtis, but in
case of genuine spiritual capacities there
is nothing against the appointment of one’s
son. When succession from father to son
becomes an automatic procedure, then of
course Sufism degenerates.
The shaykh passed
away from this world on the 4th of Rabi
II at the age of seventy (lunar years) in
409 A.H. (which corresponds to the 18th
of August 1018 C.E.).
1. Cherish music to enlighten
2. Indulgence in sama’ (audition of
Sufi music) for a moment is as prolific
as the penitence for hundreds of years,
but the worldly people do not realise it.
Khwaja Abu Muhammad Chishti was the maternal
uncle of Khwaja Abu Yusuf Chishti who became
his successor. He was a descendent of the
prophet Muhammad (Allah’s blessings
and peace be upon him). He breathed his
last on the 3rd of Rajab at the age of 84
in 459 A.H. (20th of May 1067 C.E.). He
was buried in Chisht, the cradle and the
grave of the early Chishtiyya.
Indulgence in sama’ (audition
of Sufi music) achieves more than long enduring
The next in
the silsila of the Chishtiyya is Khwaja
Mawdud Chishti. He had learnt the Qur’an
by heart and could recite it very melodiously
at the age of seven. Afterwards he learned
the other things. When he was only 26 years
old his father’s life came to an end.
According to the will of his father he became
He was the first
to salute others and used to stand out of
respect to others. He was famous for his
hospitality. He was kind to his servants.
He bade farewell to this world in the month
of Rajab at the age of 97 in 533 A.H. (March
1139 C.E.). He was buried at Chisht like
many of the early Chishtiyya.
1. The lover
of sama’ (Sufi music) is a stranger
to the outside world, but is a friend to
2. The mysteries of sama’ are inexplicable.
If you reveal them you are liable to punishment.
Chishti visited Balkh (the place of birth
of Jalaluddin Rumi) and Bukhara, a place
mentioned in the famous line of Hafez :
Turk of Shiraz would take my heart in his
I would give for his Hindu mole both Bokhara
Sharif Zindani, his successor, renounced
all and everything. He led a life of strict
seclusion for forty years and hated society.
He used to live on the leaves of trees.
Although several of the Chishtiyya stressed
the value of asceticism, in general they
say that seclusion and ascetic practices
is for short periods of time only. You should
live in the midst of society and then keep
up your spiritual ideals.
Khwaja Hajji Sharif Zindani passed away
from this world on the 10th of Rajab at
the age of 120 in 612 A.H. (4th of November
1215 C.E.). Zindani means from Zindana.
He was also buried in Zindana. I do not
know where this place is situated. How about
saying is very characteristic of him:
Riches are the
enemy of a dervish; they should be shunned.
of Khwaja Hajji Sharif Zindani has been
Khwaja Uthman Haruni. Here is a poem translated
from the Persian:
I do not
know why at last to have a longing look,
But I feel proud of the fondness that before
the Friend, I dance!
You strike the musical instrument and see,
everytime I dance!
In whatever way you cause me to dance, o
Friend, I dance!
Come o Beloved! See the spectacle that in
of the intrepid and daring,
With a hundred ignominies in the heart of
the market, I dance!
Blessed is recklessness that I trample underfoot
the very many acts of virtue.
Hail to piety, that with the robe and the
turban I dance.
I am Uthman-e-Haruni and a friend of shaykh
They revile and rebuke and on the gallows
Haruni came from Harun in Iran. According
to some people he was born on 526 A.H./1131-2
C.E.). There are others however who hold
that he was born in 510 A.H./1116 A.D. He
received the name Uthman at birth, but his
nickname is Abu Nur. He was also called
As is the custom
among the Muslims when he attained the age
of four years, four months and four days
his ‘Bismillah’ was performed.
At this function the child recites some
portion of the Qur’an and is sent
to school. He became a hafiz, one who has
committed the Qur’an to memory.
He met an absorbed
person, a majdhub, called Chirk. This meeting
proved to be the turning point in his life.
He went in search of spirituality and asked
Khwaja Hajji Sharif Zindani to be enrolled
as his mureed. The shaykh accepted his request
and with his own hand placed a four-edged
cap on his head. He gave this explanation
of this four-edged cap:
the renunciation of the world
Second is the renunciation of the world
Third is the renunciation of the desires
of the self
Fourth is the renunciation of everything
other than God.
Khwaja Uthman Haruni lived in the company
of his shaykh for over thirty years. Thereafter
he undertook long tours and travels and
also performed the hajj. His close disciple
Khwaja Mo’inuddin Hasan Chishti was
with him for more than twenty-two years.
In order to help his mureeds Khwaja Uthman
Haruni gave discourses in order to guide
He died on the
5th of Shawwal in the year 617 A.H. (3rd
of December 1220 C.E.). His tomb in Mecca
nowadays no longer exists. Khadim Hasan
visited it in the beginning of this century,
but it is said to be destroyed thereafter.
I do not know if this had to do with the
anti-Sufi attitude of the Wahabi movement
or if there were other reasons. Khwaja Uthman
Haruni made a prophecy about his own grave
stating that it would not remain in tact,
but the grave of Mo’inuddin would
remain until the Day of Judgment.
Once he disclosed
the secret that when the Friend becomes
your friend then the whole universe in fact
becomes yours. But it is necessary then
that you should be unmindful of everything
else and be ever with the Friend and follow
Him faithfully and assiduously.
At another time
he showed contempt for those mendicants
who ate to their hearts content and took
themselves to be mendicant and wore the
khirqa – the robe of the dervishes.
If you feed
the hungry, God will fulfil your thousand
wants and will free you from hell fire.
For you a house is built in heaven.
The lover of
God should be charitable like the river,
generous like the sun and hospitable like
is close to God, who is ever steeped in
Who interprets every event as coming from
And who is content with it and who takes
it as a blessing.
This is the main object of all prayers and
of the Chishtiyya Sufi order continues with
the successor of Khwaja Uthman Haruni: Khwaja
Mo’inuddin Hasan Chishti. It is therefore
clear that Mo’inuddin Chishti is not
the founder of the Chishtiyya. He is the
one who brought the order to India and there
is no doubt that he is the most outstanding
wali of the sub-continent of Indo-Pakistan
and Bangla Desh. Maybe I’ll return
to him in another article.
to the house of the prophet Muhammad (s.a.)
both from the paternal side (He is Husaini)
and the maternal side (He is Hasani). He
is closely related to shaykh Abdul Qadir
His great grand-father,
Khwaja Ahmad Husain, migrated from Usqar
(Iraq) to Sanjar. His father Khwaja Ghiyasuddin
Hasan was well-educated and trained. He
was an accomplished man and a great Sufi
of his time. His mother, Bibi Mah Nur, alias
Ummul Warah, was the daughter of Dawud ibn
Abdullah al-Hambali. Khwaja Mo’inuddin
Chishti was born in Isfahan in the year
Nawaz (= Helper of the poor) as Mo’inuddin
Chishti was known received his early education
at home. When he was 9 years old he committed
the Qur’an to memory. Subsequently
he was admitted in a maktab (school) in
Sanjar. He concentrated mostly on hadith
and fiqh. His father passed away in 1150
C.E. Gharib Nawaz was hardly fifteen years
One day in the
same year when he was watering his garden
a mystic named Ibrahim Qanduzi all of a
sudden entered the garden. Mo’inuddin
Chishti was very courteous towards him and
offered him a bunch of grapes. Ibrahim Qanduzi
was very pleased with his behaviour and
wanted to repay him. He took out a piece
of oil-cake and chewing it, gave it to the
As soon as he
ate it, he underwent a strange transformation.
He felt disgusted with mundane affairs and
was enamoured of a higher life. He had inherited
from his father a grinding-stone and a garden,
which constituted his source of income.
He sold them and distributed the proceeds
thereof among the poor.
In pursuit of
knowledge he visited Khorasan first. Then
he proceeded to other centres of Islamic
learning like Samarqand and Bokhara. You
may be reminded of the famous line of Hafez:
Turk of Shiraz would take my heart in his
I would give for his Hindu mole both Bokhara
He stayed there
for about five years, i.e. from 1150 up
to 1155 C.E. He continued receiving his
education up to the age of twenty years.
He counted as his teachers two outstanding
scholars of his time, namely Maulana Hissamuddin
of Bokhara and Maulana Sharafuddin.
afterwards to him? What happened to the
Chishti Sufis who succeeded him? This can
be found in the other articles in this section.
It so happens that from now on the most
interesting time for the Chishti Sufis starts…