Terminal illness and passing away of Babuji (R.A)
For a greater part of his life, Hazrat Babuji's general health remained enviably good. He shunned the easy comforts preferred by others, and lived a self-imposed hard life.
In those early years of Pakistan's independence, the misdeeds of the rulers, nepotism, the rat-race for material gain and the indifference of the rulers to the problems of the common man - all these things had involved the people in a variety of troubles and miseries. The tales of woe narrated by people visiting Golra caused deep hurt to Hazrat Babuji's (R.A) tendered heart. The tragic breaking-away of East Pakistan from Pakistan's body-politic in 1971 and the humiliating surrender of nearly a 100,000 Pakistani troops to the Indian Army in Dhaka, also caused distress beyond words to him. Inevitably, all this added to the natural process in decline in health resulting from advancing age.
In late September1971, on his return from Hajj in that year, Hazrat Babuji (R.A) travelled to adjoining Afghanistan in a motorcade, along with a group of devotees to offer his homage at the tomb of famous Persian poet and eminent Sufi divine, Maulana Abdul Rahman Jami (R.A), at Herat. During this taxing journey, Babuji experienced some pain in the heart region (a clear symptom of angina pectoris) while stopping en route in Kandhar. He did not, however, mention it to anyone in order not to cause undue/worry. On arrival at Herat, a doctor had to be consulted and he advised complete rest. Despite this advice, Hazrat Babuji (R.A) spent 3-4 hours daily at the tomb of Hazrat Jami. After a 5-day stay in Herat, he returned to Golra Sharif on 11th October 1971 via Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif. Soon after his return, he had to attend a wedding ceremony in Sargodha District from where he proceeded to Multan via Jhang. Because of this continued exertion, he had another attack of angina at Kabirawala en route to Multan. The doctor at Multan detained him there for 2 - 3 days for complete rest, after which he was flown back to Rawalpindi. Here again, the doctors advised total rest, but Hazrat Babuji (R.A) found it impossible to interrupt his daily schedule.
A brief respite from angina was followed by an attack of hiccough, a distressing malady that had afflicted his late father during the last days of his life also. This weakened him further. Despite unsound health, he decided to proceed to the Hijaz for Hajj in December 1972, accompanied by all the members of his family and a large number of his devotees. On his way back, he also visited shrines of Syedna Ghaus-e-Azam (R.A) and Imam Abu-Hanifa (R.A) at Baghdad, Syedna Ali (Karam Allah-o-Wajho) at Najf-e-Ashraf, Syedna Imam Hussain (R.A) and Syedna Imam Abbas (R.A) at Karbala, and Syedna Imam Musa Kazim (R.A) and Imam Abu-Yusaf at Kazemain (R.A)
Return from Hajj and Istighraq (Spiritual absorption) of Hazrat Babuji (R.A)
The aforesaid journey was the last one of his life to Hijaz and Iraq. On return from there, the state of his mind underwent perceptible change. He started keeping quite for most of the time even when in company. It appeared as if his body was here but his heart and soul were some where else. It sometimes happened that he could suddenly turn to the man sitting next to him and ask him what he had to do next. Also, he would often ask his qawwal, Mahboob Ali, to recite the following verses of Mathnavi of Maulana Rumi:
Translation: "How long shalt thou continue to love mere form? Seek the 'meaning' (i.e., the substance) and go in search for it".
Translation: "Know ye that the outward form is bound to perish; The world of meaning (substance), on the other hand, lives for ever".
Translation: "The Shaikh of Din (religion) has said : Allah is 'substance' through and through; The Lord of the worlds is an Ocean of Meanings (and Realities)".
These and other things indicated that Hazrat Babuji (R.A) had probably become aware of his approaching departure from this world and was impliedly trying to prepare his devotees beforehand for that inevitable moment of separation from them. The fact is that for his sincere devotees, his personality was the focus of all their affection and their entire world revolved round him. The very thought of permanent separation from him was, therefore, unbelievably agonizing for them. Touching on this chord Mehr Ahmad Nawaz Khan of Satyana (Jhang), who used to entertain Hazrat Babuji (R.A) with his occasional witty remarks, said to Hazrat Babuji (R.A) one day : "Please do not divert our attention by talking of "ma'ana" (substance) all the time. We know very well that "substance" is very good, but would prefer that the "form" stays with us, because this form (i.e., your personality) is very dear to us".
In early November 1973, on return from a short visit to Amb State and Rehana village in Hazara District, Hazrat Babuji (R.A) experienced some impediment in speech on the morning of 8th November. The doctor diagnosed this as a slight attack of tongue paralysis, and advised complete rest with treatment. As usual, however, Hazrat Babuji (R.A) was unable to act upon this advice to the desired extent. The use of allopathic, homeopathic and Yunaani (indigenous medicine) treatment did somewhat alleviate the problem, but the speech impediment could not be fully cured.
As the period of the next Hajj approached, Hazrat Babuji (R.A) started preparing once again for this sacred journey. This time however, the doctors opposed the idea firmly, with the result that Hazrat Babuji (R.A) had to decide to go for Umrah (mini Hajj) instead sometime later. In March 1979, Hazrat Madni Sahib arrived on a visit to Golra, and Hazrat Babuji (R.A) scheduled departure for Umrah had to be postponed for the duration of his stay here. Hazrat Babuji (R.A) personally welcomed Madni Sahib at Karachi Airport on his arrival, and brought him along to Golra on 9th March 1974. This arrival of Hazrat Madni Sahib was followed on 22 March 1974 by a visit to Pakistan of Hazrat Syed Yusaf Al-Gilani, custodian and administrator of the shrine of Syedna Ghaus-e-Azam (R.A) in Baghdad Sharif. Just a few days later, Madame Sara Okcu also arrived from Istanbul (Turkey) to enquire about Hazrat Babuji's (R.A) health. Madame Sara, scion of the famous Turkish Army General Anwar Pasha, had been introduced to Hazrat Babuji (R.A) during one of his visits to the shrine of Hazrat Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi at Konya. Herself an ardent admirer and devotee of Hazrat Maulana Rumi, Madame had been deeply impressed by the magnetic spiritual personality of Babuji and had made him his brother. (Since then, Madame Sara has been visiting Pakistan regularly almost every year, in order to pay her respects, first to Babuji personally, and after his passing away in June 1974, at his tomb in Golra Sharif).
Despite his rapidly declining health, Hazrat Babuji (R.A) continued to fulfill all his usual commitments, although he was unable to attend, for the first time ever, the ceremonies of Milad-un-Nabi (P.B.U.H) (the Prophet's birthday) on the night of 16 April 1974 because of high fever. He also presided over the functions connected connected with the annual Urs of Syedna Ghaus-e-Azam (R.A) on all the three days, i.e., 2,3 and 4 May1974.
Admission to hospital and departure of Hazrat Madni Sahib
A few days after the Urs, Hazrat Babuji (R.A) had to admitted to hospital on 16 May 1974 for a prostrate surgical operation. In order not to divert attention from the medical treatment of Hazrat Babuji (R.A) at this crucial stage, Hazrat Madni Sahib decided to leave for home immediately. Hazrat Babuji (R.A) implored him repeatedly to defer his departure, but could not prevail upon him to do so, and Madni Sahib left for Jeddah on the night of 26 May 1974. With the permission of his doctors, Hazrat Babuji (R.A) left hospital briefly to see him off personally at the Islamabad Airport. On his way back from the Airport, Hazrat Babuji (R.A) wistfully remarked : "I had hoped that Madni Sahib would stay on and leave only after attending my funeral. Alas, however, this was not to be !"
Madni Sahib's unusual insistence on his immediate return home seemed to indicate that he had probably divined the approaching passing away of Hazrat Babuji (R.A), and wished to leave him in order not to have to witness the heart-rending scene.
The last days
Hazrat Babuji (R.A) stayed in the hospital for 19 days under the care of Dr (Brigadier) I.D. Hasan and Dr. (Colonel) Masud Akram. They treated him with the utmost care, but were hesitant to perform the prostrate operation because of his extreme weakness. Meanwhile, devotees from far and wide thronged daily to the hospital to enquire about the state of Hazrat Babuji's (R.A) health but the hospital staff forbade them to see him. Hurt by his harsh treatments to devoted people who travelled long distances to see him and get first hand knowledge about his health, Hazrat Babuji (R.A) insisted upon returning home and was accordingly brought back to Golra on 3 June 1974. There he met all his family members and other relatives and also resumed seeing visitors. He exhorted his sons and grandsons to :
(a) remain united after him ;
(b) continue to serve people as their first priority in life ;
(c) make themselves readily available to visitors and not keep them waiting outside their rooms
(d) avoid comforts and get used to a hard life ;
(e) remember their Supreme Lord and Master every moment of their lives and fulfill all the obligations enjoined by Him, for only then could they hope to attain the ultimate good of His pleasure and forgiveness.
Hazrat Babuji (R.A) called his eldest son, Hazrat Ghulam Muinuddin (Elder Lalajee), one day and dictated the following verses of Maulana Rumi's Mathnavi to him :
"What for dost thou seek the outward form, O young man? Go and seek the substance, O brave one !"
"Forms and shapes are like the shell and the skin (of a fruit); while the 'mana' (substance) is like its pulp and pith, O friend ! "
"Pass the "Name" by, and look into the "Attributes" (of the Lord); So that these attributes lead thee to the Real Being. "
"Thou shalt then get "submerged" and in the Supreme Being, and obtain riddance from thy (mortal) self; Thy eye shall (also) then see the good and the bad in the similar hue."
"The Lord's treatment of sinful ones is such that He showers His Mercy upon them."
"Had there been no sinner in the world, How could Allah's Mercy have found expression (here)?"
As stated above, Hazrat Babuji had resumed seeing visitors after his return home from the hospital. The strain thus caused added further to his weakness and also aggravated the prostate-induced bladder trouble. An attack of high fever also occurred on 9 June 1974. His sons therefore decided, in consultation with his doctors, to re-admit him to the hospital. Hazrat Babuji (R.A) reluctantly agreed to the proposal, but added that he did not think this would help very much. He was re-admitted to the hospital on the afternoon of 11 June. Initially the doctors planned to operate immediately, but had to give up the idea once again because of the patient's excessive weakness. As a result, Hazrat Babuji (R.A) spent the next few days in a great pain in the bladder. Glucose drips had to be resorted to almost constantly, which added further to the pain. No one, however, ever heard Hazrat Babuji (R.A) to do anything but thank Allah for His plight. The doctors and other hospital staff were amazed by this unique show of patience, the like of which they had never seen before. Some devotees were in constant attendance on Hazrat Babuji (R.A), while his two sons were also there to receive the unceasing flow of visitors and enquirers about Hazrat Babuji's (R.A) condition. As and when he found it possible to sit up on his bed, the window facing the bed would be opened to enable the visitors to have a glimpse of their beloved Hazrat Babuji (R.A).
The final journey
On 19 June 1974, Hazrat Babuji (R.A) sent for his qawwals Mahboob Ali and Mushtaq Ali and asked them to recite the following eulogy of Syedna Ghaus-e-Azam, which they did :
O Eagle which inhabits the "lamakaan" (the "space less" realm);
O manifestation on of the All-powerful Lord; the respected Beloved of the Glorified One; the Pir of All Pirs";
Help me out of the prison of self-centeredness in which I find myself confined.
O King of the Realm of Power, O manifestation of All-Powerful Lord."
O leader (of Awlia-e-Allah), O Ghaus-e-Azam, O Wali with a discerning conscience!
The ocean of sins is in ferment and the night is dark;
In the situation, thou art the only one to whom I look for rescue.
I have no where-withal with me for the journey to the Hereafter;
I have sold my self to thee and thou alone canst save my honour.
I am thy slave and my forlorn; there is no one who could grasp my hand for support except thee.
If man can rid himself of the prison of his existence;
He can achieve eternal union with his God.
Grant something to this denizen of the world in the name of thy charity;
Fill the outstretched skirt of my hopes with the flowers of achievement.
Make my sad heart happy, O Pir of all Pirs !
A superficial bubble of certainty envelops my transitory existence;
My life appears to me like a mirage.
Grant to me unlimited bounty in the name of thy ancestors;
I beg at the door of thy honoured court, O (resplendent) Sun !
I have no intention to go away empty-handed from thy door, O Pir of all Pirs.
After listening to these verses with rapt attention, Hazrat Babuji (R.A) sent away the two qawwals with lots of prayers.
The weakness increased further the next day, and the state of near absorption prevailed. Despite this, all ritual prayers were performed by Hazrat Babuji (R.A) with gestures. Since the hospital authorities had allotted a different room to Hazrat Babuji (R.A) this time, he kept enquiring when the room provided to him on the previous occasion was likely to become available so that he could shift to that room. The room in question fell vacant on 22 June 1974 (13 Jamaadi-ul-Awwal 1394 A.H) and Hazrat Babuji (R.A) was moved to it on the same day. His physical conditions deteriorated soon thereafter, and it was in this room that he breathed his last and joined the "Rafiq-ul-A'la" (the Supreme Exalted Companion) on 22 June 1974 (1 Jamaadi-us-Saani, 1394 A.H). In the words of Mathnavi of Rumi :
"The form had emerged from Formlessness (at one time), and had now gone back there (as indicated in the Quranic Ayah: to Allah we belong, and to Him is our return (II-156) ).
Funeral prayers and burial
Immediately afterwards, Hazrat Babuji's body was taken in an ambulance to Golra Sharif, where it was washed and prepared for burial, and then taken home for the inmates to have a Ziarah of it. The news of this momentous event was conveyed by telephone the same night to all cities and towns where Hazrat Babuji's close devotees lived. These devotees relayed it further to all those who could be contacted. Radio Pakistan announced the news in its next morning's news bulletin. Hazrat Babuji's two sons, Hazrat Ghulam Muinuddin and Shah Abdul Haq, came to the spacious meeting hall at 9 AM to join the hundreds of devotees assembled there to mourn to this great loss and share their grief. Speeches were made by different ulama focusing on the life of Hazrat Babuji (R.A) which was a masterpiece of the emulation of the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H). Hazrat Babuji's qawwals also recited an eulogy of Hazrat Babuji (R.A).
Some strange incidents during the funeral
The day was extremely hot. it was scorching and blazing down, being one of the hottest days and months in Pakistan and yet all of a sudden drizzling started and lasted till the completion of the burial process. Everyone in the funeral procession commented upon the strange occurrence. It was no fallacy - the sky too, was expressing its grief over the event. the trees, the birds and man - all literally shed tears. The atmosphere was one of extreme sadness when a large majority bears witness to events beyond human comprehension, those no longer remain a mystery but an obvious fact - a truth - a reality.
Another strange phenomena was also observed by all those attending the funeral: large and innumerable batches of sparrows and other birds (including "Ababils") passed screaming over the bier repeatedly as the procession proceeded - as if they too were attending the funeral. No one knew where had these come from, and to where did they fly away after the funeral. Even those who were not Babuji's (R.A) followers admitted the strangeness and found themselves acknowledging Babuji's (R.A) greatness. Hundreds realizing his spiritual calibre in that single moment and Babuji's (R.A) greatness dawned upon them.
The number of visitors increased rapidly. The coffin was brought out around 2:30 PM, and carried over the shoulders of the people (in accordance with Islamic practice) to the garage. The coffin was then placed in the courtyard of Guest house no.1 for the last view by the visiting devotees. From there, it was transported in a motor-wagon to an open ground south-west of Hazrat's (R.A) tomb. According to newspaper reports, nearly two to three-hundred thousand people were present to take part in the funeral prayers, including a large number of Ulama, Mashaikh, Heads of various shrines and other eminent people. The funeral prayers were led by late Hazrat Syed Abdul Qadir Al-Gilani (R.A), elder brother of the present Mutawalli (Custodian) of the shrine of Syedna Ghaus-e-Azam in Baghdad and a former ambassador of Iraq to Pakistan. After the prayers, the body was buried next to Hazrat Syedna Pir Meher Ali Shah Sahib (R.A) on the eastern side.
At the moment of his apparent physical departure from this mortal world, the grief and sorrow experienced by the devotees was so intense and deep that it brought to light yet another side to Babuji’s personality. Each “Sangee” felt and was aggrieved as if he alone possessed Babuji (R.A) – as if Babuji (R.A) had loved and cared for him the most – as if no other entity, no other entity, no other person could have been the center of Babuji’s (R.A) affection except him – a truth experienced and realized when man in his silent communion with God finds himself drawn closer to Him, discovering the immorality inherent within man – or perhaps Babuji (R.A) himself.
The moon that had kept the world illumined with its dazzling light for nearly four decades had gone down the horizon. May Allah shower His choicest blessings on his soul, Amen!