Passing Away of Hazrat Pir Meher Ali Shah (R.A)
Illness and debilitation
As hinted at various places either, Hazrat (R.A) had been used to eating, sleeping and speaking sparingly throughout his life. Constant remembrance of Allah and indulgence in related spiritual exercises had made him indifferent to worldly comforts and luxuries. As once admitted by himself, he used to go without food for several days during his student life without experiencing any hunger. Possibly as a result of this austere regimen, the stomach ceased to function properly in life, and the troublesome ailment of hiccough set in, sometimes to continue for weeks on end.
Sensitivity to the misfortunes and hardships of devotees
Despite the aforesaid austere schedule and other occasional ailments, Hazrat’s general health remained quite good until the age of about 71-72 year. In 1928-29, however, symptoms of debility started steadily increasing. This was due not only to physical illness, but also in appreciable measure to the multiple spiritual pre-occupations and especially to the mental distress caused by tales of woe narrated by the devotees arriving in Golra in large numbers almost daily from different places. In addition, numerous letters were received from devotees with similar tales of sorrow and grief. Due to Hazrat’s practical adherence to the principle of Wahdat-ul-wajood the troubles of others had become his own, and he felt them no less acutely than the persons concerned themselves. In this respect, Hazrat’s sensitivity reflected that of the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) himself. According to Syedah Aysha Siddiqah (R.A), his wife of revered memory, the Prophet Muhammad’s (P.B.U.H) health had been very good in the beginning. Towards the closing years of his life, however, concern for the fate of the Islamic ummah had emotionally affected him so deeply that his health underwent a rapid decline. The result was that he was obliged to say his nawafil, (supererogatory prayers) in a sitting posture. Sometimes he would recite the following Quranic ayah of Surah Al-Ma'ida ayah 118, in his prayers at night and then burst into tears:
Translation: "If Thou dost punish them, lo! They are Thy slaves: and if Thou dost forgive them, Thou are the Mighty, the Wise". (V,118)
As Hazrat (R.A) advanced in years, his visionary capacity also steadily increased. Alone or in company, a state of obliviousness to everything around him absorbed him. He spoke less and less even when in company, and remained mostly occupied in silent contemplation. His complexion kept changing hues, reflecting his constant inner spiritual activity. Occasionally, he would raise his hand and heave a sigh of distress. During this period, he often recited the following Urdu verse which provided an indication of his inner state:
Translation: "His (i.e., the Man of God’s) pronouncement is like the pronouncement of Allah Himself, even though it comes from the throat of one of Allah’s creatures".
During this period, people undergoing a state of spiritual intoxication (who are referred to as majzub in Sufi terminology) thronged to Golra in especially large numbers from far-off places to pay their homage to Hazrat (R.A). Their objective was not only to be a witness to the spiritual progress of a Wali of rare eminence, but also to derive benefit and succour in the successful performance of their own respective spiritual journeys. In most cases, these persons would enter Hazrat’s room, kiss the side of his bed as a mark of respect, gaze at him in silence for a while, and then leave. Again in the words of Maulana Rumi:
Translation: "O loved one! A mere look at thee provides an answer to every question (in my mind); every problem is solved without any exchange of words".
Maulana Ghulam Muhammad Ghotavi has written in his reminiscences about a majzub who once met him while he was going to Jamia Islamia at Bahawalpur of which he was the principal. Seeing the Maulana, the majzub suddenly raised his head and addressed him thus: “ Your Pir is only pretending to be ill. The reality is that his shadow has left him, and he has confined himself to his bed in his room in order to conceal this fact form others". The majzub was in a way hinting a fact that Hazrat (R.A) had attained the stage of " Fana-fir-Rasul", (annihilation in the personality of the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H). According to authentic accounts, one of the Prophet’s (P.B.U.H) miracles was that he had no shadow (i.e., reflected image) despite made of flesh and bone like other human beings.
Passing Away of Hazrat (R.A)
In the early years of his spiritual journey, Hazrat had imposed upon himself an exceptionally exacting regimen of prayers, contemplation, and physical self-denial. This included very sparing intake of food and long spells of fasting, even outside the obligatory fasting enjoined during the Holy month of Ramadan. His stomach therefore gradually became less and less used to food, and its digestive capacity was impaired in consequence. Towards the later years of his life, this gave rise to the onset of the persistent and prolonged spells of hiccoughs, an exceedingly distressing malady. This was followed by an ailment, which defied diagnosis by doctors and physicians. These different afflictions, which continued more or less for a period of about ten years, intensified during the closing 4 or 5 years, when Hazrat was almost constantly bed-ridden.
Despite this most trying situation, Hazrat continued to meet the un- ending stream of visiting devotees regularly, to pray for them, and to answer their various questions. Even though Hazrat Babuji was taking care of large numbers of visitors in order to relieve Hazrat of a part of his burden, Hazrat (R.A) nevertheless continued discharging his responsibilities himself as long as he was able to do so. This indicated the precedence over every thing else even at the cost of his own comfort.
The state of almost total Istighraq lasted for about 2-21/2 years towards the end. During this state, a devotee had to convey the requests of visiting disciples to Hazrat several times in order to attract his attention to elicit his prayers. Once Hazrat recited the following prayer during this period:
Translation: "O Allah! Make our beginning good, and our end also good and settle all our affairs on a good and blessed note, for the sake of thy Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H), the paragon of all good."
Occasionally, Hazrat (R.A) would try to make some conversation, but would soon relapse into unconsciousness. Indeed these spells caused even greater strain and distress to him than usual. Although the real reason for this can be understood only by those who actually pass through such experiences it seems probable that the distress resulted from commuting between two totally different worlds, i.e., the physical world and the world of spirit, a move towards spiritual absorption.
On one such occasion Hazrat Babuji had all the doors of Hazrat’s room opened so that those desirous of having a glimpse of him could do so. As far as it can be recalled, Hazrat asked the late Qari Ghulam Muhammad to recite Surah Yusaf (Joseph-XII of the Holy Quran) on this occasion, and was moved to tears at some points while listening to the Surah. At the end of the recitation Hazrat Babuji took the opportunity to request Hazrat to pray for all those present at the time, which he readily did.
On another occasion, an extended interval of return to consciousness took place during the Urs of Hazrat Syedna Ghaus-e-Azam which is held annually from 9 to 11 Rabi-us-saani at Golra. Hazrat looked especially happy on this occasion, his complexion effusing a rare radiance and glow. He expressed pleasure at the very good arrangements made for the conduct of Urs, and at the request of Hazrat Babuji and some other devotees prayed that these arrangements should become even better in future under his spiritual patronage. Towards the close of the Urs ceremonies, the qawwals (musicians) gave a recital of Hazrat’s own famous Naat, which concludes with the verse:
An incident during “Istighraq”
The state of complete spiritual absorption experienced by Hazrat can be gauged to some extent from an incident narrated by Hazrat Babuji during this period. Hazrat’s eldest daughter one day went to his room for his Ziarah. On her entry the following conversation took place between the two:
Hazrat (R.A) : Who is it?
Daughter : I am the sister of Ghulam Muhyuddin (i.e., Babuji).
Hazrat (R.A) : Who is Ghulam Muhyuddin?
Daughter : He is your son.
Hazrat (R.A) : Who is “your”?
To his daughter’s other questions, too, Hazrat replied in the same manner.
A similar incident was experienced by the late Syed Abdul Qadir, nephew of Hazrat, who one day went to him for prayers for a cure of a persistent spell of tooth ache. Hazrat put the same questions that he had done in the case of his daughter, which forced Syed Abdul Qadir to return home. Some days later Hazrat suddenly sent a message on his own to Qadir Sahib asking him to recite a certain ayah of Quran and blow it on the teeth. Abdul Qadir did so and was instantly cured of the tooth ache.
Forecast by a Shaikh of Madina
Hazrat Babuji once narrated an incidence which occurred during his first Hajj journey in 1929. In the Holy Prophet’s (P.B.U.H) mosque one day, he said, a lean man in Arab dress came to him and grasping hand he heaved a sigh and wistfully remarked to him that a great “revolution” would occur in 1937. Hazrat Babuji interpreted this remark as a possible reference to the apprehended passing away of Hazrat in that year. The implied prediction was proved true when Hazrat did in fact pass away on 11 may 1937. The abdication of King Edward VIII of Britain took place in the same year.
The last days
In the early part of the month of Safar 1356-A.H (April 1937), Hazrat had an attack of cold, which soon developed into typhoid fever, which lasted for several days. His condition grew worse during the last days of Safar. On the morning of 29 Safar (11 May 1937), the pulse became irregular and the body temperature also underwent sudden changes. According to eyewitnesses Hazrat’s complexion and general bearing during these moments presented a blend of happiness, modesty, and humility, which defies description in words. It can only be surmised that the total picture seen by those present by Hazrat’s bed-side was a reflection of the experiences which Hazrat’s spirit was going through, before its impending departure form the physical frame and its embarking on its journey heavenward for internal union with the “Companion On High”.
The Final moment
Just before the arrival of the final irrevocable moment, Hazrat pronounced the words “ Allah” from the deepest recesses of his heart in a manner which sent a shudder through out his body from head to foot, and the reverberation of which was felt by every one who happened to touch the body. A devotee who was pressing Hazrat’s feet at that time, felt a shock like that of an electric current passing through his fingers, forcing him to recoil to dispel the shock. The next moment, Hazrat repeated the word “Allah” a second time and then turned his head towards the Qibla, thus signaling that the end had finally come. With Hazrat’s departure from the world stage, one of Islam’s brightest lights was extinguished. A great scholar and a great Sufi had left the scene that he had graced with singular distinction for nearly half a century.
Hazrat’s passing away sent a wave of intense shock among those who were present on that occasion. Everyone who heard about it was stunned and benumbed by sorrow. Indeed, but for the amazing calmness shown by Hazrat Babuji at this crucial time, it would have been exceedingly difficult for the funeral ceremonies to be completed with the needed efficiency and thoroughness. In accordance with the Chishtia tradition Hazrat Babuji who was to inherit the spiritual legacy of Hazrat, was not present at Hazrat’s bedside during the final moments. He was instead sitting in a room downstairs and was being kept informed of news about after every few minutes. Another reason for this was that because of Hazrat Babuji’s intense love for his august father, both as a son and as a sincere Murid (devotee), he did not have the heart to be a witness to the latter’s final moments.
Despite his delicate nature Hazrat Babuji not only displayed exemplary cool himself but also consoled others who were overcome with grief and gave vent to it in different forms. He also informed all heads of other shrines as well as important out-station devotees of Golra Shrine itself telegraphically, thus enabling them to reach Golra in time to join the funeral ceremonies. The funeral arrangements, too, were organized with the utmost efficiency and decorum.
From 1 to 6 PM on the next day (1 Rabi-ul-Awwal, 1356 AH. 12 May 1937), the bed carrying Hazrat’s body was placed on a raised platform in the guest house to enable the thousands of assembled devotees to have the last glimpse of the sacred body at around 6:30 PM, after Asr, the funeral prayers led by Maulvi Ghulam Muhammad were held. The rough estimate placed the number of persons who participated in these prayers at around 1,50,000 to 1,75,000. These included hundreds of Non-Muslims (Hindus, Sikhs, Christian, etc.), who just stood silently weeping with folded arms in the last few rows of the congregation, thus testifying to the universal reverence in which Hazrat was held. The railway department arranged to run special trains on some routes serving Golra to enable timely arrival by devotees for the funeral.
Hazrat’s mortal remains were laid to rest in the peace of land adjoining the mosque towards the south, at a spot for which Hazrat had himself expressed preference during his terminal illness.
The forlorn devotees of Hazrat have for the past years been suffering from the pangs of separation and shall continue to do so as long as the last surviving one breathes among them. The memory shall remain fresh as ever. Indeed, the flow of the spiritual benefit and blessings from Hazrat’s sublime soul is on increase every moment of time.
In the memorable words of a Persian poet:
He whose heart derives life from (Divine) love never dies. “ Our immortality has been writ large and indelibly on the pages of history” (this is the message that such a person keeps proclaiming to the world for all time to come).
SOME POST-DEMISE HAPPENINGS
Hazrat Babuji’s (R.A) vision
A few days later after Hazrat’s passing away, his son Hazrat Babuji saw him in a dream, sitting on bed in a house located at the site of his Mazar (burial place), with a semi-transparent muslin curtain hanging on one side of the bed. On an expression of surprise by Babuji at this scene, Hazrat remarked to him that for him death had meant nothing more than a change-over from one stage to another. These words of Hazrat served to endorse the well-known saying:
Translation: “The friends of Allah do not die; they simply move from this (transient) world to the (eternal) world of the Hereafter.”
The presence of the translucent curtain on one side of Hazrat’s bed was probably meant to underscore this fact allegorically.
A devotee’s strange experience
One of Hazrat’s aggrieved devotees was found lying senseless on the road outside Golra on conclusion of Hazrat’s funeral ceremonies. After regaining consciousness, he narrated a strange experience: As he was returning from the funeral crying in intense grief, he suddenly saw Hazrat come to him in person and stand along-side him with a smile on his face. This, he said, had made him faint in fear and wonder.
Hazrat Babuji’s distressing plight
As stated earlier, Hazrat Babuji had displayed remarkable self-control during the period immediately following Hazrat’s passing away, and this alone had made it possible for the funeral and related arrangements to be carried out with exemplary efficiency. Once this stage had passed, however, his self-control understandably broke down completely, and he was plunged in prolonged grief in line with the traditional practice, many contemporary Mashaikh came to Golra with turbans (traditional head-dress worn by orthodox Muslims in this part of the world, consisting of a long cloth rolled around a cap), in order to crown Hazrat Babuji as the formal successor of Hazrat Syedna Pir Meher Ali Shah (R.A). Babuji, however, firmly refused to be so crowned saying: “ Hazrat continues to occupy a place that belongs exclusively to him (and that no one else can fill). I am here only to serve his devotees and the shrine”. As a result, a carpet is laid out during the daily Sama sessions especially for Hazrat, and Hazrat Babuji (and since his passing away in 1974, his two sons Hazrat Ghulam Muinuddin and Hazrat Shah Abdul Haq, and now after the passing away of the elder son Hazrat Ghulam Muinuddin in 1998, Hazrat Syed Shah Abdul Haq) sit on one side of that carpet during these sessions. Hazrat’s bed and the mosquito net around it continued to be kept in the room which he occupied during his life-time, while other things used by him, i.e., his tasbeeh (rosary), prayer mat, cap, clothes, shoes, etc., have been kept in glass cupboards near the bed. These relics are thrown open to a select audience for Ziarah during the annual Urs of Hazrat (R.A). The sitting room of Hazrat where he used to meet visiting devotees, ulama and others, has been converted into a library, where all books used by Hazrat have been preserved otherwise not available.