Period of Teaching and Instruction
Hazrat’s (R.A) singular eminence as a teacher
After the death of his father and his uncle, Hazrat (R.A) commenced his teachings. The light of Hazrat’s teaching started to enlighten the hearts of the people all over the world.
Construction of teaching center at Golra Sharif
It was in Hazrat’s nature to take special care for the well-being and comfort of guests. Accordingly, when he was divinely assigned the task of providing spiritual and religious guidance to others, he is reported to have prayed to Allah as follows:
“My Lord! Be Gracious enough to provide for the comfort and peace of mind of those whom thou directest to come to me for guidance, by Thy own Grace. For I shall have neither the resources nor the time for this purpose.”
When, therefore, he started his mission of guidance on return from Hajj in 1308 A.H., provision for everything needed for the successful conduct of this mission was made by Allah Himself by His sheer grace and mercy. Accomplished scholars, for example, were spontaneously attracted to Golra Sharif to assist Hazrat in the task of teaching, and became his life-long devotees and associates. Maulana Muhammad Ghazi arrived here after resigning his teaching job in Madressah-e-Saulatiyah at Makkah Mukarramah, and assumed the office of Principal of Jamia-e-Ghausia at Golra. The subjects of Quranic commentary, hadith, and tasawwuf (Islamic mysticism) were taught by Hazrat himself. Qari Abdul Rahman of Jawnpur (U.P., India), an acknowledged master of the art of tajvid (Quranic recitation), joined the Jamia to take charge, besides tajvid, of Hazrat’s correspondence, and of leading the five congregational prayers in the mosque at Golra Sharif. He pioneered the teaching of "qirat" (recital) in this region. Maulvi Muhammad Ali of Bandi, Maulvi Mir Abdullah of Makkan, Syed Chanan Shah of Jabah, and Mahboob Alam of Hazara - all these gentlemen were among the first to join this institution of religious and spiritual education, and took up different tasks in connection with its development and running. Besides performing their teachings and duties, they worked along with their students as manual labour in the construction of the mosque and other buildings of the complex. They also helped in digging a deep well in the stony soil to serve as a source of water supply for drinking as well as construction purposes.
The first structures to be built were: a room to serve as Hazrat’s living quarters; another room for the storage of necessaries for the langar (free kitchen); and two rooms for the use of dervishes and guests. Some other huts were added later for the use of students and their teachers. With these inputs, the first part of this stone, clay and mortar structure was completed in 1896-97. (lately, a second storey has been added to it, and a high minaret built on its south-western corner). Between 1903 and 1907, a large guest-house, and buildings for the madressah and library, were constructed and donated to the shrine by Haji Karim Bukhsh and Haji Abdul Rahim, two devotees of Hazrat from Peshawar. The guest-house comprised about forty (40) rooms for visitors, flanked by verandahs and corridors, and a spacious hall to serve as Majlis-khana. (assembly room).
With the passage of time, even this spacious accommodation fell short of the needs of the ever-increasing number of visiting devotees, with the result that three more guest-houses, a very large Majlis khana and several other buildings were constructed during the period of Hazrat Babuji (R.A), Hazrat’s illustrious son and successor. The expansion process continued after the death of Hazrat Babuji in 1974, and the shrine complex has now attained the position of a magnificent landmark in the outskirts of Pakistan’s Federal Capital, Islamabad. according to a conservative estimate, the three day annual Urs of Syedna Ghaus-e-Azam (R.A), celebrated in Golra Sharif from 9 to 11 Rabi-us-Saani, attracts a total attendance of well over 100,000 persons. Other similar functions, such as the Urs of Hazrat himself and of Hazrat Babuji and the like, attract heavy crowds as well. The birthday of the Holy Prophet - Milad-un-Nabi is celebrated with special veneration and fervour on the night between 11 and 12 Rabi-ul-Awwal every year, and attracts a gathering that runs into thousands. The daily attendance of devotees at the shrine, and in particular the number of participants in the congregation prayers every Friday, has also steadily increased over time. The buildings and allied facilities at the shrine, including the size and scope of the langar have been expanded to cater for these growing needs.
Enrollment of some well-known scholars, speakers, and writers as Hazrat’s devotees
In those early years, a number of renowned "khatibs" (speakers, preachers) and distinguished men of letters became Hazrat’s devotees and after receiving instruction and grooming from Hazrat, committed themselves to the propagation the ahl-e-sunnat point of view. Those deserving special mention among this group were: Maulana Muhammad Charagh of Chakori; Mufti Ghulam Murtaza, head of Anjuman-e-Naumanaia, Lahore; Maulvi Ahmad Din of Darabi, Chakwal; Khan Bahadur Maulvi Muharram Ali Chishti, editor Rafiq-e-Hind newspaper, Lahore; Khan Bahadur Qazi Sirajuddin, Advocate and editor, "Chawdhavin Sadi Newspaper", Rawalpindi; and Qazi Qudratullah of Qazi Khel, Peshawar. These devoted men rendered yeoman services in fighting such movements as the Wahabi, the Chakralvi, the Qadyani, and the Rafidi, and the “naturalists” and agnostics inspired by irreligious Western thought.
In the field of suluk (the sufi path), many scions of noted sufi families, including those connected with mashaikh of his own Silsila (spiritual chain), became Hazrat’s disciples. These included, Diwan Ghayathuddin of Ajmer Sharif, Diwan Said Muhammad of Pakpattan Sharif, and Khwaja Hasan Nizami of Delhi. The last named, who was connected with the shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Awlia (R.A), was an eminent man of letters, and his beneficiaries belonged to such remote places as Burma and Malaya (which now span Malaysia and Indonesia).
The initial sitting place of Hazrat
In that early period, Hazrat used to hold his sittings on a stone slab of the shape and size of a prayer mat, which was placed outside his hujrah (prayer cell) under the shade of trees. After completion his morning prayers and recitations, he used to sit on this slab, while those wishing to seek his prayers sat on palm-leaf mats spread around the slab. The slab was also used for zikr sessions, as well as for qawwali sittings. Some of Hazrat’s speech, as well as for qawwali sittings. Some of Hazrat’s epoch-making books, e.g., "Tahqiq-ul-Haq" on the subject of Wahdat-ul-Wajood, and "Shams-ul-Hidayah" and "Saif-e-Chishtiyai" on the Qadyani movement, were written by Hazrat while sitting on this slab. Finally, lessons from the "Mathnavi" of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi (R.A) and the "Futuhat-e-Makkiyah" and the "Fusus-ul-Hikam" of Shaikh-e-Akbar Muhyuddin Ibn-ul-Arabi (R.A) were also imparted to some highly distinguished pupils at this very spot. Many of those eminent personalities are now buried around this place.
Uniqueness of Hazrat’s style of teaching and guidance
To start with, about 50 students attended his class, which were held in Hazrat’s ancestral mosque at Golra. These included some persons who had already completed the elementary stages of the curriculum else where. They acquired advanced education from Hazrat, and taught the elementary stages to the beginners in the class. Hazrat had been blessed by Allah Almighty with all the attributes of a high class teacher. He possessed the rare gift of explaining the most complex issues in a very easy and convenient manner. With the help of this God-given teaching ability, Hazrat converted many seemingly dull students into noted scholars.
Seekers of spiritual knowledge and cognition came to Golra from far and near to enlighten their hearts. The ambitions of these thirsty souls were fulfilled in different ways and degrees, depending upon their respective capabilities to imbibe and absorb knowledge. Some attained their goals sooner than the others. The case of two such persons are mentioned below to illustrate this point:
(a) Faqir Muhammad Amir of Kot Atal
Faqir Muhammad Amir of Kot Atal (District Dera Ismail Khan ) was an accomplished dervish. Belonging originally to Jhelum, he received his early education in Dera Ismail Khan and after completing it became a disciple of Khwaja Muhammad Usman Naqshbandi of Musa Zai. Making steady spiritual progress, he eventually became the Khalifa (deputy) of his Shaikh and carried his message far and wide. In the final stages of his progress, he reached a point which conflicted with the maslak (method) of his Shaikh. While the Shaikh was an adherent of Naqshbandia school, and was therefore a believer in Wahdat-ush-Shahud (Unity of Perception), Muhammad Amir started being involuntarily attracted to Wahdat-ul-wajood instead. The Shaikh first tried to bring him back to his point of view through admonition and prayer, but despairing of the success of his efforts declared him to be misguided and lost beyond redemption. On his part, Muhammad Amir found himself caught in a situation beyond his own control. He therefore set out in search of some means to get out of that plight.
At some stage, Faqir Muhammad Amir came to know about Hazrat, and betook himself to Golra Sharif to meet him. He first went to Hazrat Baba Fazl Din (R.A), who was then the reigning head of the shrine, but did not state the purpose of his visit. From there he proceeded to see Hazrat, whom he found engaged in conversation with his father, Hazrat Ajji Sahib. On seeing Muhammad Amir, Hazrat quietly handed to him the book Kashkol-e-Kalimi (The Begging Bowl of Musa, Kalimullah) which he was then holding in his hands, without saying anything else. As Faqir Sahib glanced through the book, his problem was instantly solved by its contents. This greatly elated him, and he requested Hazrat to accept him as his disciple. Hazrat hesitated first, but on his insistence agreed to do so. Besides prescribing the required recitations, Hazrat exhorted him never to show disrespect to his Murshid, Khwaja Muhammad Usman Naqshbandi, to visit the latter at least once a year to pay his regards to him, and, after the latter’s passing away, to make it a point to attend his Urs. The immediate aftermath of this episode was that Faqir Muhammad Amir lost many of his erstwhile followers, while his Murshid was furious at his conduct. He patiently endured all this for about a year, and then returned to Golra Sharif to pay his respects to Hazrat. Hazrat accorded him permission to enroll disciples on his own, as a result of which his circle of disciples expanded quickly by the grace of Allah. He used later to accompany Hazrat on latter’s annual visit to Pakpattan Sharif in connection with Urs of Hazrat Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar (R.A).
The published collection of Hazrat’s letters, titled Maktubat-e-Tayyibat” contains few letters written to Hazrat by the Faqir Sahib of Atal, and Hazrat’s replies thereto, which provide an inkling of the distinguished spiritual station which the Faqir Sahib was able to attain under Hazrat’s guidance. In one of these letters, the Faqir Sahib sought Hazrat’s guidance as to whether, in the spiritual state that he had reached by then, he should focus his attention on the sifat (Attributes) that were flowing from the Divine Being or on the Being Himself, so as to escape the feeling of uncertainty and ambivalence that he found himself in. To this, Hazrat replied in the following verse of Maulana Rumi’s Mathnavi:
Set thy eyes on the “Ocean” itself and ignore the “rivulet” that hath taken off from it, so that thou canst imbibe the secret of “absolute certainty”.
In other words, he advised the questioner to focus his attention single mindedly on the Supreme Being and not on His “Attributes”. He also prayed that Allah infuse him with such attention.
In another letter, Faqir Sahib confined to Hazrat that when he attained the spiritual station which he was then in, he was overcome by a conceited feeling that perhaps no one else had attained such a high station ever before. Therefore, a downward process had set in until the previous state had completely gone, and he was reduced to the position of a mere mortal with no special distinction at all. His attention was then diverted to the strict observance of dictates of shariah, rather than to matters of the spirit. Accordingly, he sought Hazrat’s guidance as to what he should do to reduce the balance between secular and spiritual matters.
In his rejoinder, Hazrat re-assured Faqir Sahib that the feeling mentioned by him was nothing unique, but had been experienced by many other eminent men of God as well. It could possibly be due to the fact that every man had a special relationship with his Great Creator, which no other human being shared with him. The Faqir Sahib, he added, should therefore accept his experience as inescapable and should continue his spiritual endeavours as best he could.
(b) Baba Ghulam Farid of Batala
A situation more or less similar to that of the Faqir Sahib of Atal was experienced by one Baba Ghulam Farid of Batala. A mason by profession, Baba Ghulam Farid had his first bait (pledge of fidelity) at the hands of Maulvi Muhammad Abdullah Chishti of Talwandi Sharif. After attaining a certain spiritual level, he requested his Shaikh to guide him to the Eternal Light (of Supreme Being). His Shaikh, however, regretted his inability to do so because he himself had not yet attained that stage. Thereupon, Baba Ghulam Farid sought the murshid’s written permission to approach some other man of God for this purpose. The Shaikh gave this permission readily enough, adding that if Baba were to succeed in acquiring elsewhere the blessing he was looking for, he should let his Shaikh also know about it, so that he too could benefit from the same source.
The gesture of Maulvi Muhammad Abdullah Chishti in releasing Baba Ghulam Farid from his discipleship typified his selflessness and generosity of mind. It also accords with a saying of Hazrat Sain Tawwakal Shah (R.A) of Ambala to the effect that if a murid (disciple) happens to attain a spiritual station higher than that of his Pir (spiritual guide), the latter should willingly release him so that he can derive further benefit from any other available source – the ultimate objective being to attain nearness to God from whatever source it could be had. Of course, if the Shaikh himself in a position to guide the murid to the station that he is aspiring to, the latter should not look elsewhere for the purpose under any circumstances.
“Go to Golra if you wish to meet God”
Released from his Shaikh’s discipleship and the accompanying restrictions, Baba Ghulam Farid spent a long time in search of means whereby he could achieve the objective that he had set for himself. His efforts, however, met with no success. At one time, he even thought of killing himself but on further thought gave up the idea and decided to continue his quest. One night, as he was preparing in a mosque in some city, he met a stranger and fell into conversation with him on the subject of communication with God. Thereupon, the stranger said to him: “Go to Golra if you wish to meet God”.
The word “Golra” produced a magnetic effect on Baba Ghulam Farid, and a desire to reach there with minimum delay. He therefore set out by train the very next morning, and on arrival on Golra went straight to the mosque. There he saw Hazrat sitting ready for prayers. To his pleasant surprise, he found Hazrat to be the same person whom he had seen in a dream sometime a go at the shrine of Hazrat Daata Gunj-Bukhsh at Lahore, and to whom Hazrat Daata Sahib had referred his case for spiritual adjudication. He therefore immediately put his case before Hazrat, and beseeched him to solve his problem. Hazrat asked him to meet him after the Zuhr (early afternoon) prayers. When he did so, Hazrat recommended some recitations to him for regular observance. At the same time, he cast an electrifying glance on the Baba, which threw the latter into a state of love-lorn agony and kept him in that state for the whole following night.
Forty days task accomplished in just two days
When Baba Ghulam Farid met Hazrat the next morning, he was in a highly distracted state of mind. Seeing this, Hazrat reminded him of his admonition the previous day to perform the recitations prescribed by him with patience for a few days in order to achieve some progress towards his objective. When Hazrat found such patience to be beyond Ghulam Farid, he asked him to try and observe a fast for forty days. This the Baba readily agreed to do.
After Baba had fasted only two days however, Hazrat sent for him, and, felicitating him, told him that his task had been accomplished and that he should break his fast in his presence. As he did so, Hazrat also asked Baba to make sincere efforts to guard and preserve the state of honour that had been providentially conferred upon him.
The life and state of Baba Ghulam Farid were now completely transformed. He could see with his “spiritual eyes” even with his face covered, and used to go round without uncovering himself or physically looking around. During Hazrat’s daily sessions, he used to sit humbly at the far end with an outer garment covering his head and body, apparently listening to very little but inwardly imbibing all that Hazrat spoke about. On one occasion, for example, as Hazrat was explaining to the students a portion of the Masnavi of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi pertaining to the concept of tajaddud-e-amthal (renewal of images and likenesses), Baba Ghulam Farid saw the meaning of the concept translated into a reality in physical terms. He saw: 1. milk being distributed to the people present in the session, and 2. many “forms” emanating from one huge “form”. These visions denoted symbolically 1. knowledge and cognition being disseminated by Hazrat to others; and 2. myriad “forms” growing out of the “Formless Whole”, i.e., the Supreme Being, thereby exemplifying Wahdat-ul-wajood.
Hajj journey of Baba Ghulam Farid
After obtaining Hazrat’s permission, Baba Ghulam Farid proceeded to the Hijaz for Hajj. Hazrat directed him to perform certain recitations in front of the Holy Kaabah in Makkah and in front of the Holy Prophet’s (P.B.U.H) tomb in Madina Munawwara. On return from Hajj, Baba told some fellow disciples that wherever he went during the sacred journey, he had a distinct feeling that Hazrat was constantly by his. In Madina, in fact, Hazrat appeared to him in person when he was si5tting in meditation before the Prophet’s (P.B.U.H) tomb, and enquired about his welfare.
Decline in Baba’s spiritual station
Thanks to Hazrat’s gracious attention, Baba Ghulam Farid was able to attain quite an advanced spiritual station. Unfortunately, however, he happened to spend a few days in his hometown in the company of cunning so-called Sufi who claimed to be spiritually closed to Syedna Ghaus-e-Azam. Since he had not sought the permission of Hazrat to adopt the company of the hypocritical Sufi, an immediate decline occurred in his spiritual state. As Shaikh, Hazrat was exceptionally jealous of the loyalties of his disciples, with the result that anyone of them who diverted his deferential attention to some one other than Hazrat experienced an immediate setback in his spiritual state. The same happened to Baba Ghulam Farid. As soon as the unfortunate reality dawned upon him, Baba wasted no time in setting out for Golra in order to tender his apologies to Hazrat. Despite the most earnest entreaties and sincere regrets, however, he failed to regain Hazrat’s erstwhile confidence and grace. On the intercession of Hazrat Babuji, the only relief that was forth coming was that the old condition did came back to him while he was in Golra but deserted him when he went out of it. When Hazrat’s attention was respectfully drawn to Baba miserable plight he responded in these words: “This man had been granted by Allah, with virtually no effort on his part, a spiritual station which had been granted to as eminent a man of God as Hazrat Bayazid of Bastam after forty years of spiritual vigils and endeavour. He had, however shown no appreciation of this unprecedented divine favour and had not tried to guard his state as it should have been guarded. He should therefore spend the rest of his time waiting and hoping for Allah’s special mercy and grace which alone could now redeem him from the state into which he had fallen”.
Despite his decline from the higher spiritual state, Baba continued to be blessed with the elementary states such as the company of pious souls and angels etc.
Baba’s meeting with Hazrat Khizar (R.A)
Hazrat Babuji used to recall when Baba Ghulam Farid came to him and at high noon and a hot summer day and informed him that Hazrat had directed him to go to Rawalpindi that very moment. Declining Hazrat Babuji’s suggestions to him to either go in the afternoon at a cooler time, or to go on horse-back or by train, Baba decided to walk all the way to Rawalpindi then and there. He told Babuji later that on his way, he was beckoned by a man who was standing in a cultivated field. When he went to him, the latter talked to him for a few minutes, recited some verses of the Mathnavi of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi R.A, asked him to act upon what was stated in those verses, and suddenly disappeared. It later transpired that the person in question was Hazrat Khizar, who is believed by Muslims to have been granted eternal life by Allah, and who, according to an episode described in the Holy Quran (XVIII, 60-82), was granted special knowledge “from God’s own presence”, which is different from (but no necessarily superior to) the knowledge grated by Allah to His prophets and apostles.
When Hazrat passed away in 1937, Baba Ghulam Farid arrived in Golra three days after the event. On enquiry as to how he had come to know about Hazrat passing away, he indicated that he had, after ‘asr prayers’ on the previous afternoon, clairvoyantly seen thousands of people assembled in the ground of Golra, and even larger numbers of celestial beings assembled in the atmosphere around the spot, all of whom appeared to be waiting for something. He had, therefore, concluded that something unusually momentous had happened in Golra, and had immediately set out in that direction. In fact, what Baba had seen with his spiritual eyes was the huge multitude (of both human and celestial beings) that had assembled to join the funeral prayers of Hazrat (R.A).
(c) Qazi Faiz Alam
Qazi Faiz Alam, an old pupil and personal attendant of Hazrat who accompanied Hazrat on his visits to Lahore and elsewhere for spiritual exercises and contemplation, had an experience similar to that gone through Baba Ghulam Farid. An old teacher in his village who was also related to him and had permission from his Murshid to enroll disciples in the Naqshbandia school, once called Faiz Alam away from Golra where he was then engaged in acquiring education as well as initiation from Hazrat. He suggested to Faiz Alam that since he had grown old and had no offspring of his own, the latter should take charge of his shrine and should succeed after his death. He reassured the young man that Hazrat would still continue to be his Shaikh, and that all that he needed to do was to perform certain recitations to be recommended by him. In the given situation, Faiz Alam agreed to his old teacher’s suggestion. As soon as he did so, and started reciting what the latter told him, the entire spiritual progress that he had made under Hazrat’s guidance was instantly lost. When he met Hazrat in Golra after two years or so later, he lamented to grave lapse committed by him, and expressed a veiled desire for the restoration of his erstwhile state under which he had been blessed with the capacity to divine secrets of all kinds and other spiritual attributes. This, however, did not happen, and he was left to regret his misfortune for the rest of his life.