Shaikh Ali bin Uthman Hajveri

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Once in Lahore, it is very difficult to miss the centuries old shrine of Data Ganj Bakhsh. On the Ravi Road, near the Bhatti Gate of the old walled city, the rich and the poor equally gripped by ineffable charisma throng the shrine in multitudes for the last 960 years. It is the spiritual power and divine work of the saint that spontaneously attracts the people. His real name was Syed Ali Abul Hasan bin Usman Hajveri. He was born in Hajver in Ghanzi (Afghanistan). It is said that he was born somewhere between 371- 401 AH, when the Ghaznavis ruled Ghazni. Being the descendants of Hazrat Imam Hasan, his entire family was very virtuous. His mother always wanted her son to become a very pious and learned man. Not only did her wish come true, but her son became the saint of saints as well. Syed Ali Hajveri started acquiring education at the age of four. After growing up, he traveled to several countries such as Khurasan, Turkistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and benefited from almost 300 scholars and saints. Finally, he met a great Sufi scholar in Syria, Abual Fazal bin Hasan Khatli, with whom he was who immensely impressed and became his disciple. After acquiring education in the Holy Quran, Hadith, and mysticism, his murshid asked him to go to Lahore (in 431 AH), where Hazrat Shah Hussain Zanjani was already busy in promoting Islam. He was, therefore, amazed but complying with the order, he reached Lahore while it was already dark. So he thought of spending the night where he was. The next morning when he entered the city he saw a funeral. When he asked about it, he was told that Shah Hussain Zanjani had expired. Now he came to realize that he was sent to Lahore obviously to replace Shah Hussain Zanjani.

Syed Ali Hajveri came to Lahore with a noble cause: to spread the light of Islam and the concept of Allah, the one and the only God. His extraordinary personality, charisma and knowledge did not take much time to conquer the hearts of people. Not only did the poor seek his blessings, but also the elite was highly impressed with him. The governor of Punjab, a non-Muslim, Rai Raju, also was so much impressed by his charisma that he converted to Islam. Data sahib gave him the name Sheikh Hindi, who also rests near his shrine. He changed the lives of hundreds of thousands, Muslims and non-Muslims, for the better. He practiced whatever he preached. As a result, rulers to subjects, during his time and afterwards, never missed paying tribute to him and seeking his blessings. Even saints and Sufis such as Baba Fariduddin Ganj Shakar, Khawaja Baqi Billah, Hazrat Mujaddad Alif Sani, Hazrat Mian Mir Qadri, Hazrat Madhu Lal Hussain and several others sought his blessings. Khawja Moinuddin Chishti, a great saint and founder of the Chishtia Order in the subcontinent before taking his seat in Ajmer, spent 40 days at his shrine to seek his guidance.

He stayed in Lahore for 34 years and not even once thought of going back. When people saw that the saint never thought of going back but served them at the cost of his time, energy, comfort and every temporal belonging he had, they gave him the title of Data Ganj Bakhsh. Data: dervish; Ganj Bakhsh: the one who gives a lot. The first time when he came to know about this title he resented and said: “Only Allah gives, no one else.”

Data Ganj Bakhsh had no children. He got married at an early age, but his wife died after a short while, without bearing any child. For the next 11 years, he did not marry. Only when his parents insisted did he agree to remarry. Unfortunately, the second wife also died after one year. Thereafter, he never tied the nuptial knot. He left this mortal world in 464 Hijri.

There are many books attributed to him including Kashaf ul Mahjoob, Kashaf ul Israr, Minhaj ud Din and Albiyan Lahil Ayan. However, the most popular bookis Kashful Mahjoob (The revelation of the Veiled). It is a masterpiece, originally written in Persian and later translated into many languages. The book provides a profound analysis of Tassawuf (mysticism) in Islam and reveals the intricacies and relationship between the physical, metaphysical and spiritual realities. The importance of this book can be realized by the saying of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, Mahboob-i-IIahi: “This book serves as a complete murshid (guide) to those who don’t have one.” Al-Hujwiri also offers the spiritual seeker universal and timeless advice on many subjects, such as contemplation, generosity, spiritual courtesy, prayer, love and distinguishing false spirituality and false teachers from the real, a discernment just as important today as then. It has been said that those who seek a guide in Islamic Sufism should do three things: pray for guidance, visit the tombs of the great sheikhs, and read Kashf ul Mahjub.

This article was last updated on Monday, Jan 03, 2005