|Biographical detail : ||One of the most outstanding figures in the annals of Islamic mysticism and founder of the Chistiyya order in India.
Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti looms large in the history of Sufism whose dargah has attained pre-imminence in South Asia due to the legend and hagiography that has developed around him several centuries after his death.
Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti visited the seminaries of Samarland and Bukhara and acquired religious learning at the feet of eminent scholars of his age. He visited nearly all the great centres of Muslim culture, and acquainted himself with almost every important trend in Muslim religious life in the Middle Ages.
Moinuddin Chisti turned towards India and, after a brief stay at Lahore he reached Ajmer where he settled down and there he attracted a substantial following, acquiring a great deal of respect amongst the residents of the city. Today, hundreds of thousands of people, Muslims and Hindus, from Indian sub-continent assemble to his tomb on the occasion of his urs (death anniversary).
Khawaja Moinuddin apparently never wrote down his teachings in the form of a book, nor did his immediate disciple do so. But he laid the foundations of the Chistiyya order in Ajmer, India, where common people flocked to him in large numbers. His firm faith in wahdat al-wajud (Unity of Being) provided the necessary ideological support to his mystic mission to bring about emotional integration of the people amongst whom he lived.
The central principles that became characteristics of the Chistiyya order are based on his many teachings and practices. They lay stress on renunciation of material goods; strict regime of self-discipline and personal prayer; participation in sama as a legitimate means to spiritual transformation; reliance on either cultivation or unsolicited offerings as means of basic subsistence; independence from rulers and the state, including rejection of monetary and land grants; generosity to others, particularly, through sharing of food and wealth, and tolerance and respect for religious differences.
Moinuddin Chisti, in other words, interpreted religion in terms of human service and exhorted his disciples “to develop river-like generosity, sun-like affection and earth-like hospitality.” The highest form of devotion, according to him, was “to redress the misery of those in distress – to fulfil the needs of the helpless and to feed the hungry.”
It was during the reign of Akbar (1556 – 1605) that Ajmer emerged as one of the most important centres of pilgrimage in India when the Mughal Emperor undertook an unceremonial journey on foot to accomplish his humble wish to reach the place. The Akbarnama records that the emperor’s interest was first sparked when he heard some minstrels singing songs about the virtues of the holy man who lay asleep in Ajmer. Emperor Akbar was a Sufi mystic who firmly believed that all existence is one, and that love of God and one’s brethren was more important than narrow religious rituals.
Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti authored several books including ‘Anis al-Arwah’ and ‘Daleel al-Arefeen’ both of them dealing with Islamic code of living.
Khawaja Qutbuddin Baktiyar Kaki (d. 1235) and Hamiduddin Nagori (d. 1276) were Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti’s celebrated khalifas or disciples who continued transmitting the teachings of their master through their disciples, leading to the widespread proliferation of the Chistiyya order in India.
Among Khawaja Qutbuddin Baktiyar’s prominent disciples was Fariduddin Ganj-i-Shakar (d. 1265), whose dargah is at Pakpattan (Pakistan). And Fariduddin’s most famous disciple was Nizamuddin Aulia (d. 1325) popularly referred to as Mahboob-i-Ilahi (God’s beloved) whose dargah is located in old Delhi.
From Delhi the disciples branched out to establish dargahs in several regions of India – from Sindh (now Pakistan) in the west to Bengal (now part Bangladesh) in the east and the Deccan in the south. But from all the network of Chisti dargahs Ajmer dargah took on the special distinction of being the ‘mother’ dargah of them all.
Moinuddin Chisti was born in Sistan, Iran, whose family claimed descent from Hazrat Muhammad (peace be upon him). He was in his teens when his father died. He sold the property he had inherited and went to the Central Asia in search of spiritual instructions.