Tag Archives: Saint

Mystical Form of Islam Suits Sufis in Pakistan

Posted by Raza Rumi

A New York Times piece where I was quoted.

By SABRINA TAVERNISE- LAHORE, Pakistan — For those who think Pakistan is all hard-liners, all the time, three activities at an annual festival here may come as a surprise.
Thousands of Muslim worshipers paid tribute to the patron saint of this eastern Pakistani city this month by dancing, drumming and smoking pot.
It is not an image one ordinarily associates with Pakistan, a country whose tormented western border region dominates the news. But it is an important part of how Islam is practiced here, a tradition that goes back a thousand years to Islam’s roots in South Asia. Continue reading


Posted by Nizam-un-Nisa Ayeda Naqvi on November 12, 2009

Not too far from where I live, in Lahore, Pakistan, is a little shrine. It is not the mausoleum of a famous poet or a Sufi saint, but the resting place of two star-crossed lovers who were denied the sanctity of marriage by their society almost five hundred years ago.

And yet this tomb is treated with the same reverence and etiquette as the shrines of any of the great mystics that dot the landscape here. In fact, if the visitors’ emotions are anything to go by, this shrine seems to have unparalleled power, for on any given day, devotees can be seen sitting in corners of the marble mausoleum, sobbing softly as they contemplate the tragic story of the beautiful Heer and the devastated Ranjha. Continue reading

Madhu Lal – festival of lights

LAHORE: A number of devotees have thronged to the shrine of sufi saint Hazrat Shah Hussain, also known as Shah Hussain Lahori and Madhu Lal Hussain, to mark the three-day urs of the Festival of Lights. courtesy daily times Continue reading

Lahore’s oldest guide

Raza Rumi

The interior of Data Darbar

The grave of the saint

Outside the shrine,

The shrine at night

Perhaps the greatest of the experiences at Data Darbar is to find oneself connected to a stream of humanity, shoulder to shoulder, with a shared sense of spirituality that cuts across ethnicity, sect, ritual and even religion at times. Despite the mayhem, the serenity of the place is soothing

“To traverse distance is child’s play: henceforth pay visits by means of thought; it is not worth while to visit any person, and there is no virtue in bodily presence”

Last week, accompanying a visitor from the Mecca of Sufis, Delhi, I reconnected with the Data Darbar or the royal pavilion of the great saint of Lahore, Ali bin Usman Al Hajveri. This shrine is the oldest and perhaps the most vibrant cultural marker of the past one millennium in Lahore. The title of Ganj Bakhsh was bestowed by the saint of the saints Khwaja Moin ud din Chishti of Ajmere, whose ascendancy in the Chishtia Sufi order is recognised by all and sundry. Pilgrimage to Ajmere by itself is a matter of spiritual attainment for the majority of Muslims in the subcontinent. It is not difficult to imagine then what the stature of Lahore’s Data Darbar is in this esoteric yet real and lived Islam in South Asia. While Khwaja Moin ud din Chishti honoured the Lahori saint with the title “bestower of treasure,” ordinary folk on Lahore’s streets were more direct by naming the saint as Data, the one who facilitates the fulfilment of aspirations.

Living nearly 11 centuries ago, Syed Ali bin Usman Al Hajveri was not a Lahori but a resident of Lahore’s cultural step-cousin, Ghazni, until he arrived in India and wandered in northern India before settling in Lahore for the last 34 years of his life. This was the time when mystics from Central Asia, in their constant urge to discover new vistas of spiritual exploration, started to travel and settle in different parts of the Indian subcontinent. It remains a mystery as to why Data Ganj Bakhsh would have chosen Lahore as the final stop in his life long journey. Perhaps the secular interpretation could be that Lahore was an inevitable stop over for all the Central Asian and Turkic caravans and armies and provided the right kind of environment for a foreign mystic to amalgamate into. A little before Ganj Bakhsh’s arrival, Lahore had been resurrected from the earlier ravages of time by the Ghaznavid ruler Mahmood and his son Masood.

Lahore’s fame had also spread deep into the rugged, mountainous climes of Central Asia. Its old fortified city, the banks of a gushing river and the motley collection of artisans, masons, artists, poets and musicians were all too well known.

During the 34 years of his Lahore residence, Ali Hajveri became the most revered of dervishes whose inclusive and tolerant mystical path attracted the majority of its non-Muslim population. Let us not forget that the non-Muslim population was also a subject of a pernicious caste hierarchy where access to templar gods and clerical blessings was denied to a good number of the population. This was the beginning of a centuries’ long process of peaceful conversions. Islam’s egalitarianism and its larger message of equality before God was quite a magical idea for many, not to mention that the Sufi path did not require conversion per se. This is why Data Darbar has been a hub of inter-communal quests for spiritual attainment.

Other than that, Ali Hajveri’s important contribution to the corpus of documented mystical thought is the treatise that he authored and left for posterity. Known as Kashf- al- Mahjub, or “Unveiling of the Hidden,” it is a monumental document striking for its communicative tone and systematic way of discussing mysticism.

Through the dynasties that were to follow Mahmood Ghaznavi’s controversial military campaigns, the primacy of Ali Hajveri’s shrine continued. Its centrality to the evolution of Muslim rulers meant that the origins of Islam were paradoxically not rooted in the capture of power. Voluntary conversions at Sufi khanqahs and dergahs were a constant process. The Sultans of Delhi and the Moghuls were all enamoured by the mythical might of the saint, and while the imperial grandeur continued, the ordinary Lahoris had already renamed Lahore as “Data ki Nagri”- Data‘s city. Khawaja Moin ud din Chishti undertook 40 day long meditative exercises at this shrine before he moved to Ajmere to carry on the Sufi mission of spreading love, tolerance and harmony and of re-emphasising the indivisible equality of man. The Moghul prince and heir apparent Dara Shikoh, like his great-grandfather Akbar, was also a true devotee of Data Ganj Bakhsh.

The decline of the Moghul Empire did not impact the energy of the shrine. In fact, the formidable Punjabi leader, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, like his predecessors, invested in the upkeep and expansion of the shrine complex. The rulers dare not afford the wrath or displeasure of the saint, such has been the power of imagination. Therefore, it is but logical that Mian Shahbaz Sharif, during his first tenure as the chief minister of Punjab, initiated the mega project of Data Darbar‘s physical renewal, expansion and “beautification” in the late nineties. Continue reading

Lahore – A visit to Bibi Pak Daman

Guest post by Destitute Rebel
The city of Lahore in Pakistan is known for its rich culture, Forts & Grand Mosques, its food and music are world famous, Also famous are the sufi saints who hailed from this city or came here to live and were burried here, among the more famous shrines of Lahore are Data Darbar the Shrine of Hazrat Ali Hajweri Syed Abul Hassan Bin Usman Bin Ali Al-Hajweri the famous Sufi saint of Persian origion, The shrine of Gamey Shah, The tomb of Baba Shah Jamal and Bibi Pak Daman.Although I’m not very religious I decided to go visit Bibi Pak Daman as the legend behind this particular shrine was quite interesting. Bibi Pak Daman is famous for being the shrine of 6 Ladies from the household of the Prophet Mohammed, Including Ruqayah binte Ali the daughter of Hazrat Ali the forth caliph of Islam the othe five graves are said to be those of hazrat Muslim bin Aqeel’s sisters and daughters. Legend has it that these ladies were traveling alone after the events at karbala and when the reached Lahore the ruler at that time tried to arrest them because the were gaining a following and not wanting that, Bibi Pak Daman prayed to God and asked him to open the earth and take them in, when the soldiers came to arrest them the earth split into two and they went in only a little of the Dupatta (scarf) of Bibi Ruqayah remained and when the lead soldier tried to get hold of that it too slid into the soil, Thus the name Bibi Pak Daman meaning even the scarf of the lady was pure and thus could not be touched.

The Mazar is the end to a busy and colorfull street full of shops selling religious literature, multimedia and prayer beads among other things

964th Urs of Hazrat Data Ganj (RA) concludes

By Fatima Raza ‘Pakistan Times‘ Special Correspondent
LAHORE: The three-day ‘Urs’ of the great Sufi saint, religious scholar and spiritualist of the 11th century Hazrat Ali bin Usman Hajveri (RA) – popularly known as Data Ganj Bukhsh (RA) concluded at midnight Thursday with prayers for peace, progress and prosperity of Pakistan.

Hundreds of thousands of the faithful – who had arrived Lahore from all areas of Pakistan as well as from different parts of the world – also offered special prayers for the entire Muslim world as well as for emancipation of the Indian occupied part of the Himalayan State of Jammu & Kashmir and establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State – at the earliest.

The annual Urs ceremonies had commenced in the Punjab metropolis – Lahore on Tuesday.

It is generally thought that in his lifetime the great saint was called as Gang Bakhsh (RA) but afterwards he became too famous as Data Gang Bakhsh (RA).

Hazrat Ali Hajvery (RA) was a Persian Sufi and a scholar. The greatest saint for all times was born in Hajver, a town of Ghazni in Afghanistan in 1000 AD (400 H) and died in Lahore in 1063 or 1071 AD.

He voyaged physically to many countries, including Turkistan, Transoxania, Iran, Iraq, and Syria where he met innumerable Sufis and Sheikhs, many of those have been mentioned in his book ‘Kashf-ul-Mahjoob’. Continue reading