Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki

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Hazrat Khwaja Syed Muhammad Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki (Urdu: حضرت خواجہ سیّد محمد قطب الدین بختیار کاکی) was a renowned Sufi saint and scholar of the Chishti Order from Delhi, India. Khwaja Qutbuddin’s original name was Bakhtiar but his title was Qutbuddin. The additional suffix of ‘Kaki’ to his name was attributed to hint by virtue of a miracle that emanated from him at a later stage of his life at Delhi. Popularly, he is also called Khwaja Kaki and Hazrat Qutub Saheb.

He was a born saint and had the honor of being the ‘first’ Spiritual Successor of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer. Forty days before the demise of his great Pir-o-Murshid, Khwaja Qutubuddin was appointed by him as his recognised Khalifa (spiritual successor) at a formal ceremony at Ajmer, and was deputed to carry on the mission of the Chishti Order of Sufis in India with his headquarters at Delhi. His dargah in Mehrauli, the oldest dargah in Delhi, is the venue of his annual Urs.

His most famous disciple and spiritual successor was Fariduddin Ganjshakar, who in turn became the spiritual master of Delhi’s noted Sufi saint, Nizamuddin Auliya, who himself was the spiritual master of Amir Khusru and Nasiruddin Chiragh-e-Delhi.

The influence of Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki on Sufism in India was immense. As he continued and developed the traditional ideas of universal brotherhood and charity within the Chishti order, a new dimension of Islam started opening up in India which had hitherto not been present. He forms an important part of the Sufi movement which attracted many people to Islam in India in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

Family & Early life

Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki was born in 569 A.H. (1173 C.E.) in a small town called Aush (alternatively Awash or Ush) in the Fergana Valley (present Osh, part of historic Transoxiana) He was born in the middle of the night, brightness lighting up the whole house and a strange light being caste all around. After his birth it is reputed that he prostrated himself in adoration and uttered the words “Allah, Allah.” After sometime he raised his head and the light disappeared.

Nobody knew that the son of Syed Kamaluddin, who was himself a very pious gentleman, would one day play a most distinguished role in the development and history of Sufism in India. When Hazrat Qutbuddin was just eighteen months old, he lost his father. His mother, who was also a pious and very intelligent lady, however, made suitable arrangements for her dear child’s education. At the tender age of 5, he was put under the loving care of a learned tutor, Maulana Abu Hafus, who started him with the teaching of both theological and spiritual sides of knowledge. Along with his early education, he was also devoted to mujahedas (devotional practices) for his spiritual training and when Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti visited Awash, during one of his travels, Khwaja Qutbuddin, who was then 17 years old, offered himself as a Mureed (disciple) to the great saint and sought his blessings for a spiritual career. The great Khwaja Saheb of Ajmer, who had already intuitively perceived the divine spark in the young aspirant, accepted him immediately.


Later on, with a view to mature his knowledge and experience in Sufism Khwaja Qutbuddin proceeded on a prolonged tour to various: places in Afghanistan, Persia and Iraq, the last named being the home of many top-ranking Sufi dervishes of his time. He himself narrates the stories of this tour, as follows:

When I reached Ghazni, I met a very old and venerable dervish who, it was reported, used to give away all that he got in the morning before sun-set, and what he received in the night before dawn. Nobody, rich or poor, ever returned disappointed from his Khanqah (monastery). The hungry were duly fed and the naked were duly clothed. When I talked to him, he said: “I have been doing all sorts of Mujahedas for the past 40 years continually but without any avail: I never had any vision of the Divine Light during this long period. But ever since I reduced my sleep, cut off my food to the minimum, restricted the use of my tongue (i.e. speech) and shunned all people, I started getting Divine Light and now I can see things right upto Arsh-e-Mualla (Divine Throne according to Islamic conviction) and nothing is hidden from me between the heavens and the earth. (Fawaid-us-Salikin, Part I).

He adds:

Once I was on a sea voyage when I met a dervish at a seaport who was perfect in Sufism. Due to hard Mujahedas’ (strivings), he was reduced to a mere skeleton. After the chaasht prayer (8-9 A.M.) he used to attend his Langarkhana (kitchen) and keep himself busy till afternoon in the distribution of food to hundreds of hungry people. Every person was fed to his heart’s content and for those who needed clothes, he would go into his hujra (cell) and bring out new clothes for distribution. When everything was distributed from the kitchen, he used to offer his Zohar (afternoon) prayers. It was his standing order to his Mureeds (disciples) that whenever anyone called on him no time must be lost in admitting him to his presence. He would then put his hand under the corner of his Musalla (prayer carpet) and whatever came in his hand, he gave it to the caller. I stayed with him for some time. With all ‘his munificence, he himself always used to observe fasting. At the time of Iftaar (breaking time of the Islamic fast), he received only 4 khurmas (dates) from some ‘unseen’ source of which he ate only two and gave me the remaining two. One day he addressed me: “My dear, unless and until a Faqeergives up people’s company, gives away all he receives, sits in seclusion, eats little, sleeps little, speaks little, he cannot attain “nearness to God”. (Fawaid-us-Salikin, Part I).

A strange incident

Hazrat Khwaja Qutbuddin relates another interesting incident of his travels. He says:

Once I was staying on the bank of a river with my most intimate friend, Qazi Hamiduddin Nagauri. We saw that a very big scorpion was speeding up in a direction. O spoke to my friend that there appears to be some ‘divine secret’ behind this phenomenon; let us follow the scorpion to find it out. My friend agreed and we followed the scorpion and saw that it reached the bottom of a big tree where it furiously stung a monstrous Azdaha (boa) who died at once. Nearby we noticed a man who was fast asleep. Taking him to be a very pious person, we did not like to disturb him but waited to speak to him when he was awake. But when we approached him, we felt a very obnoxious smell and found that he was horribly drunk (with wine). We were indeed greatly surprised to see him in this sinful condition on the one hand, and God Almighty’s favour upon him, on the other, in saving him from that monstrous boa whom the scorpion had killed. Just as we were wondering over the incident, we heard a ‘Nida'(divine voice) that vibrated in the surroundings. It said: “If We (God) keep ourfavours reserved for the holy and the pious only, then who would look after the sinful? This Nida shook off the sleep of the man who was awfully frightened to see the Azdaha lying by him. When we related the incident of the scorpion and the boa to him, he felt extremely ashamed, so much so that after some time, we heard, he renounced the world and became one of the most pious persons of his time. He undertook the pilgrimage to Mecca 70 times on foot.

Another strange incident

Hazrat Khwaja Qutbuddin goes on:

Once, during the Hajj, I and my intimate friend Qazi Hamiduddin Nagauri were making rounds of the Kaaba following a dervish whose name was Sheikh Usman, and who was one of the descendants of Sheikh Abu Bakr Shibli. Out of great respect, we were following him by putting our feet on the impressions of his feet. By his intuitive powers Sheikh Usman, however, found out what we were doing. He turned round and said: “It will do you no good by following me in my footprints in this fashion. If you really wish to follow me, then try to follow my Inward Light.” We enquired as to what his Inward Light was? He said: “I finish recitation of the Holy Quran 1000 times a day”. We were greatly surprised at this apparently fantastic claim because it was humanly impossible to read the voluminous Holy Quran 1000 times in a day. We thought perhaps he may be exaggerating and reading only a word or two of each Surah of the Quran. But just as we were contemplating like this, Sheikh Usman turned back and said: “Do you take, it to be a bluff? I again repeat that I read the Holy Quran 1000 times daily word by word.'” We kept quiet and when I related this story before a gathering of some distinguished dervishes in one of our private meetings, Maulana Alauddin Karmani said: “Anything which is beyond human conception or comprehension is a miracle, because, before a miracle, all human intelligence fails and is unable to fathom into the ‘divine mysteries’ which only prophets and walees can see.”

To the rescue of Multan

In one of his travels, Khwaja Qutbuddin is reported to have visited Multan where he was received by Hazrat Sheikh Bahauddin Zakariya Suhrawardi with great respect. Hazrat Bahauddin has a great reputation as a Sufi dervish of his time in India. His headquarters were in Multan and we shall see more about him, later on, in this publication. During Khwaja Qutbuddin’s stay in Multan, the Mughals are reported to have attacked India and besieged Multan. The Governor of Multan, named Qabacha Beg, begged Hazrat Qutbuddin for his spiritual help and blessing to ward off the attack of the Mughals and, it is reported, he succeeded in repulsing the enemy by the grace of God.

Arrival in Delhi

It is reported that when Khwaja Qutbuddin arrived in Delhi from Ajmer, Sultan Shamsuddin Iltutmish, who was the ruler of India at Delhi, went out of the city to welcome the Khwaja because he had very great respect for Sufi dervishes. He wanted to arrange for Qutub Saheb’s stay in the city, but the latter preferred to stay at Kelu Kheri, a suburb of Delhi. The Sultan, however, used to wait upon him twice a week in order to receive his spiritual blessings and guidance. The Sultan, later on, became a regular and most dutiful disciple of Hazrat Qutbuddin. At this stage, he again requested his Pir to come and stay with him in the city because in attending upon him at Kelu Kheri, which he must do, he had to spend much of his time which he could save to attend to the affairs of his government Hazrat Qutub Saheb agreed and shifted to the mosque of Malik Ainuddin in the city.

Sheikh-ul-Islam’s Jealousy

After the death of Delhi’s Sheikh-ul-Islam, Nooruddin Ghaznavi, the Sultan wanted Hazrat Khwaja Qutbuddin to take up this august post but when the latter flatly refused, he appointed Sheikh Najmuddin Sughra who was one of the mureeds of Hazrat Khwaja Usman Harooni — the great Pir-o-Murshid of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. But, due to the great popularity of Hazrat Khwaja Qutbuddin both at the Sultan’s court and among the citizens of the State, Sheikh Najmuddin carried a serious jealousy against Khwaja Qutbuddin and wanted to get him out of Delhi by any means whatever. He used to defame Qutub Saheb whenever an opportunity presented itself. It is a historical fact that the worshippers of wealth, power and fame have always borne grudge and jealousy against Sufi dervishes who had no love for money or fame except the love of God and selfless service of mankind.

His love for his Pir

It is reported that once, out of the unbearable love for his Pir-o-Murshid (Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti) Khwaja Qutbuddin wrote a letter seeking his Pir’s permission to go to Ajmer and satisfy the thirst of his love by kissing his Murshid’s feet. But, in the mean time, Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin, who also loved his disciple dearly, himself started for Delhi and reached their quite unexpectedly. Here the Sultan and the public, when they heard of the arrival of Hazrat Khwaja Saheb, all came out of the city to offer their homage and welcome greetings to him. But the Sheikh-ul-Islam of Delhi, i.e. Sheikh Najmuddin Sughra did not take any notice of Khwaja Saheb’s arrival. However out of his own regard and courtesy for his brother Khalifa (as Najmuddin was also one of the Khalifas of Hazrat Khwaja Usman Harooni, the Pir-o-Murshid of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin), Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin himself went to see the Sheikh at his home. When they met, the Sheikh bitterly complained that “due to the presence and popularity of Khwaja Qutbuddin in Delhi, his own position as Sheikh-ul-Islam had become practically nil” Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin, for the sake of removing even this absurd grievance, ordered his disciple, Khwaja Qutbuddin, to leave Delhi and go to Ajmer with him.

Delhi’s public demonstration

When this news reached the Sultan, he felt awfully upset and beseeched Khwaja Saheb not to take away Khwaja Qutbuddin from Delhi. But it was not accepted and the Khwaja Saheb started back for Ajmer with Khwaja Qutbuddin. When the citizens of Delhi saw this they wailed and wept and protested imploringly before Hazrat Khwaja Saheb to leave Khwaja Qutbuddin with them in Delhi He was so much loved and esteemed that the people used to pick up the dust from under his feet and smear it upon their eyes. When Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin saw this overwhelming love for his beloved disciple in Delhi, he said: “Baba Qutub you may stay here because I do not like to hurt the feelings of this vast multitude by taking you away from them.” And so Khwaja Qutbuddin remained in Delhi as people’s spiritual preceptor upto the time of his last breath.

Khwaja Qutbuddin was, however, summoned to Ajmer before the death of his Pir-o-Murshid.

Picture of forbearance

Hazrat Khwaja Qutbuddin was a picture of patience and forbearance. It is exemplified by the incidence of his young son’s death. When the people returned after the child’s burial, Hazrat Qutub Saheb’s wife, overwhelmed by grief, began to wail and cry. When the Khwaja Saheb (who was not present at the time of the child) enquired the reason of this wailing, it was disclosed by his Mureeds that his little son had died. He said: “If I knew, I would have prayed to God for the child’s long life. But now we must resign to the will of the Almighty.”

His ‘mujahedas’ (striving)

Hazrat Khwaja Qutbuddin suffered extreme hardships and privations during the course of his mujahedas and riyazat (strivings) According to “Siyar-ul-Aulia“, (p.49), it is recorded that in the beginning of his career, he could afford to have some sleep but in the concluding years of his life, he never slept and used to say: “If I ever sleep, I feel uneasy and sick.” For 20 years he never slept in the night, nor did he ever touch his back to the floor even for a moments rest. He was also all the time deeply absorbed in muraqba (lost in devotion of God) so much so that if anybody came to see him, he regained consciousness with some difficulty and delay. It was only at the time of Namaz that he regained the state of sehav (normality).

In the concluding years of his life, he had committed the Holy Quran by heart and used to recite and finish it twice every day. According to “Jawama-ul-Kalum“, Khwaja Qutbuddin used to remain in his cell in a state of broken-heartedness, tongue- tied, sighing and weeping. When the crowd of eager devotees and visitors swelled outside his hujra, he came out to meet them and ordered his ‘mureeds’ in the Khanqah to offer the people a cup of water if there was nothing else to offer hospitality. And when they were busy drinking the water, he used to give them brief sermons to lead a God fearing and religious life. After seeing them off, he again went into his hujra and resumed his devotional muraqaba.

Love of Sama & Passing on

Like his predecessors, Hazrat Khwaja Qutbuddin was also very fond of Sama (Qawwali) and used to hold Sama Mahfils often at his place or join such Mahfils sometimes at the place of his dear friend Qazi Hamiduddin Nagauri. He also attended Sama Mahfils at the Khanqahs of other dervishes. In a Sama Mahfil, the Qawwal was singing the following Persian couplet under the spell of which Hazrat Qutubudd in remained in a state of ecstasy for 4 days and nights consecutively, except prayer times:-

Sarod cheest ke chandeen fasoon-e-ishq daroast, Sarod mehram-e-ishq ast-o-ishq mehram-e-oast
What is music and why there is so much enchantment of love in it? (Because) music is the secret of divine love and love is the secret of God

Hazrat Qutbuddin’s love for Sama reached its climax when he died in a state of wajd(ecstasy). When this incident took place, the Qawwal was singing the following Persian couplet of Sheikh Ahmed Jam’s famous Qaseeda at the monastery of Sheikh Ali Sijistani at Delhi:-

Kushtagaan-e-khanjar-e-tasleem raa, Har zamaan azz gheb jaan-e-deegar ast
For the victims of the sword of divine love, there is a new life every moment from the unseen

Shaheed-e-Mohabbat (martyr of God’s love)

Qazi Hamiduddin Nagauri and Sheikh Badruddin Ghuznavi helped to bring Khwaja Qutbuddin in his state of wajd to his home, (the Qawwals repeating the said couplet), where he remained in the same state for 3 consecutive days and nights and expired on the 4th day; his condition becoming worse with the passing of each day. This happened in 634 AH. or 1237 A.D. at Delhi and on account of this extraordinary death, Hazrat Khwaja Qutbuddin is known as “Shaheed-e-Mohabbat” (martyr of God’s love).

At the time of death, Hazrat Khwaja Qutbuddin’s head was resting on the thigh of his beloved friend Qazi Hamiduddin Nagauri, while both of his hands were in the lap of Sheikh Badruddin Ghuznavi.

Place of burial

A few weeks before his death, Hazrat Khwaja Qutbuddin was returning home after the Idd prayer when he stayed at a place on the way and told his companions: “I feel the smell of love coming out of this place.” The owner of the land was summoned immediately and it was purchased. This is the same place where the great saint was buried and where his illustrious Dargah stands upto this day. It is situated in Mahrauli, a small habitation in the suburbs of New Delhi. The famous “Qutub Minar” of Delhi stands near his Dargah.

His Spiritual Successors (Khalifas)

Hazrat Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki had 27 Khalifas who carried on his teachings in Sufism in different parts of India, apart from Delhi and its adjoining provinces. Of them, Hazrat Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar, Hazrat Sheikh Badruddin Ghaznavi, Sheikh Barhanuddin Balakhi, Sheikh Ziauddin Rumi, Sultan Shamsuddin Al-Tamish and Qazi Hamidduin Nagauri are most prominent.

Teachings & Publications

Hazrat Qutbuddin has written a masterpiece on Sufism in Persian, called. “Fawaid-us-Salikin.” It contains his malfoozaat’ (teachings and sayings) in 7 brief chapters and was compiled and arranged by his first spiritual successor, Hazrat Baba Fariddun Ganjshakar, who carried on the distinguished work of the Chishtia Order, after Hazrat Qutbuddin’s death.

Fawaid-us-Salikin is not a voluminous publication and contains only 36 pages and but features all those delicate points, instructions and life-long experiences of the saint which are necessary for a Sufi dervish to achieve perfection in this divine creed.

 (Reference: sufiwiki.com)

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