Shaykh Nizam-ud-Din Awliya
Hazrat Nizam-ud-Din Awliya, who is considered the greatest Sufi master of medieval India, was born in Bada’un in North India in 1238 into a family whose genealogy traced back to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and who had originated from Bukhara. He studied the sciences of Islamic Law in order to qualify as a judge, but in about 1257 was inspired to travel to Ajodhan (now Pakpatan) to visit Shaykh [Baba] Farid-ud-Din Gang Shakar, the most celebrated Chishti spiritual master of that time. There his destiny changed. He became the close follower of this spiritual master, and on his third and final visit to Ajodhan, Shaykh Farid-ud-Din designated him as his successor. He advised him to continue with his studies of the Holy Quran and Islamic jurisprudence, alongside his supererogatory prayers and the pursuit of the sufic sciences, and to devote himself to whichever finally won the upper hand.
Hazrat Nizam-ud-Din Awliya eventually settled down in Ghiyaspur near Delhi. There he established his Sufi sanctuary which became a focal point for the spiritual renewal of the lives of the people of Delhi. Shaykh Nizam-ud-Din personally led a life of celibacy and asceticism. He and his close followers subsisted on unasked for charity which they distributed every day to the neighbouring poor, so that by the end of each day they had nothing stored up for the next day. His simple, basic teaching attracted people from all walks of life, including members of the Sultan’s family and his court. However, he refused to visit or meet the then ruler of the Delhi Sultanate. "There are two doors in my sanctuary," said Hazrat Nizam-un-Din, "and if the Sultan enters through one of them, I will go out through the other".
The fame of Hazrat Nizam’ud-Din Awliya became so widespread that wells were dug along the route between Delhi and Ghiyaspur, water vessels kept ready, carpets spread, awnings erected and a man who knew the entire Holy Quran by heart stationed at every resting place, so that the people going to visit him should not suffer any inconvenience on their journey. Owing to the fame and wisdom of the spiritual master, many Muslims in the country inclined towards the Sufi way of life, and in time, there were so many Sufi sanctuaries in India that it was possible for a wandering Sufi to travel from sanctuary to sanctuary, spending three days at each sanctuary, without ever staying in the same sanctuary twice in the space of a year.
Hazrat Nizam-ud-Din Awliya’s respect for the devout Hindus, for whom his doors were always open, is shown by his comment to his close follower, the famous poet Amir Khusraw, when watching some of them at their devotional practices: "Every community has its own path and faith and its own way of worship." It was through Amir Khusraw, that the practice of quwali, which is the singing of the praises of Allah and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his family and companions, accompanied by music, was developed and perfected.
Hazrat Nizam-ud-Din Awliya said, "The way to me is through Amir Khusraw." When Amir Khusraw returned from a journey to find that Hazrat Nizam’ud-Din had died while he was away, he immediately died from grief on the spot, and was buried only a few yards away from his spiritual master. Ever since then, the tombs of these two saints have always been covered in rose-petals, scattered by the innumerable visitors who flock to visit them. Under the leadership of ‘the master of the spiritual masters’, as Hazrat Nizam-ud-Din Awliya was commonly known, the Chishti Order had a great impact on the lives of the people of Delhi, and after his death in 1325, it spread throughout the rest of the Indian sub-continent.