Nizamuddin Auliya was the fourth Spiritual Successor (Khalifa) of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer. The Chishti order he belonged to believed in moving close to God through renunciation of the world and service to humanity, and Auliya, like his predecessors stressed on love as a means of realizing God. He was spiritually inclined from a young age. Having lost his father when he was a small child, he was raised by his mother who was a very pious woman. She ensured that her son learned to recite the holy Quran and studied Ahadith (traditions of the Prophet Mohammed). He grew up to be an intelligent and sharp-witted boy who excelled not only in religious studies, but also in mathematics and astronomy. When he was 20 he became a disciple of the Sufi saint Fariduddin Ganjshakar, commonly known as Baba Farid. He grew much attached to Baba Farid and received spiritual training along with lessons in "Awarif-ul-Ma'Arif" (a unique publication of Hazrat Khwaja Shihabuddin Suhrawardi on Sufism), and "Tamheed Abu Shakoor Salmi." Nizamuddin Auliya went on to succeed Baba Farid and became the founder of the Chisti Nizami order. Regarded an unparalleled Sufi of his time amongst all the existing Sufi orders, he was renowned for his simplicity and service to humanity.
Childhood & Early Life
Nizamuddin Auliya was born in Badayun, Uttar Pradesh, in 1238, to Hazrat Syed Ahmed Bokhari and Bibi Zuleikha. Both of his parents were highly religious and pious people. His father was reported to have recited the Islamic kalima immediately after his birth while it was said that his mother’s prayers had the reputation of never remaining unfulfilled.
His father died when Auliya was just five years old and his mother took it upon herself to ensure that her son got the best education. She placed him under the training of Maulana Allauddin Usooli of Badayun under whose guidance the boy excelled in studies.
The young boy mastered the seven ways of recitation of the holy Quran, studied Arabic grammar, Ahadith (traditions of the Prophet Mohammed), Tafsir (commentary on the Quran), mathematics and astronomy. He also excelled in the art of debating.
When he was around 16 or 17 years old, he heard of the Sufi saint Fariduddin Ganjshakar, commonly known as Baba Farid, and immediately developed feelings of love and respect for him. His love for the baba intensified over time and at the age of 20 he went to Ajodhan (the present Pakpattan Sharif in Pakistan) and became a disciple of Baba Farid.
At that time, Nizamuddin Auliya was pursuing his theological studies in Delhi and thus did not move to Ajodhan. However, he simultaneously started the Sufi devotional practices and prescribed litanies along with his studies. He visited Ajodhan each year to spend the month of Ramadan in the presence of Baba Farid. On his third such visit, Baba Farid made him his successor.
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Nizamuddin Auliya succeeded Baba Farid upon his death to become the fourth Spiritual Successor (Khalifa) of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer. As a Sufi dervish he lived a life based upon the essential teachings of Islam and principles of Sufism. His life was an embodiment of the principle of "simple living and high thinking".
After living at various places in Delhi, he finally settled down in Ghiyaspur, a village near the city. There he built his Khanqah which attracted people from far and near, hailing from all walks of life.
He was passionately committed to helping the needy, feeding the hungry and being sympathetic to the oppressed. His kitchen was always open and thousands of hungry and needy people used to eat there daily. He personally supervised the Khanqah to ensure that all the visitors arriving at the Khanqah were treated most hospitably irrespective of their religion, caste, creed or social status.
He was very generous towards the poor though he personally maintained a very austere lifestyle. He wore very simple clothes and fasted daily, eating only a small piece of barley bread with some vegetable soup.
Auliya was also very generous in accepting disciples. He had over 600 khalifas who continued his lineage all over the world. A khalifa is a disciple who is given the authority to take his own disciples and thus propagate the spiritual lineage. Some of his most famous disciples were Nasiruddin Chiragh Dehlavi who became his spiritual successor and poet Amir Khusro who was Auliya’s most loved disciple.
Nizamuddin Auliya was the founder of the Chisti Nizami order. Many of his disciples became renowned Sufis of the Chisti Nizami order who went on to spread the message of Sufism all over the world. His descendents and disciples include Muhammad Hussaini Gisudaraz Bandanawaz, Gulbarga, Shah Niyaz Ahmad Barelvi, Muhiuddin Yousuf Yahya Madani Chishti, and Shah Mohammad Shah.
Personal Life & Legacy
Nizamuddin Auliya did not marry. He considered the descendents of his brother Jamaluddin as his own descendents, and raised his brother’s son Ibrahim after his death.
He had an overwhelming love for Prophet Mohammad. Some time before his death he had a vision of the prophet and realized that his end was near. Following the vision he became very eager to leave his worldly body so that he could be united with the prophet. During the last 40 days of his life, he gave up food and died on the morning of 3 April 1325.