EXTRAORDINARY COURAGE OF GREAT SUFIS AGAINST TYRANNICAL RULERS AND ITS IMPACT ON INDIAN SOCIETY

Sufi Rumi

A most valuable service rendered by the holy Sufi saints was that they stood fearlessly against the unjust and degenerate ways of powerful despots and tyrannical rulers, and saved the kingdom and the society, in general, from the consequences of their follies by boldly telling the truth at their face. Inspired by their example, people also shed fear and became courageous and straightforward. The history of Muslim rule in India offers many number or instances when Muslim saints threw the consideration of personal safety to the winds and fulfilled, at the gravest peril of their lives, the Islamic duty contained in the Prophet’s Tradition that a most superior form of Jihad is to speak the truth in front of a tyrannical  ruler.

Sheikh Qutbuddin Munawwar was a Chishti saint who lived in solitude at the time of Sultan Mohammad bin Tughlaq. On one of his tours the King happened to pass through the area in which the saint lived, but the saint did not come to meet him. The King later summoned him to Delhi. When the saint entered the royal palace, the court nobles, ministers, heralds and attendants were standing in a double row in front of the throne. On seeing this imposing spectacle, his young son Nuruddin, who was with him and had never been in a king’s court before, was seized with fright. The Sheikh admonished him sternly, “Glory is for God, Baba Nuruddin”, he said to him in a loud voice. His son later said that as soon as he heard these words, he fell a new strength surging within him, all the fear disappeared and the Court grandees began to look to him as meek as goats.

The King complained to the saint, “When i was in your neighbourhood you neither counselled me nor honoured me with visit.”

The Sheikh replied, “The Dervish (A muslim ascetic) does not consider himself worthy of royal society. In his solitary corner he prays for the King as for the general body of Muslims, He will now beg to be excused.”

After the interview the King confided to a nobleman that he had noticed with all the spiritual leaders with whom he had the occasion to shake hands, that their hands trembled at the time, but Sheikh Munawwar’s grip was so firm that he seemed to be completely unaffected by the event.

The King then presented to him a purse of one lakh (100000) gold coins whereupon the Sheikh exclaimed, “Glory be! Two seers of pulses and rice and a pice (a former monetary unit of India) worth of ghee are enough for the dervish. What will he do with all this money ?” After great persuasion and on being advised that the King would be antagonized by a blank refusal, he agreed to accept 2,000 pieces which too he distributed among his brother-saints and other poor and indigent people before returning from Delhi.”1

To take another instance, again from the reign of Sultan Mohammad bin Tughlaq, Maulana Fakhruddin Zarradi had a strong aversion to meeting him. He used often to say that he saw his head rolling in his royal court (meaning that he will not hesitate to speak the truth in his presence and the King will not forgive him and behead him). At last he was called by the Sultan to his court.

“Give me some good advice”, the Sultan asked,

“Suppress anger”, the Maulana said.

“What anger ?”, asked the Sultan.

“The anger of the wild beasts”, the Maulana replied.

The king grew red in the face at the reply, but he kept quiet. After this the royal meal was ordered. The King shared his vessel with the Maulana and sometimes even fed him with his own lane. The Maulana ate with apparent dislike. When the meal was over, the Maulana came away.2

The Sufi saints upheld steadfastly the traditions of detachment, fearlessness and undaunted championship of truth though those were the days of absolute monarchy and despotic rule. The Kings too, under the force of their spirituality, felt compelled to allow them the freedom to perform their duty even when they showed no consideration to the forthright and honest Ulema (Muslim religious scholars). The spiritual leaders guarded zealously their self-­respect and dignity before mighty rulers, chieftains and noblemen right till the last days of the Mughal Empire.

It is reported that Emperor Shah Alam was once present in the Mehfil-Simaa of Khwaja Mir Dard when troubled by a painful leg he could not help stretching it a little. The Khwaja protested, “It a against the decorum of the society of the fakir (Dervish) to sit like this”. The Emperor apologized and indicated his discomfort upon which Khwaja Mir Dard remarked, “If you were not feeling well, what was the need to come ?”4

1. Siar-ul-Aulia, pp. 253-55

2. Siar-ul-Aulia, pp. 271-72

3. Among the Sufis this term is applied to an assembly in which hymns are sung to produce spiritual ecstasy.

4. Gul-i-Ra’ana, p.171

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