In order to understand spirituality, it is important to understand the concept of Ruh (Spirit). While there is no gender in the spiritual form the way gender applies to human body but the Ruh is feminine before God. That is why it surrenders before Him. That is why in all of Sufi poetry penned down by Saints of all times, they always refer to their Beloved Allah as He and to themselves as female beings crying out for their Beloved, singing for Him, dancing for Him, tirelessly looking for means to please Him so He may glance their way. The Shrines of Saints are places of Faiz and Blessings. It is here that the Spirit is giving Faiz in the feminine and He, the Beloved is spreading love in the masculine. This is the state where there is no lover or beloved but they are One.
Today we will talk about a famous Saint whose shrine is in present-day Gujrat, in Pakistan. His real name is Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) but he became famously known as ‘Kawan wali Sarkar’ (The Master of the crows). He lived during the 19th century. Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) belonged to the Arain caste which is not considered a sacred caste like the Syeds (Lineage of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH) but rather a very average caste in the region. His family owned land and he had three brothers. They all had to plough their farms on a daily basis in order to keep the soil fertile and hence get their share of produce later. The brothers used to make Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) plough as well. An alama (religious scholar) of a nearby madrassah (religious school) belonged to the Chishti Sufi order and had spiritual insight. He was known as Chishti baba. When he first saw Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) he felt the spiritual light inside of him. Thereafter, every time Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) would enter the classroom for his lessons, Chishti baba would stand in respect. The other students began to notice this and questioned their teacher about this but he refused to answer their questions. The word of this spread around and Hazrat Karam Ilahi’s (RA) brothers came to Chishti baba and inquired about this matter because many villagers were now questioning this strange behaviour on the teachers’ part. Chishti Baba said to the brothers ‘I can’t reply to your question but what I will do is request you to please stop ordering your brother to plough his share of the land. I have seen the spiritual light in him. He is an elevated WaliAllah (Saint) of his time’. Hazrat Karam Ilahi’s (RA) brother Fazal Ilahi returned home and narrated the entire meeting to his mother. Upon hearing this the mother replied ‘I feel Chishti baba’s answer has some truth in it because when Karam Ilahi was born, I noticed the entire room was suddenly bathed in bright white light (Nur) and I felt the presence of many spiritual beings all dressed in white full of Nur. They placed a spot of Nur on his forehead and kissed him’.
As time went on, the brothers forgot the significance of this warning and continued to force Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) to plough his share of the land. One day, Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) arrived to commence ploughing and as soon as he placed his foot on the blade to push the cows to start moving, suddenly they began to run, ploughing the land behind them. Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) remained standing in one spot and within a few minutes, the entire land was completed. The brothers were left flabbergasted at this Karamat (miracle) and Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) walked away saying ‘Here, my share is done’. Another time, when the brothers asked him to bring water from the well nearby to irrigate the land, he had only turned to walk towards the well when the water in the well gushed forth on its own, irrigating the land.
When a few years passed and Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) was older, Chishti baba said to him ‘You need a Murshid/ a Master.’ In his search for a master Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) travelled far and wide and gained blessings from many but no one melted his heart and the longing in him began to grow. Then one day he learned of a Saint from Jhang who was called Shah Sahib. He lived in Gujrat. Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) went to pay a visit and upon meeting with Shah Sahib, his heart began to beat faster. Shah Sahib said to him ‘Oh, you have finally arrived. We have been waiting for you to initiate you’. Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) fell at his feet and said ‘I was waiting to find a Master who would say this to me and my heart would become peaceful. I have found you’. He was initiated by Shah Sahib and trained in the spiritual disciplines for many years. Then one day the master instructed Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) to travel to Dehli. Without questioning why he set foot on his journey. As he reached Dehli, still wondering where to go, a man came across him and enquired about his destination. Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) told him that he was sent here by his spiritual master but was not sure where to go. The man offered him to stay at his place until things became a bit clearer. Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) agreed and went to the man’s house who kept him as a guest and was very hospitable. Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) noticed that every night the house would be filled with a sweet fragrance. Unable to contain his curiosity, one night he decided to follow the smell and upon passing a few doors noticed a white light coming from a room. Upon reaching closer he noticed it was the same man who had brought him to his house, deeply engrossed in Allah’s Zikr and white Light (Nur) surrounded him. Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) was very surprised and while he was still pondering over this mystery, that man turned around and said to him ‘Don’t worry Karam Ilahi, you didn’t know me but you were sent here and I was sent to you by your Master so that you can receive your share of Faiz (Blessings) from me. So take your share and then leave.’ Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) stayed with him for a year and a half and then returned to Gujrat.
Then one day Shah Sahib instructed Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) to go build a bridge in a nearby town. He joined the labourers and began to work. When the labourers would have their meals, Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) would mix flour in water and drink that. One day the supervisor had a tummy ache, Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) gave him his drink to have and his ache was relieved. Soon many people came to him with illnesses and were healed by his touch. The supervisor realised this was not an ordinary man so he asked him to stop working as a labourer and instead be on site as the security guard. Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) agreed. Then one night, the supervisor saw him standing close to the construction site guarding the place. But when he returned to the labourer’s quarters, he heard the sound of Zikr from one of the rooms and when he peered inside he saw Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) deeply engrossed in Zikr. This left him speechless and without a shadow of a doubt that this man was a great Saint. He refused to let him work and instead offered him to pay the entire wage nevertheless. Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) did not accept this saying that he could not accept a wage for work he did not do. He then returned to his Master and completed the remaining of his spiritual training. The Master then ordered him to go sit in a nearby jungle and continue his zikr. There was no food or water nearby. One day Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) hit the heel of his foot to the ground three times calling out to his master and a well came forth. This well is present in Gujrat to this day and people of all creeds and religions go there to be healed and for their matters to be resolved successfully.
Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) became famous in the nearby villages. People started coming to him with their problems. He would bless them and heal the sick. He started to go into a Majzoobi rang most of the time (Majzoob is one who is totally immersed in the Divine). He would often perform dhamal (A kind of whirling spiritual dance). Villagers would bring langar (Food) which he would distribute amongst all who visited and whatever was left, he would feed it to the crows and that’s how he became known as ‘Master of the crows’. There was an alim (religious scholar) during his time who used to make fun of him. He considered himself to be an authority over all religious matters and called Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) a fool because he used to be shabbily dressed and did not care about appearances (This was because he was often in a Majzoobi state and therefore in divine consciousness). This alim happened to travel to Turkey to visit the Shrines of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) companions. On his way back he was met with a storm and the ship sank. The alim managed to grab hold of a raft which kept him afloat. While caught in this dilemma, he began to pray to Allah. Remembering how he would make fun of Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA), he started to weep and asked for forgiveness promising that he would pay his respects to Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) if he survived and returned home safely. He called out to Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) and asked him to intercede on his behalf to Allah and pray for his resuce’. While separated by thousands of miles, the moment the alim said these words, Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) heard them and a smile appeared on his face although he was in his usual majzoobi state. He looked towards the sky and in Punjabi spoke to the wind and said ‘O wind, rise up so high so you lift him up and bring him before us in an instant’. This man reached home safely and paid a visit to Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA). He begged for forgiveness and was initiated by him. He spent his remaining life with Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) and was granted Khilafat (succession) by his Master.
Once a Sikh man came to Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) and told him about his five sons who had been imprisoned. He asked for his prayers so that they may be released. Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) was engrossed in his spiritual state as usual. Without looking up, he picked up his stick and hit the man four times. Before he could hit him the fifth, the man cried out and backed off. Hazrat Karam Ilahi (RA) said to him ‘Go, four of your sons will be released. You moved away too early. The fifth one can no longer be saved’. The ways of the Sufis are mysterious, one can never understand them through the rational mind, only faith enables one to accept and gain blessings.
Another story is of a time when seven men from his town began to doubt his piety. They thought of his shabby state and questioned why people considered him to be a Saint. So they decided to test him and see if he prayed at night or not. One night they decided to split up and check his whereabouts. Two of them came to the spot where he spent his day and five of them went to the room where he was thought to sleep. Both groups saw him, the former saw him as his usual majzoobi self whereas the latter saw him dressed in white, bent over reciting the Quran. The next morning all seven presented themselves before him and told him what they had done. They asked for his forgiveness and were later given much spiritual faiz by him. When Hazrat Karam Ilahi’s (RA) own brothers came to him fighting over their land, he asked them to bring a piece of bread. He broke the bread into three and gave it to them saying ‘I give you my share of the land too. You take it, I have no need for it’.
His Shrine is a place of blessings to this day and thousands come to pay their respects every year. So many rulers and kings came and went yet no one remembers them but Saints live on forever. By surrendering their ego before their Beloved, they gain immortality and live through Him. There are Saints amongst us even today as there were yesterday and as there will be tomorrow but people have lost Faith and they doubt too much. It only takes an instant to be given the secrets but it takes a lifetime to cultivate the attitude of an Ashiq, a true lover. Yet only a true lover can walk this most Sacred of Paths.