Shah Farhad was born in Delhi but grew up in Burhanpur in central India where his father was a governor. As a child, he got attached to the sufi mystic Dost Mohammed who initiated him in the Abul Ulai order, an offshoot of the Chishti order. The young Farhad became involved in the remembrance of God, and to the despair of his father, he gradually let go of his worldly existence. He stopped paying attention to clothes and food. He reached the state of baqa, continuance in God, and gained a reputation of purifying the souls of people by his glance alone. Shah Farhad later settled in Delhi where he acquired a large following among Delhiwallas, both Muslims and Hindus. This evening’s crowd is a proof of his popularity.
Every morning before opening their stores, the traders in the neighbourhood come to the dargah to get their shop keys blessed by Shah Farhad. Childless women come asking for children. Students come to get their books blessed. “This shrine has a lot of benevolence,” says Sadia Dehlvi, author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam. “Your wishes are granted here.”
Shah Farhad’s shrine is also a place where you come to get rid of djinns, the mysterious beings who, according to Islamic beliefs, are made of smokeless fire. These supernatural creatures are everywhere but remain invisible. Sometimes they trap vulnerable people in their spell and make their life miserable. These possessed men and women then visit shrinks and shrines to become normal again. Some come to the dargah of Shah Farhad, also known as Sheikh ul Djinn, the master of djinns. Clinging to the grills, the tormented scream and shiver in agony, asking the djinns to leave them. If they become free, they become life long followers of the saint. There must be many such people in this multitude tonight. Who knows there may also be djinns.
On April 4, the 25th of the Islamic month of Jami-us-Sani, saw the 362 Urs celebrations of Shah Farhad. His father was the governor of Burhanpur and, in those days, a famous Sufi master, Hazrat Dost Muhammad, disciple of the famous Syedna Shah Ameer Abul Ulai Ahrari of Agra, stayed in Burhanpur. As a young child, Shah Farhad often accompanied his father to Shaykh Dost Muhammad’s Khanqah. Drawn to the mystic, the child began visiting him frequently. The spiritual inclination of the young lad disturbed his father and he requested the Sufi to somehow put an end to these visits.
Despite being dissuaded by the Sufi, the child continued to seek out the company of Hazrat Dost Muhammad. The father appealed to the Sufi again, “Farhad is my only son, and if such visits continue he will lose interest in worldly affairs. I am grooming him to be my political successor.” The Sufi assured the father that he would advise the child to stay away from him. Nevertheless, the young boy continued the visits. When his father repeated his fears to the mystic again, Shaykh Dost Muhammad commented, “You desire that your son stands with folded hands in front of kings, but Allah desires that kings should stand with folded hands in front of your son.” The father resigned himself to God’s will and entrusted the child to the mystic.
Hazrat Dost Muhammad initiated Shah Farhad in the Abul Ulai order, an offshoot of the Chishti and Naqshbandi orders. Shah Farhad achieved an exalted spiritual rank, gaining a reputation for cleansing souls with a sheer glance at those who sought his company. Continually absorbed in the remembrance of God, he remained unmindful of outwardly appearance, food or drink. Annihilating himself totally in God, forever absorbed in his remembrance, the Sufi master often appeared to be searching for something and, referring to himself, would say, “I am looking for Farhad who was here a while ago. Do you know where he has gone?”
Hazrat Dost Muhammad ordered Shah Farhad to leave Burhanpur and live in Delhi. Shah Farhad is also known by the title “Shaykh ul Jinn”, for it is said that countless Jinns were his disciples.
Muslims believe that Jinns exist in a parallel world and, like humans, can be good or evil. Sometimes these other worldly beings can clash with human beings, which results in them behaving abnormally, as if possessed by Jinns.
Many who feel possessed by Jinns come to the Dargah of Hazrat Shah Farhad, for they believe that Jinns are scared of him and leave the affected person. They come and hold the stone trellis around the tomb for three consecutive Thursdays, or a few days consecutively, and they have been cured of the jinn. Hazrat Shah Farhad is also known for blessing childless couples with children.
Ever so often, I see such couples bring their infant children for thanksgiving at the threshold of the Sufi. The Dargah of Shah Farhad near Sadar Bazaar is one of my favourite places in Delhi.