R evered to this day as Sultan-e-Hind and Gharib Nawaz, ‘Khwaja’ Moinuddin Chishti was a great religious scholar and mystic who came to Hindustan from Persia in early 13th century. His dargah at Ajmer is visited by millions every year, a living monument to the eternal love of the follower dedicated to unite with God.
Chishti was also noted for encouraging his disciples to actively use music in their devotions, liturgies and hymns to God. He was himself famous as a musician, a virtuoso in playing the sitar and several other instruments.
Legend has it that five times during the day when Chishti was required to offer ritual prayers, he would instead sing and play on his instrument. But so devout and spiritually moving were his musical prayers that even maulvis coming to object would be reduced to silent contemplation.
Once, it is said that Jilani, himself a great mystic, came from Baghdad to see Gharib Nawaz. When Chishti heard of his impending arrival, he felt that to pay respect to the venerable guest it will not be proper to sing and play his instrument for that day. After stowing his instruments away, he awaited his visitor from morning, and in the afternoon Jilani came.
After the affectionate meeting, as both sat in silence, suddenly Khwaja’s humble abode began filling with divine music. Puzzled and dismayed greatly, Chishti found that his instruments had started to make music on their own! He had hidden them, and yet they were making such music he had never known before…
Laughing out loud, Jilani said, “Rules are not for you, they are for ordinary people. You should not hide your instruments. For after all, can you hide your soul? Your hands may not play, you may not sing from your throat, but your whole being is singing in devotion to God. There are so many vibrations in this room of yours, that it is playing music by itself!”
After Chishti passed away in 1236 AD, his tomb became a venerated site, visited by the likes of Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq, Emperor Akbar (14 times on foot during his reign) and British Queen Mary. His followers later on developed and gifted to the world the magic of Sufi music, widely loved for inspiring meditational visions in the mind of the listener.
– — the harbinger