[Verily, on the beloved friends of Allah is there no fear, nor do they grieve. They are those who believe and are always conscious of Allah.] (Surah Yunus)
The very name Habibia is derived from the glimmering personality of Khwaja Habib Ali Shah Chisti RA, who was the Murshid (Spiritual Guide) of Moulana Abdul Latief RA. Habibia was designated as a Khanqah (Spiritual Hospice) by Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA, brother mureed (disciple) and brother in law of Moulana Abdul Latief RA. To understand the spiritual force that drives Habibia, one needs to look at the lives of these two sterling servants of Islam. In this regard it would be useful as a first step to paint a brief background to Sufism in India.
Sufism’s impact on India
Sufism reached great heights in India during the period from the 13th to the 15th centuries. Its spiritual teachings and practice during this era had a great impact on the local population. Many of them converted to Islam when they realized the positive effects Sufism would have on their lives. For three hundred years Hazrat Khwaja Mo`inuddin Chisti RA, the founder of the Chisti Order of Sufis in India, and later his deputies (Khulafaa), were engaged in the spiritual illumination of people in this country. The most prominent of these Khulafaa are Khwaja Qutboodien Bakhtiyar RA, Khwaja Farid-ud-din Ganj Shakr RA, Khwaja Nizamuddin Awliya RA, Khwaja Alaa`udin Sabiri RA and Khwaja Nasiruddin Chiragh Dehlawi RA. In spite of staunch opposition they were rewarded with amazing success in the spread of Islam in the Subcontinent – a spread that was to be extended worldwide wherever people of Indian descent settled.
From the 16th to 18th centuries the Chisti order gradually lost ground in India until another great Chisti upsurge took place in the 19th century with the appearance of a great spiritual personage in the form of Khwaja Shah Sulaymaan Tawsawi RA of Tawas in the Punjab. He lived to the ripe old age of 84, having spent all his life in the field of Islamic education and spiritual enlightenment. He conferred Khilaafah (deputyship) on seventy of his disciples (mureeds), among who was Sayyid Khwaja Hafiz Ali Shah RA of Khairabad, near Lucknow, who was referred to as the “Shibli of the Era” and “Sultanul Mashaikh” (the King of the Sheikhs’).
Hazrat Hafiz Paak*, as he was popularly known, established his spiritual centre in Khairabad, which proved to be a cradle of learning attracting knowledge-thirsty and spiritually-hungry seekers from all over India. (*Paak is an honorific title meaning “pure” that is used for a saintly person in the Indian subcontinent). One great personality who was destined to be attracted to this cauldron of wisdom and who was to quench his thirst from this fountain of erudition was Hazrat Khwaja Habib Ali Shah (R.A.).
Hazrath Khwaja Habib Ali Shah RA was of aristocratic lineage, being the youngest son of Nawaab [“Sir”] Ahmed Yaar Khan Muhiyyud Daulah the fourth. Khwaja Habib Paak RA was born in Hyderabad on the 20th of Jamaad Ath-Thani 1236 AH .
It is a known fact that at the time of Khwaja Habib Paak's RA birth a pious person was heard standing at their doorway and saying, "A Sheikh is born! A Sheikh is born!”
Khwaja Hafiz Ali Shah RA of Khairabad, who was to later become this newborn’s spiritual guide, also predicted the birth of Khwaja Habib Paak RA. Khwaja Hafiz Paak RA said to Ahmed Yaar Khan (who was his mureed), “In your house a son of mine will be born and you should name him Habib."
Upon hearing this, the Nawaab Ahmad Yaar Khan was silent and it crossed his mind as to how this could possibly be as his wife had passed child bearing age. Khwaja Hafiz Paak RA intercepted these thoughts of the Nawab and said, "No! No! A son will indeed be born in your house!"
After this, Khwaja Hafiz Paak RA returned to Khairabad. After two years Ahmad Yaar Khan's wife fell pregnant and gave birth to a very beautiful son who was named Habib Yaar Khan.
Four years later, Khwaja Hafiz Paak RA returned to Hyderabad. Upon his arrival he asked Ahmed Yaar Khan, "Has my son been born yet? I have come to perform his Bismillah Khani” [a tradition whereby a child begins to recite the Qur'an].
After Hafiz Paak RA performed Khwaja Habib Paak's RA Bismillah Khani he tested the young boy by placing some gold coins and sweetmeats in front of him. He then said to the young Habib Yaar Khan, “Choose whichever one of these you want by placing your hand on it.” The young boy replied, "I will take this and take that!" and placed one hand on the sweetmeats and the other on the coins. Hafiz Paak RA smiled and said, "This child will choose spirituality over wealth, and will be a wealth of spirituality."
At the age of sixteen, Khwaja Habib Ali Shah RA openly and out of his own accord renounced his billion rupee estate and his status as a Nawaab (royal), and became the mureed of Khwaja Hafiz Ali Shah RA.
Khwaja Habib Ali Shah RA handed himself completely to his murshid just as a dead body in the hands of the person giving him his final ghusl. His every action was upon the instruction of his murshid. The effect of his murshid's company began to impact greatly upon him. As time passed, Khwaja Habib Paak RA became so intoxicated in his murshid, that it was difficult to differentiate between the two. He was also accepted into the court of his murshid, and wherever he went, he was recognized as coming from Khairabad, from the court of Khwaja Hafiz 'Ali Shah RA. Hafiz Paak RA used to say, "Do not call him Habib Ali Shah Hyderabadi but address him as Habib Ali Shah Khairabadi!"
Due to his love for the Qur'aan, he memorized it first before proceeding to other studies. He excelled in the rational sciences, as well as studies in Hadith and Tafseer. He studied Persian and Arabic works of his era, and also took lessons of Moulana Rumi's RA Mathnawi Sharif under the tutorship of his murshid Khwaja Hafiz Paak RA. Khwaja Habib Paak RA also studied the works of the great Sufi masters, such as Kashf-ul-Mahjub by Hazrath Data Ganj Baksh Ali Hujwiri R.A., Dalaa’ilul `Aarifeen by Hazrath Khwaja Qutboodien Bakhtiyar Kaki R.A., Madaarijun Nubuwwah by Sheikh Abdul Haq Muhaddith Dehlawi RA, Raahatul Quloob by Khwaja Nizaamuddeen Awliya Mahboob Ilaahi RA, Fusus Al-Hikam by Sheikh Muhyuddeen ibn `Arabi RA, Ghunyatut Taalibeen (by Al-Ghowth Al-A`dham Sheikh Abdul-Qadir Jilani R.A., and the Tafseer of Imam Ibn Katheer. He used poetry to explain concepts of Tareeqah (the spiritual way) and the secrets of Ma`rifah (gnosis). His composition of poetry devoted to divine love is entitled Diwaan-¬e-Habib.
Service to humanity
During the lifetime of his murshid, he spent most of his time serving him and undergoing strenuous Mujaahadah (spiritual exercises). Khwaja Hafiz Paak RA then declared him the Qutub (Spiritual Axis) of Kokan, and instructed him to proceed to Bombay to guide the people there. Khwaja Hafiz Paak RA said to him, "Bombay is a new area being developed. Go and serve the community there. Show them the path to Allah. In that city you will find people of differing religions and ideas. Bring about love and peace among them."
In strict compliance with the instructions of his murshid, Khwaja Habib PaakRA stayed in Bombay (occasionally visiting Hyderabad for important functions) serving humanity up to his last breath. He established a centre in Dockyard Road, Najgown, which still exists today, perpetuating the legacy of selfless service for which its founder is famous. Hazrath Khwaja Habib Paak’s RA entire life speaks of profound spirituality, unblemished service and countless miracles. He not only took mureeds but trained them to serve as Khulafaa. He sent his renowned Khulafaa to different parts of the world with specific instructions that they selflessly serve humanity and that they propagate Islam in its pristine purity, refraining from indulging in futile debates and vain arguments. Thus the Habibia branch of the Chistiyyah Silsilah was inaugurated.
Silsilah and Bay`ah
As mentioned earlier, Khwaja Habib Paak RA took bay 'ah (spiritual allegiance) at the hand of Sheikhul Islam, the Qutub of his time, Hazrath Khwaja Hafiz Ali Shah Khairabadi RA. The Silsilah (spiritual order) continues via a chain of Mashaikh (grand masters) such as Khwaja Sulaymaan Tawsawi RA, Khwaja Noor Mahrewi RA, Hazrath Sheikh Kaleemullah Jahaan Abaadi RA, reaching Khwaja Naseeruddeen Mahmud Chiragh Dehlawi RA. From here the Silsilah links up with Sheikhul Mashaikh Khwaja Nizaamuddeen Awliya Mahboob Ilaahi RA, thereafter leading to Sheikhul Islam Khwaja Fareeduddeen Ganj Shakar RA, Qutbul Aqtaab Khwaja Qutboodien Bakhtiyar Kaki RA, and then reaching the Sovereign King of the Indo-Pak sub-continent, The Crown of Crowns, Khwaja-e-Khwajagaan, Sultan-ul-Hind Hazrath Khwaja Mo`inuddeen Chisti Hasan Sanjari Ajmeri RA. The chain then continues via the great masters until it reaches the Pride of Creation, Rahmatul lil `Aalameen Sayyidunaa Muhammad Mustafa, the Salutations and Peace of Allah are upon him.
Khwaja Habib Paak RA is also linked to the Qadiri Silsilah and reaches the King of the Awliya, Al-Ghowth Al-A`dham, Hazrath Sheikh Sayyid Abdul Qadir Jilani RA via a chain of twenty three Mashaikh. Via his paternal forefather, Hazrath Shaykh 'Abdul Ghafoor Chinki Samarqandi RA, he is linked to the first Khalifa of Islam, The Leader of the Believers, Hazrath Sayyidunaa Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (Allah be pleased with him).
His wisaal [departure to the next world]
Finally, this Blazing Sun of the Tareeqah, whose holy personality and teachings brought light to dark hearts, left this mundane world for the hereafter on the 6th of Dhil Hajj 1323 AH (1904), in the city of Bombay. Though he left this mundane world as per command of Allah, up to this day his Astana (institution) shines with a radiance which continues to enlighten hearts. From his Khanqah in Bombay, the blessed body of Khwaja Habib Ali Shah RA was transported via train to Hyderabad, and reached there only four days later, on the 10th of Dhil Hajj, due to the thronging crowds at every station, who wished to pay homage to the great Shaykh. His Janaazah Salaah was attended by thousands of people and up to this day, his mazaar (tomb) in Hyderabad stands as a beacon of guidance, emitting the sweet fragrance of the Chistiyyah Silsilah.
There are approximately twenty books written by Khwaja Habib Ali Shah RA, of which the Diwaan-e-Habib (3 Volumes) is among the most famous.
These are some of his utterances on various aspects of the Soofie path.
“DHIKR” (Remembrance of Allah)
"There are four types of Dhikr: Dhikr An-Naasoot, Dhikr Al-Malakoot, Dhikr Al-Jabaroot and Dhikr Al-Laahoot. Dhikr An-Naasoot is the dhikr of ‘La Ilaaha Ill-Allah’ (There is no god but Allah). Dhikr Al-Malakoot (also known as the dhikr of the Tareeqah) is to recite Ill-Allah (except Allah). Dhikr Al-Jabaroot (also known as the dhikr of Ma`rifah) is to recite the name ‘Allah’. Dhikr Al-Laahoot (also known as the dhikr of Haqeeqah [ultimate reality]) is to recite the name “Hu” [“He]”.
[The terms Nasut, Malakut, Jabarut and Lahut refer to specific dimensions of reality. Nasut refers to the corporeal, Malakut to the dimension of the souls; Jabarut to Allah’s Names and Lahut to the potentialities that exist in Allah’s Knowledge].
"A seeker should practice the following principles:
1. Eat less
2. Speak less
3. Sleep less
4. Associate less with the people”
“SAMA” [Spiritual music]
“Hazrath Junayd Baghdadi RA was asked as to why people become unconscious and fall into ecstasy while being absorbed in Sama. He replied, "On the original day of creation, when all the souls were asked by Allah in a most beautiful voice, 'Alastu bi Rabbikum’? (Am I not your Lord?) They were overcome by ecstasy upon hearing the divine voice.” Forgetfulness has been put into the body and soul- when one listens to sweet sounds it reminds them of the divine voice and one is overcome by ecstasy.
In reference to Fanaa, Khwaja Habib Ali Shah RA says that there are 3 types: Fanaa fish sheikh (annihilation in the Sheikh), Fanaa fir Rasool SAW (annihilation in the Messenger) and Fanaa Fillah (annihilation in Allah], and in every Fanaa there are thousands of degrees of Fanaa present.
His successors (Khulafaa)
Khwaja Habib Ali Shah RA left behind many spiritual successors, one of the most famous of whom was Hazrath Khwaja Shah Goolam Muhammad, popularly known as Sufi Sahib RA, of Durban.