Baba Farid: Sufi saint

     Baba Fariduddin (Ganj-e-Shakar) is the great star in the stream or silsila of sufism. He was born in 1173-74 or 1175-76 in village Khotwal near Lahore. At the age of eighteen, Baba Farid settled in Multan to undertake further studies. There he had the fortunate chance to meet Khwaja Qutbu’d-Din Bakhtiyar Kaki, a great sufi saint of his time, and requested him to accept him his disciple, which request was accepted. The Khwaja then initiated Baba Farid in the Sufi silsila at Multan.

  Unconcerned with food or clothing, Farid was constantly occupied with meditation in a place behind the mosque at Khotwal. The townsfolk came to believe he was a deranged person and they spoke so of Farid and his strange habits to Shaikh Jalau’d-Din Tabrizi, himself a sufi saint. When Tabrizi went to see him, he found Baba Farid wearing torn clothes that caused a great difficulty in presenting himself in a civilized manner to his distinguished visitor. Jalalu’d-Din had with him a pomegranate, which he broke into pieces and offered the same to Baba Farid. As the Baba was fasting he refused to eat it. But after his guest had left he picked up a seed and ate the same in the evening. Instantly his heart was illuminated and he lamented for not having eaten the whole fruit. However Khwaja Qubu’d Din, later on while in Delhi, consoled the Baba saying that in pomegranate there was only one seed endowed with the spiritual blessings and that he had eaten that one. Shortly afterwards the Baba left for Delhi and was initiated into the distinguished group of Sufis residing in there. Baba Farid lived in a small cell and performed severe ascetic exercises. His austerities greatly impressed Khwaja Mu’inu’d-Din during his visit to Delhi and he took the special care and interest in Baba Farid. He prophesied the future fame of Farid and asked Khwaja Qutbu’d-Din to join him in prayer for his disciple’s future greatness.

  The severities practiced by the Baba in his Delhi cell were felt by him simply not enough and he asked his master if he could perform a chilla which involved spiritual exercises and fasting for forty days. The Khwaja finally permitted him to perform a chilla-I- ma’kus (inverted chilla). Ignorant of its details, he asked Bdru’d-Din Ghaznawi to obtain them from the Khwaja who replied that it required a man to tie a rope around his feet and remain suspended in a well, head down, for forty days and nights, while both fasting and praying. The Baba found a lonely mosque in Uch and, taking the mu’azzin into his confidence, performed the chilla-ima’kus.He came true in the test. After his fame in Delhi became an obstacle to prayer and meditation, Baba Farid left for Hansi in the Hisar district. After remaining for some time at Hansi, the Baba finally settled at Ajodhan, where he remained from about 1236 until his death on 17 October 1265. His long stay on the Stalaj, along one of the main routes from Multan to Lahore and Delhi, was a spiritually rewarding experience. Although he chose a lonely place to reside, Baba Farid was harassed by local officers of the Qazi of Ajodhan and by the rudeness of the people of the town. This was prompted mainly by the Qazi’s hostility towards the sufi movement.

  Shaikh Faridu’d-Din lived in a small house of mud walls covered with a thatched roof. He had strictly forbidden the use of burnt bricks for the building which, according to Chishti tradition, were of much worldly pretentions and thus not suitable for an ascetic’s simple dwelling. His dwelling’s door remained open until midnight as a welcome gesture to visitors. Among his few possessions, the Baba had a small rug which he used by nights as a blanket, though it hardly covered his body. During the day it was used as a sitting rug. Khwaja Qutbu’d-Din’s stick rested behind his head as a pillow. His food consisted of wild fruit and millet bread. Abstaining from nourishment during the day, in the evening he broke his fast by taking sherbet. A bowl of it would be brought to the Baba and often mixed with dried grapes. Of this he never drank more than half, dividing the rest among his visitors. After prayers, two pieces of bread smeared with ghee were taken to Baba Farid. One was given away, the other he himself ate, sharing it with his favourite disciples.The jama’at-khana consisted only of a thatched hall and contained not a single piece of furniture. Every member sat and slept on the floor. On special occasions a bed was provided for a new visitor. The Shaikh, followed the same practices as his disciples. If unwell and thus forced to rest on the bed, the Baba apologized profusely to those sitting on the floor. The establishment was run by Baba’s chief disciples. Fuel and wild berries, which were then boiled, were collected from the forests. In the early years of his stay at Ajodhan a zanbil (a basket made of palm leaves hung round the neck) was carried by some members of the jama’at-khana twice a day to the town and the offerings placed in it were shared by everyone. The Baba also preferred to eat bread from the zanbil. Other Chishti Shaikhs, including his own teachers, had permitted the borrowing of small amounts of money for household needs, but the Baba strictly forbade this practice. Anything received as futuh if not used immediately was kept no longer than a day and was distributed to the needy. To a Sufi a new day ushered in new hope in God, and a concern for future needs was seen as totally opposed to a complete trust in Him.

  The jama’at-khana, situated on a main route, attracted many visitors. These included scholars, merchants, government servants, artisans, Sufis and qalandars, in short, men from all classes and sections of society. Some, disillusioned with a life of affluence and comfort, became permanent members, others stayed for short periods to seek the Baba’s blessing and experience a spiritual rejuvenation. Some of his eminent disciples who lived in other areas also visited the jama’at-khana. Baba Farid was himself a scholar and wrote excellent poetry in Arabic, Persian and the local Hindawi dialect. Nevertheless, he did not pride himself on his intellectual achievements and felt a genuine sense of humility. “The faqirs”, he asserted, “were superior to the ‘ulama’ and occupied the same place among them as the full moon amongst a constellation of stars”. Prestigious guests and many other people who came to the Shaikh were humble. A large number requested ta’wiz (amulets) and the demand for amulets became so great that it became difficult to fulfill all requests and therefore they often would be written instead by Maulana Ishaq, one of his disciples.

  Many miracles are attributed to him during his lifetime and after his passing away. Once one Mohammed Nishapuri, a  devotee of Hazrat Baba Farid, lived in Gujerat and was going to Delhi with his three other companions. On their way through the jungle, robbers came upon them. Nishapuri and his companions had no wepons to defend against the robbers. Faced with such a predicament, Nishapuri remembered his Pir, Hazrat Baba Farid., and prayed Allah seeking His help in this moment of their need. To their surprise, the robbers threw their weapons away, offered an apology for the intended mischief and went away without causing any harm to them. In connection with the reason why he came to be known as as Ganj-e- Shakar (Store of Sugar) it is narrated that once a trader was taking a caravan of camels laden with sugar from Multan to Delhi. When he was passing through Ajodhan, Hazrat Baba Fariduddin  enquired casually as to what he was carrying on his camels. The trader sarcastically replied, “It is salt.“ Hazrat Baba Fariduddin also affirmed, “Yes, it may be salt.” When the trader reached Delhi, he was awfully perturbed to find that all his bags of sugar had turned to salt. He immediately returned to Ajodhan and apologized before Hazrat Baba Farid. Hazrat Baba Farid said: “If it is sugar then it shall be sugar.” The trader returned to Delhi and was pleased to find that the salt had turned back to sugar by the Grace of Almighty Allah. This is how Hazrat Baba Sahib. received the title of ‘Ganj-e- Shakar.’ In this respect some relate another incident of his life. It is stated that, overpowered by incessant fasting for three days, the Baba placed some pebbles in his mouth. These immediately changed into sugar. Baba Farid, believing that this had been the work of the devil, spat them out. At midnight, again overcome by hunger, he repeated his actions, the stones became sugar and he refused to eat them. Finally, overpowered by extreme hunger he ate some pebbles which had become sugar so that he could continue praying. Khwaja Qutbu’d-Din approved his action, telling him that whatever was received from the unseen world must necessarily be good.

  Five hundred aphorisms of Baba Farid were collected, which give insight in his teachings.

  Baba Farid said, “Pray to God alone, for everyone else takes away but He gives. Whatever He gives cannot be taken away by anyone else.” He said, “Do not satisfy the demands of the carnal self, for its demands know no limit. Self-restraint is never as imperative as it is at the time (or, rather in the matter) of sexual desire. Escaping from the carnal self should be deemed as a means of reaching God. Try to become immortal by obliterating your carnal self.”

  He said, “Never forget death at any place. Do not flee from calamity sent to you by God. Treat a calamity as the consequence of greed. Accept affliction as a gift. Consider worldliness as unforeseen calamity.” He further said, “Do not make the heart a plaything of the devil. Give up immediately that which your heart finds evil.”

  He taught, “Do not try to adorn yourself. Keep your internal self better than the external one.” He further taught, “While doing good to others think that you are helping yourself. Seek a pretext to perform a good work. Strive to obtain fresh grace every day. There is no compensation for the (loss of) time. Make wisdom and solitude your (main) provision.” His teaching is, “Seek out your faults. Acquire knowledge through humility.” The inner nature of the Baba’s mystical consciousness is best expressed in the following verses which he often recited while praying in solitude: “I pray to live only for the sake of loving Thee; I wish to become dust and dwell eternally under Thy feet. My principal expectation from both worlds in that, I should die and live for Thee.”

  Throughout his life, he fasted and occupied himself with his nightly prayers and devotions. On 17 October, 1265 during the Isha prayer [evening prayer] while in the act of Sajdah, [prostration during prayer] he uttered “Ya Hayo Ya Qayum” [O Self-Subsisting, O Eternal, that is God] and with these words on his lips his soul disappeared into the eternal bliss of his beloved Allah. Immediately a “Nida” or Divine Voice declared: “Dost ba Dost Pewast” – Friend has merged into the unity of “Friend” (Allah). He was buried in Pak Pattan (135 miles off Lahore).

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