Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti r.a. popularly known as Khwaja Gharib Nawaz (The Patron of the Poor) was the founder of the Chishtiyyah Order of Sufis in India. He is one of the most outstanding figures in the history of Islamic Mysticism.
The Chishtiyyah Silsila is one of the most popular and influential mystic orders in Islam. It derives its name from Chisht, a village near Herat, where the real founder of the Order, Khwaja Abu Ishaq r.a. of Syria, settled. Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti r.a. brought the Silsila to India at the close of the 11th century A.D. and established its centre in Ajmer, whence the order spread far and wide in India and became a force in the spiritual life of the Muslims.
Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti r.a. was born in 536 A.H./1141 A.D. in Sajistan (Persia) and was the direct descendent of a noble family coming down from a direct lineage of the holy Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.s. He was a Hassani and a Hussaini Syed ['Syed' means one's ancestry can be traced back to the Prophet Muhammad, p.b.u.h. himself and in this case through both Hadrat Hassan, r.a. and Hadrat Hussain, r.a., who were the sons of Hadrat Ali, r.a.]. He was brought up in Khorasan and received his early education at home from his father, Hazrat Syed Ghayasuddin, r.a. At the age of 9, he committed the Holy Qur'an to memory.
After the demise of his father, he inherited a grinding stone and a garden, which formed a source of his livelihood. From an early age he loved the company of saints, mystics and dervishes. The persistent sacks and destruction of Khorasan (including Sajistan) by the hordes of Ghuzz tribe of the barbarous Tartars proved to be a turning point of his life at the early age of 14. Fired by overwhelming human passion, he was divinely inspired to renounce the world at this early age.
Distributing all his worldly belongings to the poor, he went to Bukhara and Samarqand to join the famous Nizamia Universities there for his theological education. He brilliantly completed his academic courses in 5 years.
In order to quench his spiritual thirst, he left Iraq for Arabia and on his return from there he undertook a journey to a place called Harwan (a.k.a. Haroon). He became the Murid of Hazrat Khwaja Usman Harooni r.a., a great Sufi mystic of his time. Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti r.a. remained in the company of his Pir-o-Murshid and travelled with him carrying his Murshid's belongings on his head. They travelled to Mecca, Medina, Iraq, Syria, Samarqand, Afghanistan, etc. meeting many great saints.
While they were in Mecca, Hazrat Khwaja Usman Harooni r.a. took Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti r.a. to the Holy Ka'bah and made Du'a [supplications] for him and a voice was heard declaring: "We have accepted Mu'inuddin as one of our beloved devotees." In Medina Sharif, [Sharif = noble] while in the Darbar of Sayyidina Rasulullah s.a.w.s Hazrat Khwaja Usman Harooni r.a. instructed Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti r.a. to offer his homage and salutations respectfully. In doing so, a voice was heard saying, "Wa alaikumus salaam ya qutbul mashaa'ikh-e-bahr-o-bar (Peace be upon you also, O Head of the Pious of the earth and the sea)." On hearing this his Pir-o-Murshid said to him, "Now indeed you have reached perfection."
After full 20 years hard training in Islamic mysticism under this great Pir-o-Murshid, Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin r.a. was bestowed with Khilafat in the Chishtiyyah Silsila. His Murshid, [Shaikh] after advising him, handed over his Asa Mubarak (Sacred Staff), wooden sandals and Musallah to Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin (radi Allahu anhu) saying that those Tabbarukaats have come down from Sayyidina Rasulullah s.a.w.s. in succession.
In 583 A.H. [1187 C.E.] when he was absorbed in prayer at the Holy Ka'bah, he heard a voice saying, "O Mu'inuddin! We are greatly pleased with you. You have been given salvation. Ask for anything that you may like." He submitted respectfully, "O Allah, give salvation to the followers and disciples of Mu'inuddin." A reply was heard, "O Mu'inuddin, you are accepted by Us. I will give salvation to your followers and disciples and also to those who may enter your fold till the Day of Qiyamat."
After performing the Hajj, he was once again divinely inspired from Medina Sharif to go to Ajmer (India) to preach Islam: "O Mu'inuddin, you are the helper of my religion. I entrust to you the country of Hindustan (India). Proceed to Ajmer and spread the gospel of truth." Not knowing where Ajmer was situated, the Holy Prophet s.a.w.s came in Hazrat Khwaja Sahib's r.a. dream and showed him where the city of Ajmer was situated.
On his way to Ajmer and passing through Afghanistan, Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti's r.a. spiritual impact converted the notorious and cruel Yadgar Muhammad into one of Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin's r.a. devoted Murids. Yadgar Muhammad did not previously recognize and respect the first three Caliphs of Islam; neither had he any respect for Sufis nor for any holy saints. Now, after meeting Hazrat Khwaja Sahib r.a., Yadgar Muhammad repented and distributed his wealth to the poor and needy, divorced his many wives, freed all his slaves and renounced the world. He stayed and travelled with his Murshid.
Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti r.a. proceeded to Delhi via Fort Shadman, Multan, Lahore and Samana. At Lahore, he stayed for 40 days that the Mazaar Sharif of Hazrat Data Ganj Baksh (Hazrat Ali Hujwiri r.a.) In Delhi, Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin r.a. started delivering his sermons and discourses in a soft language dipped in honey attracting thousands of Hindus and Muslims. But he had set his sight on Ajmer, which had been away from the light of learning and guidance. He wanted the city of Ajmer to be the centre of learning, teaching and spiritual activities.
Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti r.a. reached Ajmer with about 40 followers in the year 587 A.H. Here he received fierce opposition from the ruler of Ajmer, Raja Pritvi Raj. He did nothing to antagonize the Hindu ruler. His mission was simply that of love and learning, purity and guidance. In a short time, the entire area was filled with the truth of unity of Allah. Men and women in thousands took the oath of allegiance on his hands.
But this large-scale conversion to Islam displeased the Hindu ruler and he started putting the Muslims to hardships. Pritvi Raj sent Ajai Pal and Sadhu Ram, who were magicians, to destroy Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti r.a. with black magic, but they failed at every turn. Both Ajai Pal and Sadhu Ram were so much impressed by Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti r.a. that they accepted Islam and became his devoted Murids.
A great Muslim army general, Shahabuddin Ghouri, who was in Khorasan, saw Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti r.a. in a dream who instructed the general, "It has been ordained by Allah that you shall be the ruler of India. Direct your attention soon and arrest Pritvi Raj and punish him."Acting upon this instruction, Shahabuddin Ghouri came to India to face the army of Pritvi Raj. The Muslim general and the small band of Muslim army, encountering fierce opposition, eventually defeated the Hindu army and went to Ajmer to pay homage to Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti r.a. and become his Murid.
Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti r.a. was the embodiment of plain living and high thinking. His noble disposition, his marvellous self-control, his renunciation, self abnegation, selfless service, his patience, his love, fortitude and courage earned him the respect from his admirers and devotees. He passed his days in Almighty Allah's remembrance. He was free from avarice and greed. He had no lust for power, no wish for name and fame, and no desire for wealth. He sought only the pleasure of Allah and His Rasul s.a.w.s. [Messenger]. He was deeply loved by his Pir-o-Murshid, who used to say, "Our Mu'inuddin is a beloved of Allah and I feel proud of the fact that he is my disciple. He followed the Holy Prophet s.a.w.s. very faithfully in his daily life. The fear of Allah forever dominated his mind."Hazrat Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki r.a. says that he never saw a beggar or any needy leaving his door without taking something . Hence one of his popular titles was "Gharib Nawaz" (Patron of the Poor).
Although Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti r.a. did not know the language of Hindustan because he spoke Persian, he converted about nine and a half million into the folds of Islam. Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti r.a. did not conquer India with his sword but with love. The Sama mehfils[assemblies of religious music] of his proved as a cementing force for the spread of Islam and brought the people together.
Shaikh Mu'inuddin Ibn Arabi, Hazrat Fariduddin Attar, Hazrat Shams-e-Tabriz and Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi rahmatula alaihim were all contemporaries of Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti r.a.
On the 14th of Jamad-us Thani 627 A.H., Khwaja Sahib r.a. bestowed the Khilafat upon Hazrat Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki r.a.
On Monday, 6th Rajab in 627 A.H. [April 29, 1230 C.E..], after the night prayers, Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti r.a. went into his room and did not allow anyone to enter. When the door remained closed at the time of Morning Prayer, his devotees opened the door and found that Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti r.a. passed away. On his blessed forehead was written: "He was the beloved of Allah, and he died in the Love of Allah."
Hazrat Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti's r.a. Mazaar Sharif [noble tomb] is in Ajmer Sharif and thousands of people assemble there every day to pay respects to the greatest saint of the Chishtiyya Silsila.