Shaykh Kaleemullah is credited with reviving the Chishti Sufi order in Delhi. Following the death of Shaikh Nasiruddin Chiragh of Delhi in the 14th century, the Chishti “silsila’ suffered a serious setback. Muhammad bin Tughlaq shifted to the Deccan, forcing the entire population, including the Sufi, to leave Delhi and migrate to the new capital. The Sufi made his “khanqah” in the famed Khanam Bazaar of Delhi , close to the Red Fort, where innumerable Sufis visited him regularly.
He led a simple life, rejecting offers of official grants. His sole income came from a house, which he rented out for 2 rupees a month. He stayed in a house with a cheaper rent of 50 paise, using the remaining money for his personal needs. The mystic offered Friday prayers at the Jama Masjid along with Farrukhsiyar, the Emperor of Delhi, who was his ardent devotee but could not talk to him without seeking prior permission.
Shaykh Kaleemullah was born in Delhi in 1650, to a family of Turkish descent. His grandfather, Shaykh Ahmad-e-Mimar, happened to be a famed mathematician and the chief architect for the magnificent Taj Mahal, the Jama Masjid and the Red Fort of Delhi. All of his three sons were architects and engineers. The Shaykh’s father, Haji Nurullah, a skilled calligrapher, made the drawings for the inscriptions at the Jama Masjid in Delhi.
Commenting on the architectural and scholarly skills of the family, Maulana Azad wrote that Shaykh Kaleemullah was an “architect of peace”, directed by God to construct brotherhood among humanity. The highly educated Shaykh Kaleemullah wrote commentaries on Bahauddin Amuli’s work on astronomy and on Ibne Sina’s (Avicenna) treatise on medicine. A prolific writer, Shaykh Kaleemullah authored a total of 32 books, including a commentary on the Quran and other masterpieces on Sufi philosophy, such as “Muraqqa” and “Ashra-e-Kamila”. His treatise “Kashkol” is considered important devotional literature by followers of the Chishti Order. The Shaykh taught that union with God is marked by an unconscious and trance-like state resembling death, except that in death one does not partake in the Divine Mystery.
He defined a Sufi as one invested with Divine Knowledge, asserting that each action of the seeker should be towards annihilation of the self. He taught that constant remembrance (zikr) of the Lord led to the seeker’s awareness of spiritual dimensions. The objective of this remembrance is to reorient the heart in order to prepare it for consummation with the ecstatic love of God. He elaborated on many forms of “zikr”(remembrance) —that of the tongue, heart, soul and spirit. He affirmed that the enlightened ones performing “zikr” of the spirit would be bathed in Divine Colours.
The mystic advocated “habs-e-nafs” (breath control), acknowledging that had borrowed breathing techniques from the “yogis”. He recommended many “yogic postures” to his disciples. A cheerful personality, Shaykh Kaleemullah was extremely fond of music assemblies. The Shaykh died in Delhi in 1729, and lies buried in the house where he lived. His “dargah”, situated opposite the Red Fort, has some of the finest “qawwali” singers perform on Thursday evenings.
—- Sadia Dehlvi