Khwaja Fariduddin Masood Ganjshakar, commonly known as Baba Farid was one of the most influential Sufi preacher and saint of Chishti Order, a Sufi order within the mystic branches of Islam which was founded in Chisht, a small town near Herat, Afghanistan about 930 CE. He was widely renowned for his intensely rigorous spiritual striving (Mujahidas) in Allah’s path. He also played an important role in propagation of Islam within greater India. He is respected both by Muslims and Hindus. His verses have been collected in Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred Sikh scripture by Guru Nanak and also considered as one of the fifteen Sikh Bhagats within Sikhism.
Khwaja Fariduddin was a descendant of Farrukh Shah Kabuli, the King of Afghanistan. When Farrukh Shah Kabuli was killed by the Mongol hordes invading Kabul, Farid’s grandfather Shaykh Shoaib left Afghanistan and settled in the Punjab in 1125. Khwaja Fariduddin born in 1173 CE (584 Hijri) at Kothewal village, 10 km from Multan in the Punjab region of Pakistan. His father’s name was Jamal-ud-din Suleiman and mother Maryam Bibi (Qarsum Bibi).
When Khwaja Fariduddin was conceived, his mother used to spend her days and nights in prayer. After his father’s death at very early age, his mother took the responsibility of his religious education. When Hazrat Khwaja Farid was a few years old his mother taught him his prayers. The boy asked what was gained by his prayers. His mother replied ‘sugar’. She used to hide some sugar crystals under his prayer-mat, and, when he had finished his prayers, she would draw it forth and give it to Farid as a reward for his devotion. On one occasion, when his mother was absent, he prayed a great deal, and, it is said, he found a correspondingly greater supply of sugar under his carpet. Pleased with the size of his ‘reward’ he ate some himself and shared the the rest with his playfellows. He related the circumstance to his mother on her return and as she had forgot to place his usual reward under his prayer mat she realized it was a miraculous gift from God, so she gave him the surname Shakar Ganj, meaning a “treasury of sugar”.
According to a legend, a miracle occurred before his birth proving his Saint ship. One day, during the pregnancy of his mother, she wanted to pluck some plums from her neighbor’s tree without his permission, but the child in her womb (Fariduddin) created a severe pain in her stomach that forced her to abandon the idea of plucking. After a few years after Hazrat Khwaja Farid birth, his mother lovingly expressed: “My dear son, during your confinement I never ate anything which was unlawful.” Hazrat Fariduddin however, smiled and said, “But, my dear mother, you wanted to pluck some plums from our neighbor’s tree without his permission when I had created a severe pain in your stomach which saved you from this unlawful act.”
After he had completed his early religious education at the age of 7 in Khotwal, his mother sent him for higher education to Multan, which had become a centre for sufi education, also known as the City of Saints. Here he stayed in a masjid where he learnt the Holy Qur’an by heart and studied Hadith, Fiqh, Philosophy and Logic.There he met his murshid (master), Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, a noted Sufi saint, whose spiritual predecessors derive in an unbroken line from the Prophet of Makka. During his visit through Multan, from Bagdad, Qutub-ul-din Bakhtiyar Kaki get so impressed by the child’s spiritual prowess that he immediately accepted him as his mureed (disciple).
Khwaja Fariduddin wanted to leave with him for Delhi immediately, but Kaki advised him to first finish his education. Thereafter completing his education, Khwaja Farid left for Sistan and Kandahar and went to Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage at the age of 16. Once his education was over, he shifted to Delhi, where he received his spiritual position from his priest Khwaja Qutub-ul-din Bakhtiyar Kaki.
Khwaja Fariduddin’s mujahedas were of such rigour that few in the history of sufism have managed to surpass them. Once he was ordered by Khwaja Qutbudeen Kaki to perform a forty night seclusion (Chilla-e-Maakoos) whilst suspended upside down in a well, being pulled up only for salaah and to perform more ordinary devotions. It is rarely undertaken by Sufis and was one of the most difficult tests of Khwaja Fariduddin’s faith and courage. Khwaja Fariduddin reached the peak of spiritual glory through extremely hard Mujahidas (spiritual striving) to gain mastery over the Nafs.
Khwaja Fariduddin was ordered by his murshid to begin a tour of all the Islamic countries in order to meet the leading mystics of his time. On this journey, he came into contact with many great sufis. Whilst in Madinah performing Hajj, he was spiritually directed by the Holy Prophet (sws) to go to Baghdad. Doing so, he was welcomed by the son of Hazrat Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani and given various sacred relics such as a turban and wooden food bowl of Rasulallah. After eighteen years of travelling, he returned to Delhi. He was then ordered to perch Islam at Hansi. Before he had been settled down there he received the sad news of Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki’s death.
After the death of his murshid Khwaja Fariduddin assumed the role of spiritual successor of his Master, but he settled in Ajodhan (now known as “Pak Patan” Pakistan) instead of Delhi because of the political upheavals. Ajodhan was a small, isolated town surrounded by jungles and wild animals, but with the spiritual blessings of Khwaja Fariduddin it soon became a bustling centre of Islam. Thousands of aspirants, scholars, dervishes and Sufis flocked from all over India and the lands around to study under the great wali, who built up a veritable university of Islamic education along with Sufism.
Khwaja Fariduddin enjoined the strict adherence to Shari’ah and the necessity of renouncing the pleasures of the world as pre-requisites for embarking on the journey towards Allah .He fasted throughout his life and maintained his nightly prayers and devotions. Fear of Allah always dominated him. He was a staunch devotee of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) and dedicated his entire life to the veneration of the beloved Prophet’s (s.a.w) immortal glory. He used to avoid kings, government officials and the rich. He also warned his Khalifas, devotees and Murids to avoid their company. He was a living picture of humility. Whatever he received was spent in the name of Allah and his chest overwhelmed with mercy and forgiveness. Many miracles are attributed to him during his lifetime and after his passing away.
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 (now Pakistan), Khwaja Fariduddin, enquired casually as to what he was carrying on his camels. The trader sarcastically replied, “It is salt.” Khwaja 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 Khwaja Fariduddin. Khwaja Fariduddin 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.
One day some poor people came from Arabia to see Khwaja Fariduddin and said that they were strangers to the land and that all their money was spent before the end of the journey. Khwaja Fariduddin gave them some dried dates which were lying in front of him at the moment and said, “Take them and go. Your journey shall be completed by the Grace of Allah.” Apparently, these persons were very disappointed with such a “cheap gift”. After leaving the Khanqah, they wanted to throw away the dates, but just as they were about to do so, to their amazement, the dates turned into gold. Regretting their thoughts, these people left uttering their heartfelt gratitude and prayers for Khwaja Fariduddin.
Once, due to utter weakness, Khwaja Fariduddin helped himself to walk with the aid of a staff. But after a few steps, the colour of his face suddenly became purple, as if he was under heavy punishment. He threw away the staff. When Hazrat Khwaja Nizamuddin, who was escorting him, enquired the reason for this, Hazrat Khwaja Farid replied, “I wanted to take help of the staff, but Allah’s Displeasure frowned upon me for depending on other’s help instead of His. I, therefore, threw away the staff and felt highly ashamed of this weakness in my faith in Rabb, the Almighty.”
Khwaja Fariduddin died on 5th of Muharram, Tuesday, 7th May 1266 CE (679 Hijri) during Namaz. For days before his death he maintained complete silence within his cell, only speaking for salaat and to recite the Holy Qur’an. Eventually, his illness grew so severe that before Isha salaat he became unconscious. Upon waking, he decided to perform his Isha again, but once more he passed out. In sajdah on his third Isha salaat, he breathed his last.
After his death an old woman who was one of the devotees presented a piece of cloth for the kaffan [shroud] of Khwaja Fariduddin. She implored: “I have not spun even a single thread of this cloth without having Wudu [purification]. I had prepared it for my own coffin but if it is accepted for the kaffan of this great Saint, I feel confident, Allah would be pleased with to pardon my sins and grant me salvation.
Khwaja Fariduddin’s mazar (noble shrine) is in Pak Patan; his epitaph reads,
“There is only one Farid,
though many spring forth from the bud of the flower”.