62.Data Gunj Bakhash . part one
I have chosen Data Sahib (a title of respect: that is how he is known) because not only he is one of the greatest saints of all times, but also because his effects are still felt everyday by dozens, if not hundreds, of people every day, although he died close to a thousand years ago. Furthermore, he wrote an autobiography, an invaluable asset in judging a mystic, because mystics do not lie or exaggerate. Their opinions may be wrong and biased, but their facts are not.
Data Sahib was ordered to go to Lahore (now in Pakistan, but at that time undivided India) by his murshad Abu-ul Fazal Muhammad bin Hassan Khatli in 11th century. He obeyed the orders and arrived through Afghanistan. He died in Lahore approximately 30 years later and is buried there. Modern Lahore is a big city of 6-7 million people. Everyday hundreds if not thousands of persons visit his shrine. Every Thursday several fold more people visit. Some students live and study there. Free food is distributed every day. It is claimed that perhaps this is the only place in the world where a hungry person can find food at any time of day or night. How is it made possible? Because one of the many inhabitants of Lahore, or a visitor from some other town, will be standing on a foot path and distributing food. He may have vowed at some occasion that if his murad (desire ) gets fulfilled he will feed certain number of people at Data sahib’s shrine. It follows that lot of murads must get fulfilled to feed hundreds. Sikh golden temple at Amritsar has the world’s largest eatery, where free food is distributed at fixed times.
Now after this brief introduction, back to Data Sahib. Like the other Muslim mystics of his time he had undergone many years of training from his teacher. He had travelled far and wide and learnt mysticism and Islam from many teachers. He wore a Gudri (like a robe), a traditional garb of Sufis made of rough cloth with repair patches, and carried a staff, a prayer rug and a Lota ( a utensil with a spout). Usually he had nothing else on his journeys. He wrote ten books, only one Kushaf ul mahjoob has survived. Originally written in Persian, the Urdu and English versions are widely available). This close to 600 pages book is a treatise on Islamic mysticism, the mystics of that period, and the way things were in 11th century. This mote has benefitted from this book.
For you to know Data Sahib, let me quote some excerpts from the book:
“ My murshad wore the same Gudri for 51 years . It had irregular patches “He was completely isolated for 60 years in mountain caves. Nobody knew him. Usually he lived on a hill called Lagam. He lived a pious life. I never met a man with more imposing bearing than him.
One day my murshad and I were travelling from Bait-ul-jin to Damascus. It was raining. I had trouble walking in mud. I looked at my murshad . His clothes and shoes were dry. When I asked him , he said” since…………………… God has saved me from mud.
My murashd could read one’s thoughts. One time while pouring water over his hands, my thoughts wandered over a philosophic riddle. My murshad read my thoughts and told me his answer. On another occasion, just before his death, while his head was resting over my thigh, I started thinking about a fellow disciple with hurt feelings. He looked up and said” son, I will tell you something which will strengthen your heart; consider all events, good or bad, originating from God, so don’t be sad or critical about other’s actions”. He did not say anything else and died
One time I had some problem which I could not solve so I went to a mystic in Toos. He was alone in a mosque. He stated narrating my problem to a pillar, before I had a chance to tell him the problem. I said , Sir, who you are talking to. He said God told me to talk to this pillar. Then he gave me the answer.
There are 17 such supernatural episodes narrated in the book, 5 of them were witnessed directly by Data Sahib. He does not mention any of his own.
His most famous incident was the following:
Once I had a great problem. I went to Ba-Yazid Bistami’s shrine for enlightenment ( this shrine still exists in Bistam, Iran). I did chilla (an austere religious exercise) for 3 month. I did not find a solution. I thought of going to Khurassan. In that area, one night I had to stay in a monastery. A group of sufis were staying there. I was clad in a rough Gudri. I had a staff, a lota and nothing else. The group looked at me with disdain. Nobody recognized me. they were talking between themselves and said that I was not one of them. I was forced to stay since there was nowhere else to go. They gave me a roofless verandah. They were themselves at a higher level. They gave me one dry, fungus infested roti (flat bread ). I smelled the aroma of delicious food that they were eating. They were making loud derogatory remarks about me. Then they started eating cantaloupes. As an interesting pastime they started throwing the rinds on my head. I was saying to myself “oh God , if I were not wearing the garb of your lovers, I would have gone away from these people” . As their treatment grew worse, my inner joy proportionally increased. So much so, that the burden of this incident, solved my riddle; the riddle for which I had originally gone to Ba-Yazid Bistami’s shrine.
I have with my own eyes witnessed a durvesh ( a Muslim monk) walking the hills of Azerbaijan ( an independent country now ) , moaning and crying and reciting the following Arabic verses at a fast speed:
“I swear by Allah that not a day has passed when you were not in my thoughts. I have not talked anything except You in any company. I have thought of You in joy and sorrow. My every breath is filled with Your love. When I was thirsty, I always drank from the cup in such a way that I imagined You in the cup. If I could come to you I would have come crawling on my head and face.”
Reading these verses rapidly had a profound effect on him. He sat down resting his back on a boulder and soon died. May God have grace on him