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Data Ganj Bakhsh: the celebrated saint

The horrific blasts in Lahore at the famous shrine of Data Darbar left 43 dead and 175 injured on the night of Thursday, July 1 – a day when the shrine is filled with countless devotees.

Data Darbar is the place where one of the most revered saints of the millenium is buried: Hazrat Ibn Usman al-Jullabi al-Hajvery al-Ghaznawi, popularly known as Data Ganj Bakhsh. Data Darbar is considered a sacred place by hundreds of thousands of people, if not more. Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti paid homage to Hazrat Ibn Usman al-Jullabi al-Hajvery al-Ghaznawi in the following words:

Ganj Bakhsh-e faiz-e aalam, mazhar-e Nur-i Khuda
Naqisaan ra pir-e kaamil, kaamilaan ra rahnuma

(Ganj Bakhsh is a manifestation of the Light of God for the people
A perfect guide unto the imperfect ones and a guide unto the perfect ones)



Abul Hassan Ali Ibn Usman al-Jullabi al-Hajvery al-Ghaznawi is a renowned Persian Sufi and scholar of the 11th century, who played a phenomenal role in spreading Islam. He belonged to the town of Ghazni in Afghanistan and lived in the mohallah (locality) of Hajvery. He had noble ancestors and was a direct descendent of Hazrat Ali.

Data Sahib travelled extensively: a task undertaken by all great mystics as journeys symbolise spiritual discovery. He travelled to many countries like Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Arabia, Azerbaijan, etc. and there, he met many Sufi saints and dervishes. Moreover, he stayed in Syria for a relatively long period and took spirtual knowledge from Abu’l-Fadl Muhammad al-Hasan al-Khuttali from whom he was able to attain a full comprehension of Junaid Baghdadi’s school of thought and became a devoted follower of it thereafter.

Data Ganj Bakhsh authored many books such as Diwan-e-She’r, Minhajuddin, Al-Bayan Lahal-Al-Ayan, Israrul Kharq Wal-Mauniyat, Behrul Quloob, Kitab Fana Wa Baqa, Birri’ayat Be-Huqooq-Ullah, Kashful Israr, Sharah-e-Kalam, and Kashf-ul-Mahjoob. Among all his works, one survived which was Kashf-ul-Mahjoob. This is Data Sahib’s magnum opus. This book’s essence has been explained really well by Raza Rumi in his article published in The Friday Times, titled ‘Data Ganj Bakhsh: Lahore’s oldest guide’: “Data Ganj Bakhsh’s  important contribution to the corpus of documented mystical thought is the treatise that he authored and left for posterity. Known as Kashf-ul- Mahjoob, or ‘Unveiling of the Hidden’, it is a monumental document striking for its communicative tone and systematic way of discussing mysticism.”

Data Ganj Bakhsh on the order of his spiritual leader went to Lahore and made a noteworthy contribution in shaping Islam there. Due to his kindhearted persona and unyielding faith he was able to bring countless people within the fold of Islam. Moreover, Data Sahib built a mosque and an adjacent room called ‘Khanaqah’ (a room for spiritual learning). Data Sahib lived in Lahore for 21 years until his death and became such a revered figure among the people of Lahore that the city was named ‘Data ki Nagari’.

The title of Ganj Bakhsh was bestowed by the legendary saint Khawaja Moin ud din Chishti, which means ‘bestower of treasures’. Ordinary folk on Lahore’s streets were more expressive by naming the saint as ‘Data’: the one who facilitates the fulfillment of aspirations.

Data Darbar has been fittingly called a hub of inter-communal quests for spiritual attainment. The people visiting the place do not belong to the same faith: one witnesses Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs etc. all present at the Darbar. Data Ganj Bakhsh is a saint for all.

As summed up delightfully by Raza Rumi from his experience on his visit to Data Ganj Bakhsh’s shrine: “Standing near the tomb is a fabulous experience, for it brings together the innate diversity of our cultures and faiths. From the absorbed mystics, the mazjoobs, to the green turbaned formal clerics, there are dozens of interesting followers all in the same compound. If at one end, a naat khwan is reciting verses eulogising Prophet Mohammad (PBUH); at the other end, one would find another person reciting some Punjabi folk tale in lyricised format. Sounds of zikr – organised remembrance of God – sessions are in progress; and not too far away, a little group would be offering prayer in a more ritualistic manner.”

To end on a note giving some food for thought, I would like you to contemplate the meaning of Sufism as explained by Data Ganj Bakhsh in his famous doctrine of Sufism inKashf-ul-Mahjoob: “Sufism is the heart’s being, pure from the pollution of discord.” He further elaborates, “Love is concord and the lover has but one duty in the world, namely to keep the commandment of the beloved and if the object of desire is one, how can discord arise? And if one is striving to keep the heart free of discord and clear in the pursuit of the single-most important priority, i.e. love for the Creator, then love for all creation is but a natural consequence.”

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