Observations on the Mussulmauns of India
By Meer Hassan Ali

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Letter XXIV

The Soofies continued.–Eloy Bauxh.–Assembly of Saalik Soofies.–Singular exhibition of their zeal.–Mystery of Soofeism.–The terms Soofie and Durweish explained.–Anecdote of Shah Sherif.–Shah Jee and the Paltaan.–Dialogue on death between Shah Jee and his wife.–Exemplary life of his grandson.–Anecdote of a Mussulmaun lady.–Reflections on modern Hindoos.–Anecdotes of Shah ood Dowlah and Meer Nizaam...Page 348

My last Letter introduced the Soofies to your notice, the present shall convey a further account of some of these remarkable characters who have obtained so great celebrity among the Mussulmauns of India, as to form the subjects of daily conversation. I have heard some rigid Mussulmauns declare they discredit the mysterious knowledge a Soofie is said to possess, yet the same persons confess themselves staggered by the singular circumstances attending the practice of Soofies living in their vicinity, which they have either witnessed or heard related by men whose veracity they cannot doubt; amongst the number I may quote an intimate acquaintance of my husband’s, a very venerable Syaad of Lucknow, who relates an anecdote of Saalik Soofies, which I will here introduce.

’Meer Eloy Bauxh,[1] a Mussulmaun of distinguished piety, who has devoted a long life to the service of God, and in doing good to his fellow-men, tells me, that being curious to witness the effect of an assembly of Saalik Soofies, he went with a party of friends, all equally disposed with himself to be amused by the eccentricities of the Soofies, whose practice they ridiculed as at least absurd,–to speak in no harsher terms of their pretended supernatural gifts.

’This assembly consisted of more than a hundred persons, who by agreement met at a large hall in the city of Lucknow, for the purpose of “remembering the period of absence”, as they term the death of a highly revered Soofie of their particular class. The room being large, and free admittance allowed to all persons choosing to attend the assembly, Meer Eloy Bauxh and his party entered, and seated themselves in a convenient place for the more strict scrutiny of the passing-scene.

’The service for the occasion began with a solemn strain by the musical performers, when one of the inspired Soofies commenced singing in a voice of remarkable melody. The subject was a hymn of praise to the great Creator, most impressively composed in the Persian language. Whilst the Soofie was singing, one of the elders in particular,–though all seemed sensibly affected by the strain,–rose from his seat, in what the Soofies themselves call, “the condition changed,” which signifies, by what I could learn, a religious ecstasy. This person joined in the same melody which the other Soofie had begun, and at the same time accompanied the music by capering and sobbing in the wildest manner imaginable. His example had the effect of exciting all the Soofies on whom his eyes were cast to rise also and join him in the hymn and dance.

’The singularity of this scene seemed, to Meer Eloy Bauxh and his party, so ludicrous that they could not refrain from laughing in an audible manner, which attracted the attention of the principal Soofie engaged in the dance, who cast his eyes upon the merry party, not, however, apparently in anger. Strange as he confesses it to be,–and even now it seems more like a dream than a reality,–at the moment he met the eye of the Soofie, there was an instant glow of pure happiness on his heart, a sensation of fervent love to God, which he had never before felt, in his most devout moments of prayer and praise; his companions were similarly affected, their eyes filled with tears, their very souls seemed elevated from earth to heaven in the rapture of their songs of adoration, which burst forth from their lips in unison with the whole Soofie assemblage.

’Before they had finished their song of praise, which lasted a considerable time, the chief of the Soofie party sunk exhausted on the carpet, whilst the extraordinary display of devotion continued in full force on the whole assembly, whether Soofies or mere visitors, for many minutes after the principal devotee had fallen to the floor. Water was then procured, and animation gradually returned to the poor exhausted devotee, but with considerable delay. Meer Eloy Bauxh says he waited until the Soofie was perfectly restored to sense, and saw him taken to his place of abode; he then returned to his own home to meditate on the events of a day he never can forget.’

Soofeism, it appears, (by the accounts I have received,) is a mystery; the secret of which can only be imparted by the professor to such persons as have been prepared for its reception, by a course of religious instruction. No one can be initiated into the mystery who has not first renounced all worldly vanities and ambitious projects–who is not sincerely repentant of past offences–who has not acquired perfect humility of heart, and an entire resignation to the Divine Will–a lively faith in God, and a firm determination to love and serve Him, from a conviction, ’That God alone is worthy to be served, loved, and worshipped by His creatures.’ Thus prepared, the person is to receive instruction from a Calipha, (head or leader of the Soofies), who directs the pupil in certain exercises of the heart, which constitute the secrets of their profession. What these exercises are, I am not competent to give an opinion, but judging by the way a real Soofie conducts himself, it may be presumed his practices are purely religious; for I am assured that he is devoted to all good ways; that he carefully avoids worldly vanities, and every species of temptation and alluring gratification of the senses; that he is incessant in prayer, and in fasting severe; free from all prejudice, as regards the belief or persuasion of other men, so long as they worship God alone; regarding all mankind as brothers, himself the humblest of the race; claiming no merit for the ascendancy he has acquired over earthly wishes, he gives glory alone to God, whom he loves and worships.

All the Durweish are of the Mussulmaun persuasion. Many are devout Durweish, who are, nevertheless, unacquainted with the mystery of Soofeism; and, to use their own words, (by which the Natives distinguish them), ’Every real Soofie is undoubtedly a Durweish, but all Durweishes are not Soofies,’ although their lives may be devoted much in the same holy way, both in the practice of religion and abstinence from worldly enjoyments; and if the writers on these subjects may be believed, many wonderful cures have been effected by the prayers of the devout Durweish.

There are some pretenders, I am told, who put themselves forth to the world in the character of a Durweish, who are not, in fact, entitled to the appellation,–hypocritical devotees, who wear the outward garb of humility, without the feeling of that inward virtue which is the characteristic principle of the true Durweish. The distinction between the real and the pretended Durweish, may be illustrated by the following anecdote which I have received from the mouth of Meer Hadjee Shaah:–

’In the last century,’ he says, ’there lived at or near Delhi, a very pure-minded Durweish, named Shah Sherif ood deen Mah-mood,[2] (he was known in his latter years by several of my aged acquaintance at Lucknow, and his son and grandson both lived, at different periods, in that city). This person forsook the world whilst in the prime of manhood, and devoted himself to prayer, fasting, and good deeds. He was esteemed the most humble-minded of human beings, and his devotion to his Maker sincere and ardent. His principal abode was Delhi, where his wife and children also resided, to whom he was tenderly attached; yet so tempered were his affections, that he never allowed any earthly endearments to interfere with his devotions, or to separate him from his love to his Creator.

’It was announced by the Soofies and Durweish, that on a certain day a festival or assembly of holy men would meet for the service of God, at the Jummah musjud[3] (Friday mosque), situated in the city of Delhi.

’Shah Sherif ood deen was disposed to attend the meeting, which consisted of the heads or superiors of several classes of the religious, with their disciples and followers. At this meeting, as was expected, were assembled the Soofies, Durweish, and religious mendicants of all ranks and conditions, from those clothed in gold-cloth and brocade, down to the almost naked Faakeer;[4] and amongst the latter number may be classed the humble-minded Shah Sherif ood deen. A small wrapper girt about his loins by a girdle of black wool spun into small ropes, and a similar article wound round his head, with a coarse white sheet over his shoulders for his summer apparel; and a black blanket to shelter his naked limbs from the cold winter, formed his sole wardrobe.

’This holy man took his station in the most humble spot of the assembly, “sitting amongst the shoes” of the more esteemed or more aspiring personages. As there was nothing remarkable in his appearance, he remained unobserved, or unnoticed by the multitude present. Many of the assembly made great display of their right to pre-eminence, by the costliness of their robes, the splendour of their equipage, and the number of their servants; striving to command respect, if possible, by their superior external habiliments.

’This meeting had been convened to celebrate the death of one of their order, which had occurred some years prior. After prayers had been read, suited to the occasion, a poor man, whose very appearance might excite compassion, addressed the heads of the devotees with folded hands, beseeching them, who were accounted so truly holy in their lives, to offer up a prayer for him who had so long suffered severe affliction, by reason of his neck and face being drawn awry, from a paralytic attack, or some like calamity. The sufferer said, “I am a poor merchant, and have a large family dependant altogether on my personal exertions for support; but, alas! this illness prevents me from attending to the business of life. I am wasting both in body and in substance through this grievous affliction.”

’The sick man’s address was heard by the whole assembly in silence; many present, both Soofies and Durweish, were really pious men, and were willing to allow the person who seemed to be the head of this assembly, to intercede in behalf of the sufferer. To him they all looked, expecting he would commence a prayer in which they might join; but he, it is suspected, conscious of his own duplicity in assuming only the character of a Soofie without the virtues, was anxious to dismiss the supplicant, with a promise that prayer should certainly be made for him in private, adding, “This is not a proper season for your application; it is disrespectful to disturb our meeting with your requests; we came not here to listen to your importunities, but on more important, business.”

’"True, my Lord,” answered the afflicted man; “I am sensible of all you say; but, I do assure you, private prayer has been tried for my relief by many individuals of your holy profession, and I have still to mourn my calamity. I thought when so many holy persons were assembled together, the united prayer–in accordance with our Prophet’s commands–offered up at this time, would certainly be received at the throne of Mercy. I entreat then, at the hands of this venerable assembly, the aid I require.”

’The pretended Soofie looked haughtily on the sick man, and bade him retire to his home; he should have a prayer offered, he might depend, but it must be in private. The sufferer was still importunate, and urged every argument he could command, to induce the inexorable Soofie to allow the present assembly to offer a prayer on the spot for his recovery; but nothing he could urge availed with the proud Soofie, who at length grew angry even to the use of bitter words.

’Shah Sherif ood deen observed in silence the scene before him; at length he ventured (in the most respectful terms) to suggest to the heads of the assembly the propriety of vouchsafing the poor man’s request; and hinted that, the prayer of some one more pure of heart than the rest might effectually reach the throne of Mercy in behalf of the supplicant.

’"And pray,” said the leader, rising haughtily, “who gave you leave to suggest or recommend to your superiors in knowledge and virtue? Is not our determination sufficient, that you, insignificant being! should presume to teach us what we ought to do?–you can know nothing of the Durweish’s powerful prayers, nor the mystery of a Soofie’s holy calling.”

’"I am, indeed, a very ignorant and unworthy creature,” replied Shah Sherif, “and acknowledge my great presumption in daring to speak before so many of my superiors in knowledge and virtue; but we are told in our hudeeths (true speech) that the prayers of many hearts may prevail in a good cause, whilst singly offered the same prayer might fail,” The proud Soofie’s anger seemed to increase as the Durweish spoke; he bade him keep silence, and reviled him with many bitter words, which the good Shah received with his usual humility and forbearance. At length, the Shah looked attentively at the Soofie, who had thus rebuked and insulted him, and said, “I will believe, Sir, you are the Soofie you aspire to be thought among your fellow-men, if you will immediately offer up your single prayer, by which the suffering man may be relieved; for we know such prayers have been answered by the gracious Giver of all good.”

’"What do you know of the powerful prayer of the Soofie?” replied the proud man, “I suspect you to be an impostor in your humble exterior."–"No, “ said the Shah, “I am but a poor beggar, and a humble, the very humblest servant of God."–"You pretend to much humility,” retorted the Soofie, “suppose we see one of your miraculous works in answer to your prayer; it would please us to witness what you can do.”

’Shah Sherif ood deen raised his eyes to Heaven, his heart went with his prayer, and in a dignified manner he stretched forth his hand towards the afflicted person. The man was instantly restored; then drawing his hand into a direct line with the proud Soofie, and pointing his finger to him, he said, “What more, friend, dost them now require of me? The man’s affliction is removed, but the power which is delegated to me rests still on my finger; command me, to whom shall I present it; to you, or any one of your people?”

’The proud Soofie hung his head abashed and confounded, he had not power to answer. The Shah observed his confusion and said, “It is not well to pray for relief to one poor weak fellow-creature, and then to afflict another; to the mountain’s retreat, I will consign this malady.” Then shaking his hand as if to relieve himself from a heavy weight, he uttered in a solemn tone, “Go to the mountains!” and resumed that humble seat he had first chosen with a smile of composure beaming on his countenance.’ This miracle is actually believed by the Natives to be true.

Shah Sherif ood deen, say the people who know him, spent the principal part of each day and night in silent prayer and meditation; no one ever ventured to intrude within his small sanctuary, but hundreds of people would assemble outside the building, in front of which he occasionally sat for an hour, but scarcely ever conversed with any one of his visitors. During the time he was thus seated, he generally raised his eyes once or twice, and looked round on the faces of his audience. It was generally remarked, that no one could meet the eye of Shah Jee–that familiar appellation by which he was known–without an indescribable sensation of reverential awe, which irresistibly compelled them to withdraw their eyes. The talismanic power of Shah Jee’s eyes had become proverbial throughout the city of Delhi. A certain Pattaan,[5] however, of warlike appearance, a man remarkable for his bravery, declared amongst his associates that he would certainly out-stare Shah Jee, if ever they met, which he was resolved should be the very first opportunity; he accordingly went with his companions at a time when this Durweish was expected to appear in public.

The Pattaan was seated on the floor with many other people; when the Shah issued from his sanctuary, the people rose to make their salaams, which Shah Jee either did not, or would not observe, but seated himself according to his custom on the mat which had been spread for him; where, his eyes fixed on the ground, he seemed for some time to be wholly absorbed in silent meditation. At length, raising his head, he turned his face to the long line of spectators, saluting with his eyes each person in the row, until he came to the Pattaan, who, according to his vow, kept his large eyes fixed on the Durweish. Shah Jee went on with his survey, and a second time cast a glance along the whole line, not omitting the Pattaan as before, whose gaze, his companions observed, was as firmly settled on the Durweish as at the first. A third time the eyes of the Shah went round the assembly and rested again on the Pattaan.

Observing the immoveable eyes of their Pattaan acquaintance, the visitors smiled at each other, and secretly gave him credit for a piety and pureness of heart which he was not before supposed to be blessed with; ’How else,’ said they, ’would he have been able to withstand the penetrating glance of the revered Durweish.’ Shah Jee rose from his seat, and retired, thus giving to the company a signal for their departure from the place.

The associates of the Pattaan congratulated him on his success, and inquired by what stratagem he had so well succeeded in fulfilling his promise; but his eyes being still fixed in a wild stare, he replied not to his questioners. They rallied him, and tried by a variety of means to dissolve his reverie; but the Pattaan was insensible, all the boasted energies of his mind having forsaken him. His friends were now alarmed at his abstractedness, and with considerable difficulty removed him from the place to his own home, where his family received him, for the first time, with grief, as he was their whole stay and support, and the kind head of a large family.

The Pattaan continued staring in the same state throughout the night and following day, talking wildly and incoherently. ’The Pattaan is paid for his presumption,’ said some; others recommended application to be made to the Durweish, Shah Jee, who could alone remove the calamity. The wife and mother, with many female dependants, resolved on pleading his case with the benevolent Shah Jee; but as access to him would be difficult, they conceived the idea of making their petition through the agency of the wife of the Durweish, to whom they accordingly went in a body at night, and related their distress, and the manner in which they supposed it to have originated, declaring, in conclusion, that as the excellent Durweish had been pleased to cast this affliction on their guardian, they must become slaves to his family, since bread could no longer be provided by the labour of him who had hitherto been their support.

The wife of the Durweish comforted the women by kind words, desiring them to wait patiently until her dear lord could be spoken with, as she never ventured to intrude on his privacy at an improper moment, however urgent the necessity. After a few hours’ delay, passed with impatient feeling by the group of petitioning females, they were at length repaid by the voice of Shah Jee. His wife going to the door of his apartment, told him of the circumstance attending the Pattaan, and the distressed condition of the females of his family, who came to supplicate his aid in restoring their relative to reason; adding, ’What commands will you be pleased to convey by me? What remedy do you propose for the suffering Pattaan?’

The Durweish answered, ’His impure heart, then, could not withstand the reflected light. Well, well! tell the poor women to be comforted, and as they desire to have the Pattaan restored to his former state, they need only purchase some sweetmeats from the bazaar, which the man being induced to eat, he will speedily be restored to his wonted bodily and mental powers.’

Upon hearing the commands of Shah Jee, the women speedily departed, ejaculating blessings on the Durweish, his wife, and family. On their return they purchased the sweetmeats and presented them to the Pattaan, who devoured them with eagerness, and immediately afterwards his former senses returned, to the no small joy of his family circle. They inquired of him, what had been the state of his feelings during the time he was in that insensible state from which he was now happily relieved? He replied, that the first gaze of the Durweish had fixed his eyes so firmly that he could by no means close or withdraw them from the object; the second glance detached his thoughts from every earthly vanity or wish; and that the third look from the same holy person, fixed him in unspeakable joys, transports pure and heavenly, which continued until he had eaten the sweetmeats they had presented, with a kind intention, he had no doubt, but which nevertheless, must be ever regretted by him whilst life remained; for no earthly joy could be compared with that which he had experienced in his trance.

The Durweish Shah Sherif ood deen, was asked by some one why he had selected the bazaar sweetmeats as a remedy in the Pattaan’s case? He answered, ’Because I knew the man’s heart was corrupt. The light which had been imparted to him could alone be removed by his partaking of the dirtiest thing mortals hold good for food, and surely there cannot be any thing more dirty than the bazaar sweetmeats, exposed as they are to the flies and dust of the city; and how filthily they are manufactured requires not my aid in exposing.’

This Durweish is said,–and believed by the good Mussulmaun people I have conversed with,–to have foreseen the hour when he should be summoned from this life into eternity; and three weeks prior to the appointed time, he endeavoured to fortify the minds of his wife and family, to bear with resignation that separation he had been warned should take place. He assembled his affectionate relatives on the occasion, and thus addressed them, ’My dear family, it is the will of God that we should part; on such a day (mentioning the time), my soul will take flight from its earthly mansion. Be ye all comforted, and hereafter, if ye obey God’s holy law, ye shall meet me again in a blessed eternity.’

As may be supposed, the females wept bitterly; they were distressed, because the good Durweish had ever been kind, indulgent, affectionate, and tender in all the relative situations he held amongst them. He tried many soothing arguments to comfort and console them for some hours, but without in the least reducing their grief, or moderating their bewailings: they could not, and would not be comforted.

’Well,’ said the Durweish, ’since the separation I have predicted causes you all so much sorrow, it would be better, perhaps, that we part not. I have thought of another method to avoid the pangs of separation; I will offer my prayers this night to the gracious Giver of all good, that He may be pleased to permit ye all to bear me company in death.’

’Oh! stay your prayer!’ said the wife of the Durweish; ’this must not be; for if we all die at once, who will perform the funeral rites, and deposit our bodies in the earth?’ The Durweish smiled at his wife’s objection, and answered, ’This is of no consequence to us, dear wife: the body may be likened to a garment that is thrown off when old; the soul having worn its earthly covering for a season, at the appointed time shakes off the perishable piece of corruption, to enter into a purer state of existence. It matters not if the body have a burial or not; the soul takes no cognizance of the clay it has quitted. Yet, if it be a matter of great consideration with you, be assured that many pious men and Durweish, whose respect we have enjoyed in life, will not fail to give decent interment to the remains of those they have loved and respected.’

This for a moment baffled the wife in her argument; but presently she persuasively urged that her daughters were all young, that they had as yet seen but little of this world, and therefore it would be cruel to take them away so soon; they must desire to see more of this life ere they entered on another state of existence. ’Oh, my wife,’ said the Durweish, ’you reason badly; this life hath no joys to be compared with those which the righteous man’s hopes lead him to expect in the world beyond the grave. I will assuredly make my promised prayer, if I find a semblance of remaining grief upon separating from me at the appointed time, for our removal to perfect happiness.’

’No, no!’ was cried by all the assembled family; ’do let us remain a little longer here, we are not in a hurry to quit this world.’–’Well, well, be satisfied then,’ responded the Durweish, ’if such is your desire; and hereafter let me not hear a sigh or a murmur from one of you, for my appointed time is drawing to a close; if you will not accompany me, let me, at least, depart in peace.’

The people who relate this (and I have heard the anecdote from many) add, that the Durweish Shah Sherif ood deen Mah-mood died at the close of the third week, and on the day and hour he had predicted.

A grandson of this Durweish I have been writing about is still living in India, remarkable for a very retentive memory and propriety of life. I have not met with this gentleman during my residence in India, but have often heard his name mentioned with respect by Meer Hadjee Shaah who knew him well. He says that this Syaad, when but a boy, learned the whole Khoraun by heart[6] in the short space of forty days; he adds, that this person is exemplary in his life, and in his habits and manners humble; that he is truly a servant of God; rejects the mystic tenets of Soofieism; possesses an enlightened mind, and is a Moollah or Doctor of the Mussulmaun law. I have heard many singular anecdotes of his life, proving his disregard for riches, honours, and the vain pursuits of the worldly-minded. If I recollect right, he once was engaged in the confidential office of Moonshie to a highly talented gentleman at Fort William, from which employment he retired and took up his abode for some time at Lucknow; from whence, it was said, he went to Hydrabaad, where, it is probable, he may still be found in the exercise of a religious course of life. His name is respected by all the good men of his own persuasion, with whom I have been most intimately acquainted.

Conceiving the subject may be interesting to my friends, I will not offer any apology for introducing to your notice a female character of great merit, whose death occurred during my residence in the vicinity of her abode. I was induced to make memorandums of the circumstances which brought the knowledge of her virtues more immediately before the public.

Maulvee Meer Syaad Mahumud[7] succeeded, on the death of his father, in 1822, to the exalted position amongst Mussulmauns of head leader and expounder of the Mahumudan law in the city of Lucknow; he is a person of unassuming manners and extreme good sense, is an upright, honest-hearted, religious man, meriting and receiving the respect and good opinion of all his countrymen capable of appreciating the worthiness of his general deportment. He is esteemed the most learned person of the present age amongst Asiatic scholars; and occupies his time in study and devotion, and in giving gratuitous instruction to youth, at stated hours, in those laws which he makes his own rule of life. Neither is the good Maulvee’s fame confined to the city in which he sojourns, as may be gathered from the following anecdote, which exhibits the upright principles of this worthy man, at the same time that it discloses the character of a very amiable female, whose charity was as unbounded as her memory is revered in Furrukhabaad.

’The late Nuwaub of Furrukhabaad[8] was first married to a lady of birth and good fortune, Villoiettee Begum,[9] by whom he was not blessed with a son; but he had other wives, one of whom bore him an heir, who at the present time enjoys the musnud of his father.

’Villoiettee Begum was beautiful in person, and possessed a heart of the most benevolent and rare kind; her whole delight was centred in the exercises of those duties which her religion inculcated; she spent much of her time in prayer, in acquiring a knowledge of the Khoraun, in acts of kindness to her fellow-creatures, and in strict abstinence.

’It was her unvaried custom at meals before she touched a morsel herself, to have twelve portions of food, selected from the choicest viands provided for her use, set apart for as many poor people; and when they had been served, she humbly and sparingly partook of the meal before her. She was possessed of great wealth, yet never expended any portion of it in the extravagances of dress; indeed, so humble was her appearance, that she might have been mistaken for the meanest of her slaves or domestics. It was her usual custom, whenever she purchased new clothing for her own wear, to lay in a large store for the poor; and it is affirmed, by those who were long intimate with the family, that a supplicant was never known to pass her door without relief. She even sought out, with the aid of a faithful domestic, the modest poor who were restrained by their feelings from intruding their necessities; and her liberal donations were distributed in so kind a manner, that even the pride of birth could never feel distressed when receiving her charitable assistance.

’This lady was much attached to the duties of her religion, and delighted in acquiring instruction from righteous persons of her own faith. She showered favours on all the poor who were reported to live in the fear of God; indeed, such was the liberality, benevolence, and unvaried charity of this good lady, that the news of her death was received by hundreds of people as their greatest earthly calamity. The example of this lady’s character is the more enhanced by reflecting on the retired way in which she was reared and lived, restrained by the customs of her people within the high walls of a zeenahnah, without the advantages of a liberal education or the immediate society of intelligent people. She seems, by all accounts, to have been a most perfect pattern of human excellence.

’In forming her will (Villoiettee Begum had been a widow several years before her death), she does not appear to have wished a single thing to be done towards perpetuating her name,–as is usual with the great, in erecting lofty domes over the deposited clay of the Mussulmaun,–but her immense wealth was chiefly bequeathed in charitable gifts. The holy and the humble were equally remembered in its distribution. She had been acquainted with the virtues of the good Maulvee of Lucknow, to whom she left a handsome sum of money for his own use, and many valuable articles to fit up the Emaum-baarah for the service of Mahurrum, with a, desire that the same should be conveyed to him as soon after her death as convenient. Her vakeel (agent) wrote to Meer Syaad Mahumud very soon after the lady’s death, to apprise him of the bequest Villoiettee Begum had willed to him, and at the same time forwarded the portable articles to him at Lucknow.

’The Maulvee was much surprised, and fancied there must be some mistake in the person for whom this legacy was intended, as the lady herself was entirely unknown to him, and an inhabitant of a station so remote from his own residence as not likely ever to have heard of him. He, however, replied to the vakeel, and wrote also to a gentleman in the neighbourhood, desiring to have a strict inquiry instituted before he could venture to accept the riches of this lady’s bounty, presuming that even if he was the person alluded to in her will, that the Begum must have intended him as her almoner to the poor of Lucknow. The good, upright Maulvee acted on the integrity of his heart and desired a strict scrutiny might be instituted into the will of the deceased, which was accordingly made, and he was assured in reply, that Villoiettee Begum had been long acquainted with his worth, and in her liberal bequest she had decidedly intended the money for his sole use and benefit, in testimony of her respect for his virtuous character. The Maulvee again wrote and requested to be informed by those most intimate with the Begum’s way of life, whether she had left unperformed any of the duties incumbent on a member of the faithful, as regards zuckhaut[10], pilgrimage, the fast, &c.? which not having accomplished, and having ample means, he felt himself bound, in the situation he held, to devote her legacy to the purpose of such duties by proxy (which their law commands) in her name. He was in reply assured that the good Begum had not omitted any part of her duty; she had regularly applied zuckhaut, duly performed the fast, had paid the expenses for poor pilgrims to Mecca (her substitutes); and not until all the scruples of the just Maulvec had been removed would he hear of, or accept the Begum’s legacy.’

The anecdote I have now given will serve to illustrate the character of some good people of Hindoostaun of the present day; indeed, the veneration and respect paid by all classes to those men who lead religious lives, is but little changed from the earlier pages of the Mussulmaun history. I have just met with a Durweish anecdote, of former times, that may be worth transcribing, as I have received it from Meer Hadjee Shaah, whose aid I am so much indebted to for subjects with which to amuse my friends.

’Shaah ood Dowlah[11] was a Durweish who flourished in the reign of King Shah Jaluui at Delhi, but whose fame is known throughout India to the present day. The Durweish was remarkable for his activity of body. It is related, that he was often to be seen at prayer in Delhi, and in three hours after he had transported himself eighty miles oil without any visible assistance but his own personal activity on foot. This extraordinary rapidity of movement rendered him an object of veneration; and the general belief was, that he was highly favoured of Heaven, and gifted with supernatural power; the life he led was purely religious, with a total disregard of earthly riches.

’The King, Shah Jahan, was a very sensible person, and a great admirer of all that is counted good and excellent in his fellow-men; he was particularly friendly to such men as the Durweish, or others who devoted their lives to religious exercises. He had often heard of Shah ood Dowlah, without ever meeting with him, and on hearing of some singular acts of this Durweish, he was desirous of seeing him, and gave orders accordingly to his Minister, that messengers should be sent in search of the holy man, but as often as they appeared before the Durweish’s hut he was invisible; this statement even added to the King’s curiosity. On a certain day the King was seated on the story of his palace which overlooked the town and the outskirts beyond the walls, in conversation with his Minister and favourites, when the Durweish was espied at no great distance standing on the broadway; which, when the King knew, he desired messengers might be dispatched to convey the holy man to his presence. “Your royal will shall be obeyed”, replied the Minister; “but your Majesty must be aware that the extent of the circuit from the palace to the outer gate is so great that long before a slave can get to that road, Shah ood Dowlah will be beyond the reach of our summons. With all due submission to your Majesty’s better judgement, would it not be more prudent to call him from hence, and persuade him to ascend the wall in a basket suspended to a rope.” The King agreed, and the Durweish was hailed. “Our King, the Protector of the World, commands Shah ood Dowlah’s attendance?"–The Durweish, looking up at the summoner, inquired, “Where is the King?"–"In this apartment,” he was answered.–"How am I to get near him? he is too far off: an old man does not well to climb."–"Wait a minute”, replied the servant, “your conveyance shall be prepared.”

’In a few minutes the basket descended from the upper story, by a strong rope, well secured against the probability of accident. The Durweish,–who was covered with a chudha[12], or sheet, to keep him from giddiness in the ascent,–seated himself firmly in the basket, and the servants drew him up in safety. He was immediately conveyed to the King’s apartment; who, contrary to precedent, rose at his entrance to receive this respected and much-desired guest.

’"Pray be seated, my friend”, said the King, leading him to the most honoured part of the royal carpet. The Durweish obeyed without a moment’s hesitation, to the astonishment of the Vizier, nobles, courtiers, &c., who had never before seen a human being seated in the King’s presence, not even one of the most exalted of the nobles. “I have long desired this happiness,” said the King to the Durweish, “that I might converse with you. “–"Your Majesty is very gracious to the poor Durweish”, was responded. “I hear much of your great virtue and good life,” said the King, “from the world, my subjects."–"They do but flatter the poor Durweish,” was his reply; adding, “none can tell what passes in my heart, when they view only my face. I am but a poor Durweish.”

’"I have many questions to ask you,” said the King, “which I hope to have resolved from your own mouth; but, first, I beg to be informed, what methods you have used in order to acquire that command over selfish feelings, which is displayed in your intercourse with the world? and by what means you have become so enlightened in the ways pleasing to God?”

’The Durweish with a smile of pleasure, and in language calm as respectful, answered in the following words:–"Your Majesty, the Protector of the World, was desirous of becoming personally known to the very meanest of your subjects, the poor Durweish; the opportunity arrived, and you condescended to let down a line of rope to assist your poor subject in the ascent to your presence. With equal condescension you have seated me by your side; and I, the poor Durweish, feel a due sense of the honour conferred on me. Had I been anxious to gain admittance to the Protector of the World, many would have been the difficulties to surmount; your castle is well guarded, your gates innumerable to be passed ere this place could be reached, and who would have aided the poor Durweish’s wishes? But your Majesty had the will, and the power to effect that will; whilst I, who had neither, might have exerted myself for ages without effect. Such then, O King! is the way God draws those whom He wills unto Him. He sees into the hidden recesses of the human heart, and knows every working of mortal minds; He has no difficulty to surmount; for to whom in His mercy He grants evidence of His love, He draws them to Himself in heart, in soul, in mind, with infinitely less effort than thou hast exerted to draw my mortal body within thy palace. It is God who in love and mercy throws the line to man; happy that soul who accepts the offered means, by which he may ascend!"’

Meer Nizaam ood deen[13] lived many years at Lucknow, where he was much esteemed by the religious men of the time; some who survived him have frequently entertained me with anecdotes of that respected Durweish. Out of the many I have heard detailed by them, I have selected for this place a few of the most interesting:–

A certain King of Delhi (whose name has escaped my recollection) having heard of the remarkable piety of this Durweish, expressed a great desire to see him, and the message was conveyed by a confidential person, instructed to say to the holy man, that his presence was solicited as a favour at Court. The person intrusted with the royal message, remarked to Meer Nizaam, when he had agreed to accompany him, that his mean apparel was not suited to appear in the presence of majesty, and offered to provide him with a superior dress.

The Durweish looked steadily in the face of the proposer, and addressed him, ’Friend! know you not, that clad in these very garments you deride, I make my daily prayers to Him who is the Creator and Lord of the whole earth, and all that therein is? If I am not ashamed to appear in the presence of my God thus habited, canst thou think I shall deem it needful to change my garments for one who is, at best but the creature of my Creator? Thinkest thou I would pay more deference to my fellow-man than I have done to my God? No, no; be assured the clothes I wear will not be changed for earthly visits.’

This Durweish had a mind and heart so entirely devoted to his Creator, and was so thoroughly purified from earthly vanity, that his every wish was granted as soon as it had been formed in his heart, says one of his many admirers, Meer Eloy Bauxh[14]; who, in proof that he was so gifted, relates the following anecdote which I give in his own words:–

’One day I was conversing with the Durweish, Meer Nizaam, when he told me he could bring me to his door, from my own home, at any hour or time he pleased. I was a little wavering in my belief of his power to do so, and offered some remarks that indicated my doubts. “Well,” said he in reply, “you shall be convinced, my friend, ere long, I promise you.”

’A few evenings after this conversation had been held, I was seated on my charpoy, in meditation,–my usual practice after the evening namaaz,–when a sudden impulse seized my mind, that I must immediately go off to the Durweish who lived at the opposite extremity of this large city (Lucknow). I prepared to set out, and by the time I was ready, the rain burst forth in torrents from the over-charged clouds. Still the impulse was so strong that I cared not for this impediment even, which under ordinary circumstances would have deterred me from venturing out on a dark evening of storm; I wrapped myself up in my labaadah[15], took a stick and umbrella, and sallied forth in great haste. On reaching the outer gate of my premises, the strong, feeling that had impelled me to proceed, vanished from my mind, and I was as strongly urged by an opposite impulse to retire again within my own habitation, where, if I reasoned at all, it was on the unusual changeableness of my fixed resolution, for I never thought about the subject of the Durweish’s prediction at the time.

’Some few days after this, I paid Meer Nizaam a visit, and after our usual embrace and salutations were over, he said to me, “Well, my friend, are you convinced by this time, that I have the power to bring you to me whenever I wish, by the preparations you made for coming on the evening of such a day?” (mentioning the time and hour accurately).

’"I remember well my desire to visit you, but why was I deterred from my purpose?” I asked. The Durweish replied, “Out of pure compassion for the fatigue and pains it would have given you, had you come so far on such a night of rain and tempest. My pity for you altered my wishes, and thereby your purposes. I only wished you to be convinced, and perhaps you are so now."’

Meer Eloy Bauxh often speaks of this circumstance, and declares he has full confidence that the Durweish in question possessed the power of influencing the minds of others, or attracting them by his wishes to appear before him.

’This Durweish was once applied to by a Mussulmaun, who went regularly for many days in succession, to watch a favourable moment for soliciting advice and assistance in his then uneasy state of mind. The Mussulmaun’s name was Hummoon[16], since designated Shah, a native of the Upper Provinces of Hindoostaun, in the Lahore district. Hummoon occasionally passing near the river, had frequently observed, amongst, the number of Hindoo women, on their way to and from the place of bathing, one young female whose charms riveted his attention. He sometimes fancied that the girl smiled on him; but aware of the strong prejudices of her caste, which prohibits intercourse even, much less marriage, with men of another persuasion, he loved therefore without hope; yet he could not resist, as the opportunity offered, of again and again watching for a glance at the beautiful Hindoo whose person had won his entire affections. Not a word had ever passed between them, but he fancied she sometimes returned his looks of love in her smiles.

’The passion of Hummoon increased daily; he could with difficulty restrain himself within the prescribed bounds; he longed to address her, and in vain puzzled his imagination for the proper means to adopt, for he knew the edict of her caste had placed a barrier between them of an insurmountable nature. For months he endured all the torments of his perplexing state, and at last resolved on applying to the good Durweish for advice and assistance, whose famed powers had been long the subject of admiration among the Mussulmauns.

Hummoon went daily to the threshold of the Durweish, and seated himself among the many who, like him, had some favour to ask of the holy man, at the propitious moment when he chose to be visible and disposed to look round upon his petitioning visitors. All waited for a look with the most intense anxiety (for a Durweish does not always notice his courtiers), and happy did he deem himself who was encouraged by the recognition of his eye, to offer his petition by word of mouth. Many such applicants had been favoured by the Durweish, yet Hummoon visited daily without being noticed by the holy man. At length, however, a look of inquiry was given to the almost despairing Hummoon; thus encouraged, he folded his hands, and bent them forward in a supplicating attitude, told his distresses as briefly as the subject would permit, and concluded his tale of sorrow, by entreating the Durweish would instruct him in the exercise of some prayer by which he might be made happy with the object of his love.

’The Durweish listened attentively to Hummoon’s tale; and more, he pitied him, for he felt at all times a due proportion of sympathy for the misery of his fellow-creatures, and the singularity of Hummoon’s case affected him. He told him he could teach the way to become deserving of having his wishes in this world granted to him, but more he could not answer for; but it would take him a considerable time to practise the devotions necessary to his future peace, which were of the heart, not the mere repetition of a prayer by the lips. Hummoon readily assured the Durweish, he was willing to be guided by his advice and instruction; adding, that he would patiently persevere for any length of time necessary, so that at last his object might be accomplished.

’Hummoon commenced under the tuition of the Durweish the practice of devotional exercises. He forsook (as was required of him) all vain pursuits, worldly desires, or selfish gratifications; day and night was devoted to religious study and prayer, and such was the good effect of his perseverance and progressive increase of faith, that at the end of some few months he had entirely left off thinking of the first object of his adoration, his whole heart and soul being absorbed in contemplation of, and devotion to, his Creator. At the end of a year, no trace or remembrance of his old passion existed; he became a perfect Durweish, retired to a solitary place, where under the shade of trees he would sit alone for days and nights in calm composure, abstracted from every other thought but that of his God, to whom he was now entirely devoted.’

I am told that this Durweish, Hummoon Shah, is still living in the Lahore province, a pattern of all that is excellent in virtue and devotion.

[1] Mir Ilahi Bakhsh.

[2] Shah Sharif-ud-din, Mahmud.

[3] Jame’ Masjid, the Congregational mosque.

[4] Faqir, a poor man, one poor in the sight of God.

[5] Pathan, a frontier tribe, many of which reside in British India.

[6] Such a person is called Hafiz.

[7] Maulavi Mir Sayyid Muhammad.

[8] Early in the eighteenth century Farrukhabad, now a district of
    this name in the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, became an
    independent State during the decay of the Moghul Empire. The line of
    Nawabs was founded by Muhammad Khan, an Afghan of the Bangash
    tribe. It was annexed by Oudh in 1749 and ceded to the British in 1801,
    on which event the Nawab ceased to be independent. The last Nawa
    b joined the rebels in the mutiny of 1857.

[9] Wilayati Begam, the foreign lady.

[10] See p. 67.

[11] Shah-ud-daula.

[12] Chadar.

[13] Mir Nizam-ud-din.

[14] Mir Ilahi Bakhsh.

[15] Labada, a rain-coat.

[16] Hamun.


Introductory Notes  •  Preface to the Second Edition  •  Introduction  •  Introductory Letter  •  Letter I  •  Letter II  •  Letter III  •  Letter IV  •  Letter V  •  Letter VI  •  Letter VII  •  Letter VIII  •  Letter IX  •  Letter X  •  Letter XI  •  Letter XII  •  Letter XIII  •  Letter XIV  •  Letter XV  •  Letter XVI  •  Letter XVII  •  Letter XVIII  •  Letter XIX  •  Letter XX  •  Letter XXI  •  Letter XXII  •  Letter XXIII  •  Letter XXIV  •  Letter XXV  •  Letter XXVI  •  Letter XXVII  •  Bibliography of Works

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