Khwaja Mir Dard- The Poet Mystic
His verses have lasted longer than most poetic work of the eighteenth century Delhi. His Persian poetry followed the traditional patterns and imagery, but his fame rests on his Urdu poetry. He sings of the unity of created beings
Contrary to Naqshbandi practices, Khwaja Mir Dard enjoyed music and poetry. He arranged musical assemblies in his house twice a month, which became famous in Delhi. Even the emperor, Shah Alam II, who wrote under the pen name Aftab, often attended these ‘sama’ mehfils.
Khwaja’s love for music came under attack by some Sufis. In an effort to remove misunderstandings arising from his mystic verse and passion for music, Khwaja Mir Dard authored the book, Hurmat e Ghina.
‘My sama is from God, and God is witness that the singers come themselves and sing whenever they want; not that I would call them, as others do; but I do not refuse such an act. I am imprisoned in this affliction according to Divine Ascent- what can I do’.
Khwaja further explained that ‘a Gnostic without a book is like a man without children’, and expressed that he had been granted, ‘like the candle, the tongue of clear speech’. The mystic wrote that he did not write poetry on commission, his verse being divinely inspired.
Khwaja Mir Dard remains one of the most famous Sufi poets of the Urdu language. His verses have lasted longer than most poetic work of the eighteenth century Delhi. His Persian poetry followed the traditional patterns and imagery, but his fame rests on his Urdu poetry, a small book of 1200 verses, most of which are simply beautiful. He sings of the unity of created beings as experienced by the mystic:
In the state of collectedness the single beings of the world are one
All the petals of the rose together are one
In true mystic fashion, Dard writes on the prophetic sayings, ‘Men are asleep, when they die; they wake up’.
Alas, O ignorant one: at the day of death this will be proved
A dream was what we saw, what we heard a tale.
Khwaja was the son of the mystic poet Muhammad Nasir Andalib (d. 1758 AD) who gave up military service to follow the life of a Sufi. He was a descendant of Shaykh Bahauddin, and belonged to a Sayyid family from the Turkish lands. His spiritual Master was Pir Muhammad Zubair, the fourth and last of the qayums, spiritual Masters from the House of Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi.
He composed the Nala e Andalib (The Lamentation of the Nightingale) after the death of his mentor, and dedicated the book to his son, who considered it to be the highest expression of mystical wisdom.
A disciple of his father, Khwaja Mir spent his life promoting the Tareeqa al Muhammadiya, the path of Prophet Muhammad as defined by the Naqshbandi Masters. He thought his father to be the perfect guide and carried on his legacy. He stayed on in Delhi despite the tribulations that fell upon the capital, his poetry reflecting the change. He wrote:
Delhi which has now been devastated,
tears are flowing now instead of its rivers;
This town has been like the face of the lovely,
And its suburbs like the town of the beloved ones.
Khwaja prayed for the unhappy population of the city as he saw foreign armies ravage the town and oppress its citizens. He never left Delhi, living in the compound given to him and his father by one of Emperor Aurangzeb’s daughters.
A prolific writer in Urdu and Persian, Khwaja Mir instructed a number of Urdu poets. In his greatest work, IlmulKitab (Book of Knowledge), the Khwaja details his mystic ideologies and experiences.
Some years later the Khwaja wrote Chahar Risala, four beautiful spiritual diaries, where he elaborates on the theories of the Divine as reflected in the different levels of creation. ‘Although Adam has not got wings, yet he has reached a place that was not destined for angels.’
Khwaja Mir Dard also wrote Persian poetry, but he is mostly remembered for his Urdu Diwan containing 12,000 couplets, which are songs of Divine unity.
He writes, ‘In the state of collectedness the single beings of the world are one, all the petals of the rose together are one… Pain and happiness have the same shape in the world; you may call the rose an open heart, or a broken heart.’
Khwaja’s son was also a poet, who wrote under the pen name of Alam (pain) and so was his younger brother Akhtar with whom he shared a close bond.
Khwaja Mir Dard died 1199 Hijri/1785 AD and is buried in Old Delhi in a ghetto called Khwaja Basti.