Amir Khusrau was born as Abul Hasan Yameenuddin in Patiyali village of modern-day Kasganj, in 1253, to Amir Saifuddin Turk Lachin Mahmood, a Turkish soldier from Balkh, and an Indian woman. His maternal grandfather Imad-ul-Mulk Rawat Arz was sultan Balban’s minister of war.
It is said that when he was born, his father swaddled him in a piece of cloth and took him to a mystic neighbour. He cast a glance at the baby and said, “Amir Lachin, you have brought to me one who will go two steps beyond Khaqani.”
Undated painting showing Amir Khusrau with Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Photo:
At the age of eight, Abdul accompanied his father to the khanqah of Delhi's Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya.
When his father went inside, the young boy remained at the door, remarking:
“I shall choose my 'Peer/Spiritual guide' myself, and if bestowed with Divine Power, he will converse with me even from a distance.”
Thus, sitting at the door, he composed:
Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, who it was said had supernatural powers, sent him the following verse as a response, via a disciple:
Hazrat Amir Khusrau immediately rose and ran to the saint, and fell at his feet and wept!
After this famous spiritual exchange, the saint accepted him as his mureed — his seeker. Gradually, the two became inseparable.
Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya called his mureed Miftah-al Sama (the key of religious ecstasy).
According to legend, “Mehboob-e-Ilahi” — as Nizamuddin was called — rubbed his luab e dahan (saliva) on his disciple’s lips and that led to his voice and words becoming sweeter.
He recited the verse:
Thus he received the title of Tooti-e-Hindustan, or the parrot of Hindustan.
That was an era of cultural attainment and there were many incomparable poets in the Khilji Sultanate but according to the famous historian Zaiuddin Barni, “The incomparable Amir Khusrau stands unequalled for the volume of his writings and the originality of his ideals; for, while other great masters of prose and verse have excelled in one or two branches, Amir Khusrau was conspicuous in every department of letters. A man with such mastery over all forms of poetry has never existed in the past and may perhaps not come into existence before the Day of Judgement.”
Hazrat Amir Khusrau in the comfort of his master. Photo: Screengrab
He was not just a poet but also a musician, a venerated composer and is credited with the invention of several musical instruments and laying down the theoretical basis for much of Indo-Muslim music.
Amir Khusrau is credited with turning the sema music into qawwali as it is sung today. He was entrusted with developing it as a complete form of music, and chose 12 young students to accomplish the task — and called them the qawwal bachcha. It is through them that he presented Qaul Qalbana and other forms of Qawwali.Munshi Raziuddin and his sons Farid Ayaz and Abu Mohamed are descendants of those very qawwal bachchas.
Khusrau is said to be the inventor of many musical instruments, including the tabla.
He composed numerous new ragas and is said to have created six forms of music — namely Qaul, Qalbana, Khayal, Tarana, Naqsh and Gul. The last two have lapsed into obscurity while the rest remain.
Where saints lie. Photo: Reuters
Safinat-ul-Auliya mentions that he was always burning in the flames of passion and longing, so much so that often the clothes on his body would be charred. (A beautiful way of expressing his emotions; I am sure it is not to be taken literally).
He (Amir Khusrau) was one of the chief disciples of Sheikh Nizamuddin Auliya; and a disciple with a firmer faith in his master I have never seen. Of love and affection, too, he had his full share, and he was a man of ecstasy and rapture.
Khusrau, a fervent devotee of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, was devastated when the saint left this world. At the time, he was in Lakhnauti on official work and upon hearing the tragic news, he gave up all his worldly possessions, left the imperial service and immediately left for Delhi.
On reaching the dargah, he recited the doha:
Though those around him tried to alleviate his agony, especially Hazrat Nasiruddin Chiragh Delhi, Khusrau was utterly inconsolable. He spent his entire time weeping at the foot of his master’s shrine six months after he died at the age of 74 on Friday, the 20th , Zil Qayda 725 AH (1324 AD).
Their love for each other had been so great that Mehboob e Ilahi had said that Amir should be buried near him as they could not share a grave as per Islam. And so he was buried at the Yaarani Chabutra — next to his master, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya.
Chronicler Basheeruddin Ahmed writes in Waqeat e Darul Hukumat Dehli that there had indeed been spare space next to Hazrat Nizamuddin’s grave, but one Khwaja Sara remarked that if the two graves lay next to each other, those who came to pay respects would get confused.
Thus, he was buried a little away from his master, resting in a separate tomb. It is said that Khwaja Sara, who had gone against the saint’s will, died in his sleep a few days later.
For ages, his grave had no dome or enclosure and was built much later, in 1014 AH/1605 AD.
In the last years of Akbar and the initial years of Jahangir’s reign, Imaduddin Hasan — known as Tahir — had an enclosure and a beautiful marble dome constructed on his grave, with the following verse inscribed on it: