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NIAS Pakistan Weekly
Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh Ali Hajveri: On Sufi spirituality

  PR Team

PR Commentary
Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh Ali Hajveri: The illuminated path of Sufi spirituality
By Dhriti Mukherjee

Sufism in the context of Pakistan and Islam Sufism has played a major role in shaping the spiritual and cultural history of Pakistan. In a country that is often characterised by rigid interpretations of Islam, Sufism paved the way for a counterbalance, through emphasis on spirituality, mysticism, and the pursuit of a direct connection with the divine. Moreover, Sufi philosophy and practices have contributed to the promotion of tolerance, interfaith harmony, and a deep reverence for humanity. Aside from the preachings, there have been significant contributions from the perspective of poetry and music. These creative contributions, which were revolutionary for their time, revolve around peace, humanity, and tolerance. This has resulted in the Sufi perspective being adopted for religions other than Islam. In the broader context of Islam, Sufism has wielded a profound influence on the interpretation and practice of the faith. Sufi saints have helped further the image of Prophet Muhammad, thus forming a large Muslim society. Islamic tradition has been considerably influenced by the emphasis that Sufi saints place on love and spirituality. Additionally, Sufi scholars and mystics have contributed significantly to Islamic jurisprudence, theology, and philosophy, offering alternative perspectives on the faith. These themes have helped facilitate dialogues with other religious and philosophical systems. In the context of Sufi mysticism, Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh Ali Hajveri is one of the most revered and influential Sufi saints in Pakistan’s history. His life and teachings have revolved around themes of love, spiritual enlightenment, and profound wisdom. He believed that: “The world is a shadow, and God is the substance. The wise person does not chase shadows; he pursues the substance.”

The origins and spiritual awakening of Ali Hajveri
Ali Hajveri was born in Ghazni (in present-day Afghanistan), an ancient city with a rich history of scholarship and spirituality, in the year 990 CE. He was born into a family that was devoutly pious and religious, characterising his childhood with a rich scholarly and theological heritage. This helped him to further his natural intellectual and religious curiosity. As he delved into the Quran, Hadith, law, and theology, Ali Hajveri demonstrated an exceptional aptitude for understanding and interpreting Islamic teachings. Claiming that “the spiritual path is a journey from the self to the Self,” he embarked on a momentously spiritual journey in 1031 AD, through Persia, Syria, and Iraq. He took from each place a different understanding of Sufism, shaped through the lens of the country’s individual cultures and spiritual practices. He eventually reached Lahore, a hub of learning and culture, where amidst a vibrant intellectual milieu, Ali Hajveri found fertile ground to sow the seeds of Sufism. It was over here that he established himself as a teacher and preacher, speaking on love for God, spiritual guidance, purification of the soul, and compassion towards others.

Teachings of love, tolerance, and spiritual awakening
At its essence, Hajveri’s doctrine revolves around the transformative efficacy of love and devotion. He firmly postulated that love for the Divine represents the ultimate wellspring of salvation and the anchor for spiritual enlightenment. His discernment of the complexities and nuances of Sufism took shape in literary form. The central ideals of Hajveri’s teachings reside in his magnum opus, “Kashf al-Mahjub,” which can be translated as “The Revelation of the Veiled.” This revered treatise encapsulates the doctrines of Sufism and is used contemporarily by those who wish to take on the course of understanding Sufi spirituality, self-discovery, and the quest for divine communion. The book, which illuminates the trajectory of Sufi spirituality, resulted in Hajveri being regarded as a preeminent authority of Sufism. His other notable seminal works include “Minhaj al-Din” (The Path of Religion) and “Adab alMuridin” (The Etiquette of Disciples). However, Hajveri’s teachings are not limited to this, as he also highlighted how it was important to showcase a profound love for all of God’s creations. His core values include compassion, inclusivity, and interconnectedness. A major pillar of his teachings is the ethos of tolerance. Hajveri held that a true seeker of the Divine must display tolerance when faced with a multitude of perspectives and religious beliefs. This meant that tolerance goes beyond the domain of religious implications. Besides this, Hajveri underlined the magnitude of spiritual awakening and self-purification. According to him, the journey toward God required upholding sincerity and unwavering devotion to the Divine. From his perspective, one had to be deeply introspective and display purity and authenticity during this journey.

Followers of Ali Hajveri
The followers of Hajveri, affectionately known as Data Ganj Bakhshis, are heterogeneous, as they belong to a wide spectrum of ethnic, cultural, and social backgrounds. Data Ganj Bakhshis shape their lives around Hajveri’s emphasis on love as the path to God, thereby leading lives characterised by compassion and service to others. However, the impact of Hajveri’s teachings has spread beyond his shrine, with his followers engaging in acts of charity and community service, reflecting the Sufi emphasis on social responsibility. The main mission of his followers is to instil a positive change within society by upholding values of generosity and kindness.

These values have also had implications outside Pakistan. By preaching love, tolerance, and spiritual awakening, Hajveri has attracted diverse followers from outside Pakistan. For instance, he is deeply revered by Muslims in India (particularly in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh), Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, who make annual pilgrimages to his tomb shrine in Lahore, seeking blessings and guidance. Sufism in Iran and Turkey has been impacted by Hajveri’s teachings, with many scholars studying his works.

Additionally, his works have gained increasing popularity and North America and Europe. The growing interest in Sufism in these areas has led to many of his texts being translated into English, making them accessible to a wider audience.

Enduring contributions to Sufism and Islamic mysticism In a world that is becoming increasingly polarised, Hajveri’s teachings and core values are being more regarded than ever. The ideals of universal love, tolerance, and spiritual awakening, being inherently transcultural and unconstrained by geographic confines, have attracted individuals from all walks of life. His teachings on ethical conduct and social responsibility are also highly relevant in today’s world, with his followers looking at these values as a message of unity and understanding. The Data Darbar in Lahore remains a symbol of spiritual awakening and inclusivity, welcoming individuals of all backgrounds and beliefs. It serves as a testament to the enduring influence of Hajveri, offering solace and inspiration to all who seek it. Multiple organisations are working in contemporary times based on the preachings of Hajveri. The Data Ganj Bakhsh Trust is working presently in Pakistan towards promoting peace and interfaith dialogue through education and social development programs. In India, the Data Ganj Bakhsh Foundation aims to spread Sufism and its message of love and compassion. Additionally, in the United States, the Data Ganj Bakhsh Circle fosters spiritual growth and community among Muslims and non-Muslims.

5 September 2023 marked the 980th annual Ur celebrations of Data Ganj Bakhsh at Lahore, where “fateha” was offered by visitors, along with special prayers for the solidarity of Pakistan. The event, which was inaugurated by the caretaker chief minister of Punjab and the former finance minister, will last for three days and will host devotees from all over the world. The Punjab Auqaf and Religious Affairs Department has allocated PKR 125 million for langer (free food) to devotees.

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