Religious life at the Tomb

The heart of the settlement of the Barkatiyya Sayyids was the dargah or cluster of tomb-shrines in which the ancestors were buried. Sayyid Muhammad Miyan carefully documents the place of burial of each member of the family, including woman, who were interred in a separate part of the dargah. Shah Barkat Ullah’s (may Allah be pleased with him) tomb was the most important of them all and all his male descendants of the Sarkar Kalan and Sarkar Khurd were buried close to his tomb-complex. A separate complex, that of Shah Al-e Muhammad, his son, is located close by, and around it, again, are the graves of several descendants.

The importance of these tomb-shrines to the family and to their followers may be understood in terms of the concept of baraka (or, more popularly, barkat). All Sufi pir’s, and particularly Sayyids, are held by believing Muslims, and indeed by some Hindus as well, to possess spiritual efficacy or grace cause by their closeness to Almighty Allah and the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). Some believe that when the Saint dies his spirit is so powerful and so dominant over the body that the body itself does not die or decay, but is merely hidden from the living. The baraka of the Saint is not dissipated at the Saint’s death. It is both transmitted to his successors and remains at his tomb, which becomes a place of pilgrimage for the later followers. The Pir does not actually die in the ordinary sense of the term, he is 'hidden', and over time he continues to develop spiritually, so that his baraka increases, as does the importance of his shrine.

The concept of baraka, thus, is central to the popular Sufi practices associated with pilgrimage to shrines, and to be the institutions of sajjada-nishan, overseeing the shrine of one’s Pir, as well as the Urs, the three or four day annual ceremony commemorating the death-anniversary of a Pir. The Khanqah was where the family lived, amidst mosques, and other buildings built over the centuries by various ancestors; for example, a Diwan Khana (Hall of Audience, where important visitors would be received) and a Haweli Sajjada-nishini (residence for sajjada-nishins) were built by Shah Haqqani in the 18th century, and subsequently rebuilt, while Suthre Miyan numerous houses and another Haweli. The strong sense of family unity that pervades Muhammad Miyan’s history, the Khandan-e Barakat, is reflected in Basti Pirzadagan’s obvious physical unity. As the Barkatiyya Sufis were Sayyids with a genealogical memory that reached right back to the beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) himself, marriages were carefully regulated, and almost invariably contracted either with other family members, or in the absence of a suitable mate, with Sayyids from other khandans. The occasional marriage to a non-Sayyid was strongly disapproved of, though the children of such unions seem to have been recognized as part of the family. Family conscious of Sayyid ancestry is most vividly reflected in the choice of personal names, namely ‘Al-e Muhamamd’, ‘Al-e Rasul’, for sons while daughter’s names would invariably consist of some compound of the name ‘Fatima’, such as ‘Khairiyat Fatima’, or ‘Ihtiram Fatima’. While such names were by no means limited to Sayyid families, their ubiquity in the Barkatiyya khandan is remarkable.

More importantly, however, family unity was expressed in the religious realm. The family owned a large number of tabarrukat or sacred relics (objects filled with baraka) and was important part of the inheritance that a father passed down to his son. Tabarrukat contain baraka by virtue of their previous association with a saint; they were imbued with the spiritual qualities of the saint himself, as if [they were] and extension of his body or contained some of his essence. The Barkatiyya Sayyids were fortunate in having some especially prized relics. Chief among these were some hairs of the beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). One of them came into the family’s possession during Shah Barkat Ullah’s lifetime; it is kept in a pewter of silver needle-case, and viewed by pilgrims during Urs ceremonies. Other valuable tabarrukat, also dating back from Shah Barkat Ullah’s time, are a robe (khirqa) belonging to Sayyidina Ali (Khirqa-e Murtazwi), and hairs of Sayyidina Hasan (may Allah be pleased with him) and Sayyidina Husain (may Allah be pleased with him). Some of these relics claim fascinating histories which are themselves statements of a hierarchy of spiritual authority: Sayyidina Imam Ali’s (may Allah be pleased with him) robe is said to have been worn by Sayyiduna Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani (may Allah be pleased with him), founder of the Qadiri Sufi order. Thereafter it passed through the hands of a succession of famous Sufi mystics: Sultan ul-Hind Kwaja Moinuddin Chishti (may Allah be pleased with him) of Ajmer (d.1236), the Qutb Shaikh Bakhtiyar Kaki (may Allah be pleased with him) of Delhi (d.1236), Shaikh Baba Fariduddin Ganj-e Shakar of Pakpattan, Panjab (d.1265), Hazrat Mahbub Ilahi Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi (d.1325), Chirag-e Delhi Shaikh Nasiruddin Chiragh of Delhi (d.1356), and so on, ultimately reaching Hazrat Sayyid Shah Barkat Ullah (may Allah be pleased with him).

Hazrat Sayyid Shah Barkat Ullah (may Allah be pleased with him) acquired, and passed on to his descendants, a turban (dastar) which originally belonged to Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani (may Allah be pleased with him) and it is said to come to Shah Barkat Ullah (may Allah be pleased with him) through Bu Ali Qalandar Shaikh Sharfuddin of Karnal and Panipat (d.1324). Shah Barkat Ullah believed it was Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani’s gift to him for his devotion and love for the Shaikh and the Qadiri order. In succeeding generations, the number of tabarrukat in the family possession grew and quite large and in the 18th century Shah Hamza, son of Shah Barkat Ullah received another hair of the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), and a pair of the Prophet’s shoes. Pilgrims view these and other relics during the annual Urs.

Apart from Tabarrukat, the family also had certain prayers (dua), which were passed down from father to son, or Sufi preceptor to disciple, and were part of the family’s secret lore of mystic prayers and practices. Sayyid Nuri Miyan, for instance, received special permission (ijazat) from one of his teachers to recite (and pass on to his disciples) the Hirz-e Yamami, a name given to certain verses from the Holy Quran, written cabbalistically and sewn up in leather for carrying on the body for protection. There were several such special prayers, which were closely guarded secrets within the family, considered so important that the dates on which a disciple acquired his teachers permission to recite or use them, were recorded, and considered part of his progress on the Sufi path. Undoubtedly, these constituted part of the Barkatiyya Sufi’s baraka. The possession of such baraka, in turn, attracted seekers and disciples to this Holy man, thus, Sayyid Nuri Miyan, because of his reputation for piety and wisdom, had attracted several thousand helpers (khuddam) to the dargah, and was responsible for their material and spiritual welfare.