Notable Sufis in the Barkatiyya Family

During the course of the 18th and 19th centuries the Barkatiyya family traditions of learning and Sufi piety continued to be handed down from father to son, and the reputation of this noble family spread. After Sayyid Shah Barkat Ullah’s demise, the Barkatiyya divided into two sarkars (‘houses’ or ‘branches’). The descendants of Shah Barkat Ullah’s elder son constituted of the ‘Sarkar Kalan’, or ‘Great House’, while his younger son constituted the ‘Sarkar Khurd’ or ‘Small House’ and had its own Khanqah, Mosque and lands which provided revenue for the upkeep. The Sarkar Kalan was better endowed of the two, also financed the running of its hospice, mosque and other buildings, through revenue derived from land property. The branches maintained their separate identities in terms of marriage alliances, each tending to have its own networks, though marriage across the two Sarkars was not ruled out. The author of Khandan-e Barakat ignores the Sarkar Khurd (small house) for the most part, or relegates to relative unimportance.

In the Sarkar Kalan (Great House), the mid-18th to mid-19th centuries shone with illustrious personalities, notably in the 18th century, the three brothers Sayyid Shah Al-e Ahmad ‘Achhe Miyan’, Sayyid Shah Al-e Barakat ‘Suthre Miyan’, and Sayyid Shah Al-e Husain ‘Sache Miyan’. The first two distinguished themselves in very different ways: Achhe Miyan is said to have been so wise and popular that he had close to two lakh (200,00) disciples (murids). In 1783, the Mughal King Shah Alam granted him several villages for the upkeep of the Khanqah. As to Suthre Miyan, he was a great builder, also a great Sufi devotee, ascetic and poet. The youngest brother, Sache Miyan, was adopted by his mothers brother at the age of six, and grew up in Bihar, never again to return to Marahra. [Miyan is an address expressive of kindness, or respect, and its range of meanings include ‘Sir’, ‘Master’, ‘Lord’, etc]

Several of Suthre Miyans sons were also famous. Al-e-Imam ‘Jama Miyan’, the eldest, was something of a beta noire in the Sarkar Kalan, for he was a Tafzili, whose beliefs verged on Shi’ism. He was excluded from his father’s inheritance apparently because his father survived him. He died in Bihar and was buried there; his descendants appear to be buried separately from the rest of the family, not at the main dargah in Marahra.

Shah Al-e Rasul (1794-1879), Suthre Miyan’s second son ( and Ahmad Raza’s Pir), received his education from his father and his uncle, Achhe Miyan; he was taught, as well, by Shah Abdul Aziz Dehlawi (son of famous Shah Wali Ullah), and Maulana Nur-ul Haqq Firangi Mahali of Lucknow. Sayyid Achhe Miyan gave him bayat (bai’a), Khilafat and Ijazat (permission to enroll disciples in a silsila, or line spiritual masters ending in one’s own preceptor). His father also gave him Khilafat. After his fathers death, he and his two younger brothers jointly became Sayyid Suthre Miyan’s sajjada-nishan (successors as Pir). All three brothers inherited equal portions from the Khanqah, the dargah, the income of the two Sarkars, and the landed properties (ja e-dad). They were also joint caretakers (mutawallis) of these properties.

Finally in the list 18th and 19th century luminaries in the Barkatiyya family must be mentioned Shah Abul Husain Ahmad ‘Nuri Miyan’ (1839-1906), a grandson of Shah Al-e Rasul. Orphaned as a young boy, he was brought up by his grandparents, and Shah Al-e Rasul was extremely fond of him. Nuri Miyan received bayat and Khilafat from his grandfather. In addition he was taught by a vast array of teachers from within the family and outside; among the latter were Maulanas Abdul Qadir Badayuni and Fazl-e Rasul Badayuni, confidants and close associates of the family. Sayyid Nuri Miyan wrote a large number of books on Sufi related themes (wird, zikr, shaghl, amal) as well as fiqh, and poetry. After Shah Al-e Rasul’s death, he became sajjada-nishan, jointly with Shah Al-e Rasul’s son (brother of Nuri Miyan’s deceased father; hence Nuri Miyan’s uncle). He had many khulafa (spiritual successors), and thousands of murids.

The author of the Khandan-e Barakat, Aulad-e Rasul Muhammad Miyan (1892-1952), was Sayyid Nuri Miyan’s (maternal) grandson. He was a learned scholar with a large number of books to his name, who regarded Imam Ahmad Raza Khan with the greatest respect. Although he was quite young during Imam Ahmad Raza’s last years of life, he played a leadership role in the activities of Ansar al-Islam, created in 1921 in order to find some means of helping the Ottomans in the aftermath of World War 1.