The Sayyids of the Barkatiyya family lived just outside the qasba of Marahra, their landownings were acquired as madad-e ma’sh from the Mughal rulers and the nawabs of Farrukhabad, in what was agriculturally the best sub-district of Etah district.
Irrigation became available through a branch of the Ganges Canal by the 1870s and sugar and indigo were widely grown. As landowners the Barkatiyya Sayyids would have had relations with tenants and agricultural labor, many of who were probably Hindus.
Apart from being landowners, the Barkatiyya Sayyids as Pirs came into daily contact with a large number of people. Maulana Ghulam Shabbir Qadiri (may Allah be pleased with him) describes a typical day in Sayyid Nuri Miyan’s (may Allah be pleased with him) daily life as follows:
When not reading namaaz, praying [waza’if] or meditating, [Nuri Miyan] would enquire into the affairs of [his] khuddam (helpers) and those who came to him with petitions [sa’ilin], reply to letters received, visit the sick, write amulets [nuqush, tawiz], take a break and get some rest, then spend some time with his books, reading or writing…He also paid his respects to Sayyid Shah Al-e Rasul (may Allah be pleased with him), presenting himself at his darbar, learning of various affairs and receiving advice. [In addition,] he was responsible for the well-being of hundreds of thousands of khuddam. Every day a variety of problems presented themselves before hi, and he would deal with them. Never did he put off dealing with something till the next day on the plea that he was too busy, or fail to do something at its proper time, In everything he did, the spirit of the Sharia and rules of Tariqat reigned.
As Ewing [The Pir or Sufi Saint, pg 108.] points out, ‘Pirs interact with their followers in a wide variety of ways’. Most people came with everyday problems to be solved, such as illness, barrenness, marriage, and business, which required a minimum amount of the Pir’s time, and were dealt with by writing amulets, giving some advice, and admonishing the person to perform his or her prayers regularly. In addition to this ‘outer circle’ of followers, a Pir might have smaller number of serious disciples, who constituted his ‘inner circle’, and in whose training he took a great interest. A large part of this training, Ewing says, had to do with the interpretation of dreams.
The relationship between Pir and murid has frequently being described in the literature; its main feature is its authoritarianism, modeled on the father-son relationship, in which the Master’s authority over his disciple, though absolute (complete), is mediated by affection and concern for the disciple. As for the disciple, his Pir is his model in everything he does.
Maulana Ghulam Shabbir Qadiri (may Allah be pleased with him) describes how Sayyid Nuri Miyan’s (may Allah be pleased with him) lifestyle reflected Sayyid Shah Al-e Rasul’s (may Allah be pleased with him):
[Nuri Miyan] loved and respected his Shaikh; indeed he loved everyone who was associated with him, and all the members of his family. He followed his Shaikh’s [commands]; he presented himself before him at his his darbar; he sought his company; he was completely absorbed in him. His face had the same radiance [as his Shaikh’s]; his personality had the same stamp [hal]; he walked with the same gait; when he spoke it was in the same tone. His clothes had the same appearance; he dealt with others in the same way. In his devotions and strivings, he followed the same Path (maslak). The times set apart for rest in the afternoon and sleep at night were times when he went to his Shaikh particularly, receiving from him guidance in every matter and warning of every danger.
Among the ulema, tha Marahra Pirs had close relations with other families of the Qadiri silsila in particular. Their relations with the Usmani family of Badayun went back to the time when someone in the Usmani family became a disciple of Sayyid Acche Miyan’s (may Allah be pleased with him) in the 18th century. Both the Barkati and Usmani families had produced several generations of gifted, learned and eminent scholars and Sufis, and the relationship between them had thus been one of mutual learning and respect.
To cite a few examples, Shah Sayyid Al-e Rasul (may Allah be pleased with him) had attended classes given by Shah Abd ul-Mujid Badayuni (may Allah be pleased with him) at the Madrassa Qadiriyya at Badayun, and Muhammad Miyan’s (may Allah be pleased with him) paternal grandfather, Shah Sayyid Muhammad Sadiq (may Allah be pleased with him) [1833-1908] had studied Tibb (Yunani medicine) from the famous alim Shah Fazl-e Rahman Badayuni [1798-1873] (may Allah be pleased with him). Sayyid Nuri Miyan (may Allah be pleased with him) used to consult Maulana Abdul Qadir Badayuni (may Allah be pleased with him) on matters of fiqh.