He was born in the village of Sukhar, two miles from Bukhara, in Uzbekistan. His family were descendants of the Holy Prophet (peace & blessings be upon him). His mother said, “When I was pregnant with him, whenever my hand went towards doubtful food, I would be unable to convey it to my mouth. This happened to me many times. I knew that I had someone special in my womb – I was careful, and chose what was assuredly lawful food.”
Khwaja Amir Kulal was a potter by trade, which is what ‘Kulal’ means in the local language.
He was a wrestler in his youth, which he continuously practiced until he became one of the most famous wrestlers of his time. Large crowds would gather to watch him wrestle. One day, a man watching him wrestle had the following thought, ‘How can a person who is a descendant of the Prophet and who is deeply knowledgeable in the Divine Law and Way, be practicing this sport?’ At that moment, sleep overtook this man and he dreamt it was Judgement Day. He felt that he was in great difficulty and drowning. Then the wrestler, Khwaja Amir Kulal, appeared and pulled him out of the water with his muscular arms. He woke up and the Khwaja looked at him and asked, “Have you now witnessed my power in wrestling and in intercession?”
Another time, his future Master, Khwaja Muhammad Baba as-Samasi and his followers were passing by a wrestling stadium. Khwaja Baba as-Samasi stopped to watched the wrestling, when a question came to the heart of one of his followers, ‘Why is the Shaykh standing here in this wrestling arena?’ The Khwaja looked at his follower and said, “I am standing here for the sake of one person. He is going to be a great knower. Everyone will come to him for guidance and through him, people will reach the highest states of Divine Love. My intention is to bring this person under my wing.”
At that moment, Amir Kulal noticed the gaze of Khwaja Baba as-Samasi and was immediately attracted. He abandoned his wrestling match and followed Khwaja Baba as-Samasi to his house. Khwaja Baba as-Samasi taught him the ‘dhikr’ and the principles of the most distinguished way. He told him, “You are now my spiritual son.”
Khwaja Amir Kulal remained under Khwaja Baba as-Samasi’s training for twenty years, throughout which time he faithfully served his Master. Khwaja Amir Kulal strove hard on the path of the Masters of Wisdom. Twice every week, he would make the difficult journey of over thirty kilometres from Sukhar to Samas, to be with Khwaja Baba as-Samasi. Behind a veil of discreteness, he ascended to the final rungs on the ladder of perfection, without anyone knowing his real spiritual state.
Khwaja Amir Kulal had four children, Sayyid Amir Burhan, Sayyid Amir Hamza, Sayyid Amir Shah and Sayyid Amir Umar.
One day, Khwaja Amir Kulal and his disciples were returning home after the Friday congregational prayers, when they passed a group of young boys talking together. The young Timur was among these boys. As the Khwaja was passing, the young Timur asked his friends, “Who is that man?”
One of his friends replied, “That is Khwaja Amir Kulal and his followers.”
Timur immediately stood up, ran to the Khwaja and with respect asked, “O Friend of God, please stay with us and give us some advice.”
The Khwaja replied, “In the future, you will have a very important duty and responsibility to perform, and you will be successful.” Khwaja Amir Kulal then continued walking to his home.
That night the Khwaja saw the spiritual presence of his Shaykh, Khwaja Baba as-Samasi. He suddenly woke up and called for one of his followers, instructing him to go to the young Timur and tell him the following: “The spirit of my Master has made me aware of your future. You will rule over nations from the east and to the west. After you have conquered Khorezm, take the road to Samarkand.”
When he grew up and was the commander of a vast army, Timur remembered these words, firstly conquering Khorezm and then Samarkand.
After the conquest of Samarkand, Timur sent a letter to Khwaja Amir Kulal, saying, “O my dear and great Teacher, it is only with your help that I have been successful in these battles. If you would allow me, I’d like to visit Bukhara to show my appreciation.” The Khwaja sent his fourth son Sayyid Amir Umar with a letter to Timur, saying, “You don’t need to come to me, as I’m praying for you. If you want to be blessed, rule from your throne with fairness and justice and stay on the path to God.” Timur, who became known in the west as Tamerlane, founded the Timurid Empire that included Persia and Central Asia.
Timur continued to ask Khwaja Amir Kulal if he could visit Bukhara, to which the Khwaja refused, until Bukhara came under threat from an oppressing King. Then the Khwaja allowed Timur to march into Bukhara. Timur wanted to give much of Bukhara to Khwaja Amir Kulal, which he refused.
Sayyid Amir Umar, became a close advisor to Timur, holding a unique position of being able to put another opinion to the Ruler, other than his own. He is buried beside Timur in Samarkand.
Khwaja Amir Kulal had four Deputies, but passed his secrets to only one of them, the Master of Masters, Khwaja Muhammad Bahauddin Shah Naqshband.
Khwaja Sayyid Amir Kulal died in the village of his birth, which is nowadays known as Yangi Hayat, in the eastern suburbs of Bukhara, 3 kms from Khwaja Shah Naqshband’s burial complex.
May God be well pleased with him.
Sources:- ‘The Naqshbandi Way – History and Guidebook of the Saints of the Golden Chain’ by Mawlana Shaykh Hisham.
‘Rashahat Ain al-Hayat – Beads of Dew from the Source of Life. Histories of the Khwajagan The Masters of Wisdom’ by Mawlana Ali ibn Husain Safi.
‘Masters of Wisdom of Central Asia’ by Hasan Shushud.
‘The Masters of Wisdom’ by John G. Bennett.