The Golden Chain

17. Khwaja Bahauddin Shah Naqshband

Khwaja Muhammad Bahauddin Shah Naqshband (may God sanctify his innermost being) is the seventeenth Shaykh in the Naqshbandi Golden Chain and at the same time, the eighth Khwaja of the ‘Khwajagan’ – the Masters of Wisdom of Central Asia. Mawlana Shaykh Nazim said that his name signifies the concept of ‘drawing pictures of the Indescribable Reality on the heart of seekers.’ Other meanings of his name, that apply to the Naqshbandi Order, are ‘The Designers’ and ‘The Engravers of the Heart.’

He was born in 1317 AD, in the village of Qasr al-Arifan, which means the ‘Palace of the Truly Wise’, near Bukhara in Uzbekistan. From his early childhood, his material and spiritual connection to God was apparent through the radiant light in his face, and the miraculous powers that he was granted. His mother related,” When my son Bahauddin was just four years of age, he pointed to one of the cattle and said, ‘We should expect this cow of ours, with a neck like a deer, to give birth to a calf with a white blaze on its forehead.’ A few months later, the cow did indeed give birth to a calf that matched the child’s description.”

After being presented to Khwaja Baba as-Samasi, three days after his birth by his grandfather, Shah Naqshband was treated like the Khwaja’s adopted son during his childhood. When he was eighteen years old, he moved to the village of Samas to begin his training with Khwaja Baba as-Samasi, whose dying wish was that Khwaja Sayyid Amir Kulal would take care of Shah Naqshband and train him to become a Master of Sufism.

In addition to this teaching, Shah Naqshband was an ‘Uwaisi’, meaning one who is trained by spiritual influence. Through this connection, he received guidance and direction through the spiritual influence of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and Khwaja Abdul Khaliq al-Gijdivoniy. Shah Naqshband said, “The venerable Khwaja Sayyid Amir instructed me in ‘negation and affirmation’, using the method of Khwaja Ali Ramitani. I concentrated on this, and on controlled breathing, giving up the practice of public ‘dhikr’. I also obeyed the commands of Khwaja Abdul Khaliq al-Gijdivoni, which sometimes came to me in dreams, and so I gradually achieved results.”

In the chain of the Masters of Wisdom, from Khwaja Mahmud Injir al-Fagnevi to Khwaja Sayyid Amir Kulal, audible ‘dhikr’ was united with silent ‘dhikr’. It became apparent to the people around him that Shah Naqshband only practiced silent ‘dhikr’, which included leaving Khwaja Amir Kulal’s Dhikr Circle, causing offence to the other disciples. Whilst he continued to faithfully serve Khwaja Amir Kulal, who treated him with increasing favour and confidence, Shah Naqshband didn’t explain his actions to his fellow disciples. One day, when as many as five hundred disciples were engaged in the construction of a Mosque in the village of Sukhar, Khwaja Amir Kulal said to them, “You have lapsed into a bad opinion concerning my son, Bahauddin, and you have come to regard him as guilty of shortcoming. This condition of yours arises from the failure to understand Bahauddin. A special grace has been bestowed upon him by God, and the state of His servants is linked to this grace of God. As for my personal view of him, it is not the result of my own will.” After this address, Khwaja Amir Kulal then confirmed that Shah Naqshband was a fully qualified Shaykh. Nevertheless, Shah Naqshband did not start teaching students at this time.

After this address, Khwaja Naqshband entered the service Khwaja Amir Kulal’s second deputy, Khwaja Arif Dikkarani, with whom he continued for seven years after the death of Khwaja Amir Kulal, who had previously given him the secret of the Order. They travelled together through Turkestan, Persia and Iraq and on Hajj to Mecca. Upon the death of Khwaja Arif Dikkarani, Shah Naqshband following the counsel given to him by Khwaja Amir Kulal and went to Shaykh Qasim, who was one of Khwaja Ahmed Yasavi’s successors. He remained with him for three months, when a close friendship was established between them. This was not a teacher-pupil relationship but rather there were certain techniques known to the Shaykhs of Chinese Turkestan that the Masters of Wisdom wished to investigate. In later years, Shah Naqshband would welcome Qasim Shaykh with great respect whenever he came to Bukhara. In addition, Khwaja Naqshband studied the Traditions of the Prophet with Mawlana Bahaddin Qishlaqi.

Shah Naqshband then joined Khalil Ata, as a result of a vision that had come to him some years before. Khalil Ata was not only one of the greatest of the Turkish Shaykhs in his own right but was also a descendant of Ghengis Khan. Soon after their meeting, Khalil Ata became the Sultan of Turkestan, ruling for six years from Bukhara. During this time, Shah Naqshband was his ‘right-hand man’ in his position as an administrator and courtier. Khalil Ata is described by historians as a mild ruler, who tried to repair the damage of the Mongol conquest. He was greatly loved and respected by the common people of Turkestan, whilst arousing the hostility of the nobles in his efforts to create a fairer balance between the two classes. Khwaja Shah Naqshband assisted Khalil Ata in this pursuit. Shah Naqshband says about Khalil Ata, “He taught me how to conduct myself as a good servant. I derived great benefit from this, enabling me to make great strides in the spiritual path.”

After a revolt by the nobility, supported by the army, the Sultanate collapsed and Turkestan fell into disorder. Shah Naqshband wrote, “In a flash, all the labour of so many years was destroyed. From that time, I lost confidence in the affairs of this world. I left and returned to the village of Ridwa, a few miles from Bukhara.” He was told to understand vegetable life by caring for plants. After this he was told to care for animals. He would go into the streets to find ill-treated or suffering animals, that he would nurse back to good health. Once he understood the plant and animal kingdoms, he was told to turn his attention to the material world, where he participated in road building and removing all the things that could be harmful to people from these roads.

It was not until he was fifty that Khwaja Bahauddin accepted the role of guiding students, which he continued to do for the remainder of his life. During this period of his Masterhood, he went for his second Pilgrimage to Mecca with Khwaja Muhammad Parsa. On their return, he sent Khwaja Muhammad and other companions to Nishapur, while he went to visit Mawlana Zainuddin Taihadi in Herat. Later, he spent some time in Merv and then settled in the village of Qasr al-Arifin, on the outskirts of Bukhara, where he remained for the rest of his life.

According to the ‘Risalei Bahaiyye’, Shah Naqshband was a well-built man of medium height. His beard was grey, tending more to white than black. His features were round, his cheeks ruddy, his brows widely spaced, his moustache clipped and his eyes, a dark chestnut colour.

Khwaja Shah Naqshband, particularly through the years when he taught Sufism, gained an immense reputation throughout the Islamic World. For most of Shah Naqshband’s life, Timur (known as Tamerlane in the west) was establishing the Timurid Empire, which began the flowering of one of the world’s Golden Ages. Islam was dominant everywhere, which provided a platform for Shah Naqshband’s teaching of peace and social justice. His spiritual standing was so supreme, that not only was he the ‘Sultan Awliya’ (the Spiritual Pole) of his time but the Shaykhs of the Golden Chain that followed Shah Naqshband, adopted his name, so they and their students became known till this day, as the Naqshbandi Order.

Shah Naqshband died in 1389 AD and at his request was buried in his garden, in the village of his birth. The succeeding Kings of Bukhara took care of his School and Mosque, expanding them into a complex of buildings and gardens around his grave. This complex is located 7kms eastwards from the centre of Bukhara and is visited by many pilgrim each day.

Khwaja Shah Naqshband had many successors, with the most honorable being Khwaja Muhammad ibn Muhammad Alauddin al-Khwarazmi al-Bukhari al-Attar, to whom he passed on the secret of the Golden Chain and also Khwaja Muhammad Parsa, who wrote the ‘Risala Qudsiyya’.

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.