The Golden Chain

Khwaja Muahammad az-Zahid

Khwaja Muhammad az-Zahid al-Qadi as-Samarqandi (may God sanctify his innermost being) is the twenty first Shaykh in the Naqshbandi Golden Chain and at the same time, the twelfth Khwaja of the ‘Khwajagan’ – the Masters of Wisdom of Central Asia. He was known as Khwaja Muhammad az-Zahid or Khwaja Muhammad Qadi.

Khwaja Muhammad az-Zahid related: The cause of my connection and initiation to Khwaja Ubayd Allah al-Ahrar occurred one day when I was travelling with my companion Shaykh Nimatullah, from Samarqand to Herat, for the sake of furthering our education. When we reached the village of Shadiman, we stayed there many days to rest because it was the hot season. One day, Khwaja Ubayd Allah came to the same city and we went to visit him at the time of the afternoon prayer.

He asked me where I came from. I said from Samarqand. He was speaking to us in the finest manner and revealed all the private matters that were in my heart, piece by piece, until he told me I was travelling to Herat. I realized that I was in the company of a perfect individual, who could see a person’s spirit as clearly as the palm of his hand. That was so amazing that it made my heart connect with him. He said to me, “If your goal is to seek education and knowledge, you can find it here – there is no need to go to Herat. “

A little while later, the Khwaja asked me, “Now tell me your real story; why are you going to Herat? Are you going there in search of the spiritual path or are you going to seek external knowledge?
My friend replied on my behalf, “He is seeking spiritual knowledge but he is using the pursuit of external knowledge as a cover.” The Khwaja said, “If that is the case, that is good.” Then he took me into his private garden, walking together until we were out of sight from other people. He took hold of my hand and I immediately entered the state of self-effacement for a long time. I understood he was connecting me to his Shaykh, and from him to the previous Shaykhs, all the way to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and from the Prophet to God, Glorious and Exalted is He. When I recovered my normal consciousness, he said to me, “You may not be able to read my handwriting, so let me read this to you.” He took a sheet of paper from his pocket, read what he had written and then gave it to me, saying, “Here is my letter to you – look after it with care.”

The text of the Khwaja’s letter is as follows:-
“The true essence of worship is reverence, humility, supplication and contrition. These qualities arise in the heart through the contemplation of Allah’s glorious Majesty. The achievement of such bliss depends on love. Love becomes manifest through obedience to the Prophet and Master of all ages, and obedience depends on learning how to obey.
It is necessary therefore, to pay attention to those scholars who are the heirs to true religious knowledge. As for those who abuse their learning, making it a means to worldly gain or an instrument of fame and fortune, they must be avoided.
One should not mix with dervishes who indulge in music and dancing, and who do not hesitate to buy and sell all kinds of things. One’s ears must be deaf to heretical doctrines. One must try to study to acquire true wisdom, in conformity with the practice of the Allah’s Messenger.
May you be with peace!”

Khwaja Muhammad az-Zahid continued:
“After Khwaja Ubayd Allah had read his letter and handed it to me, he gave me permission to go to Herat. He recited Surat al-Fatiha, then mounted his horse and rode ahead of us, to set us on our way. In compliance with his first command, we set out for Herat via Bukhara. Someone caught up with us along the way and handed me a letter, to be delivered in Bukhara to Khwaja Kulan, the son of the venerable Mawlana Sa’duddin Kashghari. This letter contained the instructions: ‘Take an active interest in the bringer of this letter. Do not let him wander like a vagabond and keep him from getting involved with other people.”

Khwaja Muhammad az-Zahid was unable to complete his journey to Bukhara. Along the way, his attraction to the venerable Khwaja grew stronger and stronger. Whenever he took a step forward, his heart would take a step back, yet he could not accept the idea of turning back. He changed horses six times and encountered all kinds of hardships. His eyes became unbearably sore from the fever he caught.

When his journey brought him to Tashkent, he considered going to meet a Shaykh, saying to himself, ‘Since I am here, I may as well pay him a visit.’ No sooner had he entertained this thought, than he lost his horse and the books in his saddlebag. He finally came to the understanding, that everything was being directed, with a strong magnetic force, by the venerable Khwaja. When he found his lost possessions, he decided to return to Samarqand. On his arrival in Samaqand, Khwaja Ubayd Allah came out saying, “Welcome, welcome. “ I stayed with him and never left him, until he left this world.

Khwaja Muhammad az-Zahid became one of Khwaja Ubayd Allah al-Ahrar’s most advanced students, culminating in him receiving the Secret of the Naqshbandi Golden Chain from the Khwaja, to continue the teaching of the Masters of Wisdom of Central Asia. He wrote a book about Khwaja Ubayd Allah, called ‘The Pedigree of the Sages and Biography of the Champions of Truth’, in which he reflects, “I entered the service of the venerable Khwaja in the year 1480 AD, and remained in his service for twelve years. However much I might praise him, it would always be too little.”

According to the ‘The Beads of Dew from the Source of Life’, Khwaja Muhammad Qadi was endowed with the finest aptitude for understanding the subtle concepts of the Masters of Sufism. His presence in a group meeting would always inspire the venerable Khwaja to speak of the most profound realities.

Khwaja Muhammad az-Zahid died in 1529 AD in the Surkhandaya Region of south east Uzbekistan. He passed his secret on to his nephew, Khwaja Darwish Muhammad as-Samarqandi.

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.