The Golden Chain

Shaykh Muhammad al-Baqi Billah

Shaykh Muhammad al-Baqi Billah (may God sanctify his innermost being), the twenty fourth Shaykh in the Naqshbandi Golden Chain, was responsible for bringing the knowledge of the Masters of Wisdom of Central Asia to India. He is generally known as Shaykh Baqibillah. ‘Berang’ was sometimes added to his name, literally meaning ‘to be without colour’, meaning to be at the ‘level of no level’ or the ‘station of no station’. In Shaykh Ahmed al-Faruqi’s terminology it would be someone who is wayfaring in God’s Essence, where there are no stages, states or levels.

He was born in 1563 in the city of Kabul, in Ajam, which was a colony of the Sultanate of India, now located in Afghanistan. His mother was from Kashmir and was a descendant of Khwaja Ubayd Allah al-Ahrar, the twentieth Shaykh in the Naqshbandi Golden Chain. His father, a Qilich Turk, named Abdussalam Samarqandi, was as a Sufi, a scholar and judge by profession. His grandfather received spiritual guidance from Khwaja Muhammad Zakariya, one of Khwaja Ubayd Allah’s grandsons. From this time, the two families began to intermarry.

Shaykh Baqibillah first studied with a Naqshbandi, Khwaja Ubaydullah Kabuli. At the request of the Viceroy of Kabul, Mirza Muhammad Hakim, (the Emperor of India, Akbar’s, younger brother) Mawlana Sadiq Halwai, who was an eminent scholar and poet from Mecca and Medina, stayed in Kabul. Shaykh Baqibillah became his disciple and being impressed by his student’s capabilities, Mawlana Sadiq allowed him to accompany him to Transoxiana, where Shaykh Baqibillah studied Islamic religious sciences under his guidance.

After coming back to Kabul for a short period, he returned to Transoxiana in search of a spiritual guide. Many Shaykhs in Samarqand refused to initiate him because of his young age. He then went to Lahore and developed a friendship with the future patron of his Sufi Lodge in Delhi, Farid Bukhari. During this time he developed an Uwaysi connection with Khwaja Bahauddin Shah Naqshband. Then he went to Kashmir, possibly with Farid Bukhari and stayed with Shaykh Baba Wali Naqshbandi. After the death of Shaykh Baba Wali, Shaykh Baqibillah returned to Samarqand, guided by an Uwaysi connection to Khwaja Ubayd Allah al-Ahrar.

In Samarqand, Khwaja Baqi Billah met and connected to the Master of his time, Khwaja Muhammad al-Amkanaki. He received the Way of the Naqshbandi Order from him in a very short time; in the time that most seekers require a lifetime to receive. He was also elevated through his spiritual connection to Khwaja Ubayd Allah al-Ahrar.

His Shaykh, Khwaja Muhammad al-Amkanaki, ordered him to return to India and authorized him to accept and train Naqshbandi Sufi students. Shaykh Muhammad predicted, “You are going to have a follower who will be like the sun”, in anticipation of the great Naqshbandi Shaykh, Ahmed al-Faruqi as-Sirhindi becoming his student.

Shaykh Baqibillah initially stayed in Lahore before moving to the city of Delhi, where he settled permanently until his death. It was here that he married and had two sons. The great Moghul Emperor, Akbar, reigned throughout the lifetime of Shaykh Baqibillah. There were many Naqshbandis in the Moghul elite, including some who served in Akbar’s court, although Shaykh Baqibillah chose not to attend Akbar’s court.

Through Shaykh Baqibillah, the Naqshbandi Order spread with great swiftness throughout the India. Millions of people were connected through his deputies. It became known throughout Hindustan that anyone coming to him and looking into his eyes or sitting and doing Dhikr in his company, would enter a state of self-effacement, through which they could reach a state of annihilation. By this miraculous power, the Naqshbandi Order became well known throughout the Indian sub-continent.

Shaykh Baqibillah recorded twenty three discourses and eighty seven letters, which not surprisingly have the same teaching found in Shaykh Ahmed Sirhindi’s more extensive ‘Collected Letters’. Shaykh Baqibillah also wrote a commentary on Khwaja Ubayd al-Ahrar’s ‘Quatrains’.

Shaykh Baqibillah died in 1603 AD in Delhi. His grave is on the west side of the city.

He passed his secret on to his successor, the reviver of the second millennium, al-Imam ar-Rabbani Mujaddid Alf ath-Thani, Shaykh Ahmed al-Faruqi as-Sirhindi.

Shaykh Ahmed al-Faruqi as-Sirhindi said about Shaykh Baqibillah, “Our Shaykh, lord and leader, Shaykh Muhamad al-Baqi is an important successor in the family of notable Naqshbandi holy presences, God sanctify their innermost beings. He taught this poor one the recollection formula involving the Names of God’s Essence. Using an established Naqshbandi method, my Shaykh showered spiritual power on me until its savory taste completely permeated my being.”

Shaykh Ahmed al-Faruqi as-Sirhindi also said about Shaykh Baqibillh, “Muhammad al-Baqi was the one sitting on the throne of all Shaykhs. He was the deputy of all the Masters of the Golden Chain, who reached the end of the infinite, who achieved the highest states of being a friend of God. He was the Spiritual Pole who supported every creature on this earth. He unveiled the secrets of Reality. He was the verifier of the station of the Reality of Muhammad (peace & blessings be upon him). He was the pillar of the people of guidance. He was the essence of the knowers and the Guide of the verifiers.”

May Allah be well pleased with him.


Source:- ‘The Naqshbandi Way – History and Guidebook of the Saints of the Golden Chain’ by Mawlana Shaykh Hisham.
‘Revealed Grace. The Juristic Sufism of Ahmed Sirhindi (1564-1624) by Arthur F. Buehler.
‘Sufi Heirs of the Prophets. The Indian Naqshbandiyya and the Rise of the Mediating Sufi Shaykh’ by Arthur F. Buehler.