Shaykh Shamsuddin Habib Allah was born in 1701 in Kala Bagh, Malwa, India. From his childhood, the light of guidance and the traces of piety shone from his forehead. He was famous, like the Prophet Yusef, for his beauty. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “God is Beautiful and He loves beauty”. It is also this attribute of the Prophet that Anas said, “Your Prophet was the most beautiful in appearance and had the best voice of all the Prophets.”
He was born into a noble family of Afghan background. His father, Mirza Jan, was an officer in the army of the Moghul Emperor, Aurangzeb. Following a custom where the Emperor would name the sons of his officers, Aurangzeb is reported to have said, “A son is the soul of his father. Since the name of the father is Mirza Jan, the name of the son will be Jan-i Janan”.
His father raised him and educated him in all branches of religious knowledge. When Shaykh Shamsuddin was nine years of age, he saw Abraham (peace be upon him), who gave him miraculous powers through spiritual connection. It was from this age, that if someone mentioned Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (may God be pleased with him) in his presence, he would see him appear with his physical eyes. He was also able to see the Prophet and all the Companions, as well as all the Shaykhs of the Naqshbandi Order, especially Shaykh Ahmed al-Faruqi.
His early religious instruction continued when he was taught Hadith by Hajji Afzal Siyalkoti and Quran by Hafiz Abd al-Rasul Dihlawi.
At a young age he was attracted to Shaykh Nur Muhammad, who immediately became his Shaykh. Shaykh Nur Muhammad took him out of the state of self-awareness and lifted him up to the highest stations, which allowed him to observe the mysteries of the hidden world. He also gave Shaykh Shamsuddin gifts from his miraculous powers and stations.
One look from his Shaykh opened the nine points, the loci of the Naqshbandi secrets, in Shaykh Shamsuddin. From the knowledge of these nine points, he delved into the secrets contained in the five more powerful points, until his Shaykh authorised him to activate the nine points at any time and to use them. Then Shaykh Nur Muhammad brought him to be in his presence, bringing Shaykh Shamsuddin from one stage to another, enveloped him with his light and protected him with his gaze, until he achieved the ultimate perfection and awakened himself from ignorance.
Shaykh Shamsuddin was steadfast in serving his Shaykh with complete truthfulness. He continued to progress by entering seclusions in the desert and in the jungle, on the orders of his Shaykh. In these seclusions his only food was wild herbs and roots. He wore only what would cover his nakedness. One day, after many of these seclusions, he looked in the mirror but did not see himself. He only saw his Shaykh. At this stage, the Shaykh authorized him to guide God’s servants to their destinies and to the Straight Path.
When his teacher passed away, Shaykh Shamsuddin continued to visit his grave. For two years he received whatever lights and knowledge his Master was able to transmit to him from his grave. Then he was ordered through his spiritual connection to his Shaykh, to connect himself to a living Master.
He visited and studied with Shaykh Abdul Ahad and received the knowledge of the Prophetic Traditions from him. During these classes, whenever the Shaykh would discuss a Tradition, a vision would come to Shaykh Shamsuddin, in which he would find himself sitting with the Prophet and hearing the Tradition directly from the Prophet. He would correct any mistakes that might occur in the Shaykh’s narration of the Traditon – he was acknowledged as a genius in the science of the Traditions. Shaykh Shamsuddin said, ”Shaykh Muhammad Afdal was much older than Me but he used to stand up for me when I entered. He used to say to me, ‘I am standing in deference to the high lineage that you possess.”
He also used to attend the sessions of Shaykh Muhammad Afdal, one of the Caliphs of Shaykh Muhammad Masum, the twenty sixth Master in the Golden Chain. Other Shaykhs that he visited included Shaykh Hafiz Saad Allah, Shaykh Shah Kalshan, Shaykh Muhammad az-Zubayr and Shaykh Muhammad Abid.
He kept the company of these Shaykhs for twenty years. He continued to progress in the states of perfection until he became an ocean of knowledge and the Spiritual Pole of his time, shining like the sun at high noon. Shaykh Muhammad Afdal said, “Shaykh Mazhar Habib Allah has been given the state of the Spiritual Pole and is the central pivot of this Sufi order in this time”.
Shaykh Shamsuddin’s spiritual perfection attracted people from all over the sub-continent, including other Naqshbandi Shaykhs. One of these was the famous Naqshbandi Shaykh, Shah Waliyullah of Delhi, who became his student. Shah Waliyullah said the following about Shaykh Shamsuddin:-
“He was a beacon lighting the way for me to the Divine Presence and through him, I received a great deal of guidance. Although he was no older than me, I consider him as my Master, like my own Shaykhs, my father, Shaykh Shah Abdur Rahim and Shaykh Abu Taher Madani.”
He also said:-
“The second category of teachers of the Path consists of persons of such perfection that the Divine Wisdom has appointed them to be guides to the people. Through their agency, the community is united and disciplined, and God’s purpose is made manifest . . . Spiritual Guides such as these have mapped out the way correctly. They have prescribed a cure for every disease and suggested a remedy for every hardship.”
The power of four Sufi Orders – the Naqshbandi, Qadri, Suhrawardi and Chisti, were combined in his noble person. He used to say, “I received the secrets and knowledge of these Orders from my Shaykh, Sayyid Nur Muhammad, until I attained a very distinguished power in these Orders. He lifted me from the Abrahamic stage to the Muhammadan stage, which caused me to see the Prophet sitting in my place, while I was sitting in his. Then I disappeared and I saw him sitting in both places. Then I saw him disappearing and I saw myself sitting in both places.”
He had innumerable miraculous experiences and countless visions of both the heavenly world and this world. He was a poet and used the pen name, ‘Mazhar’, writing his poetry in Urdu rather than Persian.
Shaykh Shamsuddin had a large number of Caliphs or Deputies, to whom he wrote many letters relating to Sufi thought and practices. One of his Deputies was the great Hanafi scholar, Qadi Thanaullah Panipati, who wrote a famous explanation of the Quran, called ‘Tafsir-i Mazhari’, which he named after his Shaykh.
In 1781 AD, his servant came to him and said, ”There are three men at the door – they want to visit you.” Shaykh Shamsuddin agreed to meet them and when he did, one of them stabbed him. The Emperor sent a doctor to him at the time for the dawn prayer, to whom Shaykh Shamsuddin said, “I do not need you. As for the men who stabbed me, I forgive them because they came as an answer to my prayer, that I could die as a martyr.” He died on the night of Ashura in 1781 AD in Delhi, India.
His mausoleum is located near Jama Masjid in Delhi and is called ‘Shahid Sahab ki Mazhar’. He passed his secret to his successor, Shaykh Abdullah ad-Dahlawi.
May God be well pleased with him.
Source:- ‘The Naqshbandi Way – History and Guidebook of the Saints of the Golden Chain’ by Mawlana Shaykh Hisham.