Remembering Ghulam-ud-Din Khan

Ghulam ud Din Khan

Some people meet their maker after receiving a worldly commendation for every good they do. However, some meet their end without coming into public notice although they also contribute to society considerably. Truth be told, popularity is meaningless to great men. From a spiritual point of view, neither popularity elevates anyone’s status nor does concealment diminish it. But when a person gains recognition, his contribution in any field is always remembered and unsung ones often slip into oblivion that I reckon as injustice. Here is an attempt to bring a hitherto unrecognized person into the limelight, which has been a source of enlightenment. And that person is Ghulam-ud-Din Khan of Seer Hamdan who has been described by many as ‘Hidden Saint’ – for his superior qualities.

Ghulam-ud-Din Khan was born in humble, respectable, and educated ‘Khan Dynasty’ of Seer Hamdan in 1930. Belonging to a family of landlords, Khan was elder than one brother and two sisters. Due to the early death of his father – Nizamuddin Khan, Ghulam-ud-Din Khan could not continue education and left it just after joining the middle school.

To make ends of family meet, Khan chose cutting and tailoring as his profession. Khan succeeded in establishing his own enterprise at ‘Khayar Aishmuqam’ – a location a few miles away from Seer Hamdan and won a good name for his talent. Nonetheless, his religiousness lent him reverence. A tailor turned out to be a true slave of religion and became an exact reflection of his name (Ghulam – Slave, ud-Din – of religion).

Along with tailoring, Khan mastered Quranic studies without joining any seminary. Talking about his gusto for reading Quran, Khan, once shared his story with me and said:- “Once I took Quran from one of my relatives’ home in absence of its bearer and carried it to my occupational residence (Khayar) for learning. My cheesed off relative threw a fit on me, as I visited home after a few weeks. I was down in the mouth and was reduced to tears’’.

After this pestering event, I coincidently found an outer page of the Quran discarded on the way having the address of publishing house printed on it. For me, it was a ray of hope in the darkness of despair. I noted down the address, went straight to the post office, and ordered the Quran. After a few months, I received ‘Kanzul Emaan’ (commentary on Quran by Ahmad Raza Khan Fazil Barelvi (R.a) postally from publishing house and this was a turning point in my life. Thereafter, I put my mind and heart into service to learn Quran. With Allah’s benediction, I gained such a precision that no one could point out a mistake in my lifetime”.

Khan developed a profound interest in researching Islamic literature also. Within the short period, he got remarkable hold over Quranic recitation, Ilm e Hadith, Fiqh, and Tasawuf. In addition to the Kashmiri language, Khan Sahib had a liking for Persian. Owing to his determination, he successfully managed to learn Persian. Molana Jami’s religious poetry had a deep influence on him and he would often recite his naatia poetry at mosques, shrines, and in religious congregations and this kept going on up to last years of his life.

Steadily, Khan’s spiritual thirst also intensified and began his search for a guide. He became associated with Chisti order – The guide’s name, however, is not known except his cognomen – ‘Chisti Sahib’. Under the guidance of his mentor, Khan enriched himself with many qualities such as praying tahajud, keeping fast, performing Salah strictly. It is important to note here that it was his teenage stage.

Later, Khan along with his entire family entered into Qadri order – through a seer known as ‘Syed Shafi Sahb’ of Srinagar. In later part of his life, Khan also received the spiritual guidance of Syed Hafizullah Andrabi Qadri of Qazigund and had a strong association with him.

At his occupational place (Khayar), there was no arrangement for Friday congregation. The area had no central mosque for this purpose. Certain people would manage to reach other places to read Friday prayers, the majority of people, nevertheless, would fail to pray. Distraught by this situation, Khan launched a door-to-door campaign, aroused the people, and inspired them to lay the foundation of Mosque. As construction of the mosque was completed, Khan was, not only honorifically but also for his abilities, chosen ‘Imam’ of the mosque and he started leading Friday prayers. He delivered his service selflessly there with the only motive of cultivating in people fear of God, spread His and Prophet (pbuh)’s message together with their love. He emphasized on Fiqh – and moilingly taught people the fundamentals of Islam. He would preach what he would practice thus his every advice had unusual effect on listeners. People from far-flung areas would attend his lectures and he would passionately transmit religious knowledge and experience to others. In fact, Prophet’s (saw) command; Baligu ini walaw Ayah’ (convey from me even if it is one verse (Bukhari) had great impact on him. Whatever he would learn, he would communicate it to others with extra-ardor. This passion of his never died down and until the last, he continued to share religious knowledge wherever & whenever he got opportunity.

Inopportune death of his wife did not allow him to stay out of home as there he had an immature family to care for. He returned to his native place, opened cutting and tailoring shop as a source of livelihood while continuing his mission of Dawah. Soon, he was again proffered priesthood at a nearby mosque, which he accepted.

A stage came in his life when he left his actual profession and devoted himself to religion until his departure. He took charge of local ‘Seminary’ – associated with the residential mosque to teach Quran – the noble job about which Prophet (saw) said; Khierakum Min Talimal Quran wa Ilm’ (the best of you are those who learn the Quran and teach it (Bukhari)‘. Seer Hamdan’s more than half  of the population has learned the Quran under his tutelage. Mainly, no teacher punishes anyone for learning Quran but Khan would bastinade students for not having perfect learning. Many students would not like this approach then, but today all of them say that ‘had Khan Sahib not been strict, we would have been ignorant’.

Rightly, in punishing he had only one objective that was to make students learn the Quran accurately. At some point in time, Khan Sahib would receive fees from his students for teaching. The fact that around the year 2003 he was receiving Rs 2 per student per month from enrolled 30 students (that amounts to Rs60/month), can force even a common person to think how could have this meager amount satisfied Khan sahib’s needs? .But in truth, the idea behind the concept of fee imposition was not needfulness. Actually, Khan discovered most students and their parents trivialize free-education. They take pains only when they have to pay even if a single penny. Therefore, logic at the back of this concept was not self-gain but the improvement of a child in religious education although getting emolument was not unfair either. Later on, students were exempted even from paying this negligible amount after Khan noticed the growth in their interest.

Besides, rendering religious services himself, Khan Sahib fathered the illustrious scholar – Molana Mushtaq Ahmed Khan, who enlightened the entire valley through his incredible eloquence, knowledge, and spirituality. This is one more feather in his cap.

It is not difficult to predict now how his personal life would have been. Having imbibed the teachings of Allah and His Messenger (SAW), he was the epitome of humility, considerate, soft-spoken person. People of all ages were worthy of respect for him. To grieve was not his character – neither to Almighty nor to masses. Every person goes through a trying period; Khan too faced some tribulations but never expressed ingratitude to Allah. He had unflinching faith on God and in bad times would always say, ‘My Allah is great; He puts me to test but only He could get me out of it. Simplicity was his hallmark. He led the austere life and had no materialistic pursuits at all. All that he itched for was the pilgrimage to Medina, but like Allama Iqbal, it remained his unfulfilled dream. So intense was his love for Prophet’s abode that when anyone would talk about that, Khan would break into tears. Besides being such an ardent devotee of Muhammad (SAW) he once told me; I never invoke God to have me the vision of Prophet (saw) and I usually skip couplets of naats with such theme. I quizzed, he answered; ‘I am not the man of that merit, so why to ask for impossible’.

On 27 November 2013 at the age of 83, Khan left for a heavenly abode with his teachings etched on the minds of his students and acquaintances.

Zeeshan Rasool Khan, writer hails from Seer Hamdan and can be mailed at [email protected]




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