Sunday, February 12, 2017

Khalifatullah (atba) visits Agra

Acceding to the request and invitation of his disciple Fazil Jamal Saheb, Muhyi-ud-Din Al Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Saheb (atba) of Mauritius and the blessed members of the Household agreed to include a visit to Agra and Delhi as part of the Tour Programme during the India visit, Alhamdulillah, Soumma Alhamdulillah. Once the Kerala-segment of the India Visit was completed, the Team that included the family of Fazil Jamal Saheb and also our brother Sulfikar Ali Saheb travelled to Agra from Kannur Railway Station on the evening of January 22, 2017.

Two days later, on the 24th Tuesday morning, everyone reached Agra, checking into the Hotel and taking rest for some hours. In the afternoon, the Team visited the Agra Fort, one of the World Heritage Sites in India, designated by the UNESCO, marking its significant cultural and historical value. 

The Agra Fort was built up by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in the 1560s as his Imperial Capital in red sandstone, soon after consolidating his political sovereignty over North India. At one point of time in history, Agra Fort was the highest political seat of the Government of India or the capital of the Mughal Emperor so as to conduct the State proceedings, including the reception ceremonies of Foreign Ambassadors. The sensitive political decisions regarding foreign relations and the internal administration of different State provinces and regions used to be taken at the court so much so that senior officials would have to camp at the place for several days often to have an audience with the Emperor on such strategic and diplomatic and administrative matters. 

Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, the grandson of Emperor Akbar and the man who built the widely known Taj Mahal, spent his last days at the Agra Fort, after his son Aurangzeb took effective charge of the empire. 

The Agra Fort is an architectural marvel, containing splendid palaces both in red sandstone and white marble built by generations of prolific builders: Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan. Some of the exquisite structures within the Fort are:

The Diwan-i-Am - once housed the famed Peacock Throne.
Diwan-i-Khas - A hall of private audience, it was used to welcome kings and dignitaries.
The Anguri Bagh - It houses 85 square, geometrically arranged lush gardens.
Khas Mahal - An immaculate white marble palace.
Mina Masjid - Literally meaning 'Heavenly Mosque' it is a tiny mosque closed to the public.
Nagina Masjid - meaning 'Gem Mosque' it was designed exclusively for the ladies of the court.
Musamman Burj - A large, octagonal tower with a balcony facing the Taj Mahal.

Fatehpur Sikri

Early next morning, on 25th January 2017, after breakfast, we started our journey to Fatehpur Sikri, some 37 km away from Agra. The city was built up by Mughal emperor Akbar as a twin city of Agra in the 1570s and 1580s. We visited the Fatehpur Sikri Mosque which is said to be modelled on the Makkah Masjid in those days. According to historians, Fatehpur Sikri is one of the finest examples of Mughal architectural splendour at its height. The city, however, had to be abandoned within two decades of being built up due to issues of water shortage in the area and the Mughal capital was later shifted to Lahore from Fatehpur Sikri in what is now Pakistan. One of the major attractions at Fatehpur Sikri is the Buland Darwaza, the famously imposing Victory Gate, one of the largest gates in the entire world. It was made in the year 1575 to celebrate Emperor Akbar's success in conquering Gujarat and is a fine blend of Persian and Mughal architecture. 

While at Fatehpur Sikri, we also got the opportunity to visit the house of the two Persian polymaths, brothers-scholars and poet-laureates in the Akbar court, Abul Fazl and Abul Faizi.  Abul Fazl's Akbarnama or The History of Akbar continues to be one of the most important works we have even now on the Indo-Persian history and the Book is considered a touchstone of prose artistry. The house built up for them is mostly in a dilapidated state. However, the exterior remains in tact.

The Dargah of the famous Sufi saint Sheikh Salim Chishti is also located within the complex. Sheikh Salim Chishti’s reputation as a saintly figure travelled widely across the vast Indian subcontinent in the last many centuries. With the Mughal Emperor Akbar finding that his deep wish for a heir to the throne being fulfilled with the birth of three sons in the royal court after many years of great anxiety and with him attributing the change of royal fortune to the prayers of this saint, the Hindu-Muslim shared cultural past and syncretic devotional practices in the subcontinent has elevated the mausoleum of the great saint into an object of worship and ritualistic practices.   

While at the Fatehpur Sikri Mosque, Hadhrat Khalifatullah (atba) offered a Nafal Namaz, as has been his practice almost all through the journey.  To those who gathered around him at the Mosque, Hadhrat Saheb (atba) called attention to an ironical point to ponder: there were more people on the Dargah-worship circuit than there were at the Mosque, subtly hinting apparently to the low priority being attached to Tawheed in these troubled times by the ‘Muslims’ themselves.

It is interesting to note that many people flocked around Hadhrat Khalifatullah (atba) during his visit to the Mosque in Fatehpur Sikri, like it happened in the journey from Alappuzha. As someone who was with Hadhrat Khalifatullah (atba) all through the journey in India, this humble self found it very easy to introduce one's Imam (atba) to anyone and everyone that he is my Imam (atba) and i believe it has to do with his spiritual aura Allah (swt) has bestowed upon His Elect, Subuhanallah. 

Many local Muslims in Agra also came to greet and meet Huzur (atba). His conversations with them touched at the roots of the Islamic faith: the significance of Tawheed, the aspect on Laa Ilaaha Illallah...He debated with them on the futility of worshipping dead and gone saints when there is a Living God. Hadhrat Saheb (atba)'s Islamic aura was such that even those who were inclined for worshipping their saints and Sufis became silent in front of his explanations. 

From Fatehpur Sikri, in another quest for understanding history of the Indian people up close, we travelled to Sikandra, where the mausoleum of Emperor Akbar is located. In the Mughal tradition that originates in Central Asia, constructing a tomb in one's lifetime was an important priority and it is said that Akbar himself started construction of this beautiful monument. Akbar's son Jahangir completed the construction of this pyramidal tomb in 1613. The tomb of Mariam, Jehangir's mother, is also located close to the imposing red sandstone building.  Akbar's daughters, Shakrul Nisha Begum and Aram Bano, are also entombed there.

As an informed source notes, “although there is only one entrance in use today there exist four red sandstone gates which lead to the mausoleum complex. The decoration on the gateways is strikingly bold, with large mosaic patterns set into it. The gateway's four minarets rising from the corners are particularly striking. Built of red sandstone, the minarets are inlaid with white marble polygonal patterns; the pleasing proportions and profuse surface ornamentation makes the gateways very impressive”.

At these historical buildings from the Muslim heritage, our brother Fazil Jamal Saheb observed that many of the Architects of these buildings were inspired by ideas of ‘heavenly gardens’ and ‘Jannatul Firdauz’. Hadhrat Khalifatullah (atba) also concurred with that view about Muslims being influenced by concepts of Heaven, Paradise, and Garden in the Qur'an in their architectural designs. Like Hazrat Imam Suyuti (ra) said, for Muslims, Qur'an is the starting point for all the Islamic sciences, "Everything is based on the Qur'an". After the visit to Akbar’s Maqbara in Sikandra, we returned to Agra and as the Taj Mahal was about to close for the day, the Team decided to have a round of the local markets in Agra. 

While at the Agra Market, the Team found that it was already time for Maghrib prayers and they looked for a space to offer prayers. Knowing about this situation, a devout Muslim shop owner in Agra invited Hadhrat Khalifatullah (atba) and all members of the Team to offer the Namaz at their own home. Once the prayers were finished, all visiting members were served with Biryani by that family, Alhamdulillah, Soumma Alhamdulillah. After the food, in his thanksgiving speech on behalf of the whole Team, Hadhrat Khalifatullah (atba) addressed all members of the family and congratulated them for showing a beautiful example of living Islam and prayed a lot for their welfare and progress in both their secular projects and spiritual life, Insha Allah, Aameen. Hadhrat Saheb (atba) also spoke about the need for fostering relations despite the distances involved for all parties and contact numbers were exchanged between the visiting Team and the hosts. Dr. Haseena M. Fazil Saheba provided the Hindi Translation of the speech of Hadhrat Saheb (atba) for the benefit of everyone there. The surprising generosity and fraternal bonding extended by that Muslim family at a completely unexpected time gladdened the hearts of every member of the visiting Team and we all looked upon it as a beautiful sign of "Kun-fa-Yakun" and Divine satisfaction with our humble quest for performing Namaz at the correct time, Alhamdulillah.