Remembering Ghulam-ud-Din Khan
"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 while the unsung ones often slip into oblivion that i reckon as injustice.
Some people meet their maker after receiving 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 while the unsung ones often slip into oblivion that I reckon as injustice.
Here is an attempt to bring into the limelight a hitherto unrecognized person who has been a source of enlightenment. 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 a humble, respectable, and educated Khan Dynasty of Seer Hamdan in 1930. Belonging to a family of landlords, Khan was elder to his one brother and two sisters. Due to the early death of his father, Nizamuddin Khan, he left his education just after joining the middle school.
To make the ends meet, Khan chose cutting and tailoring as his profession. He succeeded in establishing his own enterprise at Khayar Aishmuqam – a few miles away from Seer Hamdan – and won a good name for his talent. Nonetheless, it was his religiousness that lent him reverence. A tailor turned out to be a true slave of religion and became an exact reflection of his name (Ghulam-ud-Din: Slave 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 home for learning. My cheesed off relative threw a fit on me, as I visited his home after a few weeks. I was down in the mouth and was reduced to tears.”
“After this pestering event, I coincidently found a cover page of the Quran discarded on the way bearing the address of a publishing house. 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 a copy for myself. After a few months, I received Kanz-ul-eemaan (commentary on Quran by Ahmad Raza Khan Fazil Barelvi (RA) through post and this was a turning point in my life. Thereafter, I put my mind and heart into learning 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. Within a short period, he got remarkable hold over Quranic recitation, Ilm-e-Hadith, Fiqh, and Tasawwuf. In addition to Kashmiri language, Khan had a liking for Persian. Owing to his determination, he successfully managed to learn Persian. Maulana 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. This kept going on up to last years of his life.
Steadily, Khan’s spiritual thirst also intensified and he 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 tahajjud, 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 Sahab 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 native place, Khayar, there used to be no arrangement for Friday congregational prayers. The area had no central mosque for this purpose. Some people would manage to reach other places for Friday prayers, but the majority of people would fail to pray. Distraught by this situation, Khan launched a door-to-door campaign, aroused the people, and inspired them to establish a Mosque. As the mosque was completed, Khan was, not only honorarily but also for his abilities, chosen Imam of the mosque and he started leading Friday prayers. He delivered his service selflessly with the only motive of cultivating in people fear of Allah and to spread His and His Prophet’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 command ‘Balligu anni walaw aayah’ (convey from me even if it is one verse) had great impact on him. Whatever he would learn, he would communicate it to others with extra ardour. This passion of him never died down as he continued to share religious knowledge wherever & whenever he got opportunity till his last.
Inopportune death of his wife did not allow him to stay out of home as 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 a local seminary to teach Quran – the noble job about which Prophet said, “Khairukum man ta’allamal qur’aana wa allamah” (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. Usually, no teacher punishes anyone for learning Quran but Khan would punish students for not learning properly. Many students would not like this approach then, but today all of them say that had Khan Sahib not been strict they would have been ignorant.
At times, he would receive fee from his students. The fact that around the year 2003 he was receiving Rs 2 per student per month from 30 students (that amounts to Rs 60/month) can force even a common person to think how could have this meager amount satisfied Khan’s needs? The idea behind the collection of fee 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, Maulana Mushtaq Ahmad Khan, who would later enlighten 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, he was the epitome of humility, a considerate and soft-spoken person. People of all ages would respect him. To grieve was not his character. Every person goes through a trying period. Khan too faced some tribulations but never expressed ingratitude to Allah. He had unflinching faith in Him and in bad times he 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 an austere life and had no materialistic pursuits at all. All that he itched for was the pilgrimage to Madina, 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 Prophet Muhammad he once told me, “I never invoke God to have me the vision of Muhammad and I usually skip couplets of naats with such theme.” When I asked for the reason, 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 heavenly abode with his teachings etched on the minds of his students and acquaintances.
Zeeshan Rasool Khan hails from Seer Hamdan and can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org