Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh is the most luminous figure of our history. While Muslim warriors conquered these parts of the sub-continent by force, the Muslim Saints identified themselves with the people, and interpreted Islam to them as a rational approach to better life in this world and hereafter. The people were not converted to Islam under any pressure of the armed forces; they accepted Islam voluntarily because of the appeal of the message of Islam as conveyed and preached by Muslim missionaries.
By common consent Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh is a great Saint of the sub-continent. Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh was born in Ghazni, a small place in Afghanistan. Located at a higher altitude it is a cool place in summer. The winter is windy and cold. When Ghaznavids were in power, this town was known for its grandeur as it happened to be the capital of their empire. It is said, it is contemporary to Harrappan and Indus valley civilization. It was the centre of trade with “Khurasan” and Sindh. It was a medieval walled city with expensions of areas called “Mohallahs” developed outside the walled city. Two of these Mohallahs were known as “Hujwer” and “Jalab”. Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh’s, family lived in the locality of Hujwer. In his book Kashful Mahjub he cateforically prayed for Ghazno “becoming the abode of Saints and venerable men”. Many books mention 400 A.H. or 1000 AD as date of birth but some writers by analysing the contemporary historical events argue it to be 1002 AD. Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh was a Hasani Syed i.e. a descendent of Hazrat Ali. Generally recorded is Ali Hujweri s/o Muhmmad Usman s/o Abul Hasan ali, who was son of Abdur Rehman s/o Shah Shuja s/o Abul Hassan Ali s/o Asghar s/o Daud s/o Imam Hasan who was son of Hazrat Ali. Those of ‘Alids’ who survived at Karbala sought refuge in distant lands. (There is a narration that some survivors of the tragedy came to lahore and among them Bibi Rukayya, the chaste lady, whose tomb is revered as Bibi Pak Daman). Some question this, but dispersal after tragedy of Karbala is confirmed. Among them were the forefathers of Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh, apparently an affluent family, with a religious devotion, piety and learning. Being in Iran, the family of Data Ganj Bakhsh was largely Iranised. They had married Iranian Woman. In the deviation of writing the book Kashful Mahjub in persian, instead of Arabic, is evidence that the spoken language of the family was persian. May be his mother was also an Iranian.
The original name of Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh was Abul Hasan Ali when he came to be known as Saint, he was surnamed ‘Data Ganj Bakhsh’ because of his generosity. In Kashful Mahjub, Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh has referred to himself as Ali Bin Usman-bin-Ali-al-Jallaby-al- Ghazanvi-al-Hujweri. He was named after his grandfather. Hazrat Khawaja Gharib Nawaz, Muinudin Chisti, the celebrated Saint of Ajmer, meditated at the tomb of Hazrat Ganj Bakhsh. After a period of forty days, he was, it is said, greatly affected by the graces showered upon him at this holy place and it was here that he got the spiritual illumination. At that moment standing at the foot of the tomb, out of respect for the great saint said:
“Ganj Bakhsh-e-faiz-e-alam, Mazhar-e-noor-e-Khuda, Naqisan-ra pir-e-Kamil, Kamilan ra Rahnuma”.
It is generally thought that from that date the Saint came to be called Ganj Bakhsh. The couplet is inscribed over the marble arch on the entry gate of the tomb. Some, however, feel that the Saint was so known even during his lifetime. Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh had great and brilliant knowledge of Quran, tradition, history, jurisprudence and logic etc. that is testified by the treasure trove in the classic ‘Kashful Mahjub’. The supreme mission of the Saint was to make the people understand true Islam. He had great skill in discourses, debates and profoundness of thought. Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh, as referred to in Kashful Mahjub has written seven other books these are:-
i) Minhajuddin containing account of various Sufis.
ii) Asrarul Khiraj Wal-maurat means of livehoof.
iii) Kitabi Fana-o-Baqa.
v) Kitab-al-byan li-ahl-al-Iman.
vi) Al-riayat li Haquq Allah.
vii) A book on the subject of Faith.
Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh was himself a poet. He has quoted numerous verses in Kashful Mahjub and this shows his developed taste for poetry. The Saint, it is appears from his writings, travelled extensively. The places visited include Amul in Tabaristan, Farghana, Azerbayjan, Tabrez, Baghdad, Balkh, Merv, Baward in Turkman, Damascus, Samarkand, Eygpt, Heart, Nishapur, Hijaz, Isphahan, Khurasan and Kirman etc., etc.
Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh was a scholar Saint. His classic work Kashful Mahjub is scholary exposition of various subjects. A deep and thorough study leads one to discover the genius of spiritualism in the form of sayings of Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh. Prof. Masud in his book on Data Ganj Bakhsh has copied and calculated 536 such ‘Aqwal’, to quote one:
According to ‘Fuwaid –ud-Fuwad’ by Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia os Delhi when Hazrat Al-Khattali asked Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh to proceed to Lahore, he expressed surprise at the order,for, Shaikh Zanjani was already there. But he was asked to follow the orders without questioning. When Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh reached Lahore, the first thing he noticed was that funeral of Hazrat Shaikh Zanjani was being taken out and Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh led the funeral prayer. It thus dawned on him why his Shaikh had asked him to proceed to Lahore. Shaikh Al-Khattali who was the Qutab of the age was a man of great spiritual vision. He must have visualised that the Seljuks were likely to rise. Islam had recently entered punjab and there was great scope of work. There is controversy among the writers about the date of arrival but it is around 1034 or 1035 AD. Two Sufi Scholars preceded Data Sahib in case of Lahore. These are Shah Hussain Zanjani and Shah Ismail. Shah Hussain Zanjani died in 1034 and his tomb is in Chah Miran. Shah Ismail died around 1048 and his tomb is on the Hall Road.
According to Syed Muhammad Latif and Tahqiqat-e-Chishti one of the first persons to become Muslim at the hands of Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh was Rai Raju, who was the Naib Hakim of Lahore. On conversion to Islam, he was named Shaikh Hindi by Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh. There is likelihood that under the influence of Rai Raju many others vonverted to Islam.
There were large conversions in the area of Bhati Gate which had been named as Hujweri Gate. On complaint, the ruler, Sultan Masud referred the leader Jai Singh and other Hindus to Data Sahib where they all embraced Islam on forceful eloquent and convincing arguments of Data Sahib. Data Sahib alsodecided that the name of the Gate might neither be Hujweri Gate nor Jai Singh and instead be called Bhati Gate as before.
Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh acquired great fame and came to be recognized as the Qutab-ul-Aqtab. He had during this period many disciples who came to him for religious instructions. He had ‘Khanqah’ and a a Mosque in his lifetime. This Mosque was re-built in 1279. It was damaged later, around late 1960s during an earthquake. It is said that when originally being built some of the locals pointed out that the ‘Qibla’ of the Mosque was not exactly in the western direction and appeared towards north. On learning the objection the Holy Saint himself one day led the prayer and after that asked the people who had objected to see if the ‘“Qibla”’ was wrongly placed. When they saw they found it directly in line with the Holy Kaaba. It was the 1st ‘Karamat’ of the saint. As already mentioned the most important of Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh was Kashful Mahjub. The book took quite sometime to finish and he summed up his spiritual experiences in the same. This was also the first work on Sufism written in Persain. Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh was also a scholar of Arabic but to communicate easily with his readers, he wrote it in Persian. This book was translate into English by Prof. R. A. Nicholson. He was Professor of Arabic and sometimes lecturer in Persian at the University of Cambridge. The 1st English edition appeared in 1911, second in the year 1936 and yet another in 1959. In the introduction Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh noted that the book was written in answer to some issue raised by Hazrat Abu Saeed Hujweri in regard to Sufism. The book seeks to explain divine systeries, way of truth and stages of Sufism which one covers in his communication and effort to reach the Creator.
The Khanqah came into existence, when infact Hazrat Data Sahib came to stay in Lahore. It was on a mound west of Bhati Gate. A mosque had also been raised by the Saint alongwith Khanqah known as “Khishti Masjit”. The Mausoleum of the Holy Saint, according to Tehqiqat-e-Chishti was constructed by Sultan Ibrahim a successor of Masud Ghazanvi, the son of Mahmood Ghazanvi, in whose time the Holy Saint came to Lahore. According to Syed Muhammad Latif’s History of Lahore “Having lived for thirty four years in Lahore, during which time he conferred great benefits on the prople by his learning and piety, he died in 465 A.H. (1072 AD) and was buried close to a mosque which he had himself suilt. The Mausoleum was constructed by Sultan Ibrahim. Maulana Jami, in his book ‘Nafaht-ul-Ans’ and Dara Shikoh his ‘Safina-tul-Aulia’, speak in high terms of accomplishments of Data Ganj Bakhsh as a religious preceptor and from the times of Ghazanvids being upto the present day his memory has been held in the greatest veneration by all classes of prople. He was a great author of his time. A fair is held at the tomb each Friday, which is largely attended by Muslims and Hindus. These days while generally there is always an atmosphere of fair on all the week days, on Thursday there is much more number of the faithfuls. This scribe saw people from all communities at the tomb including Sikhs, Christians and Parsis. While the donations and nazranas normally come to lacs even in the surrounding bazars there is always a hawker like loud invitation “Is there anyone in need of food”? One of the Mausoleum arches contains the word 465 A.H. The mausoleum of the saint is in a square shape encircled by seven arches on each side with an outer Verandah and an inner circle of same number of arches i.e. 28x7 on each side. The grave in the tomb itself is on a raised platform. One has to climb 3 steps to enter. The tomb has a gate and three openable windows. All the arches, pillars, window frames are in carved marble. The entire floor is also in marble. The entrances on the eastern side were re-built by Auqaf Department with two big entrance doors, one for ladies and the other for gents.
On the south there are again two main doors where people leave the footwear. The Shah of Iran donated one of these doors which was Iranian “Gold in-lay”. The original mosque which was built by Hazrat Data Sahib was re-built by Sultan Ibrahim, repaired and was finally demolished in nineteen hundred sisties.
According to Syed Latif, the floor of the entrance to the Mausoleum and the door frames as well as platforms on the right and left was built bythe Mughal Emperors. Ranjit Singh himself later came to hold the shrine in great reverenc and made mayn offerings. He contributed Rs. 1000 on the occasion of each Urs of the Holy Saint. Maharani Chand Kaur wife of Maharaja Kharak Singh built a vaulted chamber in the Mausoleum whree Holy Quran is recited day and night. Other contructions on the perphery of the shrine appear to have b een raided by devotees of the Saint. There other royal gifts given to the Shrine from time to time were wells and villages in the vicinity of the Khanqah which were made. It also appears from Tahqiqat-e-Chishtai that a well called Muhammad Khan Tangsalwala, which was then near the Medical College was given as Nazr to the Khanqah by Ranjit Singh, who had also given as ‘Nazr’ two or four other wells. These were during the construction of the cantonment of Anarkali taken over by the British, but in lieu thereof the British gave five times the area of land taken over on the other side of the River Ravi. Originally this land was also Muafi but later on the British withdrew the exemption due to the non-cooperation of the Zamindars. The proper mausoleum is a fine specimen of marble workmanship. As already mentioned, the ‘Khishti’ Mosque or the Mosque in brick came down during late sixties due to an earthquake. The Mosque has now been shifted from its original place towards further west. A magnificent arched, concrete structure in Turkish architectural style has been raised im blue tiles with two high cone style minarets which are gold plated. The mosque has a vast area underground where “Langar cooking” goes on. The offices of the management of the Auqaf and some parking areas are also there. A couple of years back under directions of the Government to extend the premises and provide more space to the faithful and visitors, the Government has acquired the entire area east of Darbar. Which included private quarters and the area under occupation of Islamia High School, Bhati Gate. Now the main entrances to the Darber will infact start from the Circular Road. A vast underground area has been provided. The construction work remained suspended till recently and under directions of the Prime Minister nawaz Sharif now the work has again been resumed. All the arches on the 1st floor in the eastern block with under ground construction complete, which extends over a vast area, are exactly of the same style as those of marble on the mausoleum. With the accomplishment of this project a lot of apace would become available for visitors. The mosque also having taken a bit of the shrine sufficien space for prayers and those in waiting has become available. The earlier construction of boundary, big gates of Langar Khana, and ablution place have been demolished.
The Saint is highly popular with people and whenever one visits, one finds a large number of people praying, reciting Quran and invoking blessings of the great Saint. According to Syed Latif, Dara Shikoh has written in his book that any person who visits the Mausoleum every Thursday, for forty days consecutively, his wishes are fulfilled. The death anniversary of Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh is celebrated on 18th of Safar each year. On Muharram the Mausoleum is given ‘Ghusal”. The Mausoleum, to conclude is the spiritual centre of Lahore and it is difficult to visualize Lahore without Data Sahib. So Lahore is also called ‘Data Ki Nagri’. In the absence of much material on biography of Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh, his classic Kashful Mahjub projects a living message of the Saint as a man of highly eminent stature in the domain of spiritualism. He was a Sufi, a Saint, a Scholar, a Poet, a Philosopher, a Teacher, a Muslim Missionary and an embodiment of the best in Islam.
According to a narration he had a luminous personality, tall in stature, neither thin nor fat, with and ruddy complexion. He had dense beard, penetrating eyes a harmonious and magnetic personality, verily a prince among men.
Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh held that culture really meant the collection of virtuous qualities. He defined culture as “Dwelling with praiseworthy qualities”. A man was cultured if he acted with propriety towards God in public and private. Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh held that culture was not the prerogative of any particular race, and if a person acted with propriety he was cultured wven though a non-Arab, and conversely an Arab if he acted improperly was uncultured. In the matter of culture, mere intelligence did not go very far, it had to be backed up with knowledge. He held that those who have knowledge are in very case more honoured than those who have intelligence. For him piety in word and deed was the Sine-qua, non-of culture.
The expansion of Data Darbar Complex undertaken by the Nawaz Sharif Government, on completion the project would have a three story complex consisting of a basement for parking vehicles, a Sama Hall, Musafir Khana, Toilets and Ablution site, a roof garden fountain water ripples and fibre glass domes surrounded by arcade approaching the mausoleum. In addition to the Administrative Block, Langar Khana, Quran Mahal and stores have been rebuilt adjacent to the complex.
The complex will provide entry and exit facilities to thousands of devotees from the four gates approaching from Darbar Road, and Zaildar Road in addition to the golden gate and ladies gate in the proximity of the shrine. Devotees and Philanthrophists plan to erect a golden gate at the main entrance of the complex facing Circular Road which has opened up to the East. Thousands of devotees attend the Qawwali during the Urs and for the last many years it was held at the nearby ground of the school.
The addition at the Data Darbar Complex was planned and executed in 1992 at a cost od Rs. Six Crores on the directives of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. After excavation of grounds and construction of parts of basement, unfortunately the scheme was abandoned by the Peoples Party Government in 1994. The Peoples Party authorities wanted to include a shopping plaza in the complex in place of a Sama Hall. The idea was, however, resisted by the Data Darbar Committee. After a period of two years, the work was resumed to the original design in 1997 under orders of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who gave the target period of one year. The total cost, however, will come to Rs. 25 crores since the preliminary construction in 1992. The project is being executed by Lahore Development Authority. Mr. Ishaq Dar, a Federal Minister has been appointed Chairman of Darbar Committee, and is looking after the construction work under strict orders of the Prime Minister. The Prime minister is being kept informed about the progress. During the last 50 years, this expansion will be the major addition which will cater to the requirements of devotees for another 50 years or so.