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Amir Khusrau and his Adaptability – J. Dadademery

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Amir Khusrau and his Adaptability – J. Dadademery

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    It is rare that a man excels in more than one facet of life. Yet when he does, he leaves an indelible mark in the history of his country and often in the annals of the world. It is about one such towering personality that in my humble way I wish to speak today to highlight and show his adaptability to the various phases of life, not only as a literary man but also as a courtier, philosopher, linguist and as a true disciple. This man is none other than Abdul Hasan Yaminuddin Khusrau, better known as Amir Khusrau. To understand Khusrau one has to know the then prevailing current at the courts of the various patrons he served.

    Amir Khusrau’s father, Amir Saifuddin Mahmood, was a Turkish noble and belonged to the Hazra Tribe. When the Mongols devastated the Islamic world and dealt a fatal blow to the Abbasid dynasty, he like many others, was rendered homeless and was without an asylum. At such a time India was considered to be a country where people could live in peace. (The truth of this opinion in the thirteenth century still holds good in the twentieth century) Amir Saifuddin came to India and when Shamsuddin settled down in Delhi at a time soon Iltutmish was on the throne of Delhi. He soon found access to Shamsuddin’s Court. He later married the daughter of Imad-ul-Mulk. Though unlettered, he was a pious and kind-hearted man.Of this marriage there were three sons and Khusrau was the second son.

    Amir Khusrau was born in the year 1253 A. D. at Mominipur (Patiali) in the district of Etah (U. P.) during the period of the Slave kings. There is no doubt of his being an Indian for he himself has said of India. “This is my birth place, my shelter, my homeland.”

    Amir Khusrau’s father belonged to a martial race and was himself illiterate. It was not expected that he would have his son educated. Yet he seems to have paid special attention to his son’s education; he committed his son to the fostering care of Khwaja Saduddin, who taught him calligraphy.

    Poetry began to cast its spell on Khusrau when he was still a child. This aptitude was encouraged when he came in contact with Khawja Asil Kotwal who, realising his genius, encouraged him and advised him to compose poems under the pseudonym “Sultani” since he was associated with the royal court through his father. At a tender age when he had hardly made his mark, he lost his father, who was killed in a campaign against the Mongols. He expressed his grief later by stating: “Saif passed away from over my head and my heart remained cut in two. My river flowed out, and the pearl remained single, and alone.”

    At this stage his maternal grandfather, Imad-ul-Mulk, looked after Khusrau with love and affection and afforded him an opportunity to make his own way in the path of the muse. He lost his grandfather when he was twenty years old and mourned his death.

    By this time Khusrau had achieved reputation as a poet and had risen to prominence. As a poet with a bright future he had, in the time honoured manner, to explore avenues and find a patron. Bread had to be earned.

    In Alauddin Kishli Khan, popularly known as Malik Chajju, the nephew of Ghyasuddin Balban and his Chief Chamberlain, Khusrau found his first patron. A reckless liberality that took no thought of the morrow was the one redeeming virtue of the Turkish nobility of the day, and Khusrau too was as large hearted as any of them.

    He became a courtier as he was disgusted at the idea of becoming rich through slow and persistent labour. The statesmen of those times patronised poets as their modern counterparts patronise the press. Since Allauddin’s influence was immense, Khusrau thought he could flourish under him. His genius to turn the situation to his advantage could be seen in these lines :-

    “I asked the Dawn where is thy Sun? Heaven showed the face of Malik Chajju.”

    He remained in Malik Chajju’s service for two years and adapted himself to singing the praise of Kishli Khan.

    The parting of the ways came when Bughra Khan, the younger son of King Balban, visited Kishli Khan along with his confidants, Shamsuddin Dabis and Qazi Athur, both good scholars.

    As is natural in a poet, Khusrau showed to Bughra Khan a few lines of what he had composed in his honour. It suited the taste of Bughra Khan so well that he rewarded him generously. This brought about the jealousy of Kishli Khan, who began harassing Khusrau. Due to the Khan’s anger Khusrau went to Samana and Bughra Khan’s protection. It was only sought natural that he should now sing the praise of Bughra Khan. Khusrau would have stayed with Bughra Khan if the latter had not accompanied his father to Laknauti on an expedition. Khusrau did not like the place. Finally he came back to Delhi when Balban returned.

    Amir Khusrau was so obsessed with Delhi that wherever he went he was never unmindful of this beautiful city. He thought that Delhi, due to its good qualities and its merits, was like the garden of Paradise. In this city of sunshine and shadow Amir Khusrau’s genius found a natural home. It had much to teach him and he was eager to learn.

    Having heard of his father’s victory, Prince Muhammad Khan, the eldest son of the King and Governor of Multan, came to pay his homage. Khusrau describes his meeting with the Prince thus :

    “………………As my fortune was fated to be linked up with his, he was pleased to ask about the ripe fruit of my speech (i. e. poetry). I took to him a few verses that happened to be ready. The Prince appreciated them very much and rewarded me with a robe of honour and cap.”

    Khusrau rose to unparalleled heights while staying with Prince Mohammad. He now adapted himself to a life of pleasure and comfort, for wealth was just flowing in. Yet his nostalgic memories of his beloved Delhi continued to torment him.

    As an officer in the army Amir Khusrau accompanied Prince Mohammad, who went to fight the Mongols. The Prince met with an untimely death and Khusrau was captured by the Mongols. His escape from captivity has been graphically described by him in the “Dibacha” of Ghurrat-ul-Kamal Like a homing pigeon, Khusrau winged his way back to Delhi.

    The shock of the death of his beloved son was too much for Balban. He knew that his end was near and sought an heir to follow him. As Prince Bughra Khan of Laknauti would not accept the offer, he turned to Kai-khusraw, the son of Prince Mohammed. This did not suit the views of the Kotwal-Malik-ul Umara. He finally prevailed upon Balban to declare Muizuddin Kaiqobad as his heir apparent.

    The traces of surveillance are thrown overboard when it is followed by freedom. So was the case with Kaiqobad, Life danced before him in all its naked splendour and tempa tion, and wine and women became the order of the day. The inevitable result was chaos, confusion, social and moral degeneration throughout the land. Kaiqobad’s father, Bughra Khan, sought to put an end to this. Father and son confronted each other on the battlefield.

    Amir Khusraw, who formed a part of Bughra Khon’s retinue, keenly observed these developments. The clash was averted by well intentioned people, who brought about reconciliation between father and son. Khusraw composed a “qasida” on the occasion and offered it to Bughra Khan.

    Later, at Kaiqobad’s desire, he composed a Mathnavi “Qiran-us-Sadain” commemorating the event. Even in this he could not resist the urge to sing the praise of the beauty of Delhi

    “Oh Delhi and its young beauties with turbans placed roguishly awry on their heads… wherever they stroll the path blooms forth with moving flowers… They stroll along, while in their wake follow their lovers with bloody tears flowing from their eyes.These saucy young Hindus have made the Muslamans sun-worshippers.”

    Kaiqobad’s reign was a short one lasting only for 3 years. He was assassinated. With his passing away the rule of the Slave dynasty came to an end. The reins of power passed into the hands of the Khiljis.

    Jalal-ud-Din Khilji was 70 years old when he became the King of Delhi as the first of Khilji Kings. He patronised literature and poetry. It was only natural that Khusraw found the atmosphere of his court congenial for the display of his undisputed talents. He bloomed forth giving full rein to his genius. His “gazals” once again showed his adaptability. They were sung by the court dancers and musicians. Zaiuddin Barni, a contemporary historian of repute, speaking of that period, said:

    “While the sakis offered the frothing cups and the beautiful damsels danced and sang, the ghazals of Amir Khusraw were recited, and in that assembly which could scarcely be considered as of this earth, the lifeless ones got fresh life and the sad hearts gladdened.”

    History repeats itself. After 6 years’ rule during which he faced a number of plots to overthrow him, Jalauddin was murdered at the instance of his own nephew and son-in-law, Alauddin Khilji.

    Once again Amir Khusraw was faced with a new master, a murderer! But did he lament the end of Jalaluddin or decry Alauddin, the murderer ? He once again adapted himself to the new circumstances and instead of condemning, sang the praises of Aladdin, the King.

    In one of his mathnavis addressed to Alauddin Khilji, he refers in these words to the first shower of praise:

    “Was not I the first man to shower pearls out of my ocean like nature on the auspicious occasion of thy accession to the throne? Mark my happy words that fetched thee the royal throne in Delhi.”

    From his intoxicated dream of building a world Empire, Alauddin caused his title to be engraved on coins and inscriptions reading ‘The second Alexander’. From this Utopia he was brought to earth by a learned man who counselled him to settle his domestic affairs first. He did this with a heavy hand.

    Once again our poet, Amir Khusrau, had to adapt himself to living under a king who did not encourage the arts. Yet, ironic as it may seem, there was a large number of scholars, saints and poets in his reign notwithstanding his indifference to them.

    Not that Alauddin did not recognise Amir Khusrau as a poet, but the high position which Khusrau had held in the past was denied to him. The most productive years of Amir Khusraw were the 21 years of Aladdin’s reign. During this period he completed the “Panj Ganj” comprising “Matla-ul-Anwar’, “Sheerin-Khusrau”, “A’ ina-e-Sikandari”, “Laila Majnu” and “Hasht Bahisht.” These works are dedicated to Sultan Aladdin Khilji and generally speaking contain his praises. But therein he has also dealt out sermons and advice to one who brooked no opposition. In the “Hasht Bahisht” he advises the King:

    “When God hath given thee this throne of kingship and has conferred upon thee a kingdom extending from the Heavens to the Hades, endeavour to satisfy the people. Do justice to the persecuted and chastise the persecutor… while obliging the chosen few and showering thine kindness upon them remember that starving beggar who falls asleep hungry in a corner at night.”

    This shows his moral courage. Some of his works during this period were “Khazain-ul-Futuh”. “Deval Rani-Khidr Khan”, “Ejaz-e-Khusrawu”. Khusrau’s descriptions of Sultan Aladdin’s reign may sound exaggerated, but he once again had adjusted himself to the whims and fancies of his monarch. He was a seasoned courtier.

    In the court intrigues towards the end of Sultan Alauddin’s reign, his whole family was destroyed and the retribution 1316 A. D., that fell upon it had no parallel. He died in and Mubarak Shah Khilji, his only surviving son, who had escaped alive, was enthroned. The royal court became a tavern. His favourite, Khusrau Khan, ruled the country.

    After 4 years of such rule Mubarak was murdered by his favourite. Amir Khusrau, except for a brief spell, appears to have confined himself to his scholarly pursuits. He was a silent witness to the desecration of the Holy Quran, and the King’s evil ways and his dispute