Hazrat Sheikh Akhi Sirajuddin Usman, more commonly and affectionately known as Akhi Siraj (Brother Siraj) was a 14th century Sufi saint from Gaur, West Bengal (modern-day Lakhnauti, near the India-Bangladesh international border). He was the khalifa of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and was the first Bengal-born Muslim known to have studied under him. He is noted for the establishment and organisation of the Chishti silsila in Bengal at the request of his sheikh.
As a young man, Hazrat Siraj travelled to Delhi and studied under prominent Sufi personalities. He was educated in the Islamic sciences by Hazrat Sheikh Fakhruddin Zarradi, a great scholar and senior khalifa of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. He sought the permission of Hazrat Nizamuddin to educate him and promised to make him an Alim (scholar) within a mere six months.
Hazrat Akhi Siraj later took lessons from Maulana Ruknuddin, studying Kafiah, Mufassal, Quduri and Majma’a-ul Bahrain. Hazrat Amir Khurd, a disciple and biographer of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya as well as the author of Siyar-ul-Auliya, also participated in these lessons. He completed his studies in a short period of time and became an accomplished scholar, such was his zeal for learning
Having finished his course, he was led into the presence of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya who tested his knowledge. Delighted with him, Hazrat Nizamuddin conferred his khirqa (initiatory cloak) and khilafat (successorship) upon him and gave him the name Aina-i-Hindustan (mirror of India).
Hazrat Akhi Siraj’s silsila (spiritual chain), via the Chishti order, is traced back to the Beloved Prophet ﷺ as follows:
- Hazrat Akhi Siraj, Khalifa of
- Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, Khalifa of
- Hazrat Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar, Khalifa of
- Hazrat Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, Khalifa of
- Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, Khalifa of
- Hazrat Khwaja Usman Harooni, Khalifa of
- Hazrat Haji Shareef Zanani, Khalifa of
- Hazrat Khwaja Qutbuddin Maudood Chishti, Khalifa of
- Hazrat Nasiruddin Abu Yusuf Bin Saamaan, Khalifa of
- Hazrat Abu Mohammed Chishti, Khalifa of
- Hazrat Abu Ahmad Abdal Chishti, Khalifa of
- Hazrat Abu Ishaq Shami, Khalifa of
- Hazrat Mumshad Dinawari, Khalifa of
- Hazrat Abu Hubairah Basri, Khalifa of
- Hazrat Huzaifah Al-Marashi, Khalifa of
- Hazrat Ibrahim Bin Adham, Khalifa of
- Hazrat Al-Fozail ibn Iyaz, Khalifa of
- Hazrat Abdul Waahid Bin Zaid, Khalifa of
- Hazrat Hasan al-Basri, Khalifa of
- Sayyadina Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib , Khalifa of
- Sayyidina Muhammad ibn Abdillah ﷺ
Leading Chishti Sufis of Bengal
After his khilafat, he remained in Delhi in the company of his spiritual mentor. He would also return to his native Lakhnauti once a year to see his mother. He remained in the company of his teacher for four years and during this period he devoted his time to further study until the demise of Hazrat Nizamuddin, who ordered him to return to Bengal to preach prior to his death. He was at the bedside of his master when he died in 1325 AD. He stayed in Delhi until 1328-1329 at which point he departed for Lakhnauti after the sultan, Muhammad bin Tughlaq (1325-1351), ordered the forced migration of residents from Delhi to Daulatabad.
After settling down in Lakhnauti, he established a huge langar (kitchen) where free food was distributed to the poor and destitute. He also brought some valuable books along with him from the library of Hazrat Nizamuddin and these books formed the nucleus of the first Chishti khanqah in Bengal.
Soon after Akhi Siraj’s arrival in Pandua, Hazrat Ala ul-Haq Pandwi became his disciple. Various relations of Hazrat Ala ul-Haq were prominent in the government of sultan Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah and prior to living the modest life of a Sufi, he had also been part of the elite. Such was his love and devotion to Hazrat Akhi Siraj that when they travelled, like Hazrat Jalaluddin Tabrizi before him, he would carry a cauldron of hot food on his head even though it would burn his hair, so that he could provide his master with warm food on demand.
He lived and worked in Bengal for the rest of his life and he also married. One of his daughters later married his disciple, Hazrat Ala ul-Haq. Hazrat Amir Khurd, his fellow student, said that he won great esteem from the people of Bengal and “illumined the whole region with his spiritual radiance.”
Demise & Burial Place
In 1357, Hazrat Akhi Siraj passed away and was buried in a suburb of Lakhnauti called Sadullahpur. It is said that he buried the khirqa (robes) that he had received from Sheikh Nizamuddin Auliya in the north-western corner of the Sagar Dighi (reservoir) at Lakhnauti. He was interred near his buried robes according to his wishes, and a mausoleum was erected over his grave. The date of construction of the mausoleum is not known, but two inscriptions attached to its gateways show that they were erected in the 16th century by Sultan Alauddin Husain Shah and Sultan Nasiruddin Nusrat Shah. He was succeeded by his khalifa, Hazrat Ala ul-Haq Pandwi.
His Urs is commemorated annually on Eid ul-Fitr (1st and 2nd Shawwaal). His tomb is still visited by many today.
- Siyar-ul-Auliya p. 368-452
- Akhbar-ul-Akhyar p. 162-3
- Mir’at-ul-Israr p.888-91