Hazrat Muhammad Bahauddin Shah Naqshband is a 14th century Central Asian Sufi saint after whom the Naqshbandi order takes its name. The name Naqshband is sometimes understood in connection with the craft of embroidering, and Hazrat Bahauddin is said to have in fact assisted his father in weaving cloaks (kimkha) in Bukhara. More commonly, however, it is taken to refer to the fixing of the divine name of God to the heart by means of dhikr.
To the people of Bukhara, whose patron saint he became, he was known posthumoulsy as khwadja-yi bala-gardan (“the averter of disaster”), referring to protective powers bestowed on him during his training period. Elsewhere, especially in Turkey, he is popularly called Shahi Naqshband.
In his youth he experienced visionary revelations and before the age of 20 was recognized as a brilliant Islamic scholar. He is said to have received training through the spirit (ruhaniyat) of earlier masters of the lineage including Hazrat Abdul Khaliq al-Ghujdawani, the well known khalifa of Hazrat Yusuf al-Hamadani and by Hazrat Khidr (alaihis salam).
Hazrat Bahauddin was born in the month of Muharram in 717 AH/ 1317 AD, in the village of Qasr al-Hinduwan (later renamed Qasr al-Arifan) near Bukhara in what is today Uzbekistan. From a young age, he was gifted with spiritual abilities.
Hazrat Muhammad Baba as-Samasi, the fifth descendant of Hazrat Yusuf al-Hamadani and a great shaykh in his own right, once passed the village of Qasr al-Arifan and said, “I sense the scent of a Spiritual Knower who will appear here and after whose name this entire Order will be known.” After passing the village on another occasion, he said, “I sense the scent so strongly that it is as if the Knower has now been born.”
Three days passed, and the grandfather of the child came to the shaykh and presented him his grandson. The shaykh announced to his followers:
At the age of 18, Hazrat Bahauddin was sent by his grandfather to the village of Samas to serve the shaykh. Of his initial noviciate under Hazrat as-Samasi, he relates:
Hazrat as-Samasi assigned Hazrat Bahauddin’s future spiritual training to his own principal murid, Khwaja Amir Kulal. Hazrat Kulal was Hazrat Bahauddin’s immediate predecessor in the silsila, for it was he who transmitted to him the essentials of the Sufi Path. Of this, Hazrat Bahauddin narrates:
His spiritual chain is traced back to the Holy Prophet ﷺ as follows:
- Hazrat Bahauddin Naqshband, disciple of
- Hazrat Amir Kulal, disciple of
- Hazrat Muhammad as-Samasi, disciple of
- Hazrat Ali ar-Ramitani, disciple of
- Hazrat Mahmoud al-Anjir al-Faghnawi, disciple of
- Hazrat Arif ar-Riwakri, disciple of
- Hazrat Abdul Khaliq al-Ghujdawani, disciple of
- Hazrat Abul Abbas al-Khidr, disciple of
- Hazrat Yusuf al-Hamadani, disciple of
- Hazrat Abu Ali al-Farmadi, disciple of
- Hazrat Abul Hassan al-Kharqani, disciple of
- Hazrat Bayazid Bastami, disciple of
- Hazrat Jafar as-Sadiq , disciple of
- Hazrat Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr , disciple of
- Hazrat Salman al-Farsi , disciple of
- Hazrat Abu Bakr as-Siddiq , disciple of
- Holy Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
Love for his Shaykh
He goes on to narrate:
Meeting with Hazrat Abdul Khaliq al-Ghujdawani
During his discipleship with Hazrat Amir Kulal, Hazrat Bahauddin had a vision in which he saw his six predecessors in the silsila, beginning with Hazrat Abdul Khaliq al-Ghujdawani. This vision amounted to a second initiation, as Hazrat al-Ghujdawani enjoined on Hazrat Bahauddin, among other things, the exclusive practice of silent dhikr, as opposed to the vocal dhikr in which Hazrat Amir Kulal and his circle customarily engaged in.
He narrates his experience:
Hazrat Abdul Khaliq al-Ghujdawani urged him strictly to follow the sharia and instructed him in the method of the silent dhikr. Hence his epithet al-Uwaysi, namely a Sufi “who has attained illumination outside the regular mystical path and without the mediation and guidance of a living shaykh.”
Following this vision, Hazrat Bahauddin added three principles of his own to the eight of the great master, Hazrat Abdul Khaliq, all relating to the dhikr. He established the silent dhikr as the normative practice of the Naqshbandis and formulated three additional principles of the tariqa:
- Wuquf Zaniani (awareness of time): The salik must check how he spends his time and how well he concentrates his attention during the silent dhikr.
- Wuquf Qalbi (concentration [presence] of the heart): According to one interpretation, the salik must examine his heart to make sure that it is in the state of muraqaba (surveillance) or mushahada (perception of God). This principle is almost identical to that of yad dasht (recollection).
- Wuquf Adadi (awareness of number): The salik must be aware of how many times he has performed dhikr (although he stressed that it was not the number that counts, but rather al-wuquf al-qalbi (concentration [presence] of the heart [on God]).
Despite the resentment of other disciples, he did not leave the circle of Hazrat Amir Kulal but only absented himself whenever the vocal dhikr was practiced.
Concerning this he said: “There are two methods of dhikr; one is silent and one is loud. I preferred the silent one because it is stronger and therefore more advisable.”
Regarding permission to lead a communal gathering for dhikr, he says:
Though he never criticised nor objected to the loud dhikr, he preferred the silent dhikr.
Hazrat Kulal, for his part is said to have continued to hold his disciple in high esteem and ultimately to free him to pursue other masters:
Subsequently, Hazrat Bahauddin spent seven months in the company of Mawlana Arif ad-Din Karrani, perfecting the practice of the silent dhikr underneath his guidance. He next spent two or three months with Hazrat Kutham Shaikh, a Yasawi master resident in Nakhshab.
At a later stage of his venture, he came into contact with another Yasawi dervish, Hazrat Khalil Ata, whom he had first seen in a dream and stayed in his circle for six years. Regarding his association with Hazrat Khalil, Hazrat Bahauddin relates:
It is said that Hazrat Khalil gained political power and became the ruler of Transoxiania for a time in 1340 AD. Later however he lost his power and was removed from his ruling position. After the fall of Hazrat Khalil, Hazrat Bahauddin experienced a revulsion against worldly success and he retired to his birthplace, resuming his spiritual career and training his own disciples, most of who came from Bukhara and its surroundings.
He left the region only three times, twice to perform the hajj pilgrimage and once to visit Herat. There he met with the Sultan, Mu’izz al-Din Husayn, and explained the principles of his path to him.
During his final days, he confined himself to his room. Multitudes of his disciples came to visit him and receive his final advice. On Monday 3 Rabi-al-Awwal, 791 AH/1389 AD, prior to his demise, he ordered them to recite Surah Yasin (Chapter 36, often referred to as “the Heart of the Quran”) and upon reciting the shahada (testification of faith), he passed away.
At his request, he was buried in his own garden. Through the endowments of successive rulers of Bukhara, a khanqah, madrasa, and mosque were added to his tomb site, quickly making the area a major learning and pilgrimage centre.
Hazrat Abd al-Wahhab ash-Shaarani, the spiritual pole of his time said:
Hazrat Bahauddin’s tomb
Surrounded by a continually expanding complex of buildings, his mausoleum in Bukhara, Uzbekistan has become a place of pilgrimage for Muslims from all over Asia.
His principal successors were:
- Hazrat Alauddin al-Bukhari al-Attar (d. 802/1393), whom he had honoured with marriage to his daughter.
- Hazrat Muhammad ibn Mahmud al-Hafizi, known as Muhammad Parsa (d. 822/1419), a prolific writer and author of Risala Qudsiyya, founder of many traditions of the Naqshbandi order.
- Hazrat Yaqub al-Carkhi (d. 851/1447), from the region of Ghazni.
It was Hazrat Alauddin al-Attar who was the leading figure among these three, although it was Hazrat Yaqub al-Carkhi who proved the most important for the continuation of the Naqshbandi line. He was the shaykh of Hazrat Ubaydullah Al-Ahrar (d. 896/1490), under whose auspices the Naqshbandiyya both established its supremacy in Central Asia and began its expansion in the wider Muslim world.
Quotes & Sayings
- Classical Islam and the Naqshbandi Sufi Tradition – Shaykh Hisham Kabbani
- 101 Great Mystics of Islam – Muhammad Riaz Qadiri
- The Naqshbandiyya: Orthodoxy and Activism in a Worldwide Sufi Tradition – Itzch Weisman