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Sufi Sarmad Kashani challenged fanaticism in life and bigotry in his death
On a gloomy day of 1661 AD, in the capital of Mughal Empire, Dilli (Delhi), history witnessed a macabre and ghostly dance of death. The town folk saw a naked, emaciated but content heretic being mercilessly dragged by the royal police towards the execution ground. There, he was forced to sit in the posture of genuflection; his hands tied back crosswise to his feet; his head was lowered, and a shining sword fell upon his slender neck with all the brute force of an executioner.

Spurting blood all around, his head flew in the air and then began the gruesome dance of death in its earnest. The headless body whirled violently and frantically. It refused to cool down. Onlookers were terrified at this ghastly TANDAV - a reminder of Natraj. Other than the minions of Aurangzeb, there were many who were the followers and disciples of the prisoner. They cried, prayed and kneeled on the ground to beseech the body to come to rest. History fails to record the time gap between beheading and cooling down. He was Sufi Sarmad Kashani, the naked, mystic poet and saint who commands the universal reverence and love even today.

Charges against him: Violation of Sharia Law and public display of heresy. He had refused to don any cloak to cover his body and he, like his disciple Prince Dara Shikoh, the heir of Mughal Throne, refused to accept the concept of physical Meraj of Prophet (PBUH). Both of them believed that the Journey of the Prophet (PBUH) was spiritual, not just physical. However, these were the apparent reasons. Since time immemorial ‘political correctness’ has been the most desirable attribute to climb the greater heights.

Historians of all ages have generally suppressed the fact to suit the ruler’s fancy. They were also conscious of their interests and prejudices. Exact causes of the execution of Sarmad were never known. The people believe that it was the vicinity of Sarmad with Dara Shikoh, which finally landed him on the chopping board. Sarmad was the spiritual mentor of Dara Shikoh and he had denounced Aurangzeb for the killing of Dara Shikoh and other royals from the ramparts of Jama Masjid, Delhi.

In his narration, ‘Stories of Sarmad’, famous chronicler Bilal Tanweer describes the last horrifying incident of Saramd’s life before his execution in the following words:

“As Aurengzeb’s procession was passing through the streets of Delhi, he saw Sarmad sitting on the roadside. The king ordered the march to halt and demanded the mystic to cover himself. The saint looked at him with wrathful eyes and said, ‘If you think I need to cover my nudity so badly why don’t you cover me yourself?’ When the Emperor lifted the blanket on Sarmad’s side, the king saw the bloodied heads of all the family members he had secretly murdered. Aurangzeb looked at Sarmad who said, ‘Now tell me what should I cover – your sins or my thighs?’ "

According to historians, Sarmad was born to an Armenian Jewish merchant’s family of Iran. Having come to know about the enormous admiration of Fine Arts in India he decided to do business with Indians. He embarked upon a journey that changed the direction and destination of his life. He brought with him many valuable objects, which could have fetched him rich returns. It wasn’t destined to be. He reached Thatta (presently in Pakistani Punjab) and forgot about his errand. Instead he fell in love with a local girl, and in the aftermath, lost every possession, including the local girl. The impact of unrequited love persuaded him to give up his clothes forever. He would walk the streets of Thatta in the dress of nature. However, even in this state of absolute renunciation, Sarmad achieved the sublime heights of spiritualism. A boy, Abhi Chand decided to become his disciple and this new relationship did something to soften the bruised contours of Sarmad’s persona.

Scholars favored by the royal court of Aurangzeb and even now the professors of school of bigotry use this relationship to tarnish the impeccable image of Sarmad. They forget the platonic relationship of Mehmood Ghaznavi and his slave Ayaaz, eulogized by famous poet Iqbal – ‘Ek hi saf men khare ho gaye Mehmood-o-Ayaaz, na koi banda raha na koi banda nawaz’ and in much bolder statement by the same poet – ‘na woh Ghaznavi men tarap rahi na who khum hai zulf-e-Ayaaz me’; they push under the carpet the relationship between Amir Khusroo and his master Hazrat Nizam Uddin Awalia. The famous couplets of Amir Khusro – “Khusro Nizam ke bal bal jaihyoun…” Khusru died within few weeks after the death of his master and lies in eternal sleep only forty feet away from his master. The finest depiction of this relationship is described by Kabir Das – “Guru Govind douo khare, kake lagoon pai, Balihari Guru aapne Govind diyo batay.”

There is no relationship more enduring than between God and human being; there is no relationship more pious than between the son and mother; there is no relationship more sacred than between Teacher and Taught.

Aurangzeb has deputed Mulla Qawi, the Chief Justice to prosecute Sarmad whose fate was known to everyone before the trial.

Moulana Abul Kalam Azad referred to the Pro-Aurangzeb historian Sher Khan Lodhi, who described Sarmad in his book “Miras-ul-Khyal” in the following words:” Sulatan Dara had an affinity to mad people so he became friend with Sarmad.”

Moulana Azad commented: “He (Lodhi) doesn’t know that there is set of scales in which this madness would outweigh all wisdom in the world. Dara was probably fed up with the pernicious wisdom of the likes of Aurangzeb that he preferred the company of Sarmad.” Sarmad suffered the same fate as Dara. Moulana adds – “Dara Shikoh had a unique mind and temperament and all should mourn the unfortunate day when his enemies triumphed.”

There is a large Neem tree exactly opposite to the eastern gate of Delhi Jama Masjid, which provides the peaceful abode for the holy saint who spoke the common language between all religions. In the cacophony of busy Delhi – 6 the moment you enter the red-walled dargah you leave behind all your heavy burdens; you feel a complete peace of mind and in unison with God – no matter the faith you follow.

Sarmad had challenged the religious fanaticism in his life and defeated the bigotry in his death.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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