This is the month of Me’raj (spiritual ascension) in the Islamic calendar. Me’raj is believed to be a spiritual ascension or heavenly journey of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as mentioned in the special chapter “Surah al-Isra”of Quran.
Notably, the notion of Me’raj has a deeper mystical dimension in the view of Indian sufi saints, including Khwaja Banda Nawaz Gesu Daraz, who wrote a marvellous spiritual treatise and entitled it “Me’raj-ul-Ashiqeen” (ascension of the lovers). In this book, he established the foundational precepts of sufism (tasawwuf) such as Wahdat-ul-Wajud (unity of being) as an integral part of Islam with irrefutable evidences from the Quran and Hadith — the two primary sources of Islamic theology.
Banda Nawaz, which means “the benefactor of the people”, was an epithet given to the erstwhile South Indian sufi—Khwaja Geusu Daraz (may Allah be pleased with him). A descendant of Hazrat Ali, the Prophet’s son-in-law, Banda Nawaz settled in Daulatabad, a part of the Deccan, where he devoted a major part of his life to bring together people of all faiths, traditions and cultures in a thread of spiritual synergy. He was among the most notable Deccan sufi mystics who stressed the need for Hindu-Muslim harmony in India. Banda Nawaz believed that in order to connect the hearts of people, there should an amalgamation between their languages and local dialects. Therefore, he conveyed his message of love in a mixed dialect of Deccani Urdu and Hindi (Hindawi). Maulvi Abdul Haqque, one of the founders of Urdu language noted that Banda Nawaz learnt almost all vernacular languages to disseminate his words of wisdom to common people. To achieve this end, he was beautifully anchored in the local cultures as well. In his endeavour to effectively communicate his mystical discourses, he developed a beautiful synthesis of the Deccan language borrowing salient features from the earliest Urdu prose style.
Every day after the prayer of Zuhr, Banda Nawaz would relay the beautiful discourses on hadith (prophetic traditions), suluk (Sufi path) and kalam (rational Islamic philosophy). Remarkably, he would communicate in the vernacular Dakhni language to those who did not understand Urdu, Arabic or Persian. Khwaja Banda Nawaz authored numerous spiritual treatises such as Hidayat Nama, Qaseeda Amali and Adaab-al-Mureedein. But Me’raj-ul-Ashiqin is his masterpiece. It expounds what it takes to be an Ashiq — the true lover or seeker of the mystical path who attains ultimate relationship with divine through ma’rifat (gnosis). In his view, m’arifat connotes an intuitive awareness of the universal spiritual truth through ecstatic experiences. This close personal relationship between the lover and the Divine is expressed in these marvellous Persian lines, as mentioned in Me’raj-ul-Ashiqin:
Man tu shudam tu man shudi,
man tan shudam tu jaan shudi,
taakas na goyad bad azeen,
man deegaram tu deegari
Translation: “I have become you and you me. I am the body, you soul; so that no one can say hereafter, that you are someone, and me someone else.”