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Updated: February 23, 2014 16:16 IST

Whither the saint’s amulet?

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Did Ibrahim Lodi forget to tie the amulet given to him by sufi Makhdum Sahib around his arm at the first battle of Panipat, or did the tabeez somehow get lost, resulting in the end of the Lodi reign?

There’s a mini-park in Mayfair Gardens’ bungalow locality, touching the walls of Siri Fort, where is situated the 15th Century tomb of Makhdum Sahib, visited by devotees throughout the year. Sheikh Makhdum Sabswari came to Delhi from Sabswar, in Central Asia, at the end of the reign of Bahlul Lodi or the beginning of the reign of his son, Nizam Khan Sikandar Lodi, in 1488. He had been directed in a dream to go to India and preach his mission there. Makhdum Sahib’s sufi discourses were ardently heard by those who visited his jungle abode, where wild animals roamed about but did not harm anyone because of the (sic) influence of the saint, says a legend. Eventually the Lodi sultan (father or son) heard of him and invited the dervish to the royal court. He went there reluctantly and came back dissatisfied with the sultan’s conduct.

Perhaps realising that he had offended Makhdum Sahib, , the sultan, while out hunting one day, decided to visit his khanqah or hospice. What he saw there amazed him, for Makhdum Sahib was feeding a wild leopard with a bunch of grass as though it was a goat. The sultan immediately dismounted from his horse and after offering his salaam decided to sit in a corner. The leopard was ordered to leave by the saint, who then turned his attention to the sultan. The latter apologised for having been rude at the court and requested him not to leave his kingdom but continue to reside in it and bless its subjects.

Makhdum Sahib nodded and gave the sultan (Bahlul or Sikandar) a tabeez or amulet which he had brought from Makkah. He told him that so long as it was tied to his arm or that of his successors, the sultanate would continue to flourish, otherwise it would be conquered by an invader who would rule for long undisturbed, as would his descendents. The sultan took the tabeez, salaamed the saint again, mounted his horse and rode away. As history shows, the third ruler of the dynasty, Ibrahim Lodi, lost the kingdom in 1526 to Babar, with whom the Mughal dynasty started and continued to rule India until 1858, when Queen Victoria proclaimed herself empress and Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled to Rangoon.

One tends to believe the story about the saint’s prediction but at the same time wonders what happened to the amulet. Did Ibrahim Lodi forget to tie it around his biceps at the fateful first battle of Panipat, or did the tabeez somehow get lost? May be yes or no; also the prediction may not have been wholly true after all. But standing in front of the mazaar of Makhdum Sahib one tries to banish these thoughts lest they be regarded as sacrilegious.

The reason for visiting the mosque and mazaar of Makhdum Sahib was a strange story related by Hafiz Manzoor Ahmed of Basti Nizamuddin during a winter evening in 1981. The Hafiz died not long after, but what he said continued to feed one’s curiosity for the past 33 years until the temptation to visit Makhdum Sahib’s shrine could no longer be resisted. Now this is the story Manzoor Ahmed related:

There was a widow named Nadira whose husband Saddique had died without leaving an heir. Nadira was 55 years old, lonely and sad, when she came to the shrine one afternoon in the first decade of the 20th Century. She had either been told by somebody, or had the urge herself, to pray there. And the prayer was strange for a woman of her age. She sought the saint’s blessing for a son who could continue his father’s lineage. She prayed with tears in her eyes and all at once experienced a sensation which passed through her face, bosom and lower abdomen and then ceased to excite her. Nadira then had a great urge to go to the toilet but as there was none near the shrine she squatted under a tree. When she got up she felt as though she had just conceived. The widow went home dazed and had a dream the same night in which she saw a bearded old man blessing her and confirming that her wish had been fulfilled.

Believe it or not, nine months later Nadira gave birth to a son who was strange in his behaviour at first and did not either speak or walk properly. But after three years he began to improve and by the time he was five was able to attend school. He turned out to be a brilliant student and following graduation secured a good government job. His name was Javed and after he got married and became the father of twin boys, Nadira died. Javed migrated to Karachi and what happened to him and his family was not known to Manzoor Ahmed. But one supposes it flourished with the saint’s blessing.

Incidentally, Makhdum Sahib’s tomb is still in a fairly good condition on Khel Gaon Marg, its stone-domed roof (with four decorative minars) supported on 12 pillars. Both the tomb and the mosque on the North are protected monuments. The masjid has several prayer chambers and a fluted roof. However the huge gate near it, which was erected earlier in Tughlak times, is not in a good state of preservation though it too is protected by the ASI.

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