Amir Khusro & Chishti Sufi Tradition of Sima'a

"I play the game of love with my Beloved. If I win, he is mine, and if I lose I am with him!"

  ~Amir Khusro

The 5-day Annual Urs Celebration of India's famous Chishti Sufi saint, founder of Hindavi language and Persian poet Hazrat Khwaja Amir Khusro Dehlavi, has started on Saturday, April 27, 2024 (17th Shawwal 1445 H) and will continue until the 20th Shawwal as usual for more than seven centuries. The five-day program of the Urs Sharif includes Fatiha, Qul Shareef, Qawwali, and Langar at the Dargah Hazrat Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya R.A.

On this occasion, a national seminar was organized by Khwaja Syed Mohammad Nizami, Sajjada Nashin Dargah Hazrat Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia R.A., and Janasheen (descendant) of Fakhr-e-Dehli Hazrat Khwaja Hasan Sani Nizami, who was a prominent Chishti Sufi litterateur and a proponent of spiritual and mystical harmony in Indian Sufism. The seminar was titled in Urdu "Hazrat Khwaja Amir Khusro Aur Hindustani Ganga-Jamni Tehzeeb," which sought to highlight the profound impact of Ameer Khusrau on sociocultural harmony and national integration in the Indian subcontinent. The seminar was held at the historic Khwaja Hall of Shamsul Ulama Hazrat Khwaja Hasan Nizami R.A. Distinguished guests and participants included: Prof. Zaheer Husain Jafri, Prof. Sharif Husain Qasmi, prominent historian Prof. Azizuddin Husain, famous Urdu poet and writer Faqooq Argali, Dr. Aqeel Ahmed, Hazrat Pir Pasha Nizami, Hazrat Mulla Khalid Nizami, Janab Afzal Manglori, and other Sufi litterateurs, national leaders, scholars, and poets. The program was presided over by Padma Shri Prof. Akhtarul Wasey, and the chief guests were Aalijanab Dr. Syed Farooq, Aalijanab Hamid Ahmed, and Swami Chander Dev Maharaj. As part of the seminar, classical Sufi music was performed today at the Khwaja Hall, which witnessed an emblem of Sufi artists and musicians, the Qawwals and Na'aat Khwans. This special program is called "Mehfil e Sima'a," which has been historically held at the Dargah Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya for centuries now. It was initiated and introduced by Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya R.A. himself and was later instituted by his close disciples (mureedin), including Hazrat Ameer Khusrau R.A. and Hazrat Khwaja Naseeruddin Chiragh Dehlvi R.A.

Now let us delve into this beautiful Chishti Sufi saintly tradition of Sima'a as inspired by Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia and Ameer Khusrau R.A. Sima'a literally means 'listening' but as purely Sufi terminology', it denotes a recital or singing of a devotional or spiritual song that delights the listeners and turns them into a gathering of "Zakirin", those who engage in the Divine Remembrance as per the holy Qur'an: ألا بذكر الله تطمئن القلوب (Indeed, the hearts find peace and solace in the remembrance of Allah only). And this is actually what the Chishti Sufi saints like Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia often referred to as 'Sima'a' in a historical record of his spiritual discourses called "Fawa'idul Fu'aad," which was compiled after his Wisal by Khwaja Ameer Hasan Alaa Sanjari Dehlavi and was translated into Urdu by Khwaja Hasan Sani Nizami Dehlavi. In every Chishti Sufi shrine today, there's a "Sama Khanah" (meaning: a spiritual musical assembly), which refers to a compound that is special for reciting Sufi Kalaam and singing the Qawwalis and thus dancing and rejoicing in divine ecstasy, especially with the Sufi dervishes whirling around. 

Although this Chishti Sufi tradition has an established historical background, it has found both supporters and critics in Islamic theology. However, the Sufi tradition and terminology of Sima'a are often misconstrued and thus misunderstood. Even the Holy Prophet (ﷺ) has approved of listening to permissible poems with melodies. Remember the beautiful musical rendition of the Arabic poem "Tala'l Badru Alaina" (The Moon has risen from Makkah to Madina) for the Holy Prophet (ﷺ)? The Chishti Sufi Sima'a is actually inspired and endorsed by this Prophetic Tradition and several others. But what is fascinating to note is that Chishti Sufis call it 'hearing the call of the Truth', and they consider the truth of hearing to be the awakening of the heart and consider it an 'attention to the Truth'.

Thus, the Chishti Sufi tradition of Sima'a is a deeper mystical experience and expression of divine love and ultimate union with Allah (Wisal-e-ilahi), epitomized by the Urs celebration of a Sufi saint. However, its growing popularity in India and abroad is duly credited to Khwaja Hazrat Ameer Khusrau R.A whose 720th Urs Mubarak is being held in the Dargah Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia.

We cannot find words to express the deeper spiritual emotions and mystical experiences that emanate from the Sufi couplets, or Kalaam, of Hazrat Ameer Khusrau R.A. Listen to Khusrau's most famous kalam, which he composed for his most beloved spiritual master, Mahbub E Ilahi Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia: "main to piya se naina mila ayi re" as well as "chhap tilak sab chini re mose naina milaike.".

Every year in the Islamic month of Shawwal, the blessed occasion of Urs e Amir Khusro beautifully brings us various musical renditions and different genres of the Chishti Sima'a, Qawwalis, and folk Sufi songs. On one hand, Ameer Khsrau's Hindawi Kalaam and Dohas have reached us right from our childhood through our textbooks in schools and other oral transmissions and written documents; on the other hand, they delight us even today and elevate our spiritual consciousness in Mahifl e Sima'a during his  Urs Celebration, regardless of religion, culture, and creed.


See Also

The author is a Delhi-based research scholar on Sufism. His works have been published by different reputed journals on Islam and its mysticism. He is affiliated with Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India.