Mahmood-o-Ayaz | Pakistan Today


A slave-to-general story




Ek Hi Saf Mein Kharay Ho Gaye Mahmood-O-Ayaz,

Na Koi Banda Raha Aur Na Koi Banda Nawaz.

You might have read these lines of Allama Iqbal many times but have you ever heard the story behind this verse? This man named Ayaz is buried inside the walled city of Lahore and the tomb is located near Rang Mehal Chowk, one of the busiest crossroads of the walled city. You can surely access the tomb and see the grave with different inscriptions on it. Why is it important? There are two reasons for the importance of Ayaz’s grave – one, it endorses the existence of the Ghaznavid rule in Lahore and thus it shows that Lahore existed at that time. Second, that the man himself was of immense importance and with his deeds and acts he gave people the message of honesty and piety.

Ayaz was a slave and his master was an affluent merchant. With the passage of time the master was bankrupted and had to sell off his property and slaves. The last thing he had to sell was this slave Ayaz. Realising the distress of the master, Ayaz suggested his master to sell him at a high price approximately in millions of dirham. His master was surprised that why would anyone buy such an expensive slave. To this Ayaz responded that the qualities in him were unmatched and no other slave possessed them. His master was confused at the argument by Ayaz and asked about his qualities, to which Ayaz said, “Tell your buyers that Ayaz knows how to be a slave.” The master tried it, he announced the selling of this slave in a million dirham and people started laughing at him as in those days a slave was not worth more than 200-300 dirhams. It was something exceptional being done in the city so it became talk of the town and the news reached the palace of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni.

Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni was the most prominent Persian ruler at that time, who turned the former provincial city of Ghazni into the wealthy capital of an extensive empire which extended from most of today’s Iran, Afghanistan as well as Pakistan and regions of North-West India. Curiosity of Sultan Mahmood Ghazni grew strong, so he called Ayaz and his master before of him. Sultan asked the master why he was selling Ayaz at such a high price; the master gave the same answer… Ayaz knows how to be a slave! Impressed with his answer Sultan bought the salve. So this is how the journey of Mahmood-o-Ayaz began and became a part of history and a most significant story.

After buying Ayaz, the Sultan ordered his guards to beat Ayaz with 100 lashes. While Ayaz was being beaten up by the guards Sultan asked one of his courtiers to ask Ayaz to beg before Sultan and question him for why is being beaten up. Ayaz refused to ask this question and told the courtier that Sultan Mahmood being his master could order anything for him. Hearing this answer from Ayaz, Sultan Mahmood said to his courtiers that the decision of buying Ayaz was right and the thrashing was stopped. Ayaz never uttered a demand before Mahmood and this made him special. Sultan Mahmood Ghazni started loving the qualities of Ayaz and in appreciation to his submission before Sultan Mahmood Ghazni he made Ayaz the chief of the court. This was the time when the journey of Ayaz’s success began.

It is written in the book “Adad ussin” that when Ayaz became a close confidant of Sultan Mahmood Ghazni, the powerful Muslim ruler, his enemies tried pulling him down from this position. Once two ministers came to Mahmud Ghazni and blamed Ayaz of steeling ornaments and claimed that he had hidden them in his room which is locked. The ministers said that every morning he visits that room and does not allow anyone else in. Sultan fell into doubt and ordered to check the room. The next morning the guards broke the lock and all they found in the room was a cotton sheet and a pair of old leather slippers. The floor was dug but nothing was found. The slippers and cotton sheet were taken to Mahmood in his court.

Ayaz was surprised to see those things there. Mahmood asked Ayaz why the room was locked with these things in it. Ayaz said, “Before I became your slave I was in that dress. But after coming into your service you gifted me everything I could think of. To avoid disobedience and pride I frequently visit the room and see my old dress so that I may not fall into vanity. I should always remember that whatever I have today is the favour of the Sultan and it is all given to me as a loan. After that I begin my job of the day.” Historic references state that Ayaz was also heard saying his prayer with all sincerity, “O Lord! This ministry is yours and not mine. These ministerial robes are yours and not mine. The strength in the body, light in the eye and what not are all due to you”. These acts of remembering God almighty and submission to God made Ayaz more revered before Mahmood.

In 1021, the Sultan raised Ayaz to kingship, awarding him the throne of Lahore, which the Sultan had taken after a long siege and a fierce battle. As the first Muslim governor of Lahore, he rebuilt and repopulated the city. He also added many important features, such as a masonry fort, which he built in the period of 1037-1040 on the ruins of the previous one, demolished in the fighting, and city gates (as recorded by Munshi Sujan Rae Bhandari, author of the Khulasatut Tawarikh (1596 CE). The present Lahore Fort was built on the same location later by the Mughal emperor Akbar the great. Dr Allama Mohammed Iqbal praises Islam and its teaching of equality between different class of people in the following Urdu couplet by looking at the example of Sultan Mahmood Ghazni and slave Ayaz:

Ek Hi Saf Mein Kharay Ho Gaye Mahmood-O-Ayaz,

Na Koi Banda Raha Aur Na Koi Banda Nawaz.

Banda-O-Saheb-O-Muhtaaj-O-Ghani Ek Huwe,

Teri Sarkar Mein Pahunche Toh Sabhi Ek Huwe.

Photo credits: Fareed Ahmed Khan