Power of Pakpattan - Pakistan Today

Power of Pakpattan

  • Will Imran Khan’s supplication be answered?

The visit of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan to the shrine of the thirteenth century sufi sage Baba Farid-ud-Din Ganj-i-Shakar at Pakpattan a few weeks ago was meant to seek divine help either in his personal or matrimonial or political affairs because many people believe that the saint enjoyed a closer relationship with God than any common man could ever have and the mystic’s spiritual powers (barkat) to intercede with God would bring fruitful result to the supplicant. Sometimes, Baba Farid manifested his spiritual powers by issuing ‘taweez’ or amulets to those who looked for good fortune or protection against evil or the cure of an illness. The spiritual powers of Baba Ji, it is believed, passed on to his familial descendants as well as to the place where he is buried.

Over time, the fame of Baba Ganj-i-Shakar spread far and wide which is evident from the testimony of the famous traveler Ibn Battuta, who was directed by an Egyptian holy man, Sheikh Burhan-ud-Din al-Arj in Alexandria to visit the shrine of Baba Farid, which he did in 1334 AD and met DiwanAla-ud-Din Mauj Darya, the grandson of Baba Ji. Moreover, several shrines were built in memory ofGanj-i-Shakar in villages of central Punjab and hills of Kashmir, which reflected the physical establishment of his spiritual supremacy similar to the formation of the administrative control of a political authority in an area.

Under his growing influence, the name of the city of Ajudhan changed to Pakpattan (the holy ferry) in the sixteenth century and it is thought that a dozen Punjabi clans such as Bhatti, Dogar, Gondal, Khokhar, Siyal, Tiwana, Watto, Kharal, etc,  converted to Islam due to the spiritual influence of Baba Ji and his successors. So large were the numbers of his devotees by the seventeenth century that he was called the ‘Second Adam.’ The followers that took ‘bai’a’ (allegiance) with his family were called‘murids’ and this ‘bai’a’ not only meant spiritual and ethical but also political and military allegiance for the ‘murids.’ The military aspect of this homage came to the fore, when, owing to the threats due to the decline in the central Mughal authority in the middle of the eighteenth century, DiwanAbdus Subhan had to fight the Raja of Bikaner with an army of his Jat ‘murids’ in 1757 AD and later on, successfully defended Pakpattan from the Sikh attacks. However, at the beginning of the nineteenth century Ranjit Singh cut down the growing military power of the Diwans of Pakpattan.

Historian Richard M Eaton informs that the descendants of Baba Farid have lived through a complex blend of piety and power. The shrine of Baba Farid is called ‘dargah’—a word also used for the royal court. Moreover, while most inheritors of such sufi shrines are called ‘sajjada nishin’ (one who sits on the prayer carpet), the heirs of Baba Farid’s shrine are called Diwan—a term rooted in the lexicon of the Indo-Islamic royal courts. Furthermore, the ceremony of ‘dastar bandi’ (tying a turban on head) is symbolic of bestowing legitimate authority on someone and is parallel to the coronation of a king. Many will view the presentation of a shawl from the shrine to Imran Khan by the incumbent Diwan of Pakpattan as a good omen for the political ambitions of the chief of the PTI. In the past, the Diwans of Pakpattan had done the ‘dastar bandi’ of the Tughluq noblemen aspiring for the throne of Delhi. Ghayas-ud-Din Tughluq as the governor of Dipalpur was a frequent pilgrim to the shrine of Baba Ji whereas Sultan Muhammad Tughluq was a disciple of Diwan Ala-ud-Din and had granted the revenue of the city of Pakpattan and its environs for the support of the shrine and the descendants of Baba Farid. Proximity of piety with power grew when Sultan Muhammad Tughluq appointed Diwan Muiz-ud-Din as the deputy governor of Gujrat and the Diwan’s brother as the ‘Sheikh-ul-Islam’; thus, welding the interests of shrine with the interests of the court. In addition, Sultan Firoz Tughluq granted robes of honour to the descendants of Baba Farid and ‘confirmed them in possession of their villages and lands.’ Every major ruler who passed by Pakpattan made a point to pay his respects to the spiritual powers of Baba Ji including Sultan Nasir-ud-Din and Emperor Akbar, the Great. While the men of authority were attracted to the person of Baba Farid, the saint himself avoided the world of court and ministers because he thought that the company of Amirs and Maliks could bring nothing but disaster.

Historian Richard M Eaton informs that the descendants of Baba Farid have lived through a complex blend of piety and power. The shrine of Baba Farid is called ‘dargah’—a word also used for the royal court

What one prays is very personal and private but keeping in view Imran Khan’s express wish to become the prime minister of Pakistan, one can assume that the fulfilment of this wish could be the purpose of his visit. He may be successful in his struggle this time because the history of the shrine of Baba Farid favours him. According to the fourteenth century historian, Shams Siraj Afif, Ghayas-ud-Din Tughluq as the governor of Dipalpur once visited the shrine to pay his respects and took along with him his son Muhammad Tughluq and nephew Firuz Tughluq. Not only did DiwanAlauddin did the ‘dastar bandi’ of the three aristocrats but also prophesied that each of them was destined to rule Hindustan. The prophecy turned true as all of them ruled as the Sultans of Delhi one after the other. In addition, a few decades later, Amir Timur (Tamerlane) also visited the shrine and prayed for his success in the battle for the throne of Delhi. His prayers were answered in affirmative. Will Imran Khan’s supplication be answered in affirmative? We shall have the answer as the results of the election start coming in.