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Bibi Zuleikha: The Mother of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya

Bibi Zuleikha Saheba, the mother of Sultan ul-Mashaikh (chief of the saints), Mehboob e Illahi Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya is today known as Mai Saheba, and lies buried in the same room where she lived. Tracing her origins back to Central Asia, Mai Saheba’s parents Khwaja Ali and Khwaja Arab migrated to India during the Mongol invasions of Bukhara (present-day Uzbekistan), and settled down in Badayun (Present-day Awadh, Uttar Pradesh). Many legends and stories are attached to her and today her Dargah is one of the only few Dargahs where women can go inside and pray for as long as they want.

Mai Saheba was a very devoted mother and ensured that her children received the best even after several hardships in her life. In Badayun, she sent her children to study from the best scholars, and when she felt that her children had outgrown them, she moved to Delhi for her children to pursue even better education. Nizamuddin Auliya arrived in Delhi at the age of 16, and since then he fell in love with the city. A popular saying by Mehboob e Illahi goes like this, “Hunuz Dilli Dur Ast”; which translated into ‘Yet Delhi is far away’. Reportedly it was said by Nizamuddin Auliya when he was asked to leave Delhi by Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, and his followers asked him to move just a few km out of Delhi. One of the most famous legends associated with Mai Saheba is that when she chose her son over her husband in a dream, where she was asked to decide between the two. Her husband surprisingly passed away very soon and Mai Saheba felt very remorseful.

In Mai Saheba’s early days in Delhi, they were not very well off and had little money. Whenever there was no food in their house, Mai Saheba used to tell her son Nizamuddin Auliya that ‘Nizam! Today we are the guests of Allah.’ Mai Saheba had total belief in God and she believed that Allah would send them spiritual nourishment rather than physical food. Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya has written about his mother that, whenever she prayed, she appeared to be in direct communication with God and he would witness her prayers being accepted without any delay. Nizamuddin Auliya on every new moon night, would seek the blessings of Mai Saheba and place his head on her feet. In one her last days when Nizamuddin Auliya came to seek her blessings, she asked her son in tears that, ‘Nizam, whom will you go to on the next new moon night and who will you look with as loving a gaze as mine?’ Distressed Nizamuddin Auliya asked her, “O Maqdooma e Jahan, in whose care will you entrust me?’. Mai Saheba asked Nizamuddin to retire for the night and told him that she would tell him about it the next day. The next day at dawn, she held Nizamuddin’s right hand and whispered, ‘O Allah, I entrust my son to thy care,’ and recited the Kalima (Formal content of the Shahada that is the declaration of faith) before leaving the world forever.

Mai Saheba’s Dargah is today in Adchini Village, which is a small settlement between Hauz Khas and Mehrauli in Delhi. Its name comes from Adh and Chuni, which means have plaster, as almost all of the buildings in the village are half plastered. During the 20th century, the locals called the area as Bibi Noor Ki Basti as the graves of Bibi Noor and Bibi Hoor, the daughters of Sufi saint Shahabuddin Suhrawardi, are inside the mosque complex. There are also the graves of Bibi Jannat (Daughter of Mai Saheba) and Bibi Zainab (granddaughter of Mai Saheba). The dargah in which Mai Saheba is buried used to be a house in which Sheikh Shahabuddin Suhrawardi lived. Today there is a langar khana also which provides rice and dal to everyone who comes there.


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Bibliography: Safvi Rana. The Forgotten Cities of Delhi. Harper Collins. 2018. Thomson Press (Buy here)

Cover Picture: Syed Mohammad Qasim. The Forgotten Cities of Delhi. Harper Collins. 2018. Thomson Press

P-ISBN Forgotten Cities of Delhi: 978-93-5277-751-8

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