Defining Tasawwuf in the Writings of Hazrat Nizam al- in Awliya: A Study of Fawa’id al-Fawad (Morals of  the heart) Download

Aasia Yusuf


            This paper discusses about the concept of Tasawwuf— Islamic mysticism as defined and elaborated by Sufi saint Hazrat Nizam al- din Awliya (1238-1325) in his writings particularly in his discourses which he had given in different sittings (majalis) to his disciples. In Fawa’id al-Fawad (the masterpiece of Persian literature) shaikh Nizam al-din spoke not so much on the theoretical aspect of Tasawwuf rather on the necessity of practising what it aspire to preach. For this reason, he emphasised on values i.e., love, tolerance, forgiveness, patience, forbearance, sincerity in devotion to truth and generosity that were not merely to be believed in but was to be translated into action. In addition he was a view point that there was no conflict between the Shariah and Tariqah and the two instead of being at variance complemented each other in providing moral and spiritual strength in achieving the goal of being in proximity of reality (Haqiqah).

Fawai’d al-Fawad is a monumental work on Islamic mysticism by Amir Hassan ‘Ala’ Sijzi (1253-1337) a prominent scholar of Persian language who rendered a great effort in bringing out this volume. This book is a didactic classic in the form of a recorded conversation with his spiritual guide Hazrat Nizam al-din Awliya. Moreover, this work has been translated into English and several Urdu translations former by Zia ul- Hasan Faruqi and latter by Shams Barelwi which is a serious attempt and also enables to understand the mystic discourses of the great Sufi saint of the sub-continent.

This paper concludes that the biographies and other work done on shaikh Nizam al-din’s Fawa’id al-Fawad which is a compilation of shaikh discourses occupies an unique position with regard to accuracy and authenticity.


The Malfuz writing is one of the most important literary inventions of medieval India. The word ‘Malfuz’ is a derivative of ‘lafz’ (‘word’), meaning uttered, spoken. The Malfuz writing is that branch of literature in which the utterances and teachings of eminent sufis are recorded, generally chronologically in book form, by one or more of their devotees (Murids/ students), present at those talks during different sufi orders—Chistiya, Suhrawardiya, Qadriya and Naqshbandiya had flourished and the saints orders produced considerable Tazkirah (memory/ commemoration text) and Malfuz. Fawa’id al-Fawad, a collection of Shaikh Nizam al-din Awliya’s discourses (malfuzat), beside offering many insights into the true sufi way of life and explaining through symbolical utterances and anecdotes suited to the occasion as well as  contain some basic principles of “Islamic mysticism”.  For nearly seven hundred years , Fawa’id al-Fawad by Amir Hassan ‘Ala’ Sijzi Delhvi (1253-1336 A.D) has been acknowledged as among the earliest examples of the genre of Malfuzat, which enjoy such a long afterlife in sufi-literature culture. It is also held that unlike many later Malfuzat, which establishes the value of the text as a reliable historical document from the Tughlaq shahi period of the medieval Indian history.

Importance of Fawa’id al-Fawad

Fawa’id al-Fawad (morals of the heart) deserves to be classified as one of the classics in didactic literature on Tasawwuf. This book is of such splendour that Hasan’s contemporary poet, Amir Khusro Dehlavi, suggested exchanging all his works for Hassan’s book, Fawa’id al-Fawad. It highlights the importance and uniqueness of this work. It is a book in the form of the recorded conversations of shaikh Nizam al-din Awliya who had a very large circle of murids. But it was Amir Hasan Sijzi who was a distinguished disciple (Murid) of shaikh Nizam al-din Awliya who took up himself to record, select and compile the utterances of his great master in the majalis of his jama’at khanqah at Ghayathpur.

Fawa’id al-Fawad compiled in a period of about fifteen years, consists of five parts and given the account of 188 majalis attended by Amir Hasan Sijzi after intervals of seven months. The Fawa’id al-Fawad has been planned and prepared in a very systematic manner. Every meeting (‘majlis’) has a date and the conversations are recorded in an exact, accurate and systematic manner. The Fawa’id al-Fawad begins with the conversation of shaikh Nizam al-din Awliya in his majlis on shaban 3, 707 AH/ January 28, 1308 A.D; the last assembly proceedings recorded by Amir Hasan in sha‘ban 20, 722/Sep.2, 1322. It also covered a period of roughly fifteen years with gaps and intervals. Nizam al-din Awliya lived in Delhi for more than half a century (1238-1325 A.D). Compared to that, the Fawa’id al-Fawad has a very limited record in number, but it has  lot of depth and light on the moral and spiritual ideals of the shaikh Nizam al-din Awliya and his method of instruction and guidance . It is because all the books compiled about the teachings of shaikh Nizam al-din Awliya with reference to his utterances in his majalis at his khanqah, Fawa’id al-Fawad, by all recognised norms of modern research, is the most authentic;, it was accepted by all the murids and khalifas of the shaikh and then, after them, throughout the successive centuries, nobody has ever challenged its authenticity.

Besides, there are different reasons for the pre-eminence that Fawa’id al-Fawad, though not the first example of malfuzat literature in the South Asian Persian, nor the first Chishti mystical text, the chief claim to pre-eminence of Fawa’id al-Fawad is that it is the only accurate record of the conversations of Nizam al-din Awliya. While the first three masters of the Chishti Silsila in India did not leave behind any comparable record of their public discourses, Fawa’id al-Fawad, for the first time gave a coherent narrative form to the ideas and practices of the Chishtis, established their authority within a wider Islamic theological and ecumenical tradition, and marked the beginning of the transition from oral to literary transmission on South Asian sufi culture.

These achievements of Fawa’id al-Fawad were of course, timely. It was during Nizam al-din’s lifetime and under his guidance that the Chishti network spread across Punjab, Awadh, Gujarat and Deccan, becoming in a short span of time the most popular sufi movement in South Asia. In such circumstances, a work like Fawa’id al-Fawad given its reputation for piety and accuracy, performed a para-scriptural function, disseminating the words of the last great master, as he uttered them in his khanqah in Ghayathpur, Delhi. In the manner of speaking, Hasan Sijzi became a companion, and Fawa’id al-Fawad, a modern Hadith .

A second reason for the pre-eminence of Fawa’id al-Fawad is that it is still held as an exemplar of the genre of Malfuzat in South Asian Persian literature, which after its genesis in the Chishti fold, spread rapidly among the other sufi traditions of India, and continued well until the nineteenth century. Though primarily a religious text, malfuzat was from the outset a complex prose genre, negotiating between the voice of the pir  and the mediating presence of the disciple-transcriber, using dialogue and proto-dramatic form to represent the utterances of the teacher, interpolating anecdotes and inset stories, and linking local and immediate events and persons with the mainstream traditions of Islam. The original aim of malfuzat was to render utterances with minimal distortion, but in its subsequent development, the genre acquired a more liberal and literary application with the proliferation of spurious malfuzat; for it was in the invented discourses of historical saints – replete with legends and miracles- that the genre achieved its freedom from that regime of fact and very similitude which gave to a work like Fawa’id al-Fawad its original sanctity .

One of the most intriguing aspects of Fawa’id al-Fawad, and one that distinguishes it sharply from earlier and later malfuzat, is its use of the calendar to make the basic narrative unit of the majlis, instead of religious and moral topics, as in canonical text on Tasawwuf. In Fawa’id al-Fawad however, precise datelines distinguish one majlis from another, locating every majlis within an axis public, historical time, and giving to each a temporal situatedness that adds considerably to the aura of authenticity that the narrative possesses.

Amir Hasan ‘Ala Sijzi

Amir Hassan ‘Ala Sijzi was almost the first writer who compiled a cohesive book with a very simple and fluent prose form Hazrat Nizam al-din Awliya’s Malfuzat. Although he has a great collection of Persian Ghazals, Odes, Mathnavi, and Quatrains, his major significance lays upon this malfuzat. First time he compiled malfuzat in Delhi and Daulatabad (Deccan). Apart Persian masnavi (poem) in honour of Burhan al-din Gharib Khuldabadi Chishti and his disciples written by Amir Hasan Sijzi, which must have written not long after arriving in Daulatabad.

Hasan Sijzi has immortalised himself in the History of Persian literature in the sub-continent due to the aloofness and delicacy of rare ideas as well as sweetness of expression and beautiful craftsmanship in his Persian Ghazals. The emotional fervour and melody possessed of elegant manners in his lyrical verses he earned the title of “Sa‘di-e-Hind”. In the world of Persian prose literature, on the other hand, he has left behind an imperishable delineation in the spiritual world, having composed or edited the utterances of Hazrat Nizam al-din Awliya entitled “Fawa’id al-Fawad”. This collection of Malfuzat is regarded as the best account of the mystic thoughts and religious discourses of Hazrat Nizam al-din Awliya .

The sufi text has been produced in medieval India has a great historical, social, mystical and literary importance. Malfuz writing is one of the most important literary achievements of medieval India. In Indian subcontinent, the credit of giving this art a definite form goes to Amir Hasan ‘Ala Sijzi, who decided to write a summary of what he heard from his spiritual master (murshid), shaikh Nizam al-din Awliya. The decision was very important, because it introduced a new type of mystic literature. Amir Hasan Sijzi’s collection, the Fawa’id al-Fawad was welcomed in sufi mystic circle and it became a guide book (‘dastur’) for mystics. “In many respects, Fawa’id al-Fawad is a literary work of great distinction. The shaikh and his murid had an innate aesthetic sense and a refined literary taste and that is beautifully reflected in a sweet and fluent Persian prose in a form so different from the flowery figurative and elegant style of the period. It also gives an idea of the conversational Persian in vogue among the educated Muslims in the thirteenth and fourteenth century India”. He recorded the sayings of his master shaikh Nizam al-din Awliya Dehlvi, to preserve his words for future generations. It contained the tales of the feasts, the daily life and the miracles of sufi saints and which, properly sifted, constitutes an important source for Indo-Muslim South Asian history or mystical Islam in Indian Subcontinent history. Fawa’id al-Fawad is devoid of narration of exaggerated karamah and super natural elements. It contains pleasing utterances of a great sufi and relations and moral teachings of high standard, stated in an effective style. The complier, Amir Hasan ‘Ala Sijzi was a contemporary of Amir Khusro and sultan Ghayath al-din Balban’s eldest son, prince sultan Muhammad and received their education in the same academic and cultural milieu which had made Delhi as one of the foremost centres of Islamic learning and literary activities of the then world of Islam.

Since this book of Amir Hasan Sijzi has been of great importance in the subcontinent, and especially among those writers in Persian and sufis.

Hazrat Nizam al-din Awliya

After leaving their homeland, the city of Bokhara, the paternal grandfather of Hadrat Nizam al-din Awliya — Khawaja Ali — and the maternal grandfather of Hadrat Nizam al-din Awliya — Khawaja Arab — along with their family, came to India. At first they lived in Lahore, but later they took up their residence in Badayun (East of Delhi). Khawaja Arab married his daughter Bibi Zulaikha to Khawaja Ali’s son Khawaja Ahmad. The birth of Hadrat Nizam al-din Awliya took place on the last Wednesday of the month of Safar, i.e., the 27th of Safar 636 A.H. (1238 A.D) up to this day, his birthday celebration takes place.

Hadrat Nizam al-din Awliya’s father expired when Hadrat Nizam al-Din Awliya was five years old. It is his mother Bibi Zulaikha, a lady of fervent piety, brought him up and moulded his thought and character . She brought him to a school where he learned to recite the noble Qur’ān. In a short time he mastered the seven ways of recitation of the noble Qur’ān. Then he studied Arabic grammar, ahadith (traditions of the Prophet Mohammed), commentary of the Qur’ān and logic. At the age of twelve, he received the “turban of excellence.” He was so sharp-witted, wise and understanding that he was given the title “Debater, capable of defeating the congregation.” He became distinguished in the science of Tafsir (commentary on the Qur’ān), in the knowledge of ahadith, in Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence), mathematics and astronomy. Khawaja Shamsul Malik was among his most learned teachers. He received a testimony of knowledge of ahadith from Maulana Kamal al-din. At the age of twenty, on Wednesday the 11th of Rajab 655 A.H. (1257 A.D), he reached Ajodhan. Coming before Hadrat Baba Farid, he unsuccessfully tried to summon up courage to tell in detail how eager he was to see him.

Then Hadrat Nizam al-din Awliya was honoured to be accepted as the murid (spiritual disciple) of Baba Farid. Then Baba Sahib remarked: “O, Nizam al-Din! I wanted to entrust the domain of Delhi to someone else. When you were on the way I heard a voice to the effect that I should wait as Nizam al-Din is coming. He is fit for this domain. It should be entrusted to him. So stay in our company so that after completing your inner training, we will appoint you as our caliph and as the Wali-e-Hindustan (the saint of India) .”
Hadrat Nizam al-din lived in the company of his Pir-o-murshid (spiritual guide) for seven months and a few days. In this short period, he became deserving of the khilafat of the great mystic Baba Farid. On the second of Rabi’ul Awwal 656 A.H. (1258 A.D), Baba Farid bestowed khilafat and wilayat to Hadrat Nizam al-Din Awliya by giving him the special turban, which came to Baba Sahib from Chisht (Afghanistan). After coming to Delhi, Hadrat Nizam al-Din Awliya ascended the throne of khilafat-e-piran-e-Chisht, i.e., he became a caliph of the Chishti shaikhs. Hadrat Nizam al-din Awliya came ten times to Ajodhan: three times in the life of Baba Farid and seven times after his death.

After residing in Delhi for a few days, he disdained the crowds of people and desired to withdraw himself to the desert. He then received a Divine inspiration that his place of residence should be Ghiyaspur, a small village outside the city of Delhi. First he had raised a temporary shed with a straw roof for himself and all his companions. After some time, a better place was constructed for him by one of his disciples, Zia al-din Wakil Mulk. Hadrat Nizam al-din Awliya lived here for more than sixty years and never changed his place of residence. The khanaqah is still there and is visited by many people up to this day.

Hazrat Nizam al-din Awliya represents in many ways the pinnacle of the Chishti order of the sufis. Many of his disciples achieved spiritual height, including, Shaikh Nasir al-din Muhammad Chiragh-e- Dehli and Amir Khusro noted scholar/musician, and the royal poet of the Delhi Sultanate.

After an illness of about four months Hazrat Nizam al-din Awliya expired in 725 A.H. (1325 A.D.) and realized seclusion (i.e., was buried) in Ghaythpur. The area where the tomb stands is known as Basti Nizam al-din.

Concept of Tasawwuf / Islamic mysticism

Tasawwuf or Islamic mysticism along with its various forms was one of the main components of the Muslim culture that the Turks brought to India. Institutional Tasawwuf as developed with its metaphysics, ethics, precepts, organisational institutions and in short, with its whole tradition came to India in the wake of the establishment of the Muslim rule in the beginning of the thirteenth century. The stream of Tasawwuf also flowed into Hindustan through the same routes. And therefore, Chishti and Suhrawardi sufi saints like khwaja Moin al-din Chishti (d.1236 A.D.) and shaikh Baha al-din Zakariya (1182-1236) settled respectively in Ajmer and Multan in the wake of the establishment of the Muslim rule and served as the main links “between the sufis of Iran, Khurasan, Turkistan and India”. Their immediate successor in India continued the tradition and played the same historic role in maintaining the spiritual link with the outside world.

Bruce B. Lawrence writes that “In many ways shaikh Nizam al-din represents the pinnacle of the early chishti silsila”. He outshone all the luminaries that shone under the discipleship of Baba Farid: “in humour, in pathos, in love and in poetry he was an exemplary whom many reckon as the greatest Indo- Muslim saint of all time”.

Some Key Concepts of Tasawwuf

Rizq Halal (Means of Sustenance): Nizam al-din Awliya mentions that means of sustenance are of four kinds—Rizq-i-madmun, Rizq-i-maqsun, Rizq-i-mamluk and Rizq-i-mau’ad. Rizq-i-madmun consists of what one gets in the form of food and drink, which is sufficient for one’s sustenance. It means that God has taken it upon Himself to provide it. Qur’ān  says:

“There is no moving creature on earth but its sustenance depends on God”.

Rizq-i-maqsun is that which has been earmarked for one from eternity and is recorded on the Preserved Tablet (luh-e-mahfuz), Rizq-i-mamluk is one’s own store of money, clothes and other belongings, and Rizq-i-mau’ad is the sustenance promised by God particularly for the righteous and His devotees
“And for him who fears God, He ever prepares a way out, and He provide for him from sources he never could imagine.”

Tawakkul (Full Trust in God): He stated on this subject that one should always repose full trust in God and should never look expectantly towards others. Moreover, he said that tawakkul was related to Rizq-i-madmun, i.e., having full trust in God that what was sufficient for the sustenance of life would certainly reach one only, and it had nothing to do with any other kind of rizq.


Tark-e-duniya (Renunciation of the world): Nizam al-din Awliya said : “This is no renunciation that one strips himself to the skin, ties the langota around his waist and retires to a corner. The true renunciation is in that one puts on proper clothes and takes his food as usual, while he is contented with whatever reaches him, has no inclination to accumulate that and refuses to be attached to anything. This is renunciation

.”At another place he spoke of renunciation that “whosoever gave up a mean thing would be certainly rewarded with a noble one”.

Tawbah (Penitence): When a repentant (ta’ib) “would become completely a changed person and there would be an aversion in his heart to all indecent things, he would never be remembered as a sinner of the past. These were the points leading to one’s firmness in one’s tawbah. That is, so long as the repentant were firm and steadfast in his tawbah, he would not be known as one who was previously associated with sins and debauchery”.

Sabr Jameel (Patience Par Excellence): He defines this patience par excellence that people, “instead of mourning the death of their kith and kin ought to show utmost restraint and forbearance. And that is liked by God. Weeping and crying and loud lamentations are not good”. He told a story that Hippocrates had twenty sons. One day, as they were all sitting under one roof, it is so happened that the structure caved in and all the twenty were killed. When the news was brought to Hippocrates, he displayed unusual restraint and perseverance and none could find out from his face that such a calamity had befallen him.

Adab-e-Tilawat (Manners of Reciting the Qur’ān): The discourse began with the subject of reading (tilawat) the Qur’ān and reciting it in the manner as described in ahadith. He said “When the reader feels delight and pleasure in reciting a particular verse, he should repeat it again and again in order to be (spiritually) delighted and comforted”.

Sadaqah (Charity): About charity he said “for a true and acceptable sadaqah, five conditions had to be fulfilled; two of them before it was given, two in the process of being given and one after it had been given. The first two consisted of 1) legitimate earning, and 2) the intention of giving it to a man of good character so that it might not be spent wrongly. The next two, to be taken care of, are 1) cheerfulness, humility and open-heartedness, and 2) complete secrecy in giving it. And the condition to be observed after the sadaqah had been given was that it was never to be talked or revealed to anybody else”.


Du‘a (invocation): He remarked that one should invoke God for said something in Arabic, meaning that when a misfortune started descending from above, dua rose from below. They collided in the air. If the du‘a was stronger it forced the misfortune back, otherwise the latter came down straight upon the object concerned.

Aludgi-e-Duniya (Impurities of the world): He remarked that one, who kept oneself away from the impurities of the world, was a man of excellence and piety. And if one was pious and excellent along with the impurities of the world, one’s piety and excellence would not be enduring. This was followed by the verse he recited:

“The flame of love is not kindled in your heart unless it is purged of all impurities”
And then
“Your soil of hope is not watered unless you become as humble as earth”.

Khidmat-e-Khalq (Serving others): He spoke on the subject of serving others and mentioned the prophetic tradition which means that “One who served as a water-carrier for a group of people, should drink water after everyone has quenched his thirst. He also remarked this rule was also to be observed while serving meals. It was not proper for one to eat before others have done it.


Love and Sympathy: He said love and sympathy among co-believers, and that fraternity was of two kinds: 1) fraternity based on lineage, and 2) fraternity based on faith. Of these two fraternities the latter was stronger because if there were two brothers, one of whom was a believer and the other a non-believer, the former was not allowed to inherit anything from the latter and vice-versa. Thus he considered this kind of fraternity as weak and feeble. But fraternity based on faith was strong as the relationship that existed between the two believers remained firm in this world as well as in the world hereafter. In support of this observation he quoted the Qur’ānic verse:

“Friend on that Day will be foes, one to another, except the righteous,”
And said that friends in disobedience to God will be foes to each other on the Day of Judgement and recited the following verse:
“These friends of yours
Who enjoys drink with you in beautiful
Gardens are in fact your enemies”.

Devotion: He said “devotion is transitive as well as intransitive. The intransitive devotion is that by which only the devotee gets benefited, and that consists of prayer, hajj, fasting, the repetition of litanies (award wa tasbihat) and other similar things. But the transitive devotion is that which comes forth in the form of, for example, expending on and being helpful to others out of sheer love for their good and comfort; and the reward of this transitive devotion is immense and immeasurable. In intransitive devotion sincerity is the first pre-requisite so that it may be like and favourably accepted by the Almighty, while the act of transitive devotion are acceptable (to God) and would be rewarded in whatever form they are performed”.


The Chishti text of malfuzat is highlighted clearly that in the mystic world there was no distinction of slave and master. The Fawa’id al-Fawad supplies important information about Chishti silsila in India. Shaikh Nizam al-din Awliya threw light on the very aspect of Tasawwuf and its many key concepts. So far as the style of the Fawa’id al-Fawad is concerned, it is evident that it is written in very comprehensive language as well as expressed his master’s views in an admirably simple and plain way so that the general masses may be highly benefited out of it.

Though Fawa’id al-Fawad is not the first book written in the genre of malfuzat, there are a number of reasons that make this book unique and exemplary. Fawa’id al-Fawad is a valuable and authentic source for modern researchers and scholars.


Shaikh, Musak Rajjak, “The Fawa’id al- Fuad: A Historical Study of the Chishti Malfuz Literature of Khilji- Tughalaq India”, Social Growth Half Yearly Research Journal, Vol. II, Issue. 2, May to Oct. 2011, pp. 76-81.

Abdul Ghani, Mahmud (2004), Pre-Mughal Persian in Hindustan, (Allahabad: Allahabad Law Journal Press.)

Ziya ul-Hasan Faruqi (1995), Fawa’id al-Fawad, Spiritual and Literary Discourses of Shaikh Nizam al-din Awliya, Originally Compiled by Amir Hasan ‘Ala Sijzi Dehlavi, English translation with Introduction and Historical annotation, (New Delhi: D.K. Print world (P) Ltd.), pp. i-ix.

Chakravarty, Dr. Gautam, “Reading Faw’id-al-Fu’ad: Text, Testimony and History” Journal of Subcontinent Researches, University of Sistan and Baluchestan Vol. 2, No.4, autumn 2010, pp.55-62.

Razavi, S.A.A.                ( 2007), A History of Sufism in India, (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal), p. 4.

‘Alam, Dr. M. Sharaf, “Hasan Sijzi and Shaikh Sharafuddin Ahmad Maneri (A Comparative Study of Their Mystic Thoughts & Persian   Prose)” Journal of Subcontinent Researches, University of Sistan and Baluchestan Vol. 2, No.4, Autumn 2010, pp. 7-24.

Khan, Sayyid Ahmed (1890), Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi, Ziya al-din Barni, Bib. Indica, Calcutta, p.346; Hanif, N. (2000), Biographical Encyclopedia of Sufis in South Asia, Sarup & Sons Pub., New Delhi, pp. i-xiv; Sayyid Muin al-Haqq (1983), Ziya al-Din Barani, Tarikh – I – Firuz Shahi, Urdu Translation, citation in Nizami, K.A. (1978), Some Aspects of Religious and Politics in India in the Thirteenth Century, Idarah – I – Adbiyat I Dilli, Delhi, p.198.

Faruqi, Fawa’id al-Fawad, p. 59.

Nizami K.A., “Nizam al Din Awliya”, in The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New edition, edited by C.E. Bosworth, (Leiden, E.J. Brill, 1995), p. 68.

Faruqi, Fawa’id al-Fawad, p. 12.

The Holy Qur’ān, Surah (XI : 6).

The Holy Qur’ān, Surah (LXV: 2-3).

Faruqi, Fawa’id al-Fawad, pp. 226-227.

Ibid., p. 80.

Ibid., p. 84.

Ibid., p.96.

Ibid., p. 100.

Ibid., p.122.

Ibid., p. 122-123.

Ibid., p.150.

Ibid., p. 248.

Ibid., p.250.

Ibid., p. 88.

Aasia Yusuf is a Ph.D Research Scholar in the Department of Islamic Studies, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India. Email: