AMIR KHUSROU Biography

Muslims and music are generally considered poles apart. Few people know the part played by Muslims in the development of fine arts, specially music. The contribution of Muslims to the development of theoretical as well as practical music is indeed great and a number of songs and musical instruments adopted by various countries of the world owe their origin to the genius of Muslim musicians. The ‘Mausiqi-al-Kabir’ written by Abu Nasr Farabi, is according to H. G. Farmer, one of the greatest books ever written on music. The influence of this book on Western music has been overwhelming. The Arabian music, according to Farmer, entered Europe via Spain and reached China through Baghdad. The Muslim world can boast of such great musicians as Farabi, Momin, Ishaq Mosli, Zalzal, and Ziryab who have left ineffaceable marks on the pages of the musical history of the world. One of these master artists was Amir Khusrou, a versatile genius who has made lasting contributions to the domains of poetry, music, and mysticism.

The enlightened West has co!.sidered all people inhabiting the vast Indo-Pakistan subcontinent as Hindus–hence Indian music has wrongly been taken to be entirely a specialty of the Hindus. Unfortunately, the Western historians being inspired by their Hindu counterparts have not only ignored the cultural, political, and artistic enterprises and achievements of Muslim India but also formed a biased opinion in favor of Hindus. Notwithstanding their stupendous efforts in under-rating the cultural achievements of Muslims, well-known historians and critics such as Sir William James, Lt. Col James Tod, Augustus, W. Hunter, Surendra Mohan Tagore, Anand Kumar Swami, and Prof. Ranade, had to admit, though half-heartedly, the valuable part played by Muslims in the development of Indian music. The Muslims since the time of Amir Khusrou who live in the reign of Alauddin Khilji formed the vanguard of all cultural movements in India and were pioneers in the domains of music. The Musli::1 ruler of India had always been the great patrons of art and culture. Besides Amir Khusrou, who flourished during the days of Khiljis and Tuglılaqs, Tan Sen adorned the Court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Jahangir, the cultured Mughal Emperor, had an exceptionally fine taste for music. During his reign, all cultural movements recorded phenomenal advancement. Writing in ‘Ghubar-i-Khatir’ Maulana Abul Kalam Azad says: “The first dynasty which patronized and cultivated music as an art was the Sharqi dynasty of Jaunpore. It was during their reign that ‘Khiyal’ became very popular and replaced ‘Dhrupad’. Roundabout this time, the Nizam Shahi dynasty and the Adil Shahi of Bijapur exhibited a fine taste for music. “Ibrahim Adil Shah”, according to Zahoori, “was a master musician, whose patronage had lighted the lamp of music in each and every house of Bijapur. The romantic land of Malwa during the reign of Baz Bahadur had become the cradle of theoretical as well as practical music”.

Amir Khusrou, born in 1253 A.D. at Patiala near Kanauj (U.P.) was a master musician-a man possessing extraordinary abilities and versatile taste. His father, Saifuddin Mahmood, who was among the nobles of Balkh, migrated to India due to devastations wrought by Chengiz Khan in Turkistan. Farishta and Daulat Shah have corroborated the above statement. According to Abul Fazal, the celebrated author of Aeen-i-Akbari and the historian Badayuni, Patiala where Khusrou was born, was a small town on the bank of the Ganges which was also called Mominabad, When Khusrou was born, his father carried his infant son to a ‘Darvesh’ (saint) who blessed him, saying that he would, one day, outmatch Khakani. The father died when Khusrou was only seven. He had a natural taste for music and poetry and had acquired a thorough knowledge of different branches of learning before he was fifteen years old. He died at a ripe age of 71 in 1324 A.C. and lived to enjoy the favor of the five successive Kings of Delhi.

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Amir Khusrou was a disciple of Hazrat Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia, the famous saint of Delhi, Hazrat Khwaja had conferred on him the title of ‘Tarkat Allah’. The society of Khwaja Nizamuddin had brought a revolutionary change in the life of Khusrou, who dedicated himself to the service of his great teacher. Once a darvesh begged something from Hazrat Khwaja, who had at the moment nothing to give him. He bade him to see him the next day. That day, too, he had nothing to give him. However he presented him his shoes, Accidentally, the darvesh came across Khusrou outside the city. He enquired the welfare of his master from the darvesh, saying, “I find a token of my saint with you, would you like to sell it ?” The darvesh consented to sell the shoes to Khusrou at half a million Tankas, which he had been awarded for a poem by the king. Placing the shoes upon his head he appeared before Hazrat Khwaja Nizamuddin and said, “The darvesh was contented with the price paid to him for the shoes, otherwise if he had demanded my entire property and even my life, I would have readily given him”.

Hazrat Khwaja Nizamuddin, too, deeply loved Khusrou. He used to say, “If God would enquire on the Day of Judgement as to what I have brought, I would present Khusrou”.

Khusrou was in Bengal when Hazrat Khwaja died in Delhi. On hearing the sad news, he distributed his entire wealth among the poor and hurried to Delhi, Seeing the grave of his teacher he cried out convulsively, “O God! The Sun has gone down the earth and Khusrou is still alive.” Thereafter, he became a recluse and died within six months of the passing away of his spiritual teacher.

Khusrou was a great intellectual wizard-the greatest intellectual luminary that had shone so resplendently on the literary firmament of Muslim India. He has left behind him immortal achievements in the fields of poetry and music, mysticism and politics.

In 686 A.H., Sultan Balban died and contrary to his will, his drunkard grandson Kaikobad, was installed on the throne of Delhi. A clash between Kaikobad and his father Bughara Khan which seemed imminent was averted at the last moment. Khusrou described the whole incident in a long poem called Qaranus Sadain. The Slave dynasty was soon replaced by the Khiljis. Jalaluddin Khilji who was a well-known patron of learned men, selected Khusrou as one of his trusted companions. Khusrou had given poetic form to Jalaluddin’s conquests and named it as Tajul Futuh. Alauddin Khilji who succeeded his uncle was one of the greatest rulers that Muslim India has produced. He conquered almost the whole of Southern India. He held Khusrou in great esteem. The poet described the military exploits of Alauddin Khilji in his well-known work Khazain ul Futuh (The Treasure of Conquests). When Khusrou’s mother and brother Hissamuddin passed away in 698 A.H., he wrote a touching elegy entitled Laila Majnoon. A Mathnavi (long poem) which he wrote in 701 A.H. was Hasht Bahisht (The eight paradises). He was awarded an elephant load of silver coins by King Qutbuddin Mubarak Shah for his Mathnavi Neh Sipahr (Nine skies) which he completed in 718 A.H. The weak and lingering Khilji dynasty was replaced by the Tughlaqs. Ghyasuddin Tughlaq, the first king of this dynasty, was a great admirer of Khusrou, who in his Tughlaq Nama wrote an elaborate history of the period.

Jami in his Nafhat ul Uns has given a list of 92 books written by Khusrou. According to the poet’s own statement, he composed about half a million verses. Ohdi in his Urfat writes that Khusrou has left behind more verses in Hindi than in Persian. In his celebrated work Matla-e-Anwar, he has dealt with the intricacies of mysticism. His Aejaz-i-Khusravi in three volumes deals with the principles of prose writing. The detailed history of Delhi is found in his Manaqib Hind.

As a poet, Khusrou occupies a high place in the galaxy of Persian poets. He is a master of different forms of Persian poetry. Usually, certain poets have attained the height of fame in particular forms of Persian poetry, Firdausi and Nizami are on the top in Mathnavi, Anwari and Khaqani are known for their panegyrics, Hafiz and Saadi are famous for their lyrics-but Khusrou has scaled considerable heights in all these forms of Persian poetry. He was enormously productive. Daulat Shah credits him with nearly half a million verses. Of these, Mirza Baysunqur after ceaseless efforts succeeded in collecting l, but having subsequently discovered 2,000 more from his lyrics; he concluded that it would be very difficult for him to collect the complete work of the poet, and gave up the idea forever.

Amir Khusrou was conversant with several languages, including Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Hindi and Sanskrit and has left his works in most of these languages. His verses in Hindustani language except those found in Khaliq Bari are non-extant. This subcontinent has hardly produced such a versatile genius as Khusrou.

Khusrou, was, undoubtedly, the greatest musician that medieval India produced. He won the title of Nayak which none could get after him during the last 629 years. He wrote enchanting songs and composed many new ones in place of dhrupad which acquired great popularity even during his lifetime. He also invented a new type of sitar. He enriched Indian music through his compositions and innovations of Khival, Kaul Kalbana, Zelf, Ghaza, Kedar and Tarana. Sazgiri and Khiyal composed by him formed the culmination of his achievements which have earned an outstanding place in the domain of Indian music. Professor Ranade writes in his book Indian Music: “At the close of the 13th century when Muslims conquered Deccan by overthrowing the Devagiri Ruler, Islamic music began to influence the Indian Music. The originator of new trends in the North Indian music was Amir Khusrou whose keen sense enabled him to raise it to a high degree of perfection.” According to the latest historical researches, too, the originator of the new type of music in Northern India was Amir Khusrou, who, not only found new avenues but also developed it to a high standard. Even after a lapse of more than 600 years, he is considered an authority on diverse branches of theoretical and practical music.

During his time, there was one Nayak Gopal who had 1,200 disciples, and who carried their master seated on a wooden chair from place to place on their shoulders. The fame of Nayak Gopal reached Sultan Alauddin Khilji. He was summoned by the King. The Nayak gave a display of his music in six different meetings. In the seventh, Khusrou too, participated. Nayak was also aware of the greatness of Khusrou in Indian music. He requested the Amir to give the performance of his vocal music. The Amir replied that since he was a Turk, he was not much conversant with Indian music. When Nayak sang a song. Khusrou said that he himself was the composer of that song and he sang it in a far better way emphasizing all its peculiarities. Whatever Gopal sang, Khusrou repeated it in a much better manner. In the end, Khusrou added whatever performance of vocal music was given by Gopal was of ordinary class. Thereafter he gave a performance of his typical songs, which simply charmed Nayak Gopal and he became a disciple of Khusrou. Khusrou who being master of both Persian and Hindustani music had created a pleasant mixture by intermingling both.

Muhammad Husain Azad writes in Abi Hayat: “Amir Khusrou possessed much originality of approach. He had a special aptitude for music. He invented Khiyal, Kaul, and Kalbana which easily replaced Dhurpad and became exceedingly popular throughout India.”

Writing in Ghubar-i-Khatir Maulana Abul Kalaam Azad says: “The birth of such a great musician as Amir Khusrou in India during the 7th century A.H. proved beyond doubt that Muslims acquired a hold over Indian music. The innovation of such immortal songs as Sazgiri, Uljan and Khiyal by Amir Khusrou has earned for him an outstanding place in the history of Indian classical music”.

According to the celebrated musician Hakim Muhammad Akram Khan, the author of Maadan Mausiqi (The Treasure of Music), “Amir Khusrou was considered Nayak of his time. He invented seventeen tunes of Dholak, and is looked upon as the originator of Purbi Rag (Eastern Tune) which was the favorite of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia”.

Writing in his well-known book, The Life and Works of Amir Khusrou, Mirza Mahmood Ahmed says: “The natural inclination which Amir had for music pervades all his writings. The originality inherent in his nature revolted against the dogmatism of the traditional school of Indian music. There had not been a greater artist in the history of classical music of India”.

Herbert A. Poplay pays glowing tribute to the genius of Amir Khusrou when he acknowledges in his celebrated work, Music of India that Amir Khusrou was not only a renowned poet and musician but also a great soldier and statesman.

Once Amir Khusrou called on a Sufi Saint. At the door, he was stopped by the Durban (doorman) who would not let him in without the permission of the Saint. This very much offended and angered Amir Khusrou who, on the spur of the moment, wrote on a scrap of paper the following hemistich extemporaneously:

A dervish requires no doorman.

The doorman delivered it to the Saint who instantaneously added to it the following hemistich:

(There should be (posted) one, so that no worldly dog may intrude).

This evoked a sardonic chuckle from Amir Khusrou and, at the same time, amused him. He was forthwith admitted to the presence of the Saint.

It is said that on one occasion a few guests who came to dine with Amir Khusrou, were not inclined to leave long after the dinner was over. He began to be bored by their prolonged presence and wanted them to quit. Meanwhile, the kettle-drum sounded near the midnight hour. Thereupon, satirically addressing the guests, he asked if they knew what it implied and before any one of them could reply, he laughingly observed that the kettle-drum said it was time for them to depart. Simultaneously, he recited the following couplet composed impromptu in Persian chiming with the number of hours struck by the kettle-drum:

Since you have done with supping, you (had better)
Leave for home, now, leave for home,
Leave for home, leave for home, leave for home,-
I haven’t mortgaged to you my house,
I haven’t mortgaged to you my house,
I haven’t mortgaged to you my house.

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