Baha' al-Din Naqshband

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Still from video "The Biography of Shah Naqshband (Second Part)" by World Mysticism Center, 2021

Baha' al-Din Naqshband, also known as Shah Naqshband, Bakhautdin Naqshband, and Bahovuddin Naqshband (1318-1389), is the founder of the Naqshbandi Order of Sufism, which traces its lineage back to Mohammed through his immediate successor, Abu Bakr. He was born in Central Asia, in the village of Qasr-i Arifan (Kasri Orifon), near Bukhara, which is now in the Republic of Uzbekistan. He is both a lineal descendant and a spiritual successor of the prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam. Before the age of twenty, Baha' al-Din Naqshband was recognized as an exceptional Islamic scholar. During his life, he made three pilgrimages to Mecca. As a married man he spent twelve years in the employ of Khalil Sultan, the nephew of Tamerlane, after which he devoted himself to the care of animals for seven years and road-mending for another seven. He espoused a life of hard work, self-reliance and modesty, encouraging all his pupils to learn a trade as he himself had done. As a Sufi, he espoused eleven principles of conduct, based on a retreat from authority, a commitment to spiritual purity, and a rejection of ostentation or ceremony.

His mystical journey began during a visionary encounter with God, "when the heavens opened and a grand vision came to me, and I heard a voice saying, "Is it not enough for you to leave everyone and to come to Our Presence Alone?" This voice reduced me to a state of trembling, causing me to run away... I ran to a river. I threw myself in it. I washed my clothes and prayed two rakats (prayer movements and supplications) in a way that I had never prayed before, feeling as if I was praying in the Divine Presence. Everything was opened to my heart in a state of unveiling. The entire universe disappeared and I was not aware of anything other than praying in His Presence." God also asked him, "Why are you going to enter on this Path?" Baha' al-Din answered, "In order that whatever I say and whatever I want will happen." God would not allow that, but Baha' al-Din stood firm. The vision ended, leaving him in a state of depression. Two weeks later, he received God's amended response to his request, "O Bahauddin, whatever you want, We will grant." What he wanted was "to be given a Path that will lead anyone who travels on it straight to the Divine Presence." God granted this request.

Shah Naqshband is the unofficial patron saint of Bukhara, and his magnificent mausoleum in Qasr-i Arifan was built in 1544 by Khan abd-al Aziz. The tomb itself is a simple block, protected by a horse-mane talisman hanging from a post. It is auspicious to complete three counterclockwise circumambulations of the tomb. In the main courtyard stands a petrified tree that is said to have sprouted where Shah Naqshband stuck his staff into the ground upon returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca. Pilgrims circumambulate this tree counterclockwise and tie cloths, money, and prayers to it for good luck, in the Central Asian manner. Naqshband also added drops of holy water from Mecca to a nearby well, and to this day, faucets close by the minaret continue to supply this well's holy water to pilgrims, who splash their faces with it and bring it home by the jugful for good luck. When prayers are granted, pilgrims can cook offerings and sacrifices in the specially-built mass kitchens located on the site. The name of Shah Naqshband is used in apotropaic invocations against the evil eye. He is associated with the holy and lucky number 7, because he was born in the 7th month of the year, memorized the Quran by heart at the age of 7, cared for animals for 7 years, repaired roads for 7 years, and died at the age of 70.


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