Shaikh Akhi Sirajuddin Usman (R)

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Shaikh Akhi Sirajuddin Usman a famous 13th century sufi-saint of Bengal. A disciple of Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya, Akhi Siraj learnt Islamic sciences thoroughly with Shaikh Fakhruddin Zarradi. He read Kafiyat, Quduri, Mufassal and Majma-ul-Bahrain as a student of Maulana Ruknuddin and became an accomplished scholar. Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya conferred khilafat (spiritual viceregency) upon him and used to call him Aina-i-Hindustan (mirror of Hindustan).

After the death of his spiritual leader, Akhi Siraj came to Bengal and began preaching in the capital cities of Gaur and Pandua (Pandua). He was the founder of the Chishtiya Tariqa (path of devotion) in Bengal. Shaikh Alaul Huq of Pandua was his chief disciple. It is said that Shaikh Akhi buried the robes that he had received from Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya in the northwestern corner of the Sagar Dighi at Gaur. He was buried near the grave of his robes according to his wishes and a mausoleum was erected over his grave.

Local people called him Purana Pir or Piran-i-Pir; the former term means 'the old saint' and the latter means, 'the saint of saints'. It seems that Purana Pir is more probable, because he is the oldest of the known Chishtiya saints in Bengal. Moreover, Piran-i-Pir is a title reserved by the Muslims of India for the famous Abdul Qadir Jilani who is regarded as Bara Pir (the great Pir). The date of the construction of the mausoleum is not known, but two epigraphs attached to the gates of the shrine show that the gates were built by Sultan Alauddin husain shah and Sultan Nasiruddin nusrat shah respectively. Husain Shah also built a siqayah or shed for drinking water at the dargah of the saint. The date of the death of the saint is stated to be 758 AH/ 1357 AD.

The death anniversary of the saint is commemorated annually on Id-ul-Fitr. On this occasion the jhanda or heraldic symbol of Makhdum Jahaniyan Jahangasht, preserved in the shrine of Shaikh jalaluddin tabrizi at Pandua and the Panja (reproduction of hand) of Shaikh Nur Qutbul Alam at Pandua are sent to the shrine of Shaikh Akhi Siraj at Gaur as a mark of respect to the old saint. Shaikh Akhi's tomb at Gaur still attracts hundreds of devotees from all over the country.

It is generally believed that Shaikh Akhi Sirajuddin originally came from Badaon (the epithet Badaoni is concequently attached to his name), but modern researchers have shown that it is not true. Shaikh Abdul Huq Dehlavi in his Akhbar-ul-Akhyar fi Asrar-ul-Abrar calls Akhi Siraj Gauri, ie he was from Gaur, Bengal. The same scholar says that Shaikh Akhi while staying in the khanqah of Shaikh Nizamuddin at Delhi, used to go to Bengal to see his mother who was staying there. He is enjoying his eternal rest in Bengal and his teachings have also been preserved there through his disciples, the Chishtiya saints. [Abdul Karim]

Bibliography Enamul Huq, A History of Sufism in Bengal, Dhaka, 1974; A Karim, Social History of the Muslims in Bengal down to AD 1538, Dhaka, 1959.