Shaykh Ahmad was among the early Sufis who came to Gujarat around the year 1400 and who received patronage from the rulers. He was to proceed to the Deccan but both Zafar and Tatar Khan prevailed upon him to stay in Gujarat and so he chose to settle in Sarkhej, a village outside the city on the bank of the Sabarmati.
"The child of aristocratic parents, Shaykh Ahmad was born in Delhi in 1338 and named Malik Nasiruddin. But mystery surrounds his early life when, at the age of four, he was carried away far from home in a sudden dust storm. Sources wary as to whether he was rescued by Shaykh Abu Ishaq of the Maghribi order and taken to his hermitage in Khattu (near Nagaur) in Rajasthan, or picked up by a caravan and given to a childless couple in Khattu and afterwards taken by Baba Ishaq and brought up with tender care. On the completion of his intellectual and spiritual training, Baba Ishaq invested him in the Maghribi order from North Africa of which he was the head in India, an order known for its rigorous austerities and fondness for poetry and music.
Ahmad Khattu was to win the respect of no less than eight rulers of Delhi and Ahmadabad. He became famous for his learning, having acquired theological knowledge from leading teachers in Delhi during the Tughluq era when the capital was known for its madrasas and scholars. He was also known for his austerities. On the death of his preceptor in 1374, he locked himself in a room with a jug of water and some dates to emerge a skeleton after a forty-day penance. Thereafter, he wandered barefoot and penniless, eschewing all company, to undertake a prolonged journey in the heartlands of Islam. It was from his meetings with divines in Mecca and Medina that he gained the spiritual enlightenment for which he later became renowned.
Shaykh Ahmad Khattu returned to Delhi after twelve years and stayed at the Khan-i-Jahan mosque. During a visit to the mosque, Sultan Firuz Shah Tughluq met him and later sent him flowers. Soon after, the shaykh played a pivotal role in protecting those taken prisoner in Timur's sack of Delhi. One version of the story observes that he was captured with the other residents and that he boldly interceded with Timur for their release. Another version describes how they were all taken to Samarkand where Ahmad Khattu entered into debates with scholars to impress them with his learning and obtained release from Timur. He returned via Thatta in Sind and settled in Gujarat where he lived humbly in his khanqah at Sarkhej village. Here he developed a remarkable ability to understand and identify himself with those around him, and to attend to their problems and aspirations. He passed away at the advanced age of 108 lunar years in 1446.
The shaykh's discourses inculcated a disciplined life and a sense of community among his devotees. He exhorted them to fight their baser instincts and appetites and shake off pride, for he considered pride the greatest among evils. Renowned shaykhs like his contemporary Qutb-i Alam were known to visit him regularly and Shah Alam studied under him. The Mughal emperor Jahangir paid homage to him when he visited the saint's rauza outside Ahmadabad in 1618. His hermitage was known to serve food daily at all times. Large amounts of futuh were never lacking at his khanqah and he shared what he received with all. His generous nature and hospitality won him the appellation of Ganj Baksh, or One who Bestowed Treasure, and yet he said: "How can this dervish give anything to anybody. The real giver is Allah." Having embraced poverty, Shaykh Ahmad Khattu always looked upon himself as a dervish or fakir. But he enigmatically warned his audience: "It is easy to enter an assembly of dervishes but arduous to leave in one piece." He addressed his devotees in Hindi, Gujari, and Persian, and wrote and recited verses in Persian and Gujari. Gifted with a good voice, he was fond of participating in musical auditions. Today, on the occasion of satam atham, the night of Krishna's birth, devotees perform a garba in front his shrine.
Custodians look after the shrine and guide devotees with the performance of rituals. Eleven of them with their families share duties rotated around a fortnight and keep what is given to them. While there is no evidence of the former khanqah or of any actual spiritual training being imparted, there is a library that contains books in the classical languages and English and Urdu. The management of the dargah and the upkeep of its large complex are in the hands of a committee of honorary trustees appointed by the district judge.
-Excerpts from the book on 'Dargahs of India' published by Marag Publications, Mumbai.
Ghiasuddin Ali Qazwini had distinghuished himself as a skilled general and trusted noble in the court of the great King Akhbar. He was the son of Aqa Mulla Dawatdar Qazwini of Iran. Aqa Mulla was one of the chief courtiers of Shah Tahmasp Safawi and traced his ancestory from the family of Shaikh Shihabuddin Suhrawadi. His whole family including his uncles and other relatives had held important positions during the reigns of various Kings in Persia.
The reputation of the Mughal Kings as patrons of art, learning and literature and their being comparatively free from narrow racial of sectarian prejudices had attracted people from Persia and many scholars, artists, poets migrated to India where they not only found refuge from the narrow fanaticism of the Safawi Kings but also a recognition of their talents. One among these was Mirza Ghiyasuddin Ali Asaf Khan, who was followed to India by Nur Jahaan's father Itmad-ud-daula. Mirza Ghiyasuddin Ali Asaf Khan was the uncle of Asmat Begum, the mother of Nur Jahaan.
Khwajah Ghiyasuddin Ali Qazwini distinguished himself in the Gujarat campaign in 1572-73 when he fought the rebels who had besieged Muhammad Koka (Akhbar's foster brother) in Ahmadabad. For his services rendered he received the title of "Asaf Khan". When the victorious army returned to the capital, he was made the Bakhshi of the province of Ahmadabad. In 1576 he was appointed to Idar to suppress the rebel zamindar. He completed the assignment with great ability. By the end of 1578, he was sent to Malwa in order to impose branding regulations and to ascertain the condition of the army. He showed great efficiency and completed the task after which he was ordered to proceed to Gujarat and was stationed here.
It is important to note that it was with great difficulty that the Mughal Kings were able to annexe the state of Gujarat. The strong unity among the business community that favoured an independent state, resisted the many attempts by the Mughals right from the time of Humayun to annexe Gujarat. Due to its ports, Gujarat became a central link for all the trade that was carried on between India and the rest of the world. Thus, Gujarat was a rich and important source for revenue for the Mughal Kings not to mention the Britishers who followed the Mughals.
The above political and economic context, reflects the abilities of Ghiyasuddin Qazwini and the trust and confidence he enjoyed in Akhbar's court, in order to have been asked to look after the province of Gujarat.
The only physical and material indication left of his stature is the location of his grave which is positioned right behind that of the Sufi saint Sheikh Ahmad Ganj Baksh Khattu, whose very presence was the reason why the complex of Sarkhej Roza stands today.
Though it is a simple brick structure devoid of any ornamentation, it's grand scale explains the important position that he enjoyed in his times. He died in 1581.
Source: Dr.Chandra Pant, "Nurjahaan and her family".1979.
Two almost unknown structures within the Roza campus can be seen when one takes the outer road to go to the palaces. This structure is supposed to be the tomb of noblemen who ruled over Gujarat immediately preceding the conquest of Akhbar
This almost unknown structure within the Roza campus can be seen when one takes the outer road encircling the lake to go to the palaces Two similar structures on both sides of the pathway can be viewed. It is believed that this space was traditional graveyard of the Habshis.
"Habshi" was the name given to people of African descent. Many of them had been brought as slaves by the earlier sultans of Gujarat Dynasty. They slowly rose to power in the court because of their loyalty and skills in the battlefield.
The Arabic history of Gujarat by Haji- Ad-Dabir mentioned the names of four noblemen buried in the structure on the banks of the lake. They were Bilal "JhujharKhan";
Mandal "Ulugh Khan" Sultani;
Yakut "Ulugh Khan" and
Mirjan "Jhujhar Khan".
After the death of Bahadur Shah, the last reigning king of the Gujarat Sultanate dynasty, the powerful nobles divided the kingdom of Guajrat amongst themselves for preservation and to avoid infighting. The above mentioned names were amongst the powerful courtiers who commanded the respect of the army and were themselves very able generals. It is worth noting that even the Mughals with their vat armies could make a successful conquest of Gujarat only after the third attempt in 1572
This is one of the lesser known structures within the group of monuments at the SarkhejRoza. Believed to be the tomb of one of the cherished courtiers of Akbar, the Moghul King, Ghizhali Mash-hadi, was a well-known poet of his times.It is tucked away from immediate public view, since it is situated beside the Queen's palace. The Tomb is open to sky and is devoidof any ornamentation or any sign of royalty; though the positioning of the tomb is very interesting. It is in direct view of the Saint's tomb on the west facing banks of the lake. It is said that he accompanied the Moghul army on one of the many conquests of Ahmadabad, but died suddenly of an unknown cause and was buried in the precinct of Sarkhej.