GANJ-EŠAKAR, FARĪD-AL-DĪN MASʿŪD, popularly known as Bābā Farīd, a major Shaikh of the Češtīya (q.v.) mystic order, born in the last quarter of the 6th/12th century in Kahtwāl near Moltān, Punjab. His family, who held the office of local judges, had migrated from Kabul in Afghanistan to the Indus valley during the lifetime of Bābā Farīd’s grandfather, Qāżī Šoʿayb. Having received his basic instruction at home, Bābā Fārīd memorized the Koran and continued his Muslim education in the madrasa of Menhāj-al-Dīn Termeḏī in Moltān. There, during Naṣīr-al-Dīn Qabāča’s (d. 625/1228) reign over the town, Bābā Farīd met Qoṭb-al-Dīn Baḵtīār Kākī (d. 633/1235), an errant dervish from Farḡāna who, before moving on to Delhi, initiated him into ascetic practices and Sufi ways of prayer. Apparently, Bābā Farīd did not get on with Bahāʾ-al-Dīn Zakarīyā (d. 661/1262), a learned and wealthy Hanafite scholar of Arab and Qorayšī descent, who became the organizer of the Sohravardī Sufi order in Moltān. Rather, Bābā Farīd joined the company of Jalāl-al-Dīn Tabrīzī, a Sufi shaikh who came to India with Bahāʾ-al-Dīn but later parted from him to move on to Delhi and Bengal. Bābā Farīd, however, stayed on in the Punjab and eventually espoused the Češtī tradition of Sufism that entered India with Moʿīn-al-Dīn Ḥasan Sejzī (d. 633/1236), a Persian Sufi who settled at Ajmer in Rajasthan. Qoṭb-al-Dīn Baḵtīār initiated Bābā Farīd into the Češtī Sufi way of life but he also learned Češtī ways of prayer from Rašīd-al-Dīn Menāʾī at Oččh, south of Moltān. Bābā Farīd spent his active life as a Sufi teacher and Češtī shaikh in two different localities of the Punjab. For an initial twenty years he selected Hānsī as center for his activities. Then he settled at Ajōdhān, a strategic staging post on the main road from Moltān to Delhi on the Sutlej River, and there established a Sufi ḵānaqāh that attracted many disciples. He died in Ajōdhān (today situated in Pakistan and called Pākpattan, holy town, in his memory) in 664/1265, where his tomb became a flourishing center of pilgrimage. Large numbers of South Asian Muslims, including powerful rulers such as Tīmūr and Akbar, have visited it over the centuries. Sikhs and Hindus, too, have been attracted to the shrine, where Bābā Farīd is venerated as Ganj-e Šakar (sugar treasure), a title for which there are various legendary explanations.
Bābā Farīd trained several influential Sufis who later spread the Češtī Sufi order over northern India, among them Jamāl-al-Dīn of Hānsī (said to have died before 664/1265), ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn ʿAlī b. Aḥmad Ṣāber of Kalyar (d. 691/1291-92), and Neẓām-al-Dīn Awlīāʾ (d. 726/1325) of Dehlī. In Ajōdhān, Bābā Farīd based his Sufi pedagogy on the ʿAwāref al-maʿāref (q.v.), a Sufi handbook compiled by Šehāb-al-Dīn Abū Ḥafṣ ʿOmar Sohravardī (d. 632/1234). The novices shaved their hair upon entering the ḵānaqāh and completed their initiation (bayʿa) by clasping hands with the master (pīr). In the ḵānaqāh they lived in community in a large hall used by the group for work, prayer and sleep. Bābā Farīd was known for his ascetic practice of the čella-ye maʿkūsa (praying suspended by the feet during a period of forty days) and the ṣawm-e dāʾūdī (fasting on alternate days). His most famous prayer practice, however, was the samāʿ (listening to music inducing ecstasy), in which Bābā Farīd had been instructed by Qoṭb-al-Dīn Baḵtīār. This practice included singing and dancing (raqsá), in addition to exercises of meditation and recollection (ḏekr, q.v.). Three hagiographical collections attributed to Bābā Farīd are spurious. They are Fawāʾed al-sālekīn (on Qoṭb-al-Dīn Baḵtīār Kākī), Asrār al-awlīāʾ (on Bābā Farīd by Badr-al-Dīn Esḥāq), and Rāḥat al-qolūb (on Bābā Farīd by Neẓām-al-Dīn Awlīāʾ; cf. Nizami, The Life, pp. 118-20). The sayings attributed to Bābā Farīd in the Ādī-Granth of the Sikhs, compiled by Gurū Arjun Dev in 1604, may actually have been authored by the Češtī Ebrāhīm, known as Farīd-e Ṯānī (ibid., pp. 121-22).
The most reliable sources of information on Bābā Farīd’s life are: Amīr Ḥasan Sejzī, Fawāʾed al-foʾād, Lucknow, 1302/1884-85; Ḥamīd Qalander, Ḵayr al-majāles, ed. K. A. Nizami, Aligarh, 1959; and Amīr Ḵᵛord, Sīar al-awlīāʾ, Delhi, 1302/1884-85.
S. Digby, “Tabbarrukāt and the Succession among the Great Chishtī Shaykhs,” in R. E. Frykenberg, ed., Delhi Though the Ages, Delhi, 1986, pp. 63-103.
R. M. Eaton, “The Political and Religious Authority of the Shrine of Baba Farid in Pakpattan, Punjab,” in B. D. Metcalf, ed., Moral Conduct and Authority, Berkley, 1984, pp. 333-56.
M. Habib, “Chisti Mystics Records of the Sultanate Period,” Medieval India Quarterly 1, 1950, pp. 1-42.
Ḥamīd Qalandar, Ḵayr al-majāles. ed. K. A. Nizami, Aligarh, 1959.
B. B. Lawrence, “The Early Chistī Approach to Samāʿ,” in M. Israel and N. K. Wagle, eds., Islamic Society and Culture, New Delhi, 1983, pp. 69-93.
M. A. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion, 6 vols., Oxford, 1904.
K. A. Nizami, “Farīd al-Dīn Masʿūd ‘Gandj-i-Shakar’” in EI2 II, pp. 796-97.
Idem, The Life and Times of Shaikh Farid-u’d-Din Ganj-i-Shakar, Lahore, 1976.
Idem, Some Aspects of Religion and Politics in India in the Thirteenth Century, Delhi, 1978.
L. Rama Krishna, Panjabi Sufi Poets, New Dehli, 1973.
I. H. Siddiqi, “The Early Chisti Dargahs,” in C.W. Troll, eds., Muslim Shrines in India, Dehli, 1989, pp. 1-23.
A. Singh, “Sheikh Farid and the Punjabi Poetic Tradition,” in G. Singh Talib, ed., Perspectives on Sheikh Farid, Patiala, 1975, pp. 225-33.
Abū Ḥafṣ ʿOmar Sohravardī, ʿAwāref al-maʿāref, Cairo, n.d.
Additional information can be found in the Persian taḏkera literature of Indian Sufism and in short references from a variety of historical works on Muslim India.
Originally Published: December 15, 2000
Last Updated: February 2, 2012
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Vol. X, Fasc. 3, pp. 281-282