Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki

Qutb ul Aqtab Khwaja Sayyid Muhammad Bakhtiyar AlHussaini, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki (born 1173 – died 1235) was a Sunni Muslim Sufi mystic, saint and scholar of the Chishti Order from Delhi, India. He was the disciple and the spiritual successor of Moinuddin Chishti as head of the Chishti order, and the person to whom the Qutb Minar, Delhi is dedicated. Before him the Chishti order in India was confined to Ajmer and Nagaur. He played a major role in establishing the order securely in Delhi.[1] His dargah located adjacent to Zafar Mahal in Mehrauli, and the oldest dargah in Delhi, is also the venue of his annual Urs festivities. The Urs was held in high regard by many rulers of Delhi like Qutbuddin Aibak, Iltutmish who built a nearby stepwell, Gandhak ki Baoli for him, Sher Shah Suri who built a grand gateway, Bahadur Shah I who built the Moti Masjid mosque nearby and Farrukhsiyar who added a marble screen and a mosque.[2]

Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki
Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki.jpg
Dargah of Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki in Mehrauli, Delhi.
Osh, Qara Khitai (present-day Kyrgyzstan)
Died1235 (aged 61–62)
Resting placeMehrauli, Delhi
28°31′09″N 77°10′47″E / 28.519303°N 77.179856°E / 28.519303; 77.179856
LineageChishti Order
Other namesMalik-ul-Mashaa'ikh
OrderChisti Sufism
Muslim leader
Based inDelhi
Period in officeEarly 13th century
PredecessorMoinuddin Chishti
SuccessorFariduddin Ganjshakar, Bu Ali Shah Qalandar

His most famous disciple and spiritual successor was Fariduddin Ganjshakar, who in turn became the spiritual master of Delhi's noted Sufi saint, Nizamuddin Auliya, who himself was the spiritual master of Amir Khusrau and Nasiruddin Chirag-e-Delhi.

Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki had much influence on Sufism in India. As he continued and developed the traditional ideas of universal brotherhood and charity within the Chisti order, a new dimension of Islam started opening up in India which had hitherto not been present. He forms an important part of the Sufi movement which attracted many people to Islam in India in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. People of every religion like Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, etc. visiting his Dargah every week.

Early lifeEdit

Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki was born in 569 A.H. (1173 C.E.) in the ancient city of Osh (alternatively Awsh or Ush) in the Fergana Valley (present Osh in southern Kyrgyz Republic (Kyrgyzstan), part of historic Transoxania).[3] According to his biography mentioned in, Ain-i-Akbari, written in the 16th century by Mughal Emperor Akbar’s vizier, Abu'l-Fazl ibn Mubarak, he was the son of Sayyid Kamaluddin Musa Alhussaini, whom he lost at the young age of a year and a half.[4][5][6]

Khwaja Qutbuddin's original name was Bakhtiyar and later on he was given the title Qutbuddin. He was a Husayni Sayyid and his lineage is recorded as follows: He is Qutb al-Din Bakhtiar bin Kamal al-Din Musa, bin Muhammad, bin Ahmad, bin Husam al-Din, bin Rashid al-Din, bin Radi al-Din, bin Hasan, bin Muhammad Ishaq, bin Muhammad, bin Ali, bin Ja'far, bin Ali al-Rida, bin Musa al-Kazim, bin Ja'far al-Sadiq, bin Muhammad al-Baqir, bin Ali Zayn al-Abidin, bin Husayn, bin Ali bin Abi Talib and Fatimah al-Zahra, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad. His mother, who herself was an educated lady, arranged for his education by Shaikh Abu Hifs.[3]

Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki took oath of allegiance at the hands of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti, and received the khilafat and khirqa (Sufi cloak) from him, when Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti passed through Osh during his journey to Isfahan. His spiritual master then guided him to India and asked him to stay there.[3][7] Thus, he was the first spiritual successor of Moinuddin Chishti.

Later lifeEdit

Move to DelhiEdit

In obedience to the desire of his spiritual master, Moinuddin Chishti, Khwaja Bakhtiyar moved to the city of Delhi during the reign of Iltutmish (r. 1211-1236) of the Delhi Sultanate. Many people started visiting him daily.[8][3]

He was called Kaki due to a keramat (miracle) attributed to him in Delhi. It is said that he asked his wife not to take credit from the local baker despite their extreme poverty. Instead he told her to pick up Kak (a kind of bread) from a corner of their house whenever needed. After this, his wife found that Kak miraculously appeared in that corner whenever she required it. The baker, in the meantime, had become worried whether the Khwaja had stopped taking credit due to being perchance angry with him. Accordingly, when the baker's wife asked the reason from the Khwaja's wife, she told her about the miracle of Kak. Although the Kak stopped appearing after this, from that day the people started referring to him as Kaki.[9]

Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki's dargah

Khwaja Bakhtiyar Kaki, like other Chisti saints, did not formulate any formal doctrine. He used to hold a majlis, a gathering, where he gave his discourses or fatwas. Directed at the common masses, these contained an emphasis on renunciation, having complete trust in God, treating all human beings as equal and helping them as much as possible, etc. Whatever money was donated to him, he usually spent it on charity the same day.

He was a great believer in helping the needy without heeding the result. When an eminent disciple, Fariduddin Ganjshakar, asked him about the legality of amulets (tawiz) which were controversial as they could lead to theological problems of semi-idolatory in Islam, he replied that the fulfilment of desires belonged to no one; the amulets contained God's name and His words and could be given to the people.[9]

He continued and extended the musical tradition of the Chisti order by participating in sema or Mehfil-e-Sama. It is conjectured that this was with the view that, being in consonance with the role of music in some modes of Hindu worship, it could serve as a basis of contact with the local people and would facilitate mutual adjustments between the two communities.[10] On the 14th of Rabi'-ul-Awwal 633 A.H. (27 November 1235 CE)[4] he attended a Mehfil-e-Sama where the poet Ahmad- e Jam sang the following verses:

Those who are slain by the dagger of surrender;
Receive every moment a new life from the unseen.

Khwaja Bakhtiyar Kaki was so overcome and enraptured by these verses that he fainted away. He died four days later while still in that state of ecstasy. His dargah (shrine) is adjacent to the Zafar Mahal, near Qutub Minar complex, in Mehrauli, Delhi. After his death his will was read that emphasized that only the person who has done no haram and have never left the sunnah of Asr prayer may only lead his namaz-e-janaza (funeral prayer). This left to a brief lull as nearly everybody did not adhered to the contents of the will. Finally a teary eyed Illtutmish come out of the congregation saying that "I did not want to reveal my inner self to everybody but the will of Khwaja Bakhtiyar Kaki wants so". His Janaza prayer was finally led by Illtutmish as he was the only person who fulfilled and adhered to the contents of the will.

Left of the Ajmeri Gate of the dargah at Mehrauli, lies Moti Masjid, a small mosque for private prayer built by Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah I in 1709, an imitation of the much larger Moti Masjid built by his father, Aurangzeb, inside the Red Fort of Delhi.[11]

His influence over peopleEdit

Mahatma Gandhi visiting the Dargah during the Annual Urs, 1948.

As a well-known saint, Khwaja Bakhtiyar Kaki exercised great sway over the people. He continued the policy of non-involvement with the government of the day. This was the traditional way of saints of the Chisti order in South Asia,[12] as they felt that their linkage with rulers and the government would turn their mind towards worldly matters.

During the lifetime of the Khwaja he was held in great esteem by the Delhi Sultan, Iltutmish. It is contended that the Qutb Minar, the world's tallest brick minaret, partially built by Iltumish, was named so after him.[13] He was also the favorite saint of the Lodhi dynasty which ruled over Delhi from 1451 to 1526.[14] His importance continues to this day and can be gauged by the following historical fact. When Mahatma Gandhi launched his last fast-unto-death in Delhi in 1948, asking that all communal violence be ended once and for all, he was pressed by leaders of all denominations to end the fast. One of the six conditions that Gandhi put forward to end the fast was that Hindus and Sikhs as an act of atonement should repair the shrine of Khwaja Bakhtiyar Kaki which had been damaged during the communal riots.[15]

Phoolwalon-ki-sair festivalEdit

The darbaar shrine of Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki has also been the venue of the annual Phoolwalon-ki-sair (a festival of flower-sellers) in autumn, which has now become an important inter-faith festival of Delhi.[16][17]

The festival has its origins in 1812, when Queen Mumtaz Mahal, wife of the Mughal Emperor, Akbar Shah II (r. 1806-1837) made a vow to offer a chadar and flower pankha at the Dargah and a pankha at the Yogmaya Mandir, also at Mehrauli, if her son Mirza Jehangir, who, after inviting the wrath of Sir Archibald Seton, the then British Resident of the Red Fort, was exiled to Allahabad, returned safely. And as the legend goes, he did, and so began the tradition.[16] The festival was stopped by the British in 1942, but later revived by the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961 to bridge the Hindu-Muslim gap, and inculcate secularist ideals.[18]

Royal grave enclosureEdit

The tombs of Shah Alam II and his son Akbar II, with Moti Masjid in the background, next to the Kaki Mausoleum complex in 1890s

Incidentally, Akbar Shah II is now buried nearby in a marble enclosure, along with other Mughals, Bahadur Shah I and Shah Alam II.[11] An empty grave, also known as Sardgah, of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, can also be found here, as he had willed to be buried next to the famous shrine, as did his previous Mughal predecessors. Unfortunately, he was exiled to Burma where he died. Talks of bringing back his remains here have been raised in the past, from time to time.[19]


Honorary titles given to Qutbuddin Bakhityar Kaki include:

  • Qutub-ul-Aqtaab
  • Malik-ul-Mashaa'ikh
  • Rais-us-Saalikin
  • Siraj-ul-Auliya


  • Divan-i Khwajah Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki (in Urdu). Kanpur Munshi Naval Kishaur. 1879.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Biographical encyclopaedia of Sufis By N. Hanif.Pg 321
  2. ^ Smith, Ronald Vivian (2005). The Delhi that no-one knows. Orient Blackswan. pp. 11–12. ISBN 81-8028-020-9.
  3. ^ a b c d Profile of Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki on aulia-e-hind.com website Retrieved 6 January 2019
  4. ^ a b Qutbuddin Bakhtyar Kaki Ain-e-Akbari by Abul Faza, English translation, by Heinrich Blochmann and Colonel Henry Sullivan Jarrett, 1873–1907. The Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta., Volume III, Saints of India. (Awliyá-i-Hind), Page 363.
  5. ^ Islamic Thought and Movements in the Subcontinent, 711-1947, by Syed Moinul Haq. Published by Historical Society, 1979. Page 144.
  6. ^ Tabakat-i-Nasiri. A General History of the Muhammadan Dynasties of Asia, Including Hindustan, from A. H. 194 (810 A.D.) to A. H. 658 (1260 A.D.) and the Irruption of the Infidel Mughals into Islam. Translated from Original Persian Manuscripts by Major H. By Abu-'Umar-i-'Usman. Published by Adamant Media Corporation. ISBN 1-4021-7110-2. Page 921.
  7. ^ The Lamp of Love: Journeying with the Sabri Brothers by Amatullah Armstrong Chishti [1] Retrieved 6 January 2019
  8. ^ Luniya, Bhanwarlal Nathuram (1978). Life and culture in medieval India. Kamal Prakashan. p. 354.
  9. ^ a b Biographical encyclopaedia of Sufis By N. Hanif. Pg 323
  10. ^ Faruqi, Zia ul Hasan (1996). Fawa'id Al-Fu'ad--Spiritual and Literary Discourses of Shaikh Nizammuddin Awliya. South Asia Books. ISBN 81-246-0042-2.
  11. ^ a b Eicher:City Guide - Delhi, Eicher Goodearth Publications. 1998. ISBN 81-900601-2-0. Page 188.
  12. ^ Islam in the Indian subcontinent By Annemarie Schimmel Pg 25
  13. ^ An afternoon with the saints The Hindu (newspaper), Published 22 August 2015, Retrieved 6 January 2019
  14. ^ Jafar Sharif/Herclots.Islam in India. Oxford 1921, repr 1972. Pg 143
  15. ^ Azad, Abul Kalam (2005) [First published 1959]. India Wins Freedom: An Autobiographical Narrative. New Delhi: Orient Longman. p. 238. ISBN 81-250-0514-5.
  16. ^ a b Say it with Flowers: Phoolwalon-ki-sair The Times of India (newspaper), Published 2 November 2006, Retrieved 6 January 2019
  17. ^ Where religion does not define identity Times of India (newspaper), Published 23 October 2008, Retrieved 6 January 2019
  18. ^ Indian secularism The Times of India (newspaper), Published 28 September 2008, Retrieved 6 January 2019
  19. ^ Fulfilling Bahadur Shah’s last wish Metro Plus Delhi, The Hindu (newspaper), Published 21 May 2007, Retrieved 6 January 2019

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