The great thinkers of the East

Saif al-Din Bokharzi

 

By Omonulla Mutalov

 
Saif al-Din Bokharzi – one of the most talented students of the Khorezmi Shaykh Najm ad-Din al-Kubra, founder of the Kubrawiyya Sufi Order - was born in Khorasan. (1190-1260) in the Bokharz Valley.
In his youth Saif al-Din studied in the madrasas of Herat. An eager student he set out in search of knowledge, traveling to Bukhara, Nishapur and Baghdad. He made Haj and visited the Prophet (s) in Madina.
In Khorasan he studied with Ali at-Tusi and in Baghdad he studied at the feet of the great mystic Shihab ad-Din al-Suhrawardi. He did intensive study of the masterpiece of Islamic jurisprudence al-Hidaya under the supervision of Jamal ad-Din Mahbubi, son of the author Burhan ad-Din Marghinani.
Shaykh Saif al-Din then began a distinctive transformation, when he went to serve and study at Najm ad-Din al-Kubra’s mystic school.  After his Shaykh perished in the battle with the Mongol invaders, Saif ad-Din and many other well-known scholars dispersed to different countries. Saif ad-Din, upon the instructions of his teacher, went to Bukhara, where the Mongols continued to persecute him. However, it was not long before the Mongols, under the spiritual influence of Muslim awliya of the area, adopted Islam and began to patronize the building of madrasas and mosques.
The Batukhan’s junior brother, Prince Berka (in the Changizname and other source this word is seen to be from the Arabic “baraka”, meaning plenitude, God’s bounty), having refused to stay in the palace, chose the way of the Sufis and went in search of a spiritual master to teach him the ways of achieving Divine gnosis, ma`rifatullah. He traveled to Bukhara and took the hand of Shaykh Saif Ad-Din, becoming his student. Prince/dervish Berka was overtaken by the Mongol Golden Horde. Under them he and his troops fought the Khulagides and defeated them in a fierce battle. Thereafter he became ruler of the Golden Horde. Under his reign many Golden Horde Mongols adopted Islam and Muslim culture and the savage society of the conquerors was transformed to one far more civilized and humane.
Saif ad-Din Bokharzi, while enjoying the patronage of Berke Khan in Bukhara, frequented the grave of Imam Bukhari. He spent his money to upgrade the great scholar’s tomb and its environs at the same time educating a new generation of scholars in the Sciences of Islam. Soon he attained fame as a wali of Allah.
The prominent scholar and world traveler Ibn Battuta, who visited Bukhara in 1335 relates in his Rihla:
We stayed in the part of Bukhara known as Fatkhabad, where the shaykh and pious hermit Saif ad-Din al-Bokharzi was buried – one of the great saints. We stayed in the zawiya (hospice for itinerant scholars and worshippers), named for the Shaykh. It was huge and contained many trust lands (waqfs). The income from the trusts was used in providing food to visitors (scholars and religious students). The curator of the zawiya was one of Shaykh Saif ad-Din’s ancestors Hajji Takhiya al-Bokharzi. This shaykh accommodated me at his own home, gathered the respectable citizens of the town to listen to the blessed recitation of the Quran in the most melodious fashion, and to hear a wa’iz deliver an exhortation. Then songs were recited in Turkish and Persian in thanks to Allah and praise of the Prophet (s).
This story by Ibn Battuta testifies to the fact that even a century after his passing, the fame of the eminent and holy figure of the scholar Saif ad-Din Bokharzi had spread far and wide and made a great spiritual impact on the nations of Central Asia and the Middle East.
Alisher Navoi inhis book “The Wings of Love” tells of an amazing incident in the life of Saif ad-Din Bokharzi:
Once his mentor, the great Najm ad-Din al-Kubra, had blessed his student and told him, holding the bridles of his horse, “in some time great kings will be at your service.” This prediction of his mentor came to pass when one of Saif ad-Din’s students, Prince Berka, became the Great Khan of the Golden Horde.
Saif ad-Din Bokharzi wrote many works in both Arabic and Persian. Today we still have available from his writings “Sharh Asma al-Husna” (Explanation of Imam Bukhari’s “Allah’s Most Beautiful Names” ), Risalayi dar ishq” (Treatise on Divine Love), “Rubayyait” (The Quatrains – Aphorisms), “Voqeai khilvat” (The Adventures in Solitude), “Vasiyatnama”, (The Will) and “Ruznoma” (Life Story).