dargah of Makhdum Ali Mahimi remains a landmark just off the mahim causeway in
Mumbai in spite of the urban growth and business that have mushroomed around it.
Time was when stood out boldly off the arterial road that connected the city of
Bombay to its suburbs (now part of greater Mumbai),even so ,the domed mausoleum
with its tall green and white portal continues to be a beacon for the many devotees
who come in search of barkaat n sukoon at the dargah .on any given day ,but more
so on a Thursday evening and on festive days, the dargah dons a special air when
devotees , many of whom belong to the Konkani Muslim community , offer their prayers
to the 14 th century saint. It is not unusual to see people of all faiths , both
young and old ,inside the sanctuary or relaxing on its wind blown terrace that
overlook mahim bay and the crumbling ramparts of mahim fort and its old habitations.
During the periods of turbulence, mumbaikars have also sought shelter in the dargah.
Makhdum Ali mahimi (1372-1431), who lived during a period of
intellectual activity and political change, is among the early Sufi masters about
whom a certain amount of authentic information is available. The figure of makhdum
Ali mahimi has commanded respect for his unquestioned devotion to his mother,
has generosity his liberal outlook and his achievements as a Sufi and a scholar.
Intellectually, it was an epoch when Sufis and scholars in western India were
held in high esteem, and classical texts and treaties in Arabic and Persian were
keenly read and commented upon. Historically, mahim and its surrounding Thane
district came under Muslim rule in 1318 when the khaljis of Delhi dominated the
extensive provinces of Gujarat . But Delhi lost hold over its provinces under
the weak rulers that followed sultan firuz shah tughluq (r.1351-88) and timur's
devastation of Delhi in 1398. In consequence, at the beginning of the 15 th century
Gujarat declared its independence from central Delhi control.
was favorite among the the flourishing ports that dotted the west of India where
a large of immigrants and traders from Arabia had settleMakhdum Ali Mahimi was
born on 10 th muharram 1372 in mahim,.as it was then called to a family of nawaits,
or newcomers who had landed in mahim as early as 9 th century . the nawaits were
Arabs who left their home land to journey to Baghdad and the Basra before they
came to settle along the west coast of India .as a community ,they were sufficient
and intellectually inclined.
Sahib's Father Maulana Shaykh Ahmad Quddus Sirrahul Aziz, a learned and saintly
man , was a well to do merchant who belonged to the paro or prave family ,his
mother Fatima bint-e -nakhuda husain, a pious and devout lady came from the wealthy
ankolio family sin his father died when he was nine years old , he grew up under
his mother who greatly revered . Sources indicate that his father trained him
irreligious knowledge from an early age after the death of his father.Makhdum
Ali Mahimi acquired knowledge from khawaja khidr , whom he met in secret on mahim
seashore every morning (khawaja khidr is regarded as patron saints of travelers
and mysterious figure connected with initiation and the highest sources of mystical
inspiration ) makdum ali mahimi belonged to a group of Sufis named uwaysi, or
those who have not received a formal initiation by a living master and are not
affiliated to any known order like the chishti or suhrawardi in India . According
to research conducted by maul Ana parvaz islahi, makhdum sahib was married to
the sultan Ahmadshah of Gujarat. He died where he had lived, in mahim, on 8 th
jamadi al-Awwal and was buried in the nearby graveyard.(the chronogram for the
date of his death given in the memorial plaque reads "jannat-ul firdaus".)
his mother, who died forty days later, lies next to him.
Ali Mahimi is credited with more than one personal name, among them ali, Aluaddin
and Abul hasan his successors, he known as Ali parve and to later followers asMakhdum
Ali Mahimi. He also holds appellations that highlight his achievements. He is
called Qutb-e konkan for his spiritual eminence and large following along the
konkan coast, and faqob Ali mahimi for is knowledge of jurisprudence. In fact,
sultan Ahmad shah of Gujarat appointed him as qadi for the Muslims of thane district,
for both civil and criminal cases.
Recent works in Urdu and English as well as earlier biographies
in Persian state that Makhdum Ali Mahimi was well versed in the traditional Islamic
scholars in Islamic sciences, including theology, jurisprudence, philosophy, and
mysticism. He was one of the first Islamic scholars in India to have written a
commentary in Arabic on the Quran, as well as expounding shaykh ul -Akbar Ibn-e
arabi's doctrine of wahdat al-wujud, or unity of being. There is little biographical
information on his daily conduct but he is known to known to have observed the
obligatory namaz as well as occupying himself with supererogatory prayers, dhikrand
contemplation of the Devine. When engrossed in meditation, it is said, he would
be totally unaware of everything around him. He enjoined the pupils at his seminary
to go along this path and to concentrate on the purification of body and mind.
Among his followers, the only known name is that of his principle disciple, Shaykh
Muhammad Syed Konkani
Ali mahimi has left a legacy of religious and literary works. The most distinguished
amongst these is his pioneering commentary on the Quran al-tafsir ar-rahmani.
Written in a simple style, it comprehensively examines the subtle links between
the different chapters in the Quran and their verses. He discusses the Quran's
mystical and non-mystical aspects and the relationship between them. Uniquely,
he explains how the bismillah at the head of each chapter has been named with
reference to its contents and why each chapter bears a particular title. Handwritten
copies of this work are known to exist but printed copies are difficult to obtain.
His numerous treatises elucidating classical manuals and doctrines treatises were
read and commented upon by Sufis and scholars like Shah Wajihuddin Alawi, Ghulam
Ali Azad Bilgrami, and Shah Waliuallah in India during later times. But in these
works there is no mention of his inner spiritual development. They cover subjects
as wide as mysticism, predestination, and tawhid, or unity of God and time and
space. They elaborate on the interpretation of the shariat and the Hadith traditions
in the light of reason. In the prologue to his treatise entitled al-Khusus ila
mani an-Nusu on the work of al-Qawnawi (d.1274), believed to be Ibn-e Arabi's
stepson, he explains mystical terms and doctrines in detail. He was engrossed
by the works of Ibn-e Arabi (d. 1240), resulting in his outstanding commentary
on Arabi's Fusus al-Hikam, the Mashra al-Khusus Fi Sharh-I Fusus al-Hikam. He
wrote three commentaries on the Fusus and one on Shihabuddin Suhrawardi's classical
Sufi text 'Awarif al-Ma'arif'. With remarkable ease he quotes from famous Sufis
and philosophers like Razi, Suhrawardi, Qushayri, Sullami, Makki, and Kalabadhi
whilst discussing the doctrines of tawhid and predestination. Not many scholars
are aware of all his writings and there is need to publish and study them. Copies
of his works are dispersed across libraries in Mumbai, Bankipur , Berlin and London
. At one point, the Mahim dargah itself was famous for its collection of books
and manuscripts, but ravaged by time, vandalized, and neglected, the library no
The dargah complex at Mahim is entered through an imposing
green gateway decorated with white tracery. It is visible from the main Cadell
Road (Veer Savarkar Marg) that leads to it past a slew of restaurants, sweetmeats
shops, and flower sellers. The dargah, built in stone and mortar and plastered,
is situated on a high plinth in the midst of a marbled courtyard. Though modest
in size, it gains added stature from its domes and the arched naqqar khana that
houses the ceremonial drums in front. The dargah was built in stages, the tomb
chamber itself having having been constructed in 1674 more than two centuries
after Nakhdum Sahib's death. In the same year, repairs and extension were undertaken
and a large three-quarter dome was built above the graves. The smaller corners
domes were added several years later. The architrave of the arched gateway to
the tomb chamber bears a gilded Persian inscription that may be translated as:
"The generosity of Ali has illuminated the spot." The chronogram indicates
that the shrine in its present form dates to 1748.
flight of steps ending in an arched opening takes visitors inside the well-lit
mausoleum dominated by two large graves, that of Makhdum Sahib in the middle,
and that of his mother to his left. The chamber is also accessible from a door
to its west that leads to the verandah for the ladies, the trust offices, and
adjoining mosque. A large piece of an embroidered kiswah from the Ka'ba (a cover
renewed at the time of Haj every year) that dates back two or three hundred years
is preserved in a frame that takes up an entire wall in the corridor outside.
also visit some of the consecrated spots around the mausoleum. These are connected
to legendary accounts of the saint's supernatural powers, for Makhdum Sahib was
accredited with many miracles in later times. There is the holy well whose waters
are curative, a chirag corner where devotees light lamps, and a huge weighing
scale where people who recovered from illnesses in the past had themselves weighed
against sugar or molasses which they then distributed.
is the section that had earlier served as a sanatorium. Today, the focus is on
the primary school-cum-madrasa.
The pattern of daily rituals at mahim is similar to those followed at other
dargahs except that people afflicted with ailments come for the ceremony that
marks the closure of the tomb chamber at 10 pm each night and 11 pm on Thursdays.
The shrine is swept and anointed with rosewater and then fragrant incense is burnt
in a large urn. This urn is taken round so that those who wait on the steps outside
can inhale its efficacious vapours. Believers come for a spell of thirty to forty
days for its healing effects. During the week, Thursdays are special. Men and
women come well attired and with offerings of flowers and maybe a chadar to pray
to their wali intecessor and friend, with the help of a khadim . Here, students
are known to pray for success in their exams and police for success in a particular
the last thirty years, the annual urs has been observed over a period of ten days
between December 13 and 22, and today is attended by nearly three lakhs visitors,
most of them from Mumbai. The highlight of the urs in the arrival of a series
of processions with old-fashioned lanterns and music, mostly on Thursdays and
Sundays, the leaders of which stop to make their obeisance to the saint. On the
first day itself, a crowd of 60,000 gathers to watch the very first day procession,
is the one from the nearby Mahim police chowki, with the chief inspector and his
colleagues carrying aloft flowers and other offerings in silver trays. (It is
believed that the saint's residence was where the police chowki stands now.) Other
dargahs in Mumbai and many socio-religious institutions in the city participate
in the processions. On a Thursdays during the urs, the marble courtyard and other
premises are filled to capacity by crowds to hear well known qawwals pay their
homage to the saint. (Normally such qawwals charge lakhs of rupees for a performance.)
One of the chief trustees of the dargah committee, Suhail Khandwani, refers to
the timing restrictions now enforced, comparing them with earlier days when performances
lasted well into the early hours. He also mentions the special ad-hoc committee
set up to maintain law and order during the urs and to conduct the lost and found
office, as well as to distribute consecrated sherbet and food.
entry in the Bombay City and Island Gazetteer of 1910 shows how special arrangements
were made for the urs. It mentions how special arrangements were made for urs.
It mentions how this was a socio-cultural event to which Bombay residents came
to make vows as well as to enjoy the amusements. They partook in the fair on the
causeway where "toys of European make, local metalware, sweetmeats and food"
are sold. Apart from the sandal processions, they watched devotees perform with
swords and fly kites. In an earlier publication, Towns and Islands of Bombay ,
a government order 1694 is quoted that gave permission to "Moormen (nawaits)
to worship at the tomb at Mahim as customary". A 1739 order granted the chief
officer at Mahim the liberty for keeping of the Mahim fair: "You are hereby
ordered to permit the people to have the country music and to exercise such other
diversions as are customary at that time and to give assistance to prevent any
disturbances or disorder being committed."
important event in the annual life of the dargah is the display of a highly treasured
Quran - its ink and paper are in prime condition - believed to have been copied
by Makhdum Sahib himself. (However some scholars are of the firm opinion that
is was made later, in 1564 by Maulana al-Mukri.) The Quran is displayed just once
a year, on the eve of Laylat al-Qadr, the night of power when the Quran was revealed
at Mahim, this event is observed on the eve on 29 th Ramadan.
scholar-saint of Mahim is remembered for many reasons. In a cosmopolitan city
like Mumbai, considered the commercial capital of India , it is the simplicity
of the faith of countless devotees that is striking. Many remember him for the
very human qualities he possessed - his love for and obedience to his mother,
his humility, his self-control, and his generous nature that made guests welcome
- that are mentioned in biographies like Damir al-Insan . Yet others derive faith
and hope from the stories of extraordinary feats that have come down over generations.
Authorities like Ghulam Ali Azad Bilgrami and Muhammed Yusuf Khatkhatey place
him in a historical perspective to laud him for his scholarship. In keeping with
our times, the committee of trustees in charge of the Mahim dargah intends to
promote education and research among the young by sponsoring a school and a library
and research centre.