by Mary Pat Fisher
Deva Sharif, the tomb of Syed Waris Ali Shah in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh, is quite famous and beloved to people from all religions. But having come from the United States, I learned of it only in 1994 when Dr. Rafiq Ahmed Warsi, known as Syed Rais Shah Warsi, the person whom the pir had installed in his gaddi, was brought to our revered teacher, His Holiness Baba Virsa Singh. Babaji was in his community outside Delhi, Gobind Sadan, when Sardar Rai Singh, a top official in the Uttar Pradesh government and long-time devotee of Babaji, brought Dr. Warsi and his son Mohammed Shariq Rafiq Warsi to meet Babaji. The meeting was very touching—Babaji being such a great teacher from the Sikh tradition and Dr. Warsi representing a great Muslim lineage that traces its ancestry back to the Prophet Mohammed himself. We who were with Babaji at the time well remember Dr. Warsi’s calm and spiritual presence in our midst, and I took many pictures of him with his long black hair and orange robe.
Some time later, Mohammad Shariq Rafiq Warsi contacted us from his place of work in Medina, Saudi Arabia, begging Babaji’s help for his respected father, who had become very ill and was near death. Babaji began dictating the measures to be taken—eight very specific things. They included items regarding cleaning of the pir’s dargah at Deva Sharif, distribution of sweet rice prepared according to a specific recipe which Babaji gave in detail, performance of Namaz, lighting of cherags, and finally, particular care of the pir’s stick. By that time, I knew it was the great pir, Syed Waris Shah Ali, who was himself dictating the list to Babaji. The gaddi-holder Dr. Warsi was to do these things himself if he were to survive. We immediately rushed the list to the family at Deva Sharif, who conveyed the message to their ailing father. He was astonished, for Syed Waris Shah Ali had given him exactly the same instructions before he passed on. So long as he had followed them, he was fine, but now he recognized that his health had failed as he ceased to follow the instructions precisely. In his weakened state, he attempted to do the eight things, and his health did indeed improve. Eventually, however, he passed on, and his son Syed Mohammed Wamiq Rafiq Warsi became the Honorary Secretary of Anjuman Bargahe Warsi.
The family of Mohammed Rafiq Shariq Warsi in Medina had many miraculous experiences of Babaji’s merciful spiritual power, including the healing of their dying daughter by a tall figure in white who was seen at her hospital bedside by the mother. Babaji often appears in the dreams of Mohammed Rafiq Shariq Warsi. Over the years, he has recounted many of these special dreams to us. For instance, on February 18, 2002, he wrote to us, “Tonight I have seen a very nice dream: I saw that I was in Gobind Sadan and there were a lot of white-dressed very tall people standing and celebrating the birthday of Maharaj [Baba Virsa Singh] but reciting the words, ‘Ya Nabi Salam Alek Ya Rasool Salam Alek.’ You know what this is? This is a phrase which we are reciting when we do Meelad Sharif (Birthday of Prophet Mohammed). Then I saw that Maharaj was introducing me to someone and saying, ‘Mohammed Rafiq is in fasting; take care of him for breaking his fast.’ There was a very nice celebration party going on, and everyone was enjoying. But the special thing was that I could not see the faces of the people. It looked like all were angels. Now I understand everything, and it proved my advance presence in the Holy Birth day [Babaji’s birthday is celebrated February 20th]. I am such a lucky man that I got the blessing of Maharaj.”
In 1997, Babaji had instructed Mohammed Rafiq Shariq Warsi to visit Mecca Sharif and Medina Sharif, do two rakats, bow, and then report what he saw. On December 26, 1997, Mohammed Rafiq Shariq wrote in a letter to Babaji: “Sir, with due regards I would like to express my feelings and observation during the visit to Makkah and Madinah last month and as per your order I had obeyed your instructions during which what I have been noticed and felt:
1. In Makkah Sharif (Kaba Sharif) when I performed Omrah, after pray I have felt your presence with your right hand up and wearing bright white dress and your fingers looks like five silver color minarets and your smiling face with closed eyes.
2. In Madinah Sharif after performing the Visit to Prophet Mohammed P.B.U.H., I saw you sitting on a very beautiful and large antique Chair with full grace of light in your face very big white beard and white dress with closed eyes look like you were deeply with Allah and Prophet.”
Because of this close relationship between His Holiness Baba Virsa Singh and Deva Sharif, the Warsi family invited Babaji to visit the famous dargah. Before he did so in 1996, the eldest son Wasiq had a dream in which Syed Waris Shah Ali told him not to seat Babaji on the floor but rather to seat him most respectfully on a chair.
As we drove with Babaji from Lucknow toward Deva Sharif, we all felt an extremely loving presence surrounding the dargah for many kilometers around. The holy atmosphere of Syed Waris Shah Ali seems to spread far beyond the precincts of the dargah itself. That feeling of love and peace was extremely magnetic and appealing.
His Holiness Babaji was met with great love and respect at the magnificent dargah. He paid his homage to the pir very attentively, spread a chaddar over the tomb, and took three rounds around it. Afterward, he was escorted to the newer tomb of Syed Rais Shah Warsi. As Babaji stood praying and offering flowers there, Rai Singh saw the deceased sitting on the tomb talking with Babaji. When he later asked Babaji what they were saying, Babaji reported that Dr. Warsi requested him, “Don’t pay your obeisances to me. Give all your respect to Syed Waris Ali Shah.”
The family then lovingly escorted Babaji into the pir’s audience room and offered him the one chair there to sit on, just as the pir had instructed them in dream. We therefore saw Babaji sitting beneath a tapestry of the Holy Kaa’ba, encircled by the members of the Warsi family, who came up individually to sweetly kiss Babaji’s hand, qawwali singers, and ascetics of Deva Sharif, dressed in their orange robes. Babaji spoke with them in a kind and loving way, in a very intimate atmosphere.. Babaji said to them, We are to take spiritual empowerment and blessings from the dervishes [saints]. How do they bless us? Through love and worship. When we worship with love, the dervish’s love, his blessing, and his light fall upon us, for one who is a dervish becomes the Nur [Light] of Allah. If we do not love and worship, then we cannot receive his blessings even if we are sitting near him.
The dervish’s power can create many kings. But if all the kings of the world were to assemble and announce, “We can create one dervish,” they could not. If the saint desires, he can make a poor person king, and a king poor. If he casts his Nazar [merciful gaze], everything becomes all right. The glory of such a dervish is boundless.
This dervish [Syed Waris Shah Ali] is very important. We cannot even describe him, for he is such a great power. His tomb is a very holy place. Its sanctity extends throughout the environment for a great distance. After entering this atmosphere, one can see by inner sight that the Light has made an aura around this place. You should always stay near it, and love and worship. Always try to talk with him, for he is very merciful. If someone offers gold to him, he blesses them. If someone takes gold from him, he also blesses them, for he is the Creator of everything.
The dervish is ever-living. Similarly, God’s presence is eternal. The time will never come when God does not exist, and the dervish is one who has merged with God.
For one who becomes a dervish, there is no sectarian religion. He will see Allah even in the trees, in the flowers, in the oceans, and within himself as well. Sectarian religion is limited to the human sphere, but the dervish rises far above that.
Living in such a holy place as this, always keep your mind pure, and make your body pure as well. Whatever prayer you say, do it with love. Whatever is devoid of love is not worship
Historically, whenever religion has expanded, it has spread through saints. Religion is never spread by the sword. If the saint Moinuddin Chishti had not come to India, how could Islam have come? The saints came from God and delivered His message. Whosoever saw them, on whomever their merciful glance fell, became believers in God. Without blessings, everyone is a kafir [non-believer]. When people received the blessing, the merciful gaze of the saint, they became Mu’min [believers in God]. . . .
Such saints do not live much on a worldly plane. They are one with God. When they feel that they are to bless someone, they open their eyes and look upon the person with merciful gaze. When that Nazar is cast upon him, the person becomes a believer. Why? The Nur of Allah is falling upon the saints twenty-four hours a day. Light develops in their eyes, in their thoughts, in their speech. Wherever they live, light falls upon the land also. The blessings penetrate all the way to the underworlds and up to the heavens. If you go to that place even after hundreds of thousands of years, you will still receive blessings there. It is not because a person’s body is enshrined there. The Light of God had come to that place.