Sayyid al-Sharīf Anwar al-Ḥusayn Nafīs Shah

By Shaykh Hamzah Maqbul

The sharif, the sayyid, Anwar ul-Husayn bin al-Sayyid Ashraf ‘Ali, better known as Nafis Shah, has left this world, today, Tuesday the 26th of Muharram, 1429 (02/05/2008) at around 0500, in Lahore, Pakistan. Verily it is to Allah that we belong, and it is to Him that we shall inevitably return.

Sayyid Nafis Shah was born into the noble family of our prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, through the line of Sayyiduna al-Imam Zayd bin ‘Ali al-Shahid. Among other distinguished ancestors, he could also count the renowned Chishti Shaykh, al-Sayyid Muhammad, better known as Hazrat Gesu Daraz, who was a khalifah of Khwaja Nasir al-Din Chiragh-e-Dehli, the khalifah of Khwaja Nizam al-Din Awliya’, may Allah sanctify the spirit of each and every one.

He learned the sacred art of calligraphy from his noble father, who himself was a master calligrapher, and prints of whose hand written mushaf is still sold in markets in Pakistan and India. Hazrat Nafis Shah’s own position in this field was unrivaled during his lifetime, having scribed several books and calligraphical works of great renowned. In fact, it is almost inconceivable that a person can have prayed in any masjid in Punjab without having seen some piece of Qur’an, Dhikr or Salawat ‘ala al-Nabi, written by his noble hand, although, one may not have even known, unless they noticed a small and stylized nafis signed in a corner somewhere in the work. Hazrat Nafis Shah had in fact won many international calligraphy contests as Pakistan’s official representative and had won several world honors for Pakistan by the UN and other international bodies in world calligraphical exhibitions and competitions.

As a young man, he was told about the renowned murshid Mawlana Shah Abdul Qadir al-Raipuri, rahimahullah. He was so quickened with longing just by hearing Shah Abdul Qadir’s mubarak description that he hastened to meet him. Having made ghusl, he proceeded to take the bay’ah with the Qutb al-Irshad of his age. Shah Abdul Qadir Raipuri, may Allah sanctify his secret, was a person of such intense light, I have been told by several people who have met him, that it was difficult to look directly at him. He was a person who disliked talking greatly. To take his companionship was to enter a lengthy discourse in silence. In fact, those who knew him described the joy of sitting around his noble presence, and casting silent glances at his noble feet; truly it is when the sensory is subdued that the manifestations of the prophetic light may surge forth.

After several trips to Raipur and several visits to Shah Abdul Qadir, Sayyid Nafis Shah was granted the crown of Khilafah by his Shaykh; one of the Sayyid’s own successors informed me that when Sayyid Nafis granted him the successorship, he cried and said that he was not worthy, upon which Sayyid Nafis himself began to weep and told him that he also cried and said the same thing to Shah Abdul Qadir when he was elected to this position.

Being of one of the softest dispositions that I have ever seen in a human, Sayyid Nafis Shah could be brought to tears quite easily. One could recite a verse of the Qur’an, or a beautiful verse of poetry in praise of our prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. Really, all it took was a mention of our Nabi, or one of his companions, or Khwaja Mu’in al-Din, or perhaps Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi or any one of Allah’s righteous servants, and the heart of the Sayyid would crack, sending forth a river of tears from his two eyes. Whenever he cried, a look of intense sorrow and longing came over his enlightened face, and he would weep softly and silently, then regain his composure after a few minutes. Some of the most beautiful times in the khanqah were our minutes and hours spent in remembrance of the the Habib, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, his companions and their awliya’, and the long melodious silence that would follow.

Sayyid Nafis Shah disliked too much talk greatly. When his masjid and khanqah were completed, he would instruct the imam to give a short Arabic khutbah without any proselytizing or preaching. He said, “We dislike compelling people by force or the making of too much noise here.” However, he was quick to share some words with the weary traveler or guest so as not to make anyone feel uncomfortable or unwelcome in his midst. In fact, he would engage in normal conversation with many a person, against his habit, just to make them feel welcome in his midst.

He was a person of many miracles, both inward and outward, and one for whom Allah had vouchsafed an unflinching allegiance to to the Sunnah. He would hear about people making deviations in their religion and hiding such deviations under the guise of tasawwuf, and this would anger him greatly. Many a so-called “sufi” had tasted the sting of Sayyid Nafis Shah’s pen
or that of one of his disciples under his direction, for deviating from the Sunnah, or leaving the practices of the Shaykhs of the past. He ordered many a humble murid to engage in study of the din, and had many huffadh, ‘ulama, muftun, qurra’, and dhakirin issue from his khanqah. He took special pride in one of his disciples’ learning and teaching the ahadith mubarakah of our prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. In fact, learned scions of his spiritual house grace the pulpits and masnads of many a madrasah today. He would become visibly upset if given the news that one of his students had missed a lesson and has been known to refuse to see students of knowledge during the hours they should be studying.

He gave the wird of the best of remembrances: La ilaha illa Allah to many a disciple. His khanqahs evenings and nights were rocked with the dharb ILLA ALLAH, ILLA ALLAH. He himself was so accustomed to dhikr that I myself testify that his blessed hand moved in the motion of counting, even when he would sleep. All in the khanqah would be woken well before Fajr, so as to pray some raka’at of tahajjud; if one wanted to sleep, they had best stayed home.

He was truthful in his tongue and his state. He spent several years of his life in defense of the Muslim land of Afghanistan against the Russians and had fought bravely and selflessly not for self-determination, nationalism, capitalism or any other -ism. He fought for the pleasure of Allah. This was because he strove to bring his outward state, inward state and his speech into harmony.

Among the masha’ikh that he mentioned the most often and the one after whom he named his khanqah, was Sayyid Ahmad al-Shahid. It was Sayyid Ahmad of Rai-Barailli who lead a movement of fuqaha’ and ‘ulama in the Indian subcontinent on a campaign against corruption, innovation, and disbelief for about ten years, and took up arms against the British colonizers for another ten. Him and his army fought the British and their partisans until they were finally called on by Allah to make the ultimate sacrifice at the battle of Balakot. Far from being defeated, it was from the ashes of Balakot, that Allah had planted the mubarak seeds of the establishment of Dar al-‘Ulum Deoband. Sayyid Nafis Shah would later explain that when someone does something with sincerity to Allah, a physical defeat is irrelevant. He would site the example of two Sayyids; al-Imam al-Husayn, may Allah be well pleased with him, and Sayyid Ahmad al-Shahid. Both gave their lives and seemed to have been defeated in this world by their corrupt and treacherous enemies, however, both shall have the flags of victory raised above their names until the day of judgment because Allah accepted their sacrifices and advanced their work, wa law kariha al-kafirun…

There is no calamity from the calamities in this world harder than losing a righteous and beloved servant of Allah to stream of eternity. I ask Allah to give our Sayyid Nafis His mercy and forgiveness, and to accept from him. I ask Him to watch over and protect his grandchildren who survive him and over his khanqah and muridin. I ask Him to protect Islam and to raise its flag high, and to protect the Muslims for whom Sayyid Nafis prayed constantly and consistently. I ask Him to not put us through tribulations after him, and to have mercy on us all.

This morning Sayyid Anwar al-Husayn Nafis Shah passed on to the abode of the Hereafter. May Allah sanctify his secret.


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