Noted Sufi saint Mian Mohammad Umar Chamkani was a multi-faceted personality and regarded as one of the most influential scholars of his time because of his immense contribution to religion, social welfare, politics and literature.

He was one among the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sufi-cum-literary trio, who lived in the Mughal-era. The other two are Akhund Derwaiza Baba and Khushal Khan Khattak. The shrine of Mian Sahib is located in Chamkani village, some 7 km away from the main Peshawar city on its eastern outskirts.

A retired officer told this scribe that Aquaf department was entirely being run on the income generated from land properties of Mian Umar Sahib. He said that thousands of kanals of land properties were in the possession of people holding an illegal lease since long.

“If the land properties of Mian Sahib are not retrieved in time, the KP Aquaf department may face serious financial crunches in future,” he feared.

The former officer said that Mian Sahib’s home, his handwritten rare books and many belongings that were scattered in the private galleries of influential Khans in Mardan and Peshawar. “I think all these precious assets should be retrieved from these people and should be displayed in a separate cabinet in Peshawar Museum to be named after the Sufi saint,” he added.

Unfortunately, the shrine of Mian Sahib was attacked by militants in June 2010 but it was rebuilt by then provincial government.

Ambar Bacha, 73, a disciple of Mian Sahib told this scribe that around 1,500 to 2,000 people daily visited the shrine and the number of visitors reached 3,000 to 4,000 on Thursday and Friday. He said the amount being donated by visitors came round to Rs72,000 per month and it was divided equally among six caretakers of the shrine, three each from Bajaur and Dir.

Hameed Gul, 60, another devotee at the shrine, told that he had been performing the duty at the shrine for the last 30 years to keep away the drugs addicts and also kept an eye on the wrongdoers around the place.

“The shrine is shut after Maghrib prayers and is open again at Fajar call for prayers. No drug addict can dare come here in my presence,” he said with garlands of beads hanging down around his neck and fingers adored with colourful precious stone made rings.

Interestingly, the shrine of Mian Sahib is not under the control of Aquaf department except the three mosques, one being built in Mughal-era that is said to be 400 years old and located in the precincts of the shrine. The Mughal-era mosque also contains water well adjacent to its open yard.

“The water reserved in a lake at the yard is believed to heal about 100 skin fatal diseases as Mian Sahib had cast his special prayers on the water well that is still intact,” said Maaz Khan, a resident of the area.

Hazrat Mian Umar had written profusely in Arabic and Persian on various religious and social issues and also had penned down famous history book ‘Da Pakhtanu Nasabnaama’ (The genealogy of Pakhtuns) in Pashto verse form. He kept close relationship with Shah Waliullah Delhvi and even had exchanged messages through letters with him.

He used to deliver sermons at his hujra, which he called Bagheecha where thousands of his disciples would attend and get guidance.

The paternal grandfather of Hazrat Mian Umar had migrated from Bajaur tribal district to Faridabad, Lahore in the early 15th century and coincidently his maternal grandfather had moved from Chamkani, Peshawar due to unfavourable situation.

History tells us that Hazrat Mian Umar’s father Ibrahim Khan died in Faridabad when he was just seven-year-old, his maternal grandfather Saeed Khan brought him back to Chamkani village, Peshawar and his two uncles -- Essa and Musa -- brought him up. He received Islamic education from his uncles and many other prominent religious scholars and Sufi saints of his time. He grew up as great religious scholar and a far-sighted political visionary. He attracted people from all walks of life including poor, destitute, landlords, elites, aristocrats, princes and rulers including Ahmad Shah Abdali, the king of Afghanistan, along with his ministers.

According to Prof Mohammad Hanif, former dean of Islamic Studies at Islamia College, Peshawar, who has done a doctorate thesis on his life and contributions, when Ahmad Shah Abdali came to Pakhtunkhwa, he visited the places of all Sufi saints and his final visit to Mian Sahib’s hujra filled him with spiritual solace and became his staunch disciple.

“There is no documental proof of the healing water lake. I have mentioned in my thesis a few of Karamaat of Mian Sahib on the authority of his contemporary scholars. He was a practicing Sufi , there is still a Khalwatkhana [underground cell] near his shrine where one can only stand which means he used to keep standing straight for many hours as part of his prolonged and deep meditation,” he said.

Prof Hanif said that Ahmad Shah Abdali adopted the name ‘Afghanistan’ for his country on the advice of Hazrat Mian Umar, who helped him on several occasions. “Main Sahib once sent 17,000 fighters to help Abdali’s soldiers in the last battle of Panipat. He was active on many fronts and played a pivotal role in the Indian politics because he remained close to Shah Waliullah Delhvi,” he said.

The rich landlords in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Mughal period being disciples of Mian Umar had donated agricultural land spread over thousands of kanals in different areas of Dir, Kohat, Peshawar and Mardan. He used the income of the land for welfare of the people and other religious activities.

Hidayatullah Khan, the chief administrator of Aquaf department, told this scribe that around 50,000 kanals land was on the record actually belonged to Mian Sahib that was then under the control of his department. He regretted that about 33,000 kanals land had been grabbed by different leaseholders, especially in Mardan, and the litigation on the rights to lease had been underway in various law courts since 1986.

“Our department receives approximately Rs165 million income from Mian Umar’s donated land properties annually while our per annum expenditure exceeds Rs180 million plus. The income is being spent on pays and pensions of around 400 employees of Aquaf department, 78 mosques, two religious seminaries and one school in Shabqadar,” he said.

Mr Khan said that Aquaf department also spent money on religious activities including seminars and festivals. “Every time we think of salaries of our employees and other expenses as government does not pay a single penny to meet needs of our annual budget,” he added.

Mian Mohammad Umar Chamkani, a great Sufi saint, scholar, social reformer, poet and historian was born in 1671 in Faridabad, Lahore and died at the age of 105 in 1776 in Chamkani. His tow-day Urs is celebrated on the first Wednesday and Thursday of Rajab, the 7th month of Islamic calendar.

“Mian Sahib was follower of the Naqshbandi Sufi order, so no Mehfil-i- Sama is held. Thousands of devotees from every nook and cranny of the country participate in the religious sermons, collective incantation and Mehfil-i- Naat, on the occasion of annual Urs. Lungar is also served to the visitors,” said the caretaker of the shrine.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2018

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