Rana Safvi is an author, historian, blogger and is engaged in documenting of India’s Syncretic past. Her book The Forgotten Cities of Delhi, is the book two of the Where Stones Speak trilogy. An excerpt on Dargah Bibi Zuleikha- Mai Sahiba from the book.

I am a traveler, You are my road. I go from You to You. 

Zeynep Hatun

Her Holiness Bibi Zuleikha Sahiba, the venerable mother of his holiness Sultan-ul- Mashaikh (chief of the saints), Mehboob e Ilahi Sheikh Nizamuddin Auliya, may God purify their graves, repaired to the next world on the first of Jumada II in the year 648 Hijra (31st August, 1250 AD).

This is the inscription is on the northern wall of the grave chamber of Bibi Zuleikha known as Mai Sahiba. She was buried in the room where she lived.  Like many other families of Central Asia, Bibi Zuleikha’s parents Khwaja Ali and Khwaja Arab migrated to India during the Mongol invasions of Bukhara. They settled down in Badayun, then an important town in Awadh (now Uttar Pradesh). Khwaja Arab gave his daughter Bibi Zulekha in marriage to Khwaja Syed Ahmad, the son of Khwaja Ali.

There are many legends associated with her. One being that she chose her son over her husband in a dream in which she was asked to make a choice between her husband and son, as only one was destined to die. Her husband passed away soon after and left Bibi Zuleikha feeling very remorseful. She was only comforted by the fact that she had no control over her dreams as these were involuntary experiences and life and death are a matter of God’s will.

Mai Sahiba was a very devoted mother and ensured her children received the best of everything despite severe hardships. She ensured that her son was educated under the care of the best scholars of Badaun and once she felt her son had outgrown them, the family shifted tot Delhi so that he could pursue his education. Hazrat Nizamuddin was sixteen then.

Whenever, there was no food in the house Mai Sahiba would tell her son, ‘Nizam! Today we are the guests of Allah’.  She had total belief in God’s will and taught her children that He would send spiritual nourishment which differed from worldly food.

Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya wrote that when his mother prayed, she appeared to be in direct communication with God. He would witness her prayers being accepted without any delay. Every month on sighting the new moon he sought the blessings of Mai Sahiba, placing his head on her feet. He writes that just before she left this world, she was ill for a few days and would often weep.

On the new moon when he presented himself before her and kissed her feet, she asked her son tearfully, “Nizam! Whom will you go to on the next new moon night and who will look at you with as loving a gaze as me?”

When her weeping and distressed son asked her, “ O Maqdooma e Jahan, in whose care will you entrust me?” She told him to go and sleep in the adjoining house of Sheikh Najibuddin Mutawakkil and said she would tell him the next day. He spent the night in anguish and as soon as dawn broke rushed to her side and fell crying at her feet. She held her son’s right hand and whispered, “O Allah, I entrust my son to Thy care,” recited the kalima before leaving this world for the next. Hazrat Nizamuddin says that he felt such a state of contentment after these words.

Rana Safvi Forgotten Cities

The entrance to the Mai Sahiba ki Dargah is through a narrow lane in Adchini. Once upon a time it had its own doorway with a baoli inside it.  Today, it is a very well maintained dargah and most of it has been renovated and built recently. There is a beautiful chandelier in the shrine chamber, which has a glass decoration on the roof, giving it a beautiful hue. There are other graves in the chamber with her daughter Bibi Jannat being by her side. The other graves include Bibi Zainab, the daughter of Bibi Jannat.

There is a beautiful chandelier in the shrine chamber, which has a glass decoration on the roof, giving it a beautiful hue. There are other graves in the chamber with her daughter Bibi Jannat being by her side. The other graves include Bibi Zainab, the daughter of Bibi Jannat.

The graves of Bibi Hoor and Bibi Noor daughters of Sheikh Shahabuddin Suharwardi are inside the mosque building. The house belonged to Sheikh Shahbuddin Suharwardi. In fact the locals called the area Bibi Noor ki Basti during the 20th century.

This is one of the few Delhi dargahs where women can go inside and pray for as long as they want. It is said that Mai Sahiba can’t bear to see anyone sad and helps in fulfillment of wishes. I go there often to sit and meditate and gain peace of mind.  My only complaint is against the caretakers of the dargah who ask for donations. It is completely against the spirit of a lady who never asked for anything from anyone except Allah.

This is one of the few Delhi dargahs where women can go inside and pray for as long as they want. It is said that Mai Sahiba can’t bear to see anyone sad and helps in fulfillment of wishes.

There is a new mosque in place of the old one. A langarkhana provides rice and dal to everyone who comes there

The locals told me that the word Adchini comes from Adh-chuni or half plastered and till date every building in this area is plastered only partially.

Extract published with permission from The Forgotten Cities of Delhi by Rana Safvi, published by HarperCollins India 340 pages; Rs 699.

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Picture Credit: HarperCollins India

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