Hazrat Hafiz Hamid Hasan (r.a.) was born in 1871-72 in Azamgarh. His father was Mian Karim Bakhsh (r.a.), a disciple of the Chishti Shaykh Mawlana Nijabet Ali Shah (r.a). His mother too was spiritually inclined and a murida of the same teacher. Eventually Mian Karim Bakhsh (r.a.) became a shaykh and teacher himself.
Mian Karim Bakhsh (r.a.) introduced his son, then a young boy, to Shaykh Nijabet Ali (r.a.). The Shaykh turned his attention towards him and perhaps gauging his inner abilities, asked Mian Karim Bakhsh (r.a.) not to formally educate him, so that inappropriate training would not cloud his spiritual abilities.
Following the advice of his teacher, Mian Karim Bakhsh (r.a.) ensured his son’s education was weighted towards Arabic and learning the Quran. He became a Hafiz, i.e. someone who has studied and memorized the Holy Quran.
Relationship with his teacher
Hazrat Syed Abd al Bari Shah (r.a.) was a disciple of Mian Karim Bakhsh (r.a.). Mian Karim Bakhsh (r.a.) once brought Hazrat Syed Abd al Bari Shah (r.a.) to his home and introduced him to his son. This meeting between the two was like an alchemist encountering a philosopher’s stone. Hazrat Hamid Hasan (r.a.) became an utterly devoted student of Hazrat Abd al Bari Shah (r.a.).
Hazrat Hamid Hasan (r.a.) was in Burma in the year 1901 when he received a letter to inform him that Hazrat Sayyid Abd al Bari Shah (r.a.) was severely ill. He rushed back, but his esteemed Shaykh had already passed away by the time he arrived. The wife of the deceased informed him, that he was the appointed successor. Hazrat Hamid Hasan (r.a.) was extremely perplexed, and expressed doubt as to whether or not he was qualified for this tremendous responsibility. The late Shaykh’s widow said she too had questioned this choice, but he had replied, “I will be there for him”. On hearing this, Hazrat Hamid Hasan (r.a.) felt reassured. He committed himself to assuming the work of his new role.
Planning and discipline
The lifestyle of Hazrat Hamid Hasan (r.a.) was a model of discipline and control. He spent all his time in a regulated manner, ever alert and mindful.
From morning to night, each minute of his time was meticulously balanced between fulfilling his worldly and spiritual responsibilities. To this day, this is a goal in the lives of all modern day Sufi students.
After offering his Maghreb prayers, he would sit in meditation for an hour, and then offer his Isha prayers, followed by recitation of Durood Sharif, which would take about ninety minutes. Then he would have dinner, followed by a talk on various religious matters for the benefit of his students. He would keep the students in his company for some time, then dismiss then at eleven pm, saying: “Go and sleep now, but wake up at three o’clock”. He would be up before that hour and go to the mosque for Tahajjud prayer and Zikr. Such was his schedule on most nights, but sometimes he would sit in meditation after Isha prayers and continue his practices through the night, until dawn.
He always appeared fresh and rested in the morning, and went about tasks related to supervising his crops. While out in the fields, his students would accompany him, and he would continue to teach. He would take a break in the afternoon, for lunch, Duhr prayers, meditation and recitation of the Quran, and spiritual transmissions. Then after a brief nap, he would return to the fields.
From June to January, Shaykh Hamid Hasan (r.a.) remained at home, managing his land. When done with harvesting, and sowing seeds for the coming season, he would delegate the managing of the lands to his sons, and leave for his annual trip to propagate the work of the order. He would devote at least three months to this.
Year after year, he was consistent in executing his plan, urging his students to strive to be similarly committed. He asked them to follow the model of his teacher, Hazrat Sayyid Abd al Bari Shah (r.a.), saying, “The tree should be recognized by its fruit”. The students being the figurative fruit of Hazrat Sayyid Abd al Bari Shah (r.a.) should try to mould themselves like the image of Hazrat (r.a.), who remains one of the most iconic teachers of this order.
Once when Hazrat Hamid Hasan (r.a.) sent his distinguished student (and successor) Hazrat Muhammad Said Khan (r.a.) on a trip for propagation of the work of the order, the latter, for some reason, returned right away, in a perplexed state. When Hazrat Hamid Hasan (r.a.) inquired if everything was all right, Hazrat Said Khan (r.a.) offered no explanation. At that time he was sternly dismissed but was later called back. Hazrat Hamid Hasan (r.a.) gave his student such a powerful transmission that it was as though clear waves of brilliant light were emanating from the Shaykh’s open eyes. The effect of this was to banish any inner hindrances standing in the way of Hazrat Muhammad Said Khan (r.a.).
Hazrat Hamid Hasan (r.a.) gave tremendous importance to spiritual transmission. He said it was critical for removing veils of darkness from the heart.
One night, Shaykh Hamid Hasan (r.a.) had a dream. He saw a person who had passed away, and in his heart, he saw light. He was curious to find out what the person had done in his lifetime to have such light in his heart. He found out that this man had adopted an orphan and raised him as his own child.
The Shaykh noted that there are blessings associated with every virtuous act.
He too decided to adopt and raise an orphan, despite having his own biological children.
Attitude towards work and serving
Hazrat Hamid Hasan (r.a.) demurred from special treatment on account of being the Shaykh. He treated his students with equality and respect. Once when on a trip to attend a wedding, he got off the train with some companions and was informed that transportation had been arranged to take him to his destination. However, there was not enough room for everyone in his party. He politely refused and asked that his host be informed that he would arrive on foot with all his companions. Hence he walked several miles, in the sizzling heat of the month of May out of respect for the others; such was the generosity and humility of his spirit.
On the way back he made sure that transportation was arranged for everyone travelling with him.
Hazrat Hamid Hasan (r.a.) purchased land adjacent to the shrine of his teacher Sayyid Abd al Bari Shah (r.a.) and had a building constructed here to provide a place for pilgrims to stay. He was personally oversaw every step of the construction, present daily in the midst of the workers. A bystander was so taken by the sight of this distinguished looking person that he inquired as to who he was, and was told that this was the Pir (Holy Man) of Azamgarh. The man found an opportunity to talk to him and asked why such an illustrious and renowned person was working in a construction site. Hazrat Hamid Hasan (r.a.) replied that to him, hard work and service was an honor not a burden.
Despite being a simple farmer in terms of worldly occupation, he made a significant contribution to the spread of Sufism in East India. However, in the tradition of great Sufis he remained most humble and down to earth. When asked to discuss the achievements of life, he would humbly say that if he could bring a “few bright faces” with him, that would be achievement enough.