Remembering Baba Hard e Reshi(RA)

Zeeshan Rasool Khan
One of the most popular Sufi orders in Kashmir is the Rishi Order. It is the indigenous Sufi order that has originated in Kashmir itself. Many saints belong to this order and all of them are held in high esteem by the people. One among them is Baba Hardi Reshi (RA) who is adoringly known as ‘Resh Moul’, which means ‘Reshi the Father’ – This title is indicative  of his reverence and influence among the masses.
Resh Moul’s date of birth is a dispute. According to some historians, it is 29th Rajab 908 A.H (1501 CE) and to some, it is 909 A.H (1502 CE). However, the former is considered by many writers/historians more accurate. Resh Moul was born in the family of Abdullah at Islamabad Kashmir. History is silent about the parents of Resh Moul, except describing them as  abstemious characters.
Right from Childhood Resh Moul exhibited signs of saintdom. Baba Hyder Tulmullah narrates, Resh Moul told me, “when I was six years old; a saint visited our home and claimed  a right over me. Initially, my parents took his words easy, however; on his continued insistence parents asked him, where were you until now. On this, the holy man replied; Resh Moul’s physical upbringing was your duty, mine is his spiritual fostering’’. And to this note, he went away. Resh Moul further says; on one day, the holy man met me again in solitude and advised me to pray regularly. Many other events have also been reported due to which hagiographers call him a congenital saint. Initially, Resh Moul worked rigorously for his spiritual ascension without associating himself to any guide or Sufi Order. But, later he took a pledge of allegiance (Bayt) to spiritual mentor Sheikh Hamza Makhdoomi (RA). Thereafter, Resh Moul joined the Suharwardiya Sufi order. Afterward, Resh Moul attained great prominence. His contemporaries and chief disciples of Sheikh Hamza, Baba Dawud Khaki, Baba Hyder Tulmuli, and Khawaja Muhamad Ishaq would lionize him a lot. They have recorded his activities, advices, etc. in their respective authored books. Baba Dawood Khaki, the first, and the main follower of Sheikh Hamza, known as ‘Imam e Azam Saani’ for his eruditeness, dedicated Qasida Lamia (Resh Nama) to Reshi Moul.
In this Qasida, Baba Dawud Khaki has profusely praised him and at one place writes’, ‘after the departure of our Sheikh, there is none much-revered other than Resh Moul.
The peculiarity of Resh Moul is that he showed to the people that rosary, prayer mat, and self-abnegation are not the sine qua non of sainthood. A person can achieve proximity to God while living the daily life also. Resh Moul spent  his entire life in farming Planting trees, cultivating crops, and availing wood for fuel were among his mundane activities, but side-by-side he would never relinquish prayers, remembrance of Allah, and other religious responsibilities. He is credited to be a first Sufi saint to organize special assemblies of ‘Zikr’ (remembrance of Allah) and Shah Hamdan’s Award-i-Fathiya would make an integral part of it. These assemblies were aimed at making followers understand the supreme idea of worshipping Allah rhapsodically and drawing them close to Almighty.
One of the interesting facts of Resh Moul’s life is that he was vegan and has eaten meat only once in his life. In connection of this fact, many writers have quoted an incident, ‘when Sheikh Hamza visited Resh Moul, the latter prepared a non-vegetarian dish for the Sheikh, despite being repulsive to injure the living creature. When the dish was offered to Sheikh, he asked Resh Moul to taste it and in reverence of Sheikh, he obliged. This is only the time when Resh Moul has tasted non-vegetarian food. But, it is worth noting that Sheikh Hamza did not abjure his vegetarian lifestyle; instead, he approved it and gave him permission to continue.
Unfortunately, people raise the question that by practicing vegetarianism, Resh Moul has omitted Sunnah of Prophet (PBUH). Some go on to ask; who is Resh Moul to declare non-vegetarianism impermissible? However, if we try to understand the underlying concept behind Resh Moul’s way of living, we find there is no question of permissibility and prohibition. Baba Dawood Kakhi writes:
Zahid Mar Taaz Bood o Az Riyazat Haii Ost
Sawm  Dehr o Tarq Lehm o hum Dawaami Igtisaal.
Abstemious, he (Resh Moul) was. He devotedly worshipped. He kept fast, abstained from eating meat, and purified himself every day consistently.
This dispels the disbelief and clearly explains that for Resh Moul, abstaining from non-vegetarian food was one of the ways to suppress the desires that could impede spiritual progress.
Moreover, a question is posed why Resh Moul embraced celibacy when marriage is known as a potent preventive measure of sexual distraction and has been recommended by Prophet (pbuh). Baba Dawud Khaki answers this query as well and writes;
Bey nikka ha nara paye’ taqleel’e shehwat roza ast
Amr paighambar agar hum hast zan kardan halal.
For celibates, fasting is the best way to crush carnalism, though ‘Nikah’ has priority.
Further, he writes:
Isa o um’wi O yehya mujarad bood andd
Hum owais’o Rabia o deegar grooh’e ze ahl’e haal
Prophet Isa, His mother, Prophet Yahya were also celibates; likewise, group of spiritual personages, which involve Owaisi Qarni, Rabia Basri lived unmarried.
Resh Moul met his maker on Ist Ziqad, 986 A.H (1579 C.E). His Shrine/Mausoleum stands graciously in the heart of Islamabad town, which is visited by people of all faiths. The shrine witnesses’ regular assemblies of Zikr, thus bears great spiritual importance for the people.
The devotees take care of their diet before visiting his mausoleum. Visiting the shrine after consuming non-vegetarian food is not preferred. During the Resh Moul’s Urs (death anniversary) that is celebrated on Ist Ziqaad of Islamic year ,not only ardent devotees but all Sunni Muslims of Islamabad town practice vegetarianism for a week to express their love for him.
On the ongoing days of his 454th Urs, let us make a vow to follow his pious way of living. That would be a beautiful tribute to him.

—The author Khan, hailing from Seer Hamdan, writes on diverse issues,  and tweets @Zeeshan_rk. He can be reached at: @mohdzeeshan605@gmail.com