Shaheed Sarmad – Mansur e Sani

Who can determine

The cost of dying in love?

Every such matryrdom

Is an obligation on me.

For it is I who should have died

Not he2014-09-23 22.50.17

It was near the steps of the Masjid e Jahannumah or Jama Masjid that a new expression tegh o rasan ( sword and rope) replaced the older term daar o rasan (gallows and rope- associated with Mansur al Hallaj ) and Mansur e Sani ( Mansur the Second) was born.

God is the only God,

there is no one between you and God.

There is no mediator,

God is immediately available.

Just all that is needed is a little madness 

and a lot of 4

The poet named Muhammad Sa‘id Sarmad Kashani was beheaded during the reign of Aurangzeb in Delhi in 1660/61 at the age of 70 outside the eastern gate or gate no. 2 of Jama Masjid, where he was buried.

“And call not those who are slain in the way of Allah ‘dead.’ Nay, they are living, only ye perceive not.”

Since Sarmad was martyred his dargah and grave are a very bright red in colour. There may be others but I have not seen any other dargah in red.

Sarmad and someone who is said to be his Sufi Master, Syed Abul Qasim Hare Bhare Shah share the dargah itself.Hare Bhare Shah was a saint of the Qadriya silsila as per the shajara or genealogical chart hanging nearby.2014-09-23 22.47.36The contrast between the two colours is probably a mute testimony to their lives too. One lived a full and prosperous life as the name Hare Bhare suggests while the other was beheaded.

2014-09-23 22.59.22A tree divides the two graves with Syed Abul QAsim Hare Bhare Shah’s grave and this grows out of the ceiling and is a landmark of the dargah as can be seen in the first photograph. It is said that Syed Abul Qasim Hare Bhare Shah was a native of Sabzwar who came to Delhi in the reign of ShahJAhan

The headstone of Sarmad’s grave has a Persian inscription, which reads

“God is Great

When Shah Sarmad in the reign of Alamgir set out on a journey to Paradise

Poor Akbar said the date, “This is the grave of Sarmad, the Martyr.”2014-09-23 22.56.08

Devotees come and make supplications and tie red thread with notes.Once these are fulfilled they will offer red chadars of cloth or flowers on the grave, which are sold inside the dargah itself. 2014-09-23 22.54.45

The twin dargahs are very serene and a sense of peace prevails here in spite of the very violent red colour of the grave. People come here to ask for their desires but there is no crowd of devotees or the unfortunate fallout of popularity of religious places,the beggars.

One is left to meditate, supplicate or just investigate in peace.2014-09-23 22.54.042014-09-23 22.53.24








As one enters the dargah you find a small well with the leather dol still intact waiting for water to be drawn on right of the graves.2014-09-23 23.01.20




The entrance to the dargah is either through the main gate where the two boards are displayed opposite the Mosque or via a slippery passage which leads in from a chai shop on the rightside of the dargah ( if you are facing it with back to the Mosque)



There are different versions about Sarmad but the majority feels he was an Armenian Jew, living in Iran who converted to Islam. Sarmad was a perfect intoxicated [majzub] saint, with no equal in Islamic learning.

In his Rubaiyat, he describes himself “a follower of the Furqan (i.e., a Sufi), a (Catholic) priest, a (Buddhist) monk, a Jewish rabbi, an infidel, and a Muslim but as per Natalia Prigarina in SARMAD: LIFE AND DEATH OF A SUFI he converted from Islam to Hinduism as per the following Rubayi

O Sarmad! Thou hast won a great name in the world,

Since thou hast turned away from infidelity to Islam.

What wrong was there in God and His Prophet
That you hast become a disciple of Lacchman and Rama?

[Asiri 1950, No. 334]

but that is not substantiated as eye witness accounts describe him reciting the Kalima before his execution.PhotoGrid_1411672258145

He came to India for purposes of trade and landed in Thatta in Sind.

It is said that here he fell in love with a young boy called Abhai Chand.

The earliest written account of their relationship is the 1660 work, Mu’bid Shah’sDabistan:

“When he arrived at the town of Tatta, he fell in love with a Hindu boy, called Abhi Chand, and abandoning all other things, like a Sanyasi , naked as he came from his mother, he sat down before the door of his beloved. The father of the object of his love, after having found by investigation the purity of the attachment manifested for his son, admitted Sarmad into his house, and   Abhai Chand became Sarmad’s student, studying Jewish religion and the Hebrew and Persian languages well enough to translate sections of the Hebrew Bible into Persian”.

The separation from Abhai affected Sarmad so much that he gave away all his clothes and tore away his clothes in a state of desperation, and never covered himself up since then.

I know not if in this spherical old world

My God is Abhai Chand or someone else

However, due to social pressures, Sarmad along with Abhai moved to Lahore and finally came to Delhi. Here he met Prince Dara Shikoh (1615–1659), and the poet became a frequent guest in the 3

Dara Shikoh, a Sufi of the Qadriya silsila (order) called Sarmad his master and preceptor and frequently held discussions with him on his ideas of religion. Once Dara Shikoh was killed By Aurangzeb and the latter ascended the throne it was a question of time and finding a proper pretext to order the execution of Sarmad.

The Qazi and ulamá were set about to find the frame the charges which would lead to his execution. Sarmad himself did nothing to shield himself or hide his disapproval for the king.

One very famous incident describes Aurangzeb who seeing Sarmad sitting naked on the steps of Jama Masjid asked him to cover himself with a blanket lying near him. Sarmad asked to pass the blanket to him. “The king then tried to lift the blanket by holding its end and to his utter amazement noticed a dreadful scene underneath the blanket—the severed heads of all his brothers and other relations were lying there and fresh blood was flowing from them” [Rai 1978, p. 46].

This is often narrated to children ( related to me by Gulnaz Sheikh who heard it from her father as a kid)  as one of those stories with a moral : That one should not judge a man by his clothing and we must also cover up other people’s sins.

There is a very famous ayat connected with the nudity of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden

“O sons of Adam! We have sent down to you garments (libās) wherewith to cover your shame, and plumage (fine dresses); but the garment (libās) of piety, that is better. That is one of the signs of God, haply ye may remember” [Koran 7: 25–26, tr. by Palmer]”

photo 1The Qazi was sent to meet Sarmad and to question him about his nudity. When Mullah Qavi asked him the reason as to why he remained naked he recited the following quatrain:

He is happy on account of my humble self

Evil eye and wine is stolen from my hands

He is in my bosom; search for Him in me!

Tis strange that a thief has caused me to be naked!

However Aurangzeb and the Qazi knew this would not hold in the eyes of the public so charges were framed which would accuse him of blasphemy.

The first charge was that he denied the ascension of the Prophet to the heavens ( Meraj)

Every man who is aware of his secret

He becomes concealed even from the skies

The mullah says that Ahmad went to the heavens

Sarmad says that the heavens were inside Ahmad!

The second was of course the main reason for all the other accusations: that he was a sympathizer and well wisher of Dara Shikoh.

The third was that he was always nude which is against the teachings of the Shar’iah. The fourth accusation was that he did not read the full kalimah and only recited the words, ‘La Ilah’ ( there is no God)

He was summoned to the court where these charges were read out against him in front of the Emperor, scholars and religious leaders.

When Aurangzeb taunted him with his prediction that Dara Shikoh would attain the crown, Sarmad replied that he had attained the crown of the eternal kingdom.

The religious scholars were consulted since being naked in itself was not a reason for death and he was asked to recite the kalima.

Sarmad responded with ‘La Ilah’ There is no God.

The outraged religious scholars asked him to complete it but Sarmad replied that “Presently, I am drowned [mustaghraq] in Negation ; I have not yet reached the (spiritual) station of Affirmation yet. If I read the full kalimah in this state, I will be telling a lie.”

The scholars decided that this action of his was blasphemy [kufr] and that repentance was necessary. Sarmad refused to repent and it was felt that death penalty was permissible in this case.

From the Lal Qila he was taken to the Jama Masjid for execution watched by a crowd of local people. He smiled, looked at the executioner’s sword and recited

“May I be sacrificed for you!

Come, come, for whichever guise You come in,

I recognise You!”

Another rubayi said to have been recited at time of his death is

My head was severed from my body

 by that Flirt who was my Companion

 Otherwise, the headache

  would have been too severe.

According to legend, his decapitated head started reciting the full kalima (La ilaha illa’llah- there is no God, but Allah) showing that in death he had achieved his affirmation of faith.

Sarmad’s Rubaiyyaat e Sarmad (Quatrains of Sarmad) in Persian are a font of knowledge, mysticism and delight. They ere translated by many but one of the most famous translations have been done by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad who compared himself to Sarmad for his freedom of thought and expression.

‘A true lover of God is misled both by religion and lack there of.’
The moth burns itself
it does not choose between burning candles
whether it is in the mosque or the temple.PhotoGrid_1411671150343

It is said that that the troubles which plagued Aurangzeb throughout his reign and downfall of the Mughal Empire were due to this unfortunate decision to behead Shah Sarmad.

I have been honoured with the office of Love

I have been made oblivious to asking from creatures

Like a candle have I been melted in this world

Due to my burning have I been made a confidante!


Suggested Reading

1. Shaheed Sarmad by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad



How to get there

Nearest Metro Station is Chawri Bazar

You can walk from there to JAma MAsjid or take a rickshaw . The dargah is opposite Gate no. 2.PhotoGrid_1411672177780











Comment List

  • Atanu Dey 01 / 10 / 2014 Reply

    A brilliant article. I had read about Sarman but not in such details. And nice pictures to supplement. This motivated me to go to Jama Masjid once again and take pictures of Sarman’s dargah.

    • Rana Safvi 01 / 10 / 2014 Reply

      Thank you. He is one of the most fascinating characters of history

  • Rajiv 10 / 10 / 2014 Reply

    One rare instance of the execution of a Muslim peer during the mediavel ages..else, most of them lived off the spoils of the plunders of their Muslim sovereigns

    • Rana Safvi 10 / 10 / 2014 Reply

      A sweeping generalisation as most Sufis were unconcerned about state patronage or lure of money. Had that not been the case they wouldnt be so revered by people of all faiths even today

  • Rajiv 10 / 10 / 2014 Reply

    I am afraid not…the two most recognised sufis, the Chishtis of Sikri and Ajmer and also Hazrat Nizamuddin were kind of alternate power structures. Apart from Sirmid who propounded the philosophy of Analhaq ( interpreted as a variation of Vedant), no other sufi was even jailed, let alone executed.

    • Rana Safvi 10 / 10 / 2014 Reply

      Anal haq was propounded by Mansur not Sarmad.
      Sarmad paid the price for being Dara’s mentor and loyalist. Most Sufis stayed away from court and court intrigues so chances of execution or imprisonment were non existent.
      In fact Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya even refused to attend court or pray in mosque designated by the Sultan of the time.

  • Rajiv 15 / 10 / 2014 Reply

    I was reading elsewhere about the mushrooming of Sufism in India during the rule os Turks/Khiljis etc.What astonishes me is while the Sufis escaped the “murderous regimes in Baghdad and Arab”nd came to India, they flourished during the Turk/Mamluk and Khilji rule.
    What could be the reason?

    • Rana Safvi 21 / 10 / 2014 Reply

      The Delhi Sultans were followers of Hazrat Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki and they encouraged Sufi saints to settle in Delhi

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