I am a traveler, You are my road.
I go from You to You.
Her Holiness Bibi Zuleikha Saheba, 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 (31 August 1250 AD).
This inscription is on the northern wall of the grave chamber of Bibi Zuleikha, also known as Mai Saheba. She was buried in the same 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. The most famous one was 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.
Whenever there was no food in the house Mai Saheba, 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 Saheba, 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.
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,’ and recited the kalima before leaving this world for the next.⁸ Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya says that he felt a deep state of contentment after these words.
The entrance to Mai Saheba 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 grove by her side. The other graves include Bibi Zainab, the daughter of Bibi Jannat.
Excerpt from: “The Forgotten Cities of Delhi: Book Two in the Where Stones Speak trilogy” by Rana Safvi.