Guru Nanak In Baghdad Submitted by Preet Mohan Singh Ahluwalia The following account of Guru Nanak's visit to Baghdad was taken from The Divine Master, Lahore 1930 by Sewaram Singh, published in Punjab: Past and Present and Guru Nanak's Visit to Baghdad, by Manjeet Singh, The Sikh Review, Oct-Nov. 1969 -- Editor Map of Baghdad in 1931 shows the location of Guru Nanak's shrine. It is one mile to the right of river Tigris and a mile-and-half from Baghdad Railway Station West, between two railway lines. To the northwest is an old and extensive graveyard, extending from the town of Zubaida Khatum. To its east stands a magnificent edifice (118 feet by 55 feet) commemorating the famous Jewish saint, Nabiullah Usha, and to the northeast is the shrine of Sheikh Ibrahim forming a square of 27 feet. It is believed that during his stay in Baghdad Guru Nanak had a large following including the successors of Sheikh Bahlol Dana (the Wise) and those of Sheikh Muhy-ud-din Abdul Qadir Jilani. A front view photograph of the shrine was taken in December 1931. On the platform where the Guru sat is a plaque in Arabic. The tomb of Bahlol is toward the west. Another tomb is in the center and the platform is 7 feet by 4 feet. In the mausoleum of Bahlol is a small rectangular garden (26 feet 5 inches by 12 feet 5 inches) in the center of the courtyard with a masonary pavement round it. There are a few tut (mulberry) and palm trees. In Baghdad Guru Nanak stayed at a graveyard outside the town, and Mardana as usual was with him. Early in the morning before dawn, Mardana played the rabab and the Master sang his song about the infiniteness of God and His Creation wherein occurred the expression: there are numerous patals (earths) and innumerable akashs (sky), when some Muslim who was listening to it and understood its purport went and reported the blasphemy of the utterance, inasmuch as the Qu'ran had mentioned seven earths and seven skies only, to the Sajjdanashin of the Shrine of Pir Dastagir Abdul Qadir Jilani. The Pir ordered that the offender be stoned to death and numerous people armed themselves with stones and rushed out. In the meantime Guru Nanak concluded his morning prayers with the greeting "Sat Kartar", in a voice divinely electrifying, which immediately disarmed the mob. On this, a pir [saint], Bahlol by name, came forward and had a discourse with Guru Nanak on the subject of the morning prayer. Accompanying the pir was his son and such was the effect of the Guru's answers that first the son and then the father confessed their conversion and admitted the truth of the maxim that creation was not confined to seven earths and seven skies only. Guru Nanak stayed in Baghdad for four months and had many discourses with other holy men. Before his departure from there he was presented a chola [robe] as a token of respect on which verses in Arabic are inscribed. This chola lies preserved in the Gurdwara at Dera Baba Nanak, in Pakistan. During the Great War, when the British and Indian armies conquered Baghdad, they discovered the place where Guru Nanak had his discourse with Bahlol. It lies to the west of the town and between the old graveyard to the north and the present Baghdad-Samara railway line to the south. Dr. Kirpal Singh, then a Captain in the Indian Medical Service, also saw it during the War, and he, in his letter, dated October 15, 1918, described it as follows: It is really a humble looking building and known to very few people except Sikhs. To some Arabs it is known as well by the name of tomb of Bahlol. You enter the building by a small door, on which something is written in Arabic, not visible to a casual visitor. Even with attention it is difficult to read. I could not read it hence could not copy it. I have taken the photograph of the outside, which I shall forward to you in due course. Entering the building, you come to a brick paved passage going to your right straight into the room (with a verandah), wherein you find the tomb and the raised platform. In the courtyard there are a few trees, mostly pomegranates. The room that has the tomb and the platform, has two doors, one of which is open whilst the other is barred. As you enter the room, you come face to face with the platform, which is roughly 2 to 2.5 feet high and about 3' by 4' in dimensions. It is now covered with handkerchiefs of various colors presented by Sikhs. In the center close to the wall you find a picture of Sri Guru Nanak, presented by some energetic Sikh, above which you find the slab with the writing which I reproduced in this letter for you. The name of the man in charge is Sayed Yusuf. The plan of the Guru’s shrine shows that it is situated within a walled square, with the gateway in the southeast corner. It measures 54 feet and 4 inches on the east and west; 54 feet, 6 inches on the north and 56 feet, 7 inches on the south. The platform on which the Guru sat is in the northeast corner with a plaque on which some words were written in Arabic. The tomb of Bahlol Dana stands to the west. Another tomb is in the center and the platform is about 7 feet by 4 feet to the east with an inscribed slab in the wall to the north about 4 feet above the ground. The slab made of sandstone, measures 21 inches by 15 inches. People of Baghdad depend on river Tigris for water. Wells, in and around Baghad, are brackish. It is said that the Guru’s disciples together with others who visited the takia complained to the Guru about the difficulty in procuring drinking water. Guru Nanak got a well dug in the southeast corner and it produced sweet water. Even now, it is the only well with sweet drinking water. Its diameter is about 21 feet and the date of its construction is 917 Hijri as given on the plaque. The well and the compound were reinforced in 1320 A.H. (1942 AD) by Qasim Pasha, Beg-Bashi, son of Mohammad Beg. The inscribed stone slab was found in 1931. It measures 21 feet 14 inches. Its inscription was slightly damaged during the collapse of the building after 1920. The text of the inscription, is: Behold! How a wish has been fulfilled by Holy and High Providence. That the building of Baba Nanak has been newly built with the help of seven autat (great valis). That the happy murad of God (Baba Nanak) has started a fountain of grace issuing new water in the land. 917 Hijri The date given as 917 is supported by the Abjad system. 917 Hijri is equivalent to 1511 A.D. and 1568 Sammat Bikarmi. The mutvali in charge of the shrine told Sardar Kartar Singh Kartar that he had an old Arabic manuscript containing an account of Guru Nanak’s visit, but unfortunately it was stolen in 1920. In the same year, another stone inscription related to the Guru’s visit was found in the wall to the east of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani’s shrine near Baghdad Railway Station East. It had been seen by many, but was missing in 1926, when the wall collapsed. It is possible that similar relics may be found there. Bahlol Dana’s tomb and other buildings were in a sad state of disrepair, but in 1120 Hijri, Qazim Pasha practically rebuilt the tomb. The roof and verandah of Guru Nanak’s shrine had also collapsed. On 6 August 1932, Sardar Kartar Singh Kartar, the late president of Central Sikh Committee, Baghdad wrote to S. Manjeet Singh: “Sikhs desired to rebuild [the shrine]. Once the Central Sikh Committee applied to the Auqaf Department for repair of the shrine but no reply was received. At last the Central Sikh Committee, Baghdad again sent an application to His Excellency the High Commissioner of Iraq in 1931, who, I have come to know from a very reliable source, has very kindly given sanction to carry out the repairs at the expense of the Committee.” Again on 1 February 1952, S. Kartar Singh wrote to S. Manjeet Singh: “The Sikh Committee, Baghdad was very anxious to repair Guru Nanak Dev’s shrine as early as possible, but it was not an easy job to approach the Iraqi Government for the purpose. All such buildings are under the control of Ministry of Auqaf whose sanction was absolutely necessary to carry out the necessary repairs. At last the Iraqi Government was kind enough to give the sanction during 1934 and repairs were done. "In addition to the repairs of the existing building a room is also added in front of the room where Bahlol Dana’s tomb exists. It is really gratifying to note that the Sikh community in Iraq has done a splendid job in repairing the shrine of their Guru who is well known among Arabs as Baba Nanak or Hindu Pir. "I returned from Iraq early in 1932. As I was much interested in this matter, I therefore had to remind the Central Sikh Committee, Baghdad a number of times to accomplish this work as early as possible. At last in 1934 I was glad to receive the information that repairs to the Guru’s shrine in Baghdad had been completed. The Central Sikh Committee, Baghdad was kind enough to allow me to publish this news in the papers. I did this work with the greatest pleasure."