Mulla Ahmad, better known as Sheikh Ahmad Chogali (RA), and reverentially as “Sheikh seab” was a sufi scholar and a saint of the Suhrawardiyya order. Owing to his command on Islamic literature, Hadith, Fiqah etc., he is known as - Mohuddin al Arabi Thani.
His shrine at Chogal, Handwara is visited by people of all faiths. Chogal village is located in Handwara Tehsil of Kupwara district in Jammu & Kashmir.
From the available written sources the author of this column came to know that this mystic was a very close disciple of Hazrat Sheikh Hamzah Makhdoom RA. Unfortunately no record of his birth year is available. The locals have no knowledge of his early life and birth place. The reason probably is that this mystic spent most of his time in cave meditations under the tutelage of Hazrat Shiekh Hamzah Makhdoom, and on the instructions of whom he spent his last days at Chogal village of Kupwara.
As per oral historical sources he was a native of Madina, and arrived in Kashmir when Hazrat Sheikh Hamzah Maqdoom was few months old. Historian Peer Ghulam Hassan Khuihami in his “Tazkirul Auliya e Kashmir” writes that one night Sheikh Ahmad Chogali saw a bridge in a dream and a pious soul used to praise this bridge, saying that it is the bridge of Hazrat Sheikh Hamzah Makhdoomi. The next day when Hazrat Sheikh Ahmad Chogali came to the blessed darbar, Hazrat Sheikh Hamzah Makhdoomi, narrated his dream from there. Then Hazrat Sheikh Ahmad took the oath and joined the category of his disciples. Some chroniclers have mentioned that Hazrat Sheikh Ahmad Chogali was the first “Talib” of Hazrat Sultan ul Aafreen, Hazrat Sheikh Hamzah Makhdoomi.
From the available oral and written sources this author came to know that Hazrat Sheikh Ahmad Chogali preached love and brotherhood and to him simple living and love to mankind is the best way to come closer to Allah, the Almighty and His Prophet (peace be upon him).
Hazrat Sheikh Ahmad Chogali was a rare scholar in Persian and Arabic. He wrote many books in Persian. Nuskhai Sultaniya is one of his masterpieces. This book reveal his time and his attachment with his spiritual mentor, Hazrat Sheikh Hamzah Makhdoomi. Professor Abdul Majeed Sayer in his book Tazkira-ul-Aslaf writes that he was a high ranking saint and was an expert in all sciences. He knew many languages. Bahr-ul-Tanzil is also one of his rare pieces. By reading it in depth, it can be understood that he is ‘Mohiuddin ul-Arabi al-thani”.
One day a man greeted him. Hazrat Sheikh Ahmad Chugali had never seen the man before. The pious man was Hazrat Mohi-ud-Din Al-Arabi. He said that one of the disciples of Hazrat Mehboob-ul-Aam, Hazrat Mulla Ahmad Choguli is his Naib.
Hazrat Sheikh Ahmad Chogali spent most of time in cave meditations and remained hungry for months. Due to his fear of Allah even birds and wild beasts became his friends. He memorised the Qur’an at the age of six. During his studies he used to meditate a lot. Hazrat Sheikh Ahmad Chogali liked the book of Sufism Gulshan-e-Raz very much. Golshan-e-Roz is a collection of poems written in the 14th century by Sheikh Mahmoud Shabestari. He always kept this book in his pocket and read it daily.
A number of miracles are attributed to this high ranked mystic. The one is narrated by Professor Ab. Majeed Sayer in his book Tazkir ul Aslaf. “One day Hazrat Shiekh Ahmad Chogali went into the desert and a “Chakor’, large long-tailed gallinaceous bird, came in front of him and started disturbing this mystic. This disturbance of “Chakoor” created a deep tenderness in his heart. The excitement came in his heart in such a way that for almost a week every day thousands of such birds kept on being born from his breath and flew towards the sky”.
The rank and mystical status of this iconic mystic was very high which cannot be put in words. When left for heavenly abode, Khawaja Hassan Qari from Zaingair Sopore led the funeral prayer of this great Wali Kamil. Unfortunately no authentic record of his date of physical departure is available. Historian Hassan writes that Hazrat Sheikh Ahmad Chaguli meditated at the hillock on the hills of Harwon, Sopore, for six years. In six years he did not even see the face of a man. There he made friends with wild beasts. After six years his mentor Hazrat Sheikh Hamzah Maqdoomi visited this cave and brought him out and instructed him to stay at Chogal Handwara. On the instructions of his spiritual teacher, Hazrat Sheikh Hamzah Maqdoomi, Hazrat Sheikh Ahmad stayed and spent his last days at Chogal, Handwara and breathed his last at the same village.
He became a highly respected personality with the masses. He contributed greatly in guiding thousands to the stages of the spiritual domain. He gained a massive following and became so popular.
The training under the mentorship of Hazrat Sheikh Hamzah Makhdoomi purged him of all desires. The gulf between him and the world widened with every passing day. Proximity to Allah became his only objective. He engaged himself in meditation, penance and reached to the great position. The Sufis have the characteristics of having a spiritual leader whom they respect and obey with all devotion and dedication. Historian Hassan writes that Hazrat Sheikh Hamzah Maqdomi too accompanied him to Chogul Handwara.
Sheikh Ahmad Chogli spent some time at the hill top, popular in the area as Divnal top. Since then this hill top, “has become the center of spiritual meditation. Some spiritual personalities of the bygone era are reported to have meditated there. Mention may be made of Hazrat Pir Khan Wali RA, Qalandar Ama Sb RA of Yaroo Langate, Noor Sb of Sagipora, Qalandar Jamal sahab of Pohrupet Langate as well as some Pandit saints of Sadhu Ganga, Kandi Kupwara.
By performing hard worship, Hazrat Sheikh Ahmad Chogali attained a high position. During the meditations, he lived on the wild grass. His shrine was renovated a decade ago by the locals. Haji Mohammad Ismael Kirmani played a vital role in its renovation. The annual Urs of Sheikh Ahmad Chogali is celebrated in the month of October every year. Lovers and devotees throughout the length and breadth of valley assemble in the shrine and recite “Aurad e Fateha” and “Darood o Dalaam” with exuberant gesture. People bring food to feed the hungry, and the devotees on the Urs day. One may watch beggars, the poor and the rich men, women, children and elders sharing the same plate.
The Shrine of Hazrat Sheikh Ahmad Chogali is one among the venerated sufi shrines of district Kupwara and witness huge rush of devotees round the year.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.