City Faith – Bibi Fatima Sam’s Dargah, Kaka Nagar
A woman Sufi.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The shrines of many Sufi saints in Delhi are barred to women. So it is liberating to be in a dargah dedicated to a woman.
Bibi Fatima Sam’s tomb in central Delhi’s Kaka Nagar is the city’s most serene (and cleanest) Sufi shrine. It used to consist of merely a roof built over her grave. In 2002, Muhammed Adil, a businessman in Daryaganj, commissioned the new domed structure.
Inside, the copies of the Quran, the earthen water pots, the arched niches, the carpets, the chaadars and the glass chandelier combine to create a reassuring effect. Red roses are arranged on the saint’s tomb as sacred offerings. The faraway sounds of cars and trains feel strangely comforting.
The details of Bibi Fatima’s life remain foggy. Where was she born? Who were her parents? Why she renounced the domestic comforts? We do not know.
In her book The Sufi Courtyard: Dargahs of Delhi, author Sadia Dehlvi writes: “Bibi Fatima Sam died on 17 Shaban 644 Hijri/1246 AD. She is called the Rabia of Delhi, after Rabia of Basra, the famous mystic of the eighth century.”
The great Sufi saint Hazrat Nizmauddin Auliya, who often visited Bibi Fatima’s tomb to pray and meditate, said, “When a lion emerges out of the forest, nobody asks if it is male or female; the children of Adam must obey and show respect to all human beings, whether male or female. I have met her (Bibi Fatima) and she was a great woman.”
Hazrat Nizamuddin’s dargah lies within a mile of Kaka Nagar. Tradition does not allow the women to enter his tomb-chamber.
Like most Sufis, Bibi Fatima passed her days in fasting and praying. Her philosophy can be understood from her following statement:
The Sufis will cast away both worldly and religious blessings to give a piece of roti or a bowl of water to someone in need. This state is not something one can obtain with one hundred thousand fasts and prayers.
“Weakened after forty days of continuous fasting,” writes Ms Dehlvi in her book on Delhi’s Sufis, “Bibi Fatima’s soul left her body during the ritual prayer as her forehead touched the ground in prostration.”
The dargah has three other graves–of unknown people.
After sitting alone for many minutes, I’m joined by Badshah, the shrine’s caretaker. Blessing me with a fan of peacock feathers, he says, “There are days when I don’t receive even a single visitor.” After a long pause, he adds, “Only those people come here who are summoned by Bibi Fatima. You are one of them.”
Where Kaka Nagar Nearest Metro Station Khan Market Time Sunrise to Sunset
Women are allowed here