Hazrat Amir Khusrau was a thirteenth century scholar, poet, and Sufi musician. Khusrau was born in AD 1253 in Patiali, in present-day Uttar Pradesh.
His ancestors trace their lineage to Hazaras from Transoxiana, modern-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Southern Kyrgystan and Southwest Kazakhstan.
Khusrau’s father worked for Iltutmish, a ruler of the Slave dynasty. His father died in 1260, when Amir Khusrau was only seven years old.
After the death of her husband, Khusrow’s mother moved back to her father’s house in Delhi with her children.
Rawat Arz raised Amir Khusrau in his house of his Rajput maternal grandfather.
He thus grew up very close to the culture and traditions of Indian society. Over and over again in his poetry, and throughout his life, he affirmed that he was an Indian Turk.
Rise to Fame
Amir Khusrau was an intelligent child. He started learning and writing poetry at the age of eight.
His compiled his first collection The Gift of Childhood containing poems composed between the ages of 16 and 18 in 1271.
In 1273, Amir Khusrau joined the army of Malik Chajju, a nephew of the reigning Sultan, Ghiyas ud-Din Balban. This brought his poetry to the attention of the Assembly of the Royal Court. The sultan honored Amir Khusrau.
Amir Khusrau became popular when he acted as the private tutor to Prince Muhammad, the eldest son of Sultan Balban, a ruler of the Slave dyansty.
Soon Nasir ud-Din Bughra Khan, the second son of Balban, was invited to listen to Khusrow.
Khusrow’s poetry impressed him and became his patron in 1276. In 1277 Sultan appointed Bughra Khan ruler of Bengal.
Later Khusrow visited him in 1279 while writing his second divan, Wast ul-Hayat (The Middle of Life). Khusrow then returned to Delhi.
Balban’s eldest son, Khan Muhammad (who was in Multan), arrived in Delhi. When he heard about Khusrow he invited him to his court. Khusrow then accompanied him to Multan in 1281.
On 9 March 1285, Khan Muhammad was killed in battle while fighting Mongols who were invading the Sultanate. Khusrow wrote two elegies in grief of his death.
After Balban’s death in 1287, his grandson Muiz ud-Din Qaiqabad, Bughra Khan’s son, was made the Sultan of Delhi at the age of 17.
Khusrow remained in Qaiqabad’s service for two years, from 1287 to 1288. In 1288 Khusrow finished his first masnavi, Qiran us-Sa’dain (Meeting of the Two Auspicious Stars), which was about Bughra Khan meeting his son Muiz ud-Din Qaiqabad after a long enmity.
A Turko-Afghan named Jalal ud-Din Firuz Khalji then marched on Delhi, killed Qaiqabad and became next Sultan.
Jalal ud-Din Firuz Khalji appreciated poetry and invited many poets to his court. The sultan gave Khusro the title of “Amir”.
He was given the job of “Mushaf-dar”. Court life made Khusrow focus more on his literary works.
Khusrow’s ghazals which he composed in quick succession were set to music and were sung by singing girls every night before the Sultan.
Amir Khusrau Under Sultan Ala-ud-Din Khalji
After Jalal ud-Din Firuz, Ala ud-Din Khalji ascended to the throne of Delhi in 1296. Khusrow wrote the Khaza’in ul-Futuh (The Treasures of Victory) recording Ala ud-Din’s construction works, wars and administrative services.
In 1300, when Khusrow was 47 years old, his mother and brother died.
Alauddin Khalji took him along in his famous Chittor expedition, which he undertook in 1303 to capture the queen of Chittor, Rani Padmini.
In 1310 Khusrow became close to a Sufi saint of the Chishti Order, Nizamuddin Auliya.
Later Khusrow completed the romantic masnavi Duval Rani – Khizr Khan (Duval Rani and Khizr Khan), about the marriage of the Vaghela princess Duval Rani to Khizr Khan, one of Ala ud-Din Khalji’s sons in 1315.
In 1321 Khusrow began to write a historic masnavi named Tughlaq Nama (Book of the Tughlaqs) about the reign of next sultan Ghiyath al-Din Tughlaq and that of other Tughlaq rulers.
Khusrow died in October 1325, six months after the death of Nizamuddin Auliya. Khusrow’s tomb is next to that of his spiritual master in the Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi. A few weeks before his death he compiled Nihayat ul-Kamaal (The Zenith of Perfection).
Style of Poetry
As a composer, Khusrau used the local dialects of Khadi Boli, Braj Bhasha and Hindawi, as well as the court languages like Persian, Arbaic and Turkish.
Khusrau had a great command over languages and was always careful about his audience. For the masses he would select the local dialects like Hindawi or Braj Bhasha, but for the court he would select Persian. He believed in the equality of all religions and cultures.
The famous Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya has great influence on Khusrau. He contributed immensely to the evolution of various cultural elements of the time including Sufi music and Qawwali.