Mirzā Mazhar Jān-i Jānān (Urdu: مرزا مظہر جانِ جاناں), also known by his laqab Shamsuddīn Habībullāh (1699–1781), was a renowned Naqshbandī Sufi poet of Dehli, distinguished as one the “four pillars of Urdu poetry.”He was also known to his contemporaries as the sunnītrāsh, “Sunnicizer”, for his absolute, unflinching commitment to and imitation of the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad.
He established the Naqshbandī suborder Mazhariyya Shamsiyya.
The date of birth is variously given as 1111 or 1113 A.H, and it took place in Kālā Bāgh, Mālwa. Shaikh Muhammad Tahir Bakhshi notes his date of birth as 11th Ramadan 1111 AH.His father Mirzā Jān was employed in the army of the mighty Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Following a custom according to which the Emperor had the right to name the sons of his officers, Aurangzeb is reported to have said:
“A son is the soul of his father. Since the name of his father is Mirzā Jān, the name of the son will be Jān-i Jānān.”
His early religious instruction was entrusted to hājjī Afzal Siyālkōtī (hadith) and hāfiz Abd al-Rasūl Dihlawī (Qur’an). At the age of 18, he joined the Naqshbandī order under Nūr Muhammad Bada’ūni, who was closely connected to the teachings of Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindī, and completed his studies in four years. He was also initiated in the Qādirī, Chishtī and Suhrawardī orders.
In his prime, Mazhar was advised to write poetry in Urdu rather than Persian as the days of the latter language were said to be numbered in India. Besides authoring poetry and polemics, Mazhar also wrote a large number of letters relating to Sufi thought and practice.
Among his notable ideas is his acceptance of the Divine-origin of the vedas, which he claimed were revealed by God at the beginning of creation, and his acceptance of the Hindus as the people of the book. In Mazhar’s view, Krishna and Rama Chandra were both prophets, who preached the oneness of God. Their religion was one that pleased God, but was later abrogated by the arrival of Islam.
Among his ‘disciples’ or Muridīn was the great Hanafī scholar, Qādī Thanāullāh Panipatī, who wrote a famous Tafsir of the Qur’an by the name Tafsir-i Mazharī, which he named after his teacher. Also in his spiritual lineage (silsila) came the great Hanafī jurist Imam Ibn ‘Abidīn and the Qur’an exegete Allāma Alusī.
His Naqshbandī lineage came to be known as Mazhariyya Shamsiyya. Mazhar apparently authorized more disciples than any of his predecessors. He regularly corresponded with his deputies, and his letters form much of the basis of our knowledge about his life and ideas.
He was succeeded by his khalifa (deputy) Hazrat Abdullah alias Shah Ghulam Ali Dahlavi, who is considered Mujaddid of the 13th Islamic century by most Naqshbandi followers today. His tariqah spread to whole India and Middle East.
Mirzā Mazhar was shot and seriously injured on the 7th of Muharram, of the year 1195 AH/1780 CE.
Most of his Urdu biographers have written that he was killed by a gunshot by a Shiite zealot on 7th Muharram, and he died on 10th Muharram 1195 AH.