Syed Ibrahim

 Mahoba,Uttar Pradesh, India


One of the most important devotees of Krishna Bhakti was Syed Ibrahim a Muslim who came to be known as Raskhan (b.1573). One of the remarkable features of Krishna Bhakti was that many Muslims composed devotional poetry and were great devotees of Krishna.

Krishna Bhakti has much in common with Ram Bhakti and basically both enjoin devotion to a personal God in human form. The devotees of the Krishna cult however widened the scope of their devotion by making bhakti a matter of not only emotion, bringing merely reverence and awe into play, but also a kind of fellow feeling, a kinship between themselves and Krishna.

This new bhakti was an emotion which impelled the bhakta, the devotee to worship the Lord, to seek him everywhere, to yearn for him, to quarrel with him, to remove the distance which reverence implies; in short, to love him passionately as one would a human lover.

Another remarkable feature of Krishna bhakti was that it attracted quite a number of Muslims who not only wrote devotional poetry in Brajabhasha but were also ardent devotees.

On their own they felt attracted towards the Krishna bhakti cult, and, like other devotees started singing and composing in Brajabhasha in the traditional style. This aspect of Krishna bhakti was responsible for making it more popular and vesting it with a universality of appeal.

They felt greatly attracted to the Krishna cult and wrote their works in Brajabhasha. Of the two divine embodiments in the Hindu pantheon, Krishna seemed to have appealed more to the religious sentiments of the Muslims than Rama due to Krishna’s fun and frolic and who was a combination of God and spiritual love.

Raskhan was a Pathan Sardar of Delhi. He has acknowledged himself as belonging to the Shahi family in his ‘Premvatika. It is leant that he was related to the Pathan Badshah dynasty. Raskhan was an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna and a disciple of Goswami Vithalnathji. It is said at one time he was deeply attached to a son of a Baniya.

But, once he heard someone saying “If one loves God, it should be like Raskhan’s love for the Baniya’s son.”

Raskhan was greatly stung by these remarks and instantly he sets off in search of Goswami Vithalnathji whom he finally finds in Gokul. There he takes ‘Diksha’ or Initiation from Goswami Vithalnathji and becomes his disciple.

There is another version as to how Raskhan was inspired to take up Diksha. It seems Raskhan was infatuated with a woman who was too proud and treated him very badly. He was very fond of reading Hindu scriptures.

One day as he was reading the Persian translation of ‘Shrimad Bhagvat’, he was profoundly impressed by the description of the ecstatic love of the Gopis for Lord Krishna. Instantly he realizes “why not turn my mind to Him like the gopis instead of wasting my life on trifles”. Immediately he makes a stern determination and goes to Vrindavan. In his ‘Premvatika’ there is a couplet referring to this.

Raskhan’s initiation under Vithalnathji had great effect on him. He turned out to be one of the leading devotees of his period and his verses were on every devotee’s lips. Two of his prominent works were ‘Premvatika’ and ‘Sujan Raskhan’. The first one consists of fifty-two dohas or couplets and sorathas which picturizes true devotion and love. The latter work which is more popular, comprises of 121 chhandas (Kavittasavalya). Raskhan has described the frolics of infant and other sportive acts of Krishna’s childhood in excellent verses.

In course of time, Raskhan became the most ardent Krishna devotee. Despite being a Muslim, he attained great honour amongst the devotees due to his intense devotion to Krishna. His poetic language was very flowing and easy and he used pure Brajabhasha in his compositions which was rarely found with others. His verses fully reveal his depth of love for Krishna and are regarded to be of the highest quality and excellence for its sweetness and mellifluence. Raskhan’s love for Krishna and Brajbhumi can be traced in many of his other memorable verses too.

According to one story, as contained in the medieval text Bhaktakalpadruma, he once travelled to Brindavan along with his Sufi preceptor. There he fell unconscious and had a vision of Krishna. Thereafter, he remained in Brindavan till he breathed his last.

Another version has it that Ras Khan fell in love with a very proud woman. Later, when he read the Bhagwat Purana he was so deeply impressed by the unselfish love of the gopis for Krishna that he left his proud mistress and headed straight for Brindavan.

There is, however, an even more intriguing story that is contained in some of the hagiographic material about Ras Khan. In the Bhavaprakash of the seventeenth century, we are told by Vaishnavite scholar Hari Ray, that Ibrahim Khan earlier lived in Delhi, where he had fallen madly in love with the son of a Hindu merchant. 'He watched him day and night', says Hari Ray, 'and even ate his left-overs'. This angered his fellow Muslims, who branded him as a disbeliever. But Ibrahim Khan, we are told, did not care or relent, answering, very simply, as Hari Ray puts it, 'I am as I am'.

One day, the story goes, he overheard one Vaishnavite telling another, 'One should have attachment to the Lord just as this Ibrahim Khan has for the merchant's son. He roves around after him without fear of public slander or caste displeasure!'. The other Vaishnavite turned up his nose in disgust, and when Ibrahim saw this he drew his sword out in anger. Trembling before him, the Vaishnavite said: 'If you loved God just as you do that boy you would find salvation'. Ibrahim's curiosity having been aroused, he began discussing spiritual matters with him. The Vaishnavite advised Ibrahim to travel to Brindavan. When he got there, he was refused entry into the temple on the grounds that he was a Muslim.

After sitting on the banks of the lake near the temple having not had anything to eat for three days, Krishna, the story goes, appeared to Ibrahim, addressing him as Ras Khan or 'the mine of aesthetic essence', and accepting him as a disciple. From that day onwards, Ras Khan began living in Brindavan, composing and singing the Krishnaite Sufi poetry for which he is still so fondly remembered.

The poetry of Raskhan focuses on Lord Krishna. "Lilas" of Lord Krishna, such as Bal Lila, Chir Haran Lila, Kunj Lila, Ras Lila, Panghat Lila, and Dan Lila, were his favorite subjects. Apart from Lilas, Raskhan has also created poems on Lord Shankar, Goddess Ganga, and the Holi festival.

Additional Info

He died in 1628 A.D. His samadhi is at Mahaban which is situated about six miles east of Mathura.

  How to Reach: From Agra airport the samadhi is around 68 KM. It is 13 KM from Mathura Jn and 12 KM from Old bus stand Mathura and 15 KM from New Bus Stand Mathura.,

Nearest City : Mathura
Nearest Bus Stop : Old bus stand Mathura
Nearest Airport : Agra
Nearest Railway Station : Mathura Jn
Contact Person Name : Not Available
Contact Person Phone: Not Available
Website : Not Available
Connect with us