In the context of Mughal architecture, baraka is the perceived spiritual advantages, or blessings, that result from being in close proximity, physically or spiritually, to something that is holy, for example a living or dead Awliya-Allah, such as Nizam al-Din Awliya.1 Awliya-Allah is often shortened to 'Awliya' or 'Wali' and is often translated as 'saint.'2 More specifically, an Awliya is a Muslim who has exceptional Iman and Taqwa, which translates as 'faith and piety,' and this results in having walayah, which translates as 'divine friendship.'3
Josef Meri describes what separates a saint from a good Muslim.
All righteous individuals possessed baraka, but only saints through their charisma, devotion, exemplary learning and piety possessed a sufficient degree to render them as objects of ziyara or pious visitation.4
James Wescoat clearly explains the relationship between Sufi shrines and baraka.
In the popular religion of Muslim shrines, saints have the power (barakat) to intercede on behalf of their devotees on practical matters and also to help gain admission to the gardens of paradise on the day of judgment (Troll, 1989). This power is spatially concentrated at the grave of the saint, which explains the activities of pilgrims at the grave.5
Seekers of baraka included, the poorest to the richest and the meekest to the most powerful, and sometimes, it was sought ceremoniously; while other times, it was sought descreetly.6 "The existence of baraka at a shrine insured miraculous cures for the infirm as it did stability, relief, abundance, prosperity and happiness."7 This means that just the commonly accepted belief in baraka had a positive impact in a larger context.
Ritual interaction was both spiritual and physical in nature. The physical component is exemplified by devotees lying upon tombs, residing within the confines of holy places, circumambulating, touching, rubbing against or trodding on a site, taking away soil and rock, and applying it to themselves. To be at holy places in the presence of holiness gave the devotee a sense of awe, fear, purpose and spiritual fulfillment.8
Humayun's Garden Tomb receives baraka both physically and spiritually. Being within walking distance from Nizam al-Din Awliya's dargah means that it is in the hotbed of Nizam al-Din's spiritual baraka. Humayun's Garden Tomb's enclosure wall physically incorporates Nizam al-Din's chilla-khana and khanqah. This is comparable to a Sufi devotee that lays on a saint's tomb to receive baraka physically, but Humayun's Garden Tomb has been receiving direct baraka from the beginning of its existence. One could say that if Humayun's Garden Tomb's soil was measured for baraka, as if it were radiation, it would be found holy enough to put in your pocket and take home.
1. Josef W. Meri. "Aspects of Baraka (Blessings) and Ritual Devotion Among Medieval Muslims and Jews," Medieval Encounters 5, no. 1 (1999): 46.
2. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, Islamic Studies, 2nd ed., vol. 4 (Riyadh: International Islamic Publishing House, 2005), 64.
4. Meri, "Aspects of Baraka and Ritual Devotion," 46.
5. J.L. Wescoat Jr., "From the Gardens of the Qur'an to the 'Gardens' of Lahore," Landscape Research 20, no. 1 (1994): 24.
6. Meri, "Aspects of Baraka and Ritual Devotion," 65.
7. ibid, 47.
8. ibid, 58.
Asher, Catherine B. "A Ray from the Sun: Mughal Ideology and the Visual Construction of the Divine." In The Presence of Light: Divine Radiance and Religious Experience, edited by Michael Kapstein, 161-94. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
Lowry, Glenn. "Humayun's Tomb: Form, Function, and Meaning in Early Mughal Architecture." Muqarnas 4, (1987): 133-48.
Meri, Josef W. "Aspects of Baraka (Blessings) and Ritual Devotion Among Medieval Muslims and Jews." Medieval Encounters 5, no. 1 (1999): 46-69.
Seth, Meroo. "Nizamuddin Map Design." Accesed November 23, 2020. https://www.behance.net/gallery/36395173/Nizamuddin-Map-Design.
Suleiman, Omar "Becoming a Friend of Allah – Sh. Omar Suleiman | Khutbah." Yaqeen Institute, August 20, 2019. https://yaqeeninstitute.org/omar-suleiman/becoming-a-friend-of-allah.
Von Denffer, Dietrich. "Baraka as Basic Concept of Muslim Popular Belief." Islamic Studies 15, no. 3 (1976): 167-86.
Wescoat, J.L. Jr. "From the Gardens of the Qur'an to the 'Gardens' of Lahore." Landscape Research 20, no. 1 (1994): 19-29.