The date of birth is variously given as 1111 or 1113 A.H, and it took place in Kala Bagh, Malwa. Shaikh Muhammad Tahir Bakhshi notes his date of birth as 11th Ramadan 1111 AH. His father Mirza Jan 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:
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 Muridin was the great Hanafi scholar, Qadi Thanaullah Panipati, who wrote a famous Tafsir of the Qur’an by the name Tafsir-i Mazhari, which he named after his teacher. Also in his spiritual lineage (silsila) came the great Hanafi jurist Imam Ibn ‘Abidin and the Qur’an exegete Allama Alusi.
His Naqshbandi 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. He is also praised by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, who in childhood was a disciple of him.
Mirza Mazhar was shot and seriously injured on the 7th of Muharram, of the year 1195 AH/1780 CE. The author of Ab-i ?ayat writes:
“The cause of this murder was widely rumored in Delhi among high and low: that according to custom, on the seventh day [of Mu?arram], the standards were carried aloft [in procession]. Mirza Mazhar sat by the side of the road in the upper veranda of his house, with some of his special disciples. Just as ordinary barbarous people do, his [Sunni] group and the [Shia] procession group may perhaps have hurled some insults and abuse, and some barbarous person was offended. Among them was one stony-hearted person named Faulad [=steel] ?han, who was extremely barbarous. He did this evil deed. But ?akim Qudratullah ?han ‘Qasim’, in his anthology, says that in his poetry Mirza Sahib used to compose a number of verses in praise of Hazrat ?Ali, and some Sunni took this amiss and did this evil deed.
It should be noted that the author of Ab-i ?ayat, a determined Shia, has been suspected of indulging in partisan religious bias. Professor Frances Pritchett has noted that the latter account of the death of Mirza Mazhar in Ab-i ?ayat is a deliberate distortion. Professor Friedmann, as well as Annemari Schimmel and Itzchad Weismann, have all noted that Mirza Mazhar was killed by a Shiite zealot.