Amir Khusrau's father, Amir Saifuddin Mahmud, had been, before coming to India, a chief of clan Lachin in Turkestan during the rule of Chinggis Khan. After immigrating to India, he became a high official at the court of Sultan Shamsuddin Iltutmish. Khusrau's mother came from an Indian Rajput family; she was the daughter of the war minister of Balban.
When he was eight years old, Saifuddin took Khusrau to meet Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. As they were entering through the doors of the khanqah in what is today Delhi's Nizamuddin area, the boy cheekily said that it was up to him, and not his father, to choose his own teacher.
Saifuddin squatted down to the boy's level, looked him in they eyes, and smiled. The father left the son outside the door and went in alone to talk to the saint. In the meantime, Khusrau composed a quatrain (in Persian) to test Nizamuddin Auliya.
Tora aan shahey ke bur aiwaan-e-qasrat, qabutar gar nashinad baaz gardad.
Gharib-e-mustamandey bur dar amad, beyayad androon yaa baaz gardad?
Thou art so great a king, if on roof of thy palace a pigeon were to sit, a falcon it would become.
A poor and humble soul has come to thy door, should he enter or should he be gone?
(The 8-year-old-level pun here is that baaz might refer to a hawk as well as to a part, or the act of parting.) He got back the following quatrain in reply:
Beyayad androon mard-e-haqiqat, ke baa maa yak nafas hamraz gardad.
Agar ablay buwad aan mard-e-naadaan, azaan raahey ke aamad baaz gardad.
Come in, truthful soul, that we may become close and trusted friends.
Yet if thou art ignorant, or no wisdom have, go thou back the way thee came.
(The reply preserved the 8-year-old's rhyme scheme, and at the same time was simple, not trying to upstage his cleverness.) At this Khusrau entered the khanqah and became a mureed of Nizamuddin Auliya — faithfully serving his master throughout his life.
Below, Ghous Muhammad Nasir Qawwal and Party render the qalaam of Amir Khusrau:
Jan zetan burdi -- wa darjani hunooz;
Dard-ha daadi -- wa darmani hunooz.
Ashkara seen-e-am bashugafti;
Ham-chunan dar seen-e pinhani hunooz.
Maza girya chu namak bagudakhtyn;
Tubakhunda shukr afshani hunooz.
You stole my soul -- yet stayed in it
Caused me pain -- but are still the remedy
So openly split my breast
But are still hidden in my heart
Destroyed the kingdom of my mind
But still rule there.
Har do alam qeemate khud guftayi
Narkh bala kun ke arzani hunooz
Peeri-o-shahid parasti nakhush ast,
Khusrauwa' taki pareshani hunooz.
You said your price was equal to the Two Worlds
Ask for a higher rate, the bid is still low.
"Old age and infatuation go not together"
O Khusrau, may you trouble this reasoning.
Interestingly, the Khusrau's line on "ask for a higher rate" was quoted by Maulana Azad in his Al-Hilal exhortation to the Muslims of the subcontinent to look for more (beyond political power.)
Narkh bala. Kun ke arzani hunooz. Ask for more, what you set yourself for is still too low.
For heavens sake get rid of the fear of Hindu majority. This was a Satanic suspicion created in the minds of Muslims. Power is not only a numbers game, it depends on something else also. The important factor is the real strength of a nation which is the result of its moral values and character, its unity, and, to use the Islamic terminology, the will of God and good deeds. All these suspicions were created in our minds because no joint and lofty ideal was placed before the country. If from the very beginning all the people had set their sights on one goal,one ideal,there would have been no reason to look into different directions, and all those forces, which today are shedding each others' blood, would have been united in its quest. Gentlemen, lend me your ears, because I am raising an important point. Your aimless wandering, selfishness, self seeking, dissensions, indifference to self-sacrifice and self denial, all this is result of the fact that your eyes have nothing beautiful to look at. The breath-taking beauty that we have discovered is unknown to you.
About a year after Khusrau had met Nizamuddin, Saifuddin passed away, leaving the 9-year old boy in care of his maternal grandfather. Khusrau was to express his sadness with the following couplet:
My river flowed on, the door was left half open,
The sword passed over my head, grief overtook my heart.