This saint lived in the village of Shirdi, now in the state of Maharashtra, India, for some sixty years. He has left no authentic record of his birth and early life before first arriving at Shirdi as a young man of sixteen (c.1850), although it has been suggested that he was an itinerant Sufi, later returning to the village, c.1859, and remaining there until his passing in 1918. One of the persons who first came into contact with him at Shirdi addressed him spontaneously as ‘Sai’ which means Master.
Those who think I reside at Shirdi do not know the real Sai, for I am formless and everywhere. Oh, my dear friend, do not be anxious. I shall immediately show you the Brahman: all my dealings are in cash and never on credit. So many people come to me and ask for wealth, health, power, honour, position, cure of diseases and other temporal matters. Rare is the person who comes here to me and asks for Brahma-Jnana. There is no dearth of persons asking for worldly things, but as persons interested in spiritual matters are very rare, I think it a lucky and auspicious moment when persons like you come and press me for Brahma-Jnana. So I show to you, with pleasure, the Brahman with all its accompaniments and complexities...
Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi confirmed that Sai Nath was originally a Muslim:
We had a great saint like Sai Nath of Shirdi, who was a Muslim to begin with, and it is said that Fatima herself brought him as a child in her lap and gave him to some lady. (1988-0814)
Shri Mataji declared many times that Sai Nath was an incarnation of the Primordial Master. (eg. 1980-0728, 1981-0207, 1982-1101, 1983-0302, 1988-0731):
All this work has been done in the ancient times, as Mohammed was one of the prophets who came out of the ten prophets, Moses, Abraham, Lao Tse, then we had also people like other prophets, Socrates. Recently in India we had the last one … Sai Nath who lived [and] who was representing this great principle of primordial master. (1985-0317)
Shri Sai Satcharitra
Arthur Osborne, The incredible Sai Baba (Bombay: Orient Longman, 1957)
Antonio Rigopoulos, The life and teachings of Sai Baba of Shirdi (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993)
Antonio Rigopoulos, ‘Shirdi Sai Baba’ in Brill’s encyclopedia of Hinduism. Vol.V, edited by Knut A.Jacobsen (Leiden: Brill, 2013):641-650
Mani Sahukar, The Saint of Shirdi (2nd ed., 1971)
Kevin R.D.Shepherd, Gurus rediscovered: biographies of Sai Baba of Shirdi and Upasni Maharaj of Sakori (Cambridge, UK: Anthropographia Publications, 1985)
Marianne Warren, Unravelling the enigma: Shirdi Sai Baba in the light of Sufism (New Delhi: Sterling, 1999)