Biographical Dictionary of Sufism in South Asia

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Item Code: NAZ732
Publisher: Manohar Publishers And Distributors
Author: Mohammad Ishaq Khan
Language: English
Edition: 2009
ISBN: 9788173046810
Pages: 511
Other Details 11.50 X 9.00 inch
Weight 1.59 kg
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Book Description
About the Book
A Sufl's quest for spiritual Identity is distinguishable from the external scholars ('ulama-i zahiri), radical reformers, politico-religious activists and average Muslims whose belief in the fundamentals of Islam in a given religious environment is simply literal or even superficial in certain cases. Central to this difference of approach Is the Sufi's life-long concern to conquer his self for the greater spiritual and ethical good of humankind than the mere pragmatic and worldly concerns of the 'ulama in relation to the Sharl'ah.

Without dramatizing divide between Shari'ah and Sufism, unlike Orientalism, this dictionary intrinsically portrays the abiding contribution of numerous Sufis of South Asia to Islam and history. Definitive and interpretative, It lends a certain degree of objectivity to the supernatural role that characterizes the historical personalities listed in it.

The work is based on research spanning a period of 27 years, both In India and abroad, Besides Persian sources, in manuscript and printed form, their Urdu translations, wherever available, have been used carefully in conjunction with the original, This dictionary may, then, be the first to provide succinctly and objectively a fairly comprehensive account of the Sufis, recorded in various historical sources, in just one volume. The author takes special care to highlight how certain religious traditions were adapted by the Sufis to the larger framework of Sufism without violating the Qur'an and the Sunnah.

This work is an antidote to the tarnished image of Islam in the aftermath of 9/11.

About the Author
Mohammad Ishag Khan is former Professor of History and Shaikhu'l-'Alam Chair at Kashmir University. His publications include Kashmir's Transition to Islam: The Role of Muslim Rishis (3rd edn. 2003) and Experiencing Islam (1997).

Sufism is marked by relentless inner strivings on the part of individuals of exceptional merit against the snares of the pestering self (nafi-i ammara) and partial reason (aql-i juzwi). This struggle, known as the greater warfare, jihad-i Akbar, has the divine assurance of help, protection, and sustenance for the protégés of Allah:

Lo ! Verily the friends of Allah are those on whom fear (cometh) not, nor do they grieve: Those who believe and keep their duty (to Allah), Theirs are good tidings in the life of the world and the Hereafter-There is no changing the words of Allah-that is the Supreme Triumph.

One may reasonably ask: What does a seemingly inner struggle have to do with history? Given the complexities and mysteries of life and the cosmos, the answer is not simple. The Sufis did not need to invent God. They were driven by a yearning to know the Creator either through self-introspection or reflection on His words. "And in the earth are portents for those whose faith is sure, And (also) in yourselves. Can you then not see? And in the heaven is your providence and that which you are promised."

Sufism may be conceived as not pantheistic or an abstract unity defying objective explanation, but synthetic in nature. Since faith in the Unseen (ghaib) is an apparently subjective phenomenon in contrast to the consciousness of everyday affairs, the concept of synthetic unity in the Sufis sense implies both the difference and the unity of the depths rather than merely terms. Yet the concept of unity in diversity cannot be fully understood without recognition of the Oneness of Allah in spiritual, and the diversity of societies in historical terms. Religion becomes meaningful only when viewed from the spiritual-historical perspective. The role of spiritually exalted personalities like the Sufis is therefore not to be viewed from a trans-historical perspective. Nor can one understand history without attending to matters spiritual and scientific. Neither religion nor history can be objective if they are presented respectively as wholly sacred or wholly profane. Being created in the best of Quranic moulds, a Sufi, as a spiritual and historical being, moved in the direction of the unity that linked, even if it did not unite, all diversities. Without this basic postulate of unity in diversity, Sufism in the varied historical, geographical and social environments of South Asia would not have evoked a creative response both at the individual and societal levels. Sufism, indeed, was viewed as a religion of pristine spirit and simplicity, emphasizing individual ethical responsibility as its essential ingredient. Did the Sufis' abiding influence on individual and social consciousness not ensure the genuine spiritual and historical traditions of Islam in South Asia? If this biographical dictionary provides a succinct answer to this question in the face of waning modern politico-religious threats to Islamic spirituality (tasawwuf, anglicized, Sufism), I shall consider my efforts amply rewarded.

There is no dearth of biographies of Sufis of the Indian subcontinent. Some of these, largely written in Persian, were published in the nineteenth century. Urdu translations of several biographical dictionaries and malfiizat have since been brought out. One major drawback of such works is that they are either saturated with supernatural details or incomplete in many respects. It goes to the credit of Shaikh Abdu'l-Haqq Muhaddis Dihlawi that in his monumental Akhbaru'l-Akhyar he sought to present an objective account of the lives of Indian Sufis. True, he records miracles, but he is judicious and at times critical considering his strong roots in the Qur'an, Sunnah and tasawwuf. It is, however, amazing that this work does not contain any information about the Sufis of such an important region as Kashmir. Likewise, Ghausi-i Shattari's dictionary of the Indian Sufis under the title Gulzar-i Abrar is silent about the Sufis of Kashmir, the region which had then become known as the abode of Sufis (Pirwaer in the local parlance). This dictionary may, then, be the first to provide a fairly comprehensive account of the Sufis of the subcontinent. Besides giving the Sufis of Kashmir their due place, it also contains an account of a good number of Sufis of other regions not included either in S.A.A. Rizvi's A History of Sufism in India or other modern works.

Sufism and Sufis

It is no mean achievement to choose the Path of Sufism by way of renouncing the worldly desires. One cleanses oneself of all base thoughts in the hope of discovering the real self. The melting away of one's little personality does not necessarily mean dissolution in the ocean of Being or union with God, but paves the way for the release of the dormant forces within one's own self for the attainment of spiritual excellence. In this process, man emerges as the central figure in the picture of the universe in harmony with the purpose of God. He realizes himself as an individual seeker after the truth and at the same time, as a responsible member of society. In fact, the gradual enrichment and unfolding of his multidimensional personality takes place due to both his inner strivings and divine grace. A Sufi is a traveller on the road that leads to God-consciousness by way of the extinction of all that appears to exist, subjectively or objectively. In the words of a Sufi master, Abu Ali al-Daqqaq, annihilation (fana) really means 'bringing the being (wujud) to ecstasy (wajd)' .1 to pass from the temporal to the eternal demands self-discipline, hardship, and suffering. Hasan Shushud, a Turkish Sufi, describes three degrees of fana: the annihilation of Actions (fana al-afal), the an-nihilation of Attributes (fana al-sifat), and the annihilation of the Essence (fana al-zat). Consider his explanation of fana:

To be transported from the realm of physical sensation to the spiritual realm is to achieve the Annihilation of Actions. The An-nihilation of Attributes is the grade of relative occultation, the stage of potentiality and love. By attaining the Annihilation of the Essence one is set free from existence and from the pitfalls of relative consciousness.

Intellectual problems concerning the nature of reality are resolved when one reaches the Annihilation of Actions, which is also called the 'Presence of Knowledge'. Emotional needs are satisfied in the Annihilation of Attributes, which is also known as the station of love. With Annihilation of the Essence, all 'occult' problems disappear.

Annihilation reaches its consummation in Permanent Non-Being, in the freedom of 'as if it had never been'. This transition can also be called the path of ecstasy or the way of Oneness. It is accessible exclusively to those who are subject of divine compulsion.

On the way to realization, loftier attainments lie ahead, transcendental vistas that surpass comprehension. To express these, we take recourse to metaphors and a special terminology. Religious and esoteric truths are generally expressed at three levels. For those who have achieved annihilation, symbolic examples are provided. For those who have made genuine progress on the mystical path, explanations are based on the experience of annihilation itself. For those who have attained permanent non-being, the state of non-existence supplies the key. For example, the concept of divinity is perceived quite differently in each of these three grades. Similarly, such basic concepts as prophethood, sainthood, 'presences', materiality, spirituality, body, soul, and an-nihilation all transmute themselves into different realities at the various levels. Though essentially the same, they present them-selves with different attributes. In the rational and traditional sciences, progress is supposedly made by adding new knowledge to old. In esotericism, one advances from the 'coarse to the subtle, from existence to non-existence, i.e. from potentiality to necessity'. As Sufism is an ascent, through renunciation, from the corporeal to the divine, the gradual attainment of liberation brings one to the domain of miracles. It has always been considered unwise to divulge the realities perceived there.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages

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