From the Jacket
The main thrust of the book is to analyze the subtle nuances of the dynamics of Sufi power in the social politics of the Delhi Sultanate, and how this power affected the relations between the Sufi and the Sultanate-the two most powerful institutions in medieval India.
This book contains numerous anecdotes from medieval Persian sources, while dealing with incidents related to these Sufis. Author’s object in this book has been to examine the broad bases of Sufi history in the Sultanate period to adduce sufficient evidence to suggest the need for a new approach.
This wok contains vital aspects of the Sufi movement, i.e., philosophy and practices of Sufism, development of Sufism in India, dynamics of Sufi power and the multidimensional role of the Sufi hospices, especially, as an impetus to urban expansion, i.e., khanqahs in India, during the Sultanate period.
Dr. Fatima Hussain is a profound and inspiring teacher of History at Delhi University. She was educated at Lady Shri Ram College and did her MPhil and PhD at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Peace, conflict resolution, and women’s emancipation (especially within Islamic societies) are issues which are close to her heart.
She is the author of The Palestine Question: A Historical Perspective (2003) and several scholarly articles published in journals and periodicals of repute, in India and abroad. She has edited Sufism and Bhakti Movement: Contemporary Relevance (2008). Her forthcoming books include “Lahore: The City of Love: An Account of its History, Culture and Morphology” and “Constructing Paradigms of Religious Conflict Resolution through the Heer Waris Shah.”
Sufis played a vital role in medieval India. They preached and practiced human brotherhood, equality, service towards humanity, and piety. They had become a powerful moral force during the period leaving a deep imprint on the society, culture, politic, and even the economy of the subcontinent. On the other hand, the medieval state system was also a powerful institution which had fiscal and administrative control over the society. It was a coercive force engaged in tax collection, military campaigns, and exercising control over the administration of medieval judicial system. There was regular interface between the two institutions marked by instances of cooperation and incompatibility. At times, however, there was marked distance between the two.
The main thrust of this work is to analyze the subtle nuances of the dynamics of Sufi power in the social politics of the Delhi Sultanate, and how this power affected the relations between the Sufi and the Sultanate-the two most powerful institutions in medieval India. Rejecting the earlier theories of eminent practitioners of the discipline, regarding the relationship between the Sufi and the Sultanate in linear terms, this work treats the relationship as a complex one-with space for distance, cooperation, and incompatibility, all the three aspects existing independently as well as interdependently, at times in tension with one another, and at times in perfect harmony. The complementarity of the relationship between the two is well-marked, as is their exclusiveness.
Not only did the Sufis provide the much-needed legitimacy to the Delhi Sultanate, they functioned as a “safety valve,” allowing peaceful articulation of dissent, even when they were ostensibly at loggerheads with the Sultanate, thus providing implicit support to the Sultanate. Hence, the title of the book-The War that Wasn’t: The Sufi and the Sultan.
Khwaja Mu’in al-Din Chishti, Shaikh Qutb al-Din Bakhtiyar Kaki, Shaikh Farid al-Din Ganj-i-Shakar, Shaikh Nizam al-Din Auliya, Shaikh Nasir al-Din Chiragh-i-Delhi were important Sufis of the Chishti Order. Notable Sufis of other Orders, especially Shaikh Rukn al-Din, Shaikh Sadr al-Din, and Shaikh Sama al-Din of Suhrawardi silsilah also left a considerable impact on the Sultanate. The book contains numerous anecdotes from medieval Persian sources, while dealing with incidents related to these Sufis.
The work contains vital aspects of the Sufi movement, i.e., philosophy and practices of Sufism, development of Sufism in India, dynamics of Sufi power and the multi-dimensional role of Sufi hospices, i.e., khanqahs in India, during the Sultanate period especially as an impetus to urban expansion, and are dealt as separate chapters. The work is based on primary Persian sources notably the malfuzat, maktubat, and tazkirat (biographies, letters, and commentaries). The relevant Persian anecdotes have been reproduced in the book, while analyzing various shades of the relationship between the Sufis and the Sultanate, including those involving the Sultans, Prince, nobles, courtiers, and the ‘ulama.
Historical research can be, and perhaps usually is, done within the limits of an accepted pattern. Reflection about history brings within it the possibility of wanting to change the pattern. When, as in the case of the Sufis, well established facts consolidated by a series of great historians, any attempt to question them is likely to be met with automatic and authoritative resistance.
The present book ventures to concern itself with sources, literary and oral, as well as incidents therein, which have hitherto been considered as “entirely devoid of historical value;” taking a wider view of what is “historical,” the study highlights that Sufis’ lives, and other material related to their cults can reflect important features of society in which they occur. These include not only modes of religious perception and feelings but also social relationships and political structure. This book is a humble attempt, to analyze the various manifestations and functions of the Sufi and his khanqah in the Sultanate period, however implicit, in order to understand their scope. My object has been to examine the broad bases of Sufi history in the Sultanate period, and to adduce sufficient evidence to suggest the need for a new approach.
This book draws a lot from the scholarly works of Khaliq Ahmad Nizami and Simon Digby, despite the “audacity” to disagree with their interpretations of Sufi Sultanate relations.
The present work is based on my doctoral thesis submitted to the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, in December 2002. I am thankful to Prof. Harbans Mukhia, Muzaffar Alam, and Seema Alavi for introducing me to the rigours of serious research, while I was a student at J.N.U. Prof. Sunil Kumar and Prof. Saiyid Zaheer Husain Jafri, my teachers at Delhi University, initiated my interest in Sufi studies. Prof. I.H. Siddiqi and Prof. Azizuddin Husain provided regular critical responses.
I am also grateful to Dr Ramesh Sharma, Principal, Motilal Nehru College; Dr Hamideen, Principal, Zakir Hussain College; and Prof. Deepak Pental, Vice-Chancellor, Delhi University, for their remarkable faith in me and for a positive work environment conducive for academic growth. Without the valuable assistance of the library staff at Indian Council of Historical Research, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Aligarh Muslim University, Jamia Hamdard, and Jamia Millia Islamia, this work would have been impossible.
I also owe a word of thanks to my students at Miranda House, Khalsa College, Motilal Nehru College, and Zakir Hussain College, for their unconditional support and love.
I am indebted to Mr Ashok Jain of Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, for his incessant prodding for the completion of this work. May God also rest the soul of late Mr Devendra Jain of this publication, in peace.
Finally, a very special word for Asad and Sarah, on the edifice of whose tremendous sacrifices, the successful completion of this endeavour, rests.
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