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Books and Documents ( 21 Dec 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 21

 

By Anna Suvrova

 

THE SPIRITUAL SOVEREIGN OF MULTAN

 

The preaching of the great shaikhs of the Chishtiyya order, as we have seen, was essentially moral and practical, and their all-absorbing passion for God was embodied in their active love for their fellow man. However, all of them, and in particular Shaikh Farid, combined spiritual work, necessary for fostering everyday piety, with the most ardent mysticism of a purely individual nature. Thanks to the Chishtis, pietism and charity, concomitant with mysticism, started being perceived as the principal virtue of a saint, and the ecstatic, ‘intensive’ mysticism of the chosen few developed into an ‘extensive’ mysticism, accessible to many. Apparently that is why by the end of the fourteenth century the social composition of South Asian awliy had become diversified: ‘amateurs’ had started appearing as if from nowhere; blacksmiths, weavers, butchers, grocers and so on were added to the familiar figures of ‘professional’ mystics - the hermit or the ascetic, the wandering dervish or the shaikh, dwelling in a khnqah. They continued to live a mundane life and be engaged in their hereditary trade, but at the same time gave evidence of spiritual perfection right up to sainthood.

 

Here we see the advent of the epoch of a peculiar ‘new piety’ (if one is permitted to apply the Christian term devotio moderna to the world of Islam), where the radiance of ecstasies of early Sufism gradually abated, and together with it the danger of deviation from religious laws. In the social environment of urban craftsmen, from where the new mystics and saints were recruited, it was the corporate spirit of Puritanism which prevailed, different from the aura of all-forgiveness and toleration surrounding the activities of the Chishtis. This entailed distrust for the established institutions of the transmission of baraka and a hostility towards intellectualism and scholarship (‘ulam and shaikhs of Sufi fraternities in equal measure became the target of spiritual poetry).

 

There was also a general interdiction on sam ‘and other forms of collective audition, in particular, ‘loud’ collective dhikr al-hadra. The principal role in the formation of conservative ‘new piety’ and in the initiation of urban commercial and vocational groups into mysticism was played by the Suhrawardiyya fraternity, founded by the afore-mentioned Najibuddin Suhrawardi (1097-1168) and his nephew Shihabuddin Abu Hafs ‘Umar Suhrawardi (1145-1234).

 

Like Chishtiyya, Suhrawardiyya silsila also had its origin outside the limits of South Asia, in Iraq, but succeeded only in India to take shape as a fraternity with its infrastructure, internal hierarchy of members and cloisters and a single centre in Multan. The Suhrawardiyya is a strictly Sunni order, guided by Shafi‘i madhab while the Chishtiyya belonged to the Hanafi madhab. For that matter, like the Chishtis, the Suhrawardis also trace their spiritual genealogy to ‘Ali bin Abi Talib (through Junaid and al-Ghazali, whose disciple was Najibuddin Suhrawardi).

 

It has already been mentioned that the founders of the Chishtiyya order did not create any doctrinal literature, nor was their teaching systematized but was reflected in the malf.at of early shaikhs. The Suhrawardis have, on the contrary, left for posterity a number of books and treatises, which became normative manuals on Sufism for subsequent generations of mystics. Chief of these is the celebrated work ‘Aw ¯rif al-ma‘arif, following which, as we have seen, murı¯ds were taught even in the Chishtiyya fraternity.

 

The practice of one or another ţarıqa to a great extent depended on the personality of its founder: let us recall that the Chishtis’ refusal to collaborate with the state authority and the orientation of their social work were determined long ago by Mu‘inuddin Sijzi himself. Here the Suhrawardis were no exception, and formulating the rules of the future activity of the fraternity, its eponym, Shihabuddin Abu Hafs ‘Umar, took recourse to active life, renounced reclusion and excessive fasting, maintained close contacts with the authorities, and undertook diplomatic missions and political settlement of conflicts. His luxurious cloister in Baghdad, with gardens and bath houses, was specially built for him by Caliph an-Nasir, on whose behalf Abu Hafs travelled as an ambassador to the Ayyubi Sultan Malik al-Adil I of Egypt, to Khwarezm-Shah Muhammad of Bukhara and to Kaiqubad I, the Seljuk ruler of Konya.

 

In recognition of numerous services rendered to the state the title of shaikh as-shuyu¯kh, the official head of all the Sufis of Baghdad, was conferred on him. Apart from success in the field of diplomacy Abu Hafs ‘Umar managed, again on the Caliph’s instructions, to put into shape the movement of aristocratic futuwwa. 

 

It is also thought that this movement was specially instituted for the extensive dissemination of the teaching of the Suhrawardiyya order. The connection with futuwwa was reflected even in the girdling (shadd) ceremony, forming a part of the initiation ritual of this fraternity. Abu Hafs ‘Umar became famous as a preceptor and teacher, whose ersonality exerted a profound influence on many outstanding contemporaries - among his admirers was even the great Persian poet SA‘di Shirazi, who celebrated Abu Hafs in his poem ‘Bstn’. The founder of the fraternity adhered to moderate orthodoxy and used to bestow khirqa even upon those whom it is impossible to call dervishes, for example, al-Qastalani, founder of the school of traditionalists. Influence of the eponym of Suhrawardiyya order upon posterity was not limited to the members of the fraternity founded by him - even Chishti malft, in particular Faw’id al-fu’ad, are replete with stories about his spiritual feats and virtues. The Suhrawardis came to South Asia somewhat later than the Chishtis, in the first half of the thirteenth century, although, as if to make up for it, they came not one at a time, but as a large group.

 

Three of the five khalfas of Abu Hafs: Nuruddin Mubarak Ghaznavi (died in 1235), Qadi Hamiduddin Nagori (died in 1244, and who should not be mixed up with his Chishti namesake Hamiduddin Suwali Nagori), and Baha’uddin Zakariya Multani (1182-1262)1 finally settled down in the subcontinent. All of them made an excellent career: Nuruddin Mubarak Ghaznavi held the post of shaikh ul-Islam of Delhi for twenty years and was called Mır-i Dihlı (Lord of Delhi); Hamiduddin Nagori was the chief metropolitan qd (although he won real fame thanks to his Sufi treatises and successful campaign against ‘ulamin support of sama‘), and Baha’uddin Zakariya also acted at first as the shaikh ul-Islam and subsequently, having founded the central cloister of the fraternity in Punjab, became the real spiritual sovereign of Multan, nicknamed Mır-i Multn. The rivalry between Chishtis and Suhrawardis should not be conceived as enmity or antagonism: many members of the competing fraternities were on very friendly terms with each other, for example, Qadi Hamiduddin Nagori with Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki or Nizamuddin Awliya with Shaikh Ruknuddin. The instances of mutual hostility between leaders of the two fraternities are most probably an exception rather than the rule. In any case this hostility was expressed not in hostile conduct, but in frank discussions, of the type held on the question of poverty by Hamiduddin Suwali Nagori and Baha’uddin Zakariya on the occasion of the maz.har in Delhi.2

 

Although Shaikh Abu Hafs taught that a mystic should belong only to a single fraternity, eventually many Sufis started taking initiation into both the orders, for example, Makhdum-i Jahaniyan Jahangasht or Ashraf Jahangir Simnani, because of which they were respectfully called j mi‘ as-sala¯sil (Unifiers of orders). Finally, towards the end of the thirteenth century, the territory of the subcontinent became divided into wala¯yats: the Chishtis retained the central regions around Delhi, Awadh, Rajasthan and the Deccan, and the Suhrawardis held their positions firmly in unjab, Sind, Bengal and Gujarat.

 

As to how the division into walayats looked like in practice can be judged by one of the episodes of Faw’id al-fu’ad. A certain musician, Abdullah by name, having made up his mind to go from Ajodhan to Multan, requested Shaikh Farid to pray that his journey would end happily. The saint’s reply was that the limits of his spiritual jurisdiction extended only up to the banks of the Ravi, and further on began the spiritual domains of Baha’uddin Zakariya, whose help he should have sought if he wanted to ensure safety for himself throughout the entire journey. Hagiographic literature passes over in silence the conflicts, if any, between the shaikhs of the two fraternities because of any violations of the frontiers of their walayats. From a theoretical point of view there were no particular differences between Chishtis and Suhrawardis: both of them made use of the same doctrinal texts and manuals, for example ‘Awarif al- ma‘Rif, d b al-murdn, ar-Risla al-Qushairiyya, Kashf al-mahj b etc. The same Suhrawardis acquainted South Asia with the concept of wahdat al-wuj d.

 

The Wahdat al-Wujud of Ibn al-‘Arabi was introduced to India through the Suhrawardi, ‘Iraqi, however, by this time had not yet penetrated deeply into Chishti or Suhrawardi ideology. Until the mid-fourteenth century mystic ideas had been cast in the mould of the ‘Awarifu’l-Ma‘arif and other earlier sufi classics. The mystic spiritual experience of life with God rested entirely on love, which was opposed to both the philosopher’s reason and the jurist’s wrangling. Khwaja Mu‘inu’d-Din advocated that within the realm of love there must be both trinity and unity, that is, ‘Lover, Love and Beloved are all one’, and Shaikh Hamidu’d-Din wrote ‘Ishqiyya in this vein. These, however, were expressions of ecstasy rather than an advocacy of the Wahdat al-Wujud. Their source was the Tamhidat of ‘Ainu’l-Quzat Hamadani. (Rizvi 1986: 217)

 

Fundamental and significant differences between the two fraternities are to be found in the field of practice. Since I have already written enough about what the Chishtis preached and how they conducted themselves, it would be much easier to describe the practice of the Suhrawardiyya order by way of contrast.

 

Thus, the relationship between murshid and murd was considered by the Chishtis to be sacred. While preparing for dhikr a Chishti novice visualized the image of his preceptor, so that he could guide his meditation and contemplation (mushahada). Before their shaikh the Chishtis used to perform sajda, an act of veneration already discussed in this book, during which the disciple, having prostrated himself at the preceptor’s feet, touched (‘rubbed’) the ground with his forehead or kissed it.3

 

Suhrawardis were against the performance of sajda before a shaikh, considering the posture of prostration appro-priate only during prayers. Here they cited the sura ‘Prostration’ (as-Sajda), where it has been told: ‘Only those believe in our signs who, when they are reminded through them, fall down prostrate and glorify by praising their Fosterer and they do not consider themselves great’ (32: 15). Baha’uddin Zakariya expected an ordinary greeting as-salam ‘alaikum from his disciples and was in this matter consid-erably closer to the requirements of normative Islam.

 

Veneration of their shaikh among the Chishtis reached such an intensity that they could interrupt ritual ablution or even prayer (not the bligatory canonical șalat, but the voluntary prayer nafl) in order to greet their murshid. More conservative Suhrawardis censured excessive courtesy to one’s pı¯r to the detriment of prayers. Once Baha’uddin Zakariya was extremely displeased by the misplaced zeal of his murıds, who had on seeing him interrupted their wudu’, and complained to him about the only disciple who had completed his ablution: ‘Among all of you only this is a true dervish, he who first completed his ablutions and then came to pay his respects to me’ (Amir Hasan 1992: 339). Generally speaking, Baha’uddin Zakariya attached secondary importance to dhikr and voluntary prayers (particularly to the nocturnal prayer tahajjud, which is so important for Chishtis), considering that canonical șalat was the basis of piety.

 

According to him, the person who misses even one mandatory rak‘a imperils his life. Initiation into Sufi fraternities represented a omplicated ceremony ‘ahd (agreement), among the rituals of which the central one was bai‘a, i.e. taking oath of loyalty to the shaikh. During the ceremony the neophyte was given admonitions, among which one could also hear the famous precept to be obedient to the shaikh, like a corpse in the hands of a mortician.

 

The Chishtis used to shave the neophyte’s head after which he made a vow of submission (‘ahd al-yad), and the shaikh held his hand (muș faha). Then a high felt cap (t j or kulh) was placed on the disciple’s head, and he was robed in a special patched-up garment (muraqqa‘a or khirqa). Among the Suhrawardis the investing in khirqa was followed by the ceremony of winding a turban around his head or girdling a sash around his waist, ensuring a definite number of knots or folds in the process. The cap of the Chishti had four corners and that of the Suhrawardi had five or twelve. However, Baha’uddin Zakariya himself throughout his life wore a turban (dastar), although disapproved of it for others.

 

Chishtis used to live in modest adobe jam at khanas, access to which was open to all and at any time. Suhrawardis resided in well-built kh ¯nqa¯hs,4 which were erected for them by the rulers. Admittance into them was scrupulously restricted both in respect of the time of visit and the social status of the visitors. Shaikh Baha’uddin Zakariya, in particular, could not stand even the sight of qalandars and juwliqs 5 (this is how wandering dervishes are called in Faw’id al-fu’ad) and never let them set foot on his threshold. Once the juwaliqs, before whom Baha’uddin Zakariya had the doors closed, indulged almost in a riot, insisting on alms, and pelted the khnqh with stones. After some time the saint came out to meet the brawlers and declared that he held his office not for the sake of profit, but by the will of Abu Hafs ‘Umar Suhrawardi, who had sent him to Multan.

 

Having heard the name of the founder of the fraternity, juwliqs prostrated themselves before the Shaikh and went back from where they had come.6 In Chishti jam at khanas there were langars, where food was offered to all those who wished. In the case where a Chishti shaikh could not out of poverty offer food to the visitors, he was obliged to offer at least a glass of water, with due apologies. In Suhrawardi khnqahs, as in a modern European family, only those who had been invited beforehand to partake of a meal were fed. In the majority of cases such invited persons turned out to be the chosen ones (khawșș):well-known mystics musfir n, friendly ‘ulama, merchant-donators,famous men of letters - in short, spruced-up members of the public. Baha’uddin Zakariya was extraordinarily fastidious about food, did not partake of meals anywhere outside the limits of his cloister, even in palaces, and being no stranger to Epicureanism, liked to share a meal in the company of similar connoisseurs.

 

Since the rules of the Chishtiyya fraternity forbade its members to possess money, all the futu¯h received by them were spent on charity. Having savings was not prohibited to Suhrawardis, and they gave to the poor a fixed amount of alms, consisting of 20 per cent of each futuh. Most of the pilgrims came to Chishti cloisters for ta‘wıdhs and medical aid. The Suhrawardis in general did not render such a service: people used to visit their kh nqahs mostly for esoteric rather than practical purposes. In particular, the Suhrawardis used to interpret dreams and insisted upon a daily detailed account of their dreams from the murds, which, according to them, were an indication of a mystic’s progress along the Path.

 

The Chishtis, as we will recall, spent a large part of their life observing fasts, devising such refined forms of mortification of the flesh as chilla-i ma‘k s and șaum-i D’u dı. In hagiographic literature a Chishti mystic is usually depicted as an emaciated person, clad in rags and tatters. The Suhrawardis considered that the fast in the month of Ramadan, enjoined by Shar ‘at, was quite enough, and they categorically rejected various ascetic experiments, seeing in them the influence of kafirs (pagans). Jalaluddin Tabrizi advised Sufis to eat three times a day in order to accumulate strength for prayers and for avoidance of sin. External tidiness, khirqa made of fine wool and well-groomed hands, decorated with finger-rings, were the hallmark of Baha’uddin Zakariya, his disciples and descendants.

 

The practice of Chishtis is inconceivable without ‘Sama‘, which Suhrawardis forbade on the basis of their eponym’s declaration that all auditions (sama‘, hadra) ran counter to religious law.7 In the central kh ¯nqa¯h of the fraternity in Multan this interdiction was consistently put into practice, although in our day qawwalı is performed even here. However, the Suhrawardis could not eradicate Sama ‘in their ranks. It has already been mentioned that one of the most ardent apologists of musical auditions was Qadi Hamiduddin Nagori, who had to take recourse to all sorts of tricks in order to conduct Sama ‘in private houses. The same Qadi Hamiduddin Nagori advised Iltutmish to arrange Sama for the dervishes during a long drought in Delhi. The Sultan agreed, and after the sama ‘the rains fell heavily (Hamid Qalandar 1959: 85).

Anna Suvorova is the Head of the Department of Asian Literature at the Institute of Oriental Studies (Russian Academy of Sciences), Professor of Indo-Islamic culture at the Institute of Oriental and classical cultures (Russian State University for the Humanities), member of the International faculty in National College of Arts (Pakistan), fellow of Academic Advisory Board, Centre for Study of Gender and Culture (Pakistan), fellow of Royal Asiatic Society (UK).

 


Other Parts of the Book, Muslim Saints of South Asia:

 

Muslim Saints of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries --- Part 1

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries - Part 2

Muslim Saints of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part - 3

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 4

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 5

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 6

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 7

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 8

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 9

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 10

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 11

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 12

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 13

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 14

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 15

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 16

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 17

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 18

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 19

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 20

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 21

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 22

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 23

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 24

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 25

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 26

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part - 27

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 28

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 29

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 30

Muslim Saints Of South Asia: The Eleventh To Fifteenth Centuries Part – 31


 

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/books-and-documents/anna-suvrova/muslim-saints-of-south-asia--the-eleventh-to-fifteenth-centuries-part-–-21/d/9773

 

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