Awaarif-ul-Maarif is one of the most known and popular books on ‘tasavvuf’, or
Sufism — also known as Islamic mysticism. The mystical book expounds the
profound meanings of Sufi teachings and is often dubbed as ‘a manual for
Sufis’. Written originally in Arabic and translated into Persian by Izzuddin
Muhammad, Awaarif-ul-Maarif became very popular in the Islamic world as it
tries to reconcile the differences between Tariqah (Sufism) and Shariah (the
Shahabuddin Abu Hafs Umar Bin Muhammad Suhrawardy (1145-1234) was a Sufi,
philosopher and author.
Suhrawardy had acquired Sufi knowledge from Abun-Najeeb Suhrawardy (1097-1168)
and Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani (1078-1166). Renowned Persian poet Sheikh Sa’adi
had a chance to learn something from Sheikh Suhrawardy during his stay in
Baghdad and Sa’adi has also mentioned him in a parable in his Bustaan. As
mentioned by some scholars, the subject matter of Awaarif-ul-Maarif is, mostly,
Sufi teachings and moral ethics. Sheikh Suhrawardy has criticised the
philosophers who in those days favoured Greek philosophy. But he has given some
historical allusions as well. Also, for mysticism’s terminology the book is
considered a virtual treasure trove.
was translated from Persian into English under the title A Dervish Textbook by
Henry Wilberforce Clarke, a British India government officer, who had
translated other Persian works by maestros such as Hafiz and Sa’adi.
Interestingly, the name of the book has been translated differently into
English by different scholars, such as The Attainment of True Understanding,
The Gifts of Knowledge, Masters of Mystical Insights and The Knowledge of the
Spiritually Learned. It is because of the Arabic words ‘awaarif’ and ‘maarif’
used in the original title that can be translated in more than one way.
Suhrawardy belonged to Suhrawardiya, a Sufi order founded by his paternal uncle
Abun-Najeeb Suhrawardy, Awaarif-ul-Maarif is revered and referred to by Sufis
of all orders. Awaarif-ul-Maarif had reached the subcontinent and had remained
very popular among the mystics here for centuries. It was taught, explained,
translated and annotated here in the subcontinent by different scholars and
Sufis. It was also translated into Urdu from Persian by a few translators, but
two translations, one by Moulvi Abul Hasan and the other by Rasheed Ahmed
Arshad are more famous.
How and why
did the book achieve such popularity in the subcontinent? It is a question
answered by Prof Dr Arif Naushahi in one of his scholarly articles included in
his book Naqd-i-Umr. Prof Naushahi says that Sheikh Suhrawardy had numerous
‘khalifas’ (disciples who succeed a Sufi spiritually) in the Indo-Pak
subcontinent and for the dissemination of Sheikh’s thoughts and teachings these
‘khalifas’ played key role since each of them had a large number of ‘mureeds’
Sheikh Suhrawardy’s ‘khalifas’ in the subcontinent are some eminent names, such
as, Bahauddin Zakariya Multani (566 Hijri-666 Hijri) whom Sheikh Suhrawardy had
permitted to teach Awaarif-ul-Maarif. Baba Fareeduddin Masood Ganj-i-Shakar
(569-664 Hijri) too used to teach Awaarif-ul-Maarif and Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia
had learnt five chapters form Baba Fareed, adds Prof Naushahi.
This is the
second, updated and revised edition of the book that has been published by
Lahore’s Oriental Publications. It includes 21 articles, all based on extensive
research and discussing the socio-cultural and literary history of
subcontinent’s Persian literature. The book has three sections: the first one
is titled ‘authors and poets’ and it covers the lives and works of some
well-known and some not-so-known Persian writers from the subcontinent.
portion includes articles on historical, cultural and literary issues and some
works by some eminent mystics. The third part is marked as ‘books and relics’
and it has invaluable information on some classical Persian works, history,
mysticism and literature. The book is stamped with Arif Naushahi’s hallmark:
rare and authentic information based on meticulous research.
scholars of Persian in the subcontinent, such as Dr Ghulam Mustafa Khan and
Prof Nazeer Ahmed, have left us for their heavenly abodes, Prof Dr Arif
Naushahi is now one of those few scholars left in India and Pakistan who are
sought after when some issue related to Persian language and literature arises.
publicity-shy, Prof Naushahi has not been given the status he deserves for his
research work on Persian literature and language, though the Iranian scholars
and institutions revere him much and have invited him to deliver lectures on
Persian language and literature umpteen times. Here in Pakistan people have
hardly heard of him and even some scholars draw blank stares when Prof Arif
Naushahi’s name is mentioned.
But we do
hope he will keep on writing to enrich us, as he does it out of love and cares
least for worldly gains.
Headline: Indo-Iranian cultural history, mystics and Awaarif-ul-Maarif
Source: The Dawn, Pakistan