Knowledge before Action: Islamic Learning and Sufi Practice in the Life of Sayyid Jalāl al-dīn Bukhārī Makhdūm-i Jahāniyān

Knowledge before Action: Islamic Learning and Sufi Practice in the Life of Sayyid Jalāl al-dīn Bukhārī Makhdūm-i Jahāniyān

Knowledge before Action: Islamic Learning and Sufi Practice in the Life of Sayyid Jalāl al-dīn Bukhārī Makhdūm-i Jahāniyān

Knowledge before Action: Islamic Learning and Sufi Practice in the Life of Sayyid Jalāl al-dīn Bukhārī Makhdūm-i Jahāniyān

Synopsis

In Knowledge before Action, Amina M. Steinfels examines medieval Sufism and its place in Islamic society by telling the story of the life and career of Sayyid Jal'l al-d'n Bukh'r?, a revered figure in Pakistan. Considered one of the most important Sufi masters of South Asia, Sayyid Jal'l al-d'n Bukh'r?, more popularly referred to as Makhd'm-i Jah'niy'n, is known for combining spirituality and scholarship in a formative period for Sufism. Steinfels assembles the details of Bukh'r?'s life from records of his teachings, dynastic chronicles, and correspondence to discover how he achieved his status and laid the groundwork for a devotional cult that has lasted seven centuries. Steinfels also examines Bukh'r?'s theories of the relationship between scholar and mystic. Bukh'r?'s teachings provide windows into the underlying concerns and themes of medieval Sufism.
Knowledge before Action describes Bukh'r?'s training as a scholar and a Sufi, his exercise of religious authority over his disciples, and his theories of the relationships between saint and shaykh. Knowledge before Action discusses ritual and contemplative practices, the economic bases of Sufi institutions, and the interconnectedness between Sufi masters, the 'ulama, and the political authorities by telling the story of Bukh'r'.

Excerpt

This is the “first ever critical academic evaluation of a figure exceedingly significant for understanding Islamic intellectual history in South Asia,” according to a distinguished scholar of Sufism in an external review of the manuscript as it was being considered for publication. Another leading scholar’s external review stated that “the main contribution of this work to the field is twofold: (1) it provides a detailed and richly textured portrait of a major Sufi figure of South Asia on the basis of careful and searching analysis of appropriate primary sources, and (2) it offers the readers quite possibly the most focused and comprehensive glimpse into the daily lives of institutionalized Sufis of the medieval period that I have read. Once published, this will easily become one of the major ‘go-to’works for anyone interested in social, economic, political, and especially ritual aspects of Sufism of the early Middle Period (roughly the thirteenth through the fifteenth centuries). This is quite an accomplishment, and the manuscript makes a key contribution to scholarship on this score.”

It is always a delight for a series editor to read supportive external reviews of proposed manuscripts that are based on rigorous analysis and profound understanding of what the author has been aiming to achieve. the main title phrase, “Knowledge before Action,” clearly characterizes both the great Sayyid Jalāl al-dīn Bukhārī’s dedication to disciplined and thorough study leading to action in his context as a major Sufi master and the author’s rigorous and extensive research, which one reader characterized as “exceptionally thorough, both in terms of her coverage of all the relevant dimensions of Bukhārī’s long life and career as a Sufi master and in her thorough attention to all previous scholarship on the topic.” This final comment particularly applies to her productive use of “hitherto unutilized or underutilized primary sources on this major Sufi master,” as the reviewer concludes.

This book fills a huge gap in our understanding of Islam and Muslims, and particularly Sufi Muslims in South Asia during the period when al-Bukhārī (1308–1384) was a principal player there.

It stands as a solid companion to a range of excellent works on Islam and Muslims that have been published over the past quarter century in this series.

Frederick M. Denny . . .

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