Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

Sufism and Society in Medieval India; Debates in Indian History and Society

Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

Sufism and Society in Medieval India; Debates in Indian History and Society

Article excerpt

Raziuddin Aquil, (ed.) Sufism and Society in Medieval India; Debates in Indian History and Society, (Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2010).

The volume under review is the collection of articles written by different scholars and selected mostly from the recent publications by the Oxford University Press, New Delhi. As these works are well-known and have also been reviewed in journals and magazines, only the factual errors in some of these essays that escaped the notice of the reviewers are pointed out. The introduction written by the editor needs to be reviewed in detail.

The introduction contains factual errors and gives the impression that its author did not go through the original sources of information in Persian. The editor of such a work should have pointed out in the footnote, the historiographie errors which are found in an article. Moreover, the editor appears partisan while commenting on the approaches taken by modern scholars to Indian Sufis and Süfism. He calls Muzaffar Alani, Simon Digby and Richared Eaton more empirical in their approaches than Mohammad Habib, K. A. Nizami, Bruce Lawrence and Carl Ernst (p. XI). One may object to the inclusion of Muzaffar Alani in the list because he is not recognized as a scholar of Sufism. Secondly, the editor fails to explain how the scholars praised by him have an edge on the other scholars. It may be added here that Mohammad Habib was a pioneer in the field; his work drew our attention to the historical role performed by the Sufis. He pointed out for the first time that no study of medieval Indian history and culture would be regarded complete without a reference to Sufis and Süfism. He was certainly ahead of his time when he worked out a scientific methodology to verify the authenticity of evidence contained in Sufi records. His views echo in the writings of the Western scholars. Though they seldom acknowledge their indeletedness to him. K. A. Nizami, Bruce Lawrence and Carl Ernst are well known in the field of research, the contribution made by each one to Sufi studies is substantial and illuminating.

The introduction is also marred by generalizations from the beginning to the end. The statement at page XI, that the main stream Sufis, Chishti, Suhrawardi, Naqshbandi etc., participated in military campaigns, calling them Jihad (holy war) is misleading. There is no shred of evidences to show that any representative Sufi in India ever participated in a military campaign. Further, all the Sufis are said to be involved in politics that according to the author not only led to a conflict between the Sufis and the 'ulama ' but also caused concern for the sultans (p. XIV). The author would have us believe that in such a situation the Sufi Shaykh used his miraculous power to eliminate his adversary. "The saint's Jalal (wrathful aspect of his personality)", says he, "affected even the populace, as his curse reportedly caused famine and epidemic in the city" (p. XV). AU this is based on popular myths as there is no evidence available in the standard sources to substantiate. The unmixed sources of information about the activities of the leading Sufis are the malfuzat of the Chishti, Suhrawardi and Firdausi Sufis which tend to show that leading Sufis were not miracle mongers. The statement that all the Sufis without any exception accepted land grants made by the state is misleading. No leading Chishti Sufi in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries accepted land-grants because they found it at variance with their concept of tark (renunciation), (cf. Fawa'id al-Fu'ad, Lahore, 1966. pp. 12-13).

It is really disappointing that the author of the introduction is absolutely blank of the position held by 'ulama ' in the Delhi Sultanate period. The 'ulama ' not only held the posts of qadis (judicial officer) and mw/h" (interpreter of canon law) but also influenced the public opinion as religious guides. There was the division of power in the state, the financial and political powers were exercised by the ruler while legal and legislative powers were vested in the 'ulama '. …

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