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

Significance of the Malfuz Literature as an Alternative Source of History: A Critical Study on the Tadhkirat Al-Murad as the Earliest Malfuz Compiled in Sindh

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

Significance of the Malfuz Literature as an Alternative Source of History: A Critical Study on the Tadhkirat Al-Murad as the Earliest Malfuz Compiled in Sindh

Article excerpt

In the beginning, historiography in medieval India remained confined to the political history or biographical memoirs. The concept of history, soon crossed its boundaries previously restricted to the court life and entered the study of a common man's life in relation to his environment without any social distinction. Increasingly, the non-political features like the cultural impact of the Persian and Central Asian immigrants, literature and art, social and economic life also initiated an appeal to the consideration of the scholars. Thus, history is not to be merely considered as a narrative of kings and wars, but also acknowledged as a record of the activities of other categories of people including the ulema and Sufis. This concept of recognizing the significance of Süfi literature as a non-political genre of history, though took time to grow. Some of the contemporary historians, who are well acquainted with the knowledge of techniques and approaches of modem European historiography lay emphasis on the need of employing these literary compositions as an alternative source for reinterpretation of political and social history.1

The tradition of recording maljuzät, which includes the records of audiences and the question and answer sessions of notable scholars or Süfis can be traced back to the seventh century C.E., when the Khutbät (sermons) of Hadrat 'All (d. 661 C.E.), the fourth Pious Caliph were recorded and compiled by Sayyid Razi under the title Nahj al-Baläghah in 400 A.H./1009 C.E. In the tenth century C.E., the sayings of outstanding personalities like Abü Yazld Bistämi and al-Halläj were collected posthumously in Arabic in monograph forms like the Kitäb al-Nür min Kalimät Abi Tayfür and the Akhbär al-Halläj. Similar compilations in Persian, comprising the actions and sayings of the eminent Süfis like Shaykh Abü Sa'id Fadl Allah bin Abi'I Khayr (d. 1049 C.E.) entitled the Hälät wa Sukhanän-i Shaykh Abü Said bin Abi'I Khayr al-Maihani and the Asrär al-Tawhïd fi Maqämät Abï Said written by the Shaykh's descendants more than a century after his demise.2

Islamic mysticism came to have a firm footing in India and attained its fullest development. It became a revitalizing force and a flowing current of socio-religious and religio-ethical progress as a result of teachings of a group of intellectuals. It was considered a matter of pride to introduce oneself as a disciple of a Süfi. The situation encouraged the disciples to share the anecdotes and teachings of the Süfis among the others. Consequently, writing of informal discourses and hagiographies started. Various authors have categorized the Süfi literature on different bases. Most of the historians have divided the Süfi literature into two categories based on the time period.3 The earlier period of Süfi literature (like the Kitäb al-Luma, Risälah-i-Qushayriyah, Kashf al-Mahjüb) was a 'seminal period' while the later period witnessed emergence of tadhkirahs, malfüzät and maktübät etc.

For decades scholars have remained engaged with these sources and have formulated historical writings on these aspect of the history of medieval India. However, the literal meaning of malfiiz is 'words, sayings, utterances or discourses' but it is generally used for the table-talks of Süfi saints or proceedings of their regular periodic meetings, assemblies and audiences given to the disciples and admirers popularly.4 These are a sort of dialogical compendiums indicative of the interchange and decisions on a variety of subjects, not treated necessarily in all their fullness. These are discursive rather than compact; however, some of them are arranged chronologically.5

The malfiiz literature is a category in itself that is idiosyncratic from all other varieties in its spirit, methodology and literary treatment. It works as an important vehicle to spread mystical thoughts and offers historians many insights into the socio-religious conditions which are usually not found in official chronicles. …

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