Chishti Sufis in the Sultanate of Delhi 1190-1400: From. Restrained Indifference to Calculated Defiance.

Author:Lawrence, Bruce B.
Position:Book review

Chishti Sufis in the Sultanate of Delhi 1190-1400: From Restrained Indifference to Calculated Defiance. By TANVIR ANTRIM. Karachi: OXFORD UNIV. PRESS, 2011. Pp. xviii + 433. $31.95.

The author of this revised doctoral dissertation provides a case study in micro-history. Tanvir Anjum is not attempting to introduce and analyze new sources, whether documentary texts or ethnographic voices. Instead, she sets herself the restricted task of synthesizing multiple, often divergent interpretations of extant, well-known literary sources on the Delhi Sultanate, with special attention to one branch of the dominant Indo-Persian Sufi order, the Nizamiyya Chishtiyya.

There is much to praise in the forensic detail of this protracted inquiry into the earliest period of a Sufi presence in the Asian subcontinent. In the select bibliography most of the major books devoted to this topic in European languages. as also in Persian, Urdu, and Punjabi, are enumerated, along with articles in research journals. English and Urdu, unpublished theses, and further articles in encyclopedias. (It is strange, however, that one of the most relevant articles, Gerhard Bowering's "Cegtiya," Encyclopaedia Iranica, 5: 333-39, was omitted.) There is also a glossary of crucial terms in Persian and Arabic along with four appendices that provide charts and/or timelines of the most relevant individuals discussed in the book's nine chapters.

Anjum's thesis is to articulate how a minority Muslim ruling class ("sultans") could withstand a popular Muslim religious movement ("Sufism") that drew attention, resources, and authority away from its own project of conquest, control, and expansion. The author summarizes her own judgment in the subtitle to the book: "From Restrained Indifference to Calculated Defiance." After nine chapters, preceded by an introduction and summarized in a conclusion, she ends with an epilogue on a late fourteenth-/early fifteenth-century Chishti epigone Khwiija Gesadiraz (d. 1422). Gesilidirriz was the sixth in a line of Chishti masters, going back to the pioneer of Hindustani Sufism, Shaykh Mucin al-Din Chishti Ajmeri. It is the relationship of Khwaja Gesfidiraz with the Bahmani sultans of the Deccan that occupies the two-page-long epilogue. By the early fifteenth century, we are told, the ideals of the early Chishti masters had been abandoned, as Gesudiraz, the major Chishti shaykh of his generation, became clearly and boldly beholden to a sultan, and his heirs followed his example. There was neither restrained indifference nor calculated defiance but, instead, willful compromise in the attitude of both Gesudiraz and his heirs, who were also his descendants, to the claims of Muslim monarchs.

That epilogue by itself...

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