Revealed Grace: The Juristic Sufism of Ahmad Sirhindi (1564-1624).

Author:Pagani, Samuela
Position:Book review

Revealed Grace: The Juristic Sufism of Ahmad Sirhindi (1564-1624). By ARTHUR F. BUEHLER. Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 2011. Pp. xxii + 321. $24.95 (paper).

This volume consists of a scholarly translation of twenty-six letters selected from Ahmad Sirhindi's Maktubat (Collected Letters), preceded by a comprehensive introductory essay. The Sufi master Sirhindi (d. 1624) is a key figure in the religious and intellectual history of Mughal India. Through his teaching and writing he expounded and developed the legacy of the Naqshbandiyya--the Central Asian tariqa imported to India at the time of the TImurid conquest--giving it his personal imprint and promoting its further expansion. This achievement, occurring in the decades immediately following the year 1000 (1591 C.E.), earned him among his followers the honorific "renewer of the second millennium" (mujaddid-i alf-i thani), hence the name MujaddidI for the branch of the tariqa based on his teachings. Testifying to the dissemination of these teachings, the Maktubat, originally written in Persian, were translated into Ottoman Turkish already by the middle of the eighteenth century, and later into Arabic, Urdu, Bengali, modern Turkish, and, most recently, Chinese. The prestige of Sirhindl's magnum opus is well encapsulated by the nineteenth-century shaykh Ghulam 'All Shah Dihlawl, who praised Sirhindi, saying: "He is not a messenger but he has a book." Containing more than 500 letters written during almost a quarter of a century, the Maktubat are a classic of early modern Sufi literature, an increasingly important field of research where critical examinations and scholarly translations of sources are still needed. Buehler's book fills a gap in scholarship by providing an English translation of unprecedented accuracy, the result of many years of study of Sirhindl's Maktubat and later MujaddidI literature.

Buehler's 63-page introduction deserves to be recommended reading for students of Sufism in India. It gives a thorough overview of Sirhindi's life and thought, building upon previous academic work and offering fresh analytical perspectives about his social and political role and his significance as a Sufi master. In twentieth-century Indo-Muslim historiography, Sirhindi has been subjected to ideological readings emphasizing his political role. In this context, strongly influenced by nationalistic agendas, Sirhindi has been either celebrated or denigrated for his opposition to the administrative...

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