An Early Chishti Leader of the Deccan and Twelfth-Century Mystics of Iran

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Institutional Affiliation : 
University of Washington
Academic Bio: 
Assistant Professor, Directory Persian and Iranian Studies, University of Washington, Seattle

The present study will focus on Khawaja Banda Nawaz Gisudaraz (A.D. 1321-1422), one of the first Persian speaking scholars of India, who aspired to the mysticism of twelfth-century Iran.  This study provides a background on the life and scholarship of this important mystic with special attention to his relationship with the twelfth-century Iranian mystic ‘Ayn al-Qudat al-Hamadhani (A.D. 1096/1098–1131), generally known as the disciple of Ahmad Ghazzali (d. A.D.1126). Gisudaraz felt an affinity with ‘Ayn al-Qudat and was drawn to him for his visionary mysticism, intellectual erudition, and appreciation of sama‘. The word sama‘ is derived from the Arabic root “s-m-‘” and means “to listen.” It is a technical term, which in the present context refers to singing, dancing, and listening to music as spiritually emotive stimulants. The Chishtis considered sama‘ to be an important medium for connecting with the spiritual realms. The early Chishti scholars esteemed ‘Ayn al-Qudat and Ahmad Ghazzali for their mystical views, especially their discussions of sama‘ as a form of anamnesis or recollection of the instance of the covenant as a theophanic experience.  Gisudaraz belonged to the Chishti intellectual heritage that studied these Persian mystics and incorporated their discussions in the canonical literature of their order. The efforts of Gisudaraz in this walk are distinguished because he was the first medieval scholar, of India and the Muslim world at large including Iran, who brought ‘Ayn al-Qudat into the limelight through a careful analysis of his work. This is how he was able to allot a special place for ‘Ayn al-Qudat in the canonical writings of the Chishti order. This discussion will argue that the surviving memory of these Iranian mystics among the current Chishti community of India is largely due to the efforts of Khawaja Banda Nawaz Gisudaraz.

Academic Discipline : 
Persian and Iranian Studies, Islamic Mysticism, Persian Literature
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