Preface

This translation of the most ancient and celebrated Persian treatise on Sufi'ism will, I hope, be found useful not only by the small number of students familiar with the subject at first hand, but also by many readers who, without being Orientalists themselves, are interested in the general history of mysticism and may wish to compare or contrast the diverse yet similar manifestations of the mystical spirit in Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam. The origin of Sufi'ism and its relation to these great religions cannot properly be considered here, and I dismiss such questions the more readily because I intend to deal with them on another occasion. It is now my duty to give some account of the author of the Kashf al-Mahjub, and to indicate the character of his work.

Abu 'l-Hasan 'Ali, b. "Uthman b. Ali al-Ghaznawi al-Jullabi al-Hujwiri1 was a native of Ghazna in Afghanistan.2 Of his life very little is known beyond what he relates incidentally in the Kashf al-Mahjub. He studied Sufism under Abu '1-Fadl Muhammad b. al-Hasan al- Khuttali3 (p. 166), who was a pupil of Abu 'l-Hasan al-Husri (ob.371 A.H.), and under Abu '1-'Abbas Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Ashqani or al-Shaqani4 (p. 168). He also received instruction from Abu 'l-Qasim Gurgani5 (p. 169) and Khwaja Muzaffar6 (p. 170), and he mentions a great number of Shaykhs whom he had met and conversed with in the course of his wanderings. He travelled far and wide through the Muhammadan empire from Syria to Turkistan and from the Indus to the Caspian Sea. Among the countries and places which he visited were Adharbayajan (pp.57 and 410), the tomb of Bayazid at Bistam (p.68), Damascus, Ramla, and Bayt al-Jinn

Jinn in Syria (pp.94, 167,343), Tus and Uzkand (p.234), the tomb of Abu Sa'id b. Abu'l-Khayr at Mihna (p.235), Merv (p.401), and the Jabal al-Buttam to the east of Samarcand (p.407). He seems to have settled for a time in 'Iraq, where he ran deeply into debt (p.345). It may be inferred from a passage on p.364 that he had a short and unpleasant experience of married life. Finally, according to the Riyad al-Awliya, he went to reside at Lahore and ended his days in that city. His own statement, however, shows that he was taken there as a prisoner against his will (p.91), and that in composing the Kashf al-Mahjub he was inconvenienced by the loss of the books which he had left at Ghazna. The date of his death is given as 456 A.H. (1063-4 A.D.) or 464 A.H. (1071-2 A.D.), but it is likely that he survived Abu '1-Qasim al- Qushayri, who died in 465 AH.(1063-4 A.D) or 464 A.H. (1071-2 A.D.), Rieu's observation {Cat. of the Persian MSS. in the British Museum, i, 343) that the author classes Qushayri with the Sufis who had passed away before the time at which he was writing, is not quite accurate.

The author says (p. 161): "Some of those whom I shall mention in this chapter are already deceased, and some are still living." But of the ten Sufis in question only one, namely, Abu 'l-Qasim Gurgani, is referred to in terms which leave no doubt that he was alive when the author wrote. In the Safinat al-Awliya, No.71, it is stated that Abu '1-Qasim Gurgani died in 450 A.H. If this date were correct, the Kashf al-Mahjub must have been "written at least fifteen years before Qushayri's death. On the other hand, my MS. of the Shadharat al-Dhahab records the death of Abu '1- Qasim Gurgani under the year 469 A.H., a date which appears to me more probable, and in that case the statement that the author survived Qushayri may be accepted, although the evidence on which it rests is mainly negative, for we cannot lay much stress on the fact that Qushayri's name is sometimes followed by the Muslim equivalent for "of blessed memory". I conjecture, then, that the author died between 465 and 469 A.H.7 His birth may be placed in the last decade of the tenth or the first decade of the eleventh century of our era, and he must have been in the prime of youth when Sultan Mahmud died in 421 A.H. (1030 A.D.). The Risala-i Abdaliyya,8 a fifteenth century treatise on the Muhammadan saints by Ya'qub b. 'Uthman al-Ghaznawi, contains an anecdote, for which it would be hazardous to claim any historical value, to the effect that al- Hujwiri once argued in Mahmud's presence with an Indian philosopher and utterly discomfited him by any exhibition of miraculous powers. Be that as it may, he was venerated as a saint long after his death, and his tomb at Lahore was being visited by pilgrims when Bakhtawar Khan wrote the Riyad al-Awliya in the latter half of the seventeenth century.

In the introduction to the Kash al-Mahjub al-Hujwiri complains that two of his former works had been given to the public by persons who erased his name from the title page, and pretended that they themselves were the authors. In order to guard against the repetition of this fraud, he has inserted his own name in many passages of the present work. His writings, to which he has occasion to refer in the Kashf al-Mahjub, are :-

1. A diwan (p.2)
2. Minhaj al-din, on the method of Sufi'ism (p.2). It comprised a detailed account of the Ahl-i Suffa (p.80) and a full biography of Husayn b. Mansur al-Hallaj (p. 153).
3. Asrar al-khiraq wa 'l-ma'unat, on the patched frocks of the Sufis (p.56).
4. Kitab-i fana u baqa, composed "in the vanity and rashness of youth" (p.60)
5. A work, of which the title is not mentioned, in explanation of the sayings of Husayn b. Mansur al-Hallaj (p.153)
6. Kitab al-bayan li-ahl al-'iyan, on union with God. (p.280)
63
7. Bahr al-qulub (p.259).
8. Al-Ri'ayat li-huquq Allah, on the Divine unity (p.280)
9. A work, of which the title is not mentioned, on faith (p.286)

None of these books has been preserved.

The Kashf al-Mahjub,9 which belongs to the later years of the author's life, and, partly at any rate, to the period of his residence in Lahore, was written in reply to certain questions addressed to him by a fellow-townsman, Abu Sa'id al-Hujwiri. Its object is to set forth a complete system of Sufi'ism, not to put together a great number of saying by different Shaykhs, but to discuss and expound the doctrines and practices of the Sufis. The author's attitude throughout is that of a teacher instructing a pupil. Even the biographical section of the work (pp.70-175) is largely expository. Before stating his own view the author generally examines the current opinions on the same topic and refutes them if necessary. The discussion of mystical problems and controversies is enlivened by many illustrations drawn from his personal experience. In this respect the Kashf al-Mahjub is more interesting than the Risala of Qushayri, which is so valuable as a collection of sayings, anecdotes, and definitions, but which follows a somewhat formal and academic method on the orthodox lines. No one can read the present work without detecting, behind the scholastic terminology, a truly Persian flavour of philosophical speculation.

Although he was a Sunni and a Hanafite, al-Hujwiri, like many Sufis before and after him, managed to reconcile his theology with an advanced type of mysticism, in which the theory of "annihilation" (fanar) holds a dominant place, but he scarcely goes to such extreme lengths as would justify us in calling him a pantheist. He strenuously resists and pronounccs heretical the doctrine that human personality can be merged and extinguished in the being of God. He compares annihilation to burning by fire, which transmutes the quality of all things to its own quality, but leaves their essence unchanged. He agrees with his spiritual director, al-Khuttali, in adopting the theory of Junayd that "sobriety" in the mystical acceptation of the term is preferable to "intoxication". He warns his readers often and emphatically that no Su'fis, not even those who have attained the highest degree of holiness, are exempt from the obligation of obeying the religious law. In other points, such as the excitation of ecstasy by music and singing, and the use of erotic symbolism in poetry, his judgment is more or less cautious.

He defends al-Hallaj from the charge of being a magician, and asserts that his sayings are pantheistic only in appearance, but condemns his doctrines as unsound. It is clear that he is anxious to represent Sufi'ism as the true interpretation of Islam, and it is equally certain that the interpretation is incompatible with the text.10 Notwithstanding the homage which he pays to the Prophet we cannot separate al-Hujwiri, as regards the essential principles of his teaching, from his older and younger contemporaries, Abu Sa'id b. Abu '1-Khayr and 'Abdallah Ansari.11 These three mystics developed the distinctively Persian theosophy which is revealed in full-blown splendour by Farid al-din Attar and Jalal al-din Rumi.

The most remarkable chapter in the Kashf al- Mahjub is the fourteenth, "Concerning the Doctrines held by the different sects of Su'fis," in which the author
enumerates twelve mystical schools and explains the special doctrine of each. " So far as I know, he is the first writer to do this. Only one of the schools mentioned by him, namely, that of the Malamatis, seems to be noticed in earlier books on Sufi'ism; such brief references to the other schools as occur in later books, for example in the Tadhkirat al-Awliya, are probably made on his authority.

The question may be asked, "Did these schools really exist, or were they invented by al-Hujwiri in his desire to systematize the theory of Sufi'ism?" I see no adequate ground at present for the latter hypothesis, which involves the assumption that al-Hujwiri made precise statements that he must have known to be false. It is very likely, however, that in his account of the special doctrines which he attributes to the founder of each school he has often expressed his own views upon the subject at issue and has confused them with the original doctrine. The existence of these schools and doctrines, though lacking further corroboration,13 does not seem to me incredible; on the contrary, it accords with what happened in the case of the Mu'tazilites and other Muhammadan schismatics. Certain doctrines were produced and elaborated by well-known Shaykhs, who published them in the form of tracts or were content to lecture on them until, by a familiar process the new doctrine became the pre-eminent feature of a particular school. Other schools might then accept or reject it. In some instances sharp controversy arose, and the novel teaching gained so little approval that it was confined to the school of its author or was embraced only by a small minority of the Sufi brotherhood. More frequently it would, in the course of time, be drawn into the common stock and reduced to its proper level. Dr. Goldziher has observed that Sufi'ism cannot be regarded as a regularly organized sect within Islam, and that its dogmas cannot be compiled into a regular system.14 That is perfectly true, but after allowing for all divergences there remains a fairly definite body of doctrine which is held in common by Su'fis of many different shades and is the result of gradual agglomeration from many different minds.
It is probable that oral tradition was the main source from which al-Hujwiri derived the materials for his work. Of extant treatises on Sufi'ism he mentions by name only the Kitab al-Luma' by Abu Nasr al-Sarraj, who died in 377 or 378 A.H. This book is written in Arabic and is the oldest specimen of its class. Through the kindness of Mr. A.G. Ellis, who has recently acquired the sole copy that is at present known to Orientalists, I have been able to verify the reading of a passage quoted by al-Hujwiri (p.341), and to assure myself that he was well acquainted with his predecessor's work. The arrangement of the Kashf al- Mahjub is partially based on that of the Kitab al-Luma, the two books resemble each other in their general plan, and some details of the former are evidently borrowed from the latter. Al-Hujwiri refers in his notice of Ma'ruf al-Karkhi (p.l 14) to the biographies of Su'fis compiled by Abu 'Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami and Abu '1-Qasim al-Qushayri. Although he does not give the titles, he is presumably referring to Sulami's Tabaqat al-Sufiyya and Qushayri's Risalaf The Kashf al-Mahjub contains a Persian rendering of some passages in the Risala of Qushayri, with whom al- Hujwiri seems to have been personally acquainted. A citation from Abdallah Ansari occurs on p.26.

Manuscripts of the Kashf al-Mahjub are preserved in serveral European libraries.16 It has been lithographed at Lahore, and Professor Schukovski of St. Petersburg is now, as I understand, engaged in preparing a critical text. The Lahore edition is inaccurate, especially in the spelling of names, but most of its mistakes are easy to emend, and the text agrees closely with two MSS. in the Library of the India Office (Nos. 1773 and 1774 in Ethe's Catalogue), with which I have compared it. I have also consulted a good MS. in the British Museum (Rieu's Catalogue, i, 342). The following abbreviations are used: L. to denote the Lahore edition, I. to denote the India Office MS 1773 (early seventeenth century), J. to denote the India Office MS 1774 (late seventeenth century), and B. to denote the British Museum MS or. 219 (early seventeenth century).

In my translation I have, of course, corrected the Lahore text where necessary. While the doubtful passages are few in number, there are, I confess, many places in which a considerable effort is required in order to grasp the author's meaning and follow his argument. The logic of a Persian Su'fi must sometimes appear to European readers curiously illogical. Other obstacles might have been removed by means of annotation, but this expedient, if adopted consistenly, would have swollen the volume to a formidable size.

The English version is nearly complete, and nothing of importance has been omitted, though I have not hesitated to abridge when opportunity offered. Arabists will remark an occasional discrepancy between the Arabic sayings printed in italics and the translations accompanying them: this is due to my having translated, not the original Arabic, but the Persian paraphrase given by al-Hujwiri.

REYNOLD A. NICHOLSON

References

1 Jullab and Hujwir were two suburbs of Ghazna. Evidently he resided for some time in each of them.
2 Notices occur in the Nafahat al-Uns, No.377; the Safmat al-Awliya, No.298 (Ethe's Cat. Of the Persian V1SS. In the Library of the India Office, I, col.304); the Riyad al-Awliya, Or. 1745. f. 140a (Rieu's Cat. Of the Persian MSS. in the British Museum, iii,975). In the khatimat al-tab' on the last page of the Lahore edition of the Kashf al-Mahjub he is called Hadrat-I Data Ganj bakhsh 'Ali al- Hujwiri.
3 Nafahat, No.376. Through al-Khuttali, al-Husri, and Abu Bakr al-Shibli the author of the Kashf al-Mahjub is spiritually connected with Junayd of Baghdad (ob.297 A.H.)
4 Ibid., No.375. The nisba Shaqqani or Shaqani is derived from Shaqqan, a village near Nishapur.
5 Nafahat, No.367.
6 Ibid., No.368.
7 The date 465 A.H. is given by Azad in his biographical work on the famous men of Balgram, entitled Ma'athir al-Kiram.
8 See Ethe's Cat. Of the Persian MSS. in the India Office Library. No.1774 (2). The author of this treatise does not call al-Hujwiri the brother of Abu Sa'id b. Abi '1-Khayr. as Ethe says, but his spiritual brother (biradar-e haqiqat),
9 Its full title is Kashf al-mahjub li-arbab al-qulub (Hajji Khalifa, v, 215)
10 The author's view as to the worthlessness of outward forms of religion is expressed with striking boldness in his chapter on the Pilgrimage (pp.326-9)
11 Many passages from the Kashf al-Mahjub are quoted, word for word, in Jami's Nafahat al-L'ns, which is a modernized and enlarged recension of 'Abdullah Ansari's Tabaqat al-Sufiyya,
12 A summary of these doctrines will be found in the abstract of a paper on "The Oldest Persian Manual of Sufi'ism" which I read at Oxford in 1908 (Trans. Of the Third International Congress for the History of Religions, I, 2937)
13 Some of al-Hujwiri's twelve sects reappear at a later epoch as orders of dervishes, but the pedigree of those orders which trace their descent from ancient Sufis is usually fictitious.
14RAS., 1904, p. 130.
15 Cf., however, p.l 14, note.
16 See Ethe's Cat. Of the Persian MSS. in the India Office Library, I, col.970, where other MSS. are mentioned, and Blochet, Cat. Des manuscripts persans de la Bibliotheque Nationale, I, 261 (No.401).
 

REYNOLD A. NICHOLSON

 

 

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