Saturday, January 18, 2014

New 'edition' of a classic Taẕkira-ye ʿulamāʾ-ye Hind of Raḥmān ʿAlī

The Taẕkira-ye ʿulamāʾ-ye Hind [Tuḥfat al-fuḍalāʾ fī tarājim al-kumalāʾ] of Raḥmān ʿAlī (Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Shakūr), which until now has been available in a well known lithograph of 1312/1893 published by Newal Kishore in Lucknow has been recently re-edited/re-typeset by Majmaʿ-ye zakhāʾir-e islāmī in Qum in 1391 shamsī/2012 by Yūsuf Bēg Bābāpūr. 

The author - known as Raḥmān ʿAlī - was born in 1244/1829 into a scholarly service family – as he describes himself – of Avadh. He seems to have studied first in Fatehpūr (according to his autobiography) and then in Lucknow because he discusses a number of figures whom he met there including the renowned philosopher Fażl-e Ḥaqq Khayrābādī (d. 1862). In 1367/1851 he moved into service of Raghav Raj Singh in the princely state of Rēvān and was briefly ambassador to Jaipur.  He later joined British service and was made khān bahādur as part of the jubilee celebrations in 1887. On pages 116-18 is the biography of Shēr ʿAlī Aḥmadābādī, the father of the author and his first teacher who had been in the service of Āṣaf al-Dawla. It is a valuable source for the ʿulamāʾ of the Chishtī tradition as well as of Lucknow and Avadh (such as the divines of Farangī Maḥall), including major Shiʿi figures (primarily the khāndān-e ijtihād). Some basic accounts are also given for Mughal figures and those from a much earlier period. While some of the longer entries are obvious (such as Sirhindī), others are unusual choices such as Sayyid Muḥammad Jawnpūrī (d. 1505) who claimed to be the mahdī (pages 247-51). On page 304, there is a brief and laudatory notice on Sayyid Nūrullāh Shūshtarī (exe. 1610) mentioning his Shiʿism, ability, Majālis al-muʾminīn and being the judge of Lahore and his death date - it fails to mention that he was executed on the orders of the court. 

In the introduction, the editor mentions some other important tazkira works upon which this work draws (most of which are available in lithograph and numerous manuscripts in relevant libraries):

  • There are plenty of tazkira works from the Chishtī tradition: in particular, here it's worth mentioning Siyar al-aqṭāb of Ilāh-diya Chishtī written in 1056/1646 and which was lithographed by Newal Kishore 
  • Zubdat al-maqāmāt written in 1037/1627 focusing on Naqshbandī Sufis
  • Kalimāt al-ṣādiqayn of Muḥammad Ṣādiq Kashmīrī Hamadānī has 125 biographies and was written in the middle Mughal period (in the first half of the 17th century) 
  • A work that follows on from this is Zikr awliyāʾ-ye Dihlī by Muḥammad Ḥabībullāh Akbarābādī completed in 1140/1728
  • Majmaʿ al-awliyāʾ of Sayyid ʿAlī-Akbar Ḥusaynī Ardistānī from the middle of the 17th century which is particularly important on the Naqshbandī Sufis and Qādirīs presented to the Mughal rulers. The text includes one of the most extensive account of the life of the Sufi poet ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Jāmī (d. 1492). There is a wonderfully clear codex of this in the British Library's India Office collection
  • Asrār al-abrār focuses on Sufis of Kashmir
  • Maʿārif al-walāya of Ghulām Muʿīn al-Dīn Khwēshgī Qaṣūrī is a major compendium of Sufis 
  • Sawāṭiʿ al-anwār of Muḥammad Akram completed in 1142/1729 on the Chishtī tradition
  • Rawżat al-awliyāʾ of the famous Mīr Ghulām ʿAlī Āzād Bilgrāmī completed in 1161/1748; the lithograph is easily available 
  • Ẕikr al-aṣfiyāʾ fī takmilat Siyar al-awliyāʾ of Muḥammad Aḥmadpūrī which focuses on the 17th and 18th century biographies of Chishtīs

The re-typesetting is decently done. The main issue seems to be the unfamiliarity of the Indian context and hence sometimes place names are rather garbled or misunderstood (which is a common problem in Iranian studies of Indo-Persian material). There is a contents page at the end with the list of biographies in the work (which is arranged alphabetically). One wishes that the editor did more with this - perhaps attempt to follow up on details of some of the famous figures and give other sources for them in Nuzhat al-khawāṭir and other texts as well as fill in some of the dates and so forth.  There is much that could be done to improve it - somewhat like the new edition of Tunikābunī's Qiṣaṣ al-ʿulamāʾ is a much more user-friendly text than the old lithograph. 

[Incidentally the Urdu translation by Muḥammad Ayyūb Qādirī first printed in Karachi in 1961 is worth using. It is downloadable here.]

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