(First published 2009; Language: Urdu)
This is a hagiography, written in the old tradition of tazkira literature, of Shaykh Bahaud-dn Zakariya Multani (c. 1170 – 1267), who was the most prominent Sufi of the newly established Suhrawardi order in the regions of the then Northwestern India.
Given the nature of the book, I did not expect a comprehensive analysis of the belief system of this sufi, but, in addition to excessive praise, I at least expected to get a general view of his thought. In this respect this book has been an utter disappointment. So much so that I embarrassed myself by reading it from cover to cover.
The author sets out with the greatness and piety of the Shaykh, his steadfastness in faith, tireless quest for knowledge, travels to far off lands in search of the Truth (whatever it means), his numerous miracles and wonders which are identical to the miracles ascribed to the prophets, his clairvoyance, knowledge of the unseen and much more.
This book, however, contains some factual information about the life of Shaykh Zakariya and recounts a few prominent achievements for which he is known.
He left Multan (his birthplace, now in Pakistan) in early youth and set out on a long and perilous journey of Muslim mainlands for higher education in Islamic disciplines. He is reported to have travelled from city to city for almost three decades: Tus, Neshapur, Bukhara, Samarqand, Damascus, Aleppo, Mecca, Madina and finally Baghdad, spending time with the prominent teachers, before he returned to Multan in the latter part of his life.
He was primarily a jurist who, during his stay in Baghdad, got attracted to the teachings of Abu Hafs Umar al-Suhrawardi (who was the nephew of the eponym of the order Abu al-Najib al-Suhrawardi). who then initiated him into the Suhrawardi tariqah and ordered Zakariya to return to his homeland to spread the message of Suhrawardiyah.
Shaykh Zakariya’s life and activities back in his native city gets some detailed attention in the book. He belonged to a family of religious judges (qadis), a very wealthy family which enjoyed influence with Muslim overlords. In time he became heir to the family fortune which, according to the book, he spent in the cause of religion. He constructed a huge madrassa in Multan which housed students, travellers, shelterless and teachers imported from Muslim mainlands. His fame and piety won a lot of converts to Islam, which, in turn, he sent over to far off lands for tabligh. Shaykh Zakariya is reported to have sent teams of students to Far East countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and other areas to spread Islam. His disciple-preachers reported to have won multitudes of converts.
The book also tells about the schism between him and the governor of Multan Nasir al-Din Qabacha. The latter ruled the province under the authority of the Sultan of Mamluk Dynasty (Slave Dynasty of Delhi), Sultan Shams al-Din Iltutmish. The governor of Multan is reported to have been jealous of the Shaykh and tried to sully his name in the eyes of the people. He used many means to achieve this end but, according to the book, failed. But we don’t know the nature of the dispute between the Shaykh and the governor, whether it was theological or just political or a mix of both, because the author tends to ascribe all opposition to the Shaykh a result of jealousy and ill-will; a likely explanation a hagiography can offer.
My book rating: 1/5