Transformations & Continuities in Islamic Intellectual Thought Conference – Literary Landscapes

– I’d like to welcome everyone
today to the final panel. My name is Ian Almond. I’m gonna introduce very quickly to you our two distinguished panelists. We have Dr. Mufti Mudasir
who is an Associate Professor in the Department of English
at the University of Kashmir, fluent in Urdu, Arabic,
Persian and Kashmiri, and also one of the Penguin
Classics translators for Ghani Kashmiri. And then we will also be hearing from Professor Bachamiya Abdul Hussainmiya who is currently a Visiting Professor at the Southeastern
University of Sri Lanka, and taught for 28 years
in the History department of the University of Brunei Darussalam. And he asked me to say something extra, but I will leave it to him
to articulate it fully. So we will begin with Dr. Mufti. – Thank you. Okay, so I want to thank
Professor Ian Almond and the organizers of this conference for inviting me to make
my presentation here. My paper is titled, The
Politics of the Indian Style: The Use of Literary Persian
during the Mughal Decline And I would straightway go to my paper because I don’t think I
have much time, 20 minutes, I will try to condense it
and say as much as I can. I’m talking about a particular
style in Persian poetry, which is sometimes called Sabk-e Hindi. Sabk-e means style; and
Hindi, of course, is Indian. The term, Sabk-e Hindi,
or the Indian style designates a style in Persian poetry that thrived roughly from the
middle of the 16th century to the end of the 18th century in the Persian-speaking world. Since this period witnessed
the growth, consolidation and decline of the two
great Muslim empires, the Mughals in the Indian subcontinent and the Safavids in Iran, the style has come to be seen as a defining feature of
Mughal Safavid literature. My aim is to point to and criticize the dominant
narrative in scholarship, which characterizes this style
as a peculiarly Indian style. To make this clear I
will critically analyze the views of some prominent scholars, literary critics and historians who hold that the term Sabk-e
Hindi is perfectly justified because it captures the essential element of Indianness in the
literature of the period. The premise on which
they base their argument is sometimes explicitly articulated as Indianization of the Persian, which refers to the supposed influence of the peculiar Indian
religio-cultural ethos on the Persian poetry of the period. Contrary to this view, I argue that the so-called
Indian-style poetry bears no distinctive marks of Indianness. The politics of Sabk-e Hindi,
therefore, lies precisely in the appropriation of
the poetry of the period into a nationalistic paradigm, which relies on the notion of Mughal India as a socio-religious entity
defined by religious tolerance, pluralism and multiculturalism and counterpoises it to the
rest of the Islamic world, which is presumed to have
been characterized as more or less a monolithic cultural reality. The so-called Indianization
of Persian thesis should therefore be seen
as an attempt to provide an ideological basis to the idea of India as a great melting point
of cultural synthesis. I argue that the idea is
presumed rather than proved. I will analyze the views of some of the most notable scholars, very briefly, of course, who
have propounded this idea and point out the flaws in their argument. I would then proceed
to offer a perspective already suggested by some
scholars on the so-called Indian style, which is
best captured by the term, Taza-goy, or speaking afresh, used by the practitioners
of this style themselves, which meant saying
something new or something, or in a fresh way. Finally, I will refer
to some of the debates around the use of Persian
in India in the 18th and 19th centuries to argue
that the nationalistic paradigm in which the question of Indian style has been forcibly fitted fails to explain why the part spends in those
debates never mentioned, let alone defended any Indianness, and why the disagreements
over the language transcended the division
on nationalistic lines. I begin with one of the
most oft-cited essay by the distinguished Urdu critic of India, Shamsur Rahman Faruqi. The name of that essay,
title of that essay is, Stranger in the City:
Poetics of Sabk-e Hindi, which begins with a verse
of Asadullah Khan Ghalib (speaking in foreign language) If there is a knower of
tongues here, fetch him. There is a stranger in the city and he has many things to say. The verse provides a telling
opening to the essay, which despite some of
its valuable insights and remarkable stylistic
analysis of verses takes for granted the idea
of Indianization of Persian. Faruqi, after naming a few Indian poets such as Faizi, Bedil, Khan-e
Arzu and Azad Bilgrami, who knew Sanskrit notes, and I quote, “Instances of such
cross-lingual fertilization “between two languages over the centuries “should be hard to find “in other pre-modern traditions in Asia.” End quote. Faruqi also asserts that
the poetics of Sabk-e Hindi reveals an unmistakable
distance from the classical Arabic-Persian theories
of meaning where ambiguity or polyvalence is not
considered a literary virtue. Since all Arabic literary
theory has its roots in the Quranic exegesis whose primary aim is to arrive at the authorial intention, literary criticism in the Islamic world was heavily influenced
by this orientation. As against this Faruqi finds
the poets of Sabk-e Hindi consciously exploiting the
inherent ambiguities of language to create polyvalent poetic texts. Contrary to the Arabic-Persian
tradition in which deliberate ambiguity or
plurivalence is absent, poets of Sabk-e Hindi, and I quote, “Revel and delight in
making poems do more than “or different from what
one expects them to do.” End quote. And then, of course, he cites some poets, Amir Khusrau, for example. For Faruqi, Sabk-e Hindi culminates in Mirza Abdul-Qadir Bedil’s poetry, which clearly bears the
influence of sophistic or even general non-Islamic
mystical dimension. Bedil’s valorization of
silence is seen by Faruqi as the culminating point
in the Sabk-e Hindi poets’ attempt to push language to its limits. And as in the verse of Faruqi, I quote, “Language often lets the poet down.” Unquote, again, any student
of classical Persian can come up with numerous
examples of the idea of limitation of language
in explaining subtle, especially mystical thoughts. For example, Rumi’s famous Persian verse (speaking in foreign language) Oh Lord, show my soul the station where speech flows without words. Faruqi does not try to
conceal his politics as is evident in his
criticism of Shibli Nomani, the great Indian literary historian, who wrote a five-volume
work on Persian poetry called Sher-ul-Ajam. Although Shibli does show admiration for some poets associated with the school, his overall estimation of
Sabk-e Hindi is not high. Faruqi sees this as an
unwarranted betrayal by an Indian, hence his jibe at Shibli,
given such friends, I quote, “Given such friends
one doesn’t need enemies.” Unquote, in the last section of his essay he bemoans the demise
of Indo-Persian culture and he describes it as a
political cultural power and an integrating force. Now this was just one example
of Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, but not only literary critics, historians, and most notable of them is Muzaffar Alam, who in many of his books and his essays comes up with this idea of
what he very clearly calls the Indianization of Persian. And this is a quote from
Muzaffar Alam who says that, “These developments show the
expanding territory of Persian “and also imply its gradual Indianization, “which according to some meant
the dilution of the purity “of the earlier Persian speech.” Unquote, there is another very intriguing and interesting quote by Muzaffar
Alam, which is like this. “New Persian symbolized the
vanquished Ajams endeavored “to conquer the Arab
conquerors culturally.” For Alam, Persian poetry had
already integrated many themes and ideas from pre-Islamic Persia and had been an important vehicle of liberalism in the
medieval Muslim world. The same he thinks was
repeated in the Indian context. Persian poetry helped in no
insignificant way in creating and supporting the Mughal attempt to accommodate diverse
religious traditions. The unusual complexity
of much of Indian style has led to another speculation,
which plainly states that the success of Mogul empire in India depended upon how it forged
a new Indian identity from diverse philosophies. And since poetry was a
powerful means to do so, the poets of this
persuasion put their ideas in indirect and complex language. Akbar’s court poets, Urfi and Faizi are especially credited with secularism and free thinking in
defiance of the orthodox and reactionary ideas and values, which were followed by the earlier poets. And indeed such a hazardous
task could only be carried out cautiously under the cover
of metaphorical language capable of being interpreted
in more than one way. The much favored device of Iham or double-entendre where a
word simultaneously means more than one thing is
therefore interpreted as an indirect way of challenging
religious orthodoxy. Something which is very often described as a characteristic
mark of Sabk-e Hindi poetry. Now, I mean this is
such a persistent thing in scholarship that critic after critic and scholar after scholar
is repeating the same. Rajeev Kinra, although making
some significant departures from this narrative
still uses this phrase, provocative and antinomian
poetry of the Mughal period. And his thesis is that one of the reasons that there was a mass migration from Safavid Iran to Mughal India was that in Iran the poets
did not have the freedom to express what he calls provocative and antinomian themes in
poetry, and they found the same, this kind of atmosphere or
environment in the Mughal India. Now having stated this thesis, now I go on to say something about it. As is already known that
this term, Sabk-e Hindi, was actually coined by
Iranian critics to designate what they felt was a decadent style and in Persian poetry and for which they held
Indian poets responsible. And this is now very well-known, but I want to just go to this passage. The consolidation of British rule in India meant the dethroning of Persian
as the language of power, prestige and literary culture. Although in their early
years it must be noted, the British promoted
rather than discouraged Persian learning, as can be
seen in their establishment of the madrasa or Mohammedan College in 1781, but the new educational
policy adopted by the British meant a reversal of the
earlier attitude to Persian. The pronouncement of Lord William Bentinck in the Resolution of
March 1835 already stated by Thomas Macaulay
before was that in future the motive of the company
should be the promotion of European literature and
science through English language. So historians and critics who deferred with the British colonial
and Indian nationalist historiography on the character
and function of Persian in its heyday in India tried to construct a different narrative. One that posited a seminal
role for the Persian language in the Indian context, which
was culturally distinct from the rest of the Islamic world because of the convergence
of diverse religious, philosophical and cultural currents. Now a very important
figure for the propounders of this theory of Sabk-e
Hindi is Amir Khusrau. Now Amir Khusrau is credited
with founding Hindawi, which is a source of both Hindi and Urdu. He is considered to be the chief architect of Indo-Persian tradition. His mastery over a
number of languages like Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Turkish, which enabled him to contribute
richly to this tradition is also seen as a mark of
India as a unique place of amalgamation of diverse linguistic and religious traditions. Now Khusrau famously
called himself Tuti-e-Hind, and in one of his verses he says that “I am a Turk of Hindustan,
I answer in Hindawi. “I don’t have Egyptian
sugar to speak Arabic.” In Section three of Nuh Sipihr, which is a title of one of his works. Khusrau presents an imaginative and largely fanciful image of India as a land akin to paradise. He even appeals to some Islamic narratives to create a portrait of India as a land gifted by God in many ways. A reason for India’s greatness is Khusrau is that he lives in it. One of the fascinating and
greatly admirable things about Indian culture according to Khusrau is the practice of sati, which shows the devotion
of a wife to her husband, a devotion that can only be
found in India and nowhere else. And now the narrative in question, of course, does not mention
Amir Khusrau’s works such as Miftah ul-Futuh,
which is the first war epic or Rasmia written in Muslim India celebrating the victories
of Jalal-ud-din Khalji or Khazain-ul-futuh,
with its glorification of the triumph of the
Turk against the Hindu, not to talk of discerning
the glorification of the Muslim power in
his love epic, Ashiqa, which relates the romantic love story of Alauddin Khalji’s son, Khizr Khan for the Hindu princess
of Gujarat, Deval Rani. Now a paragraph (mumbles) problems in the conceptual
category of Sabk-e Hindi, which presents challenges,
which have mostly been glossed over by its advocates
as well as its detractors. Both of him tried to link
it to the Indian context. It is known that the poets
most often considered as its practitioners never used the term. Instead they used, they called
their poetry Taza-goy or (speaking in foreign language) Secondly, these poets already
had established reputations before they migrated to India. Nahavandi, the chronicler at the court of the famous Mughal noble,
Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana in his Masire Rahimi tells us that Urfi had
already won accolades for his Taza-goy before coming to India. Naziri Nisapuri, Urfi Shirazi, Taleb Amoli, Kaleem
Kashani and Saebe Tabrizi, and the Indian Faizi, all
of whom are considered to be the best representatives
of the Indian style betray no self-consciousness of this supposed
Indianness of their poetry. What they are exceedingly
conscious of, however, is their newness or Taza-goy. And some of them lay
claim quite acceptable in Persian poetic tradition
of Talli or Taffakur to being pioneers of this newness. Now there are quotes, for example, Taleb saying that he is the
pioneer of this new style or Saebe saying that
(speaking in foreign language) Saebe says, you have made life difficult for those who know poetry. Saebe, why such intense search
for unfamiliar meanings? So in fact this desire for
speaking afresh can explain well the context in which the
new style flourished. Instead of viewing
Taza-goy as a product of a collective fresh new world view, it is more rewarding to see
how this newness was propelled by the desire to create new meanings from an already existing
repertoire of images and symbols. For example, Faizi says
(speaking in foreign language) If poetry be adorned by you, let there be new meanings, but old words. And Kashmir’s famous Persian poet, Ghani Kashmiri puts it like, (speaking in foreign language) A colorful theme applied
again gives no pleasure, how can color come from
henna if applied twice. So the idea is that we have to look at the genre of ghazal as a kind of poetry to understand the need felt by the poets for speaking afresh. One has to note that the Persian ghazal is a highly conventional literary form, which has exhibited a remarkable degree of structural and thematic continuity over a period of eight centuries or so. With its fixed meters,
well-established images and tropes and a peculiar form where all verses end with a refrain, it is not surprising that repetitions and imitations of previous text are a common feature in the ghazal. This highly conventional
nature of the ghazal imposes certain restrictions
on the practitioner constraining his freedom of
expression to fit the form. I’m skipping the rest, and I now come to the the last section, which I will try to
sum up in five minutes. This section deals with some
important literary disputes, which took place during
the 18th and 19th centuries in the Indian subcontinent
between literary scholars, which in my opinion are useful in understanding the dynamics
of nationalistic discourses and literary expression. They throw in too sharp, relieve the fallacy of
framing the controversies over language into a paradigm, which puts them in a binary of the Iranian and the imaginary Indianized Persian. I argue that these
controversies reveal an anxiety in the Indian users of Persian to prove themselves to
be its competent users. Far from being a division
between the Iranians and Indians, these controversies were centered on the questions of
correctness and eloquence and divided Indians
themselves into two groups. Again, there is little to suggest that literary criticism of
the period is conscious of any Indianness in either style or content to be sure the notion of
the so-called Indianness was invoked by some
like Hazein, Ali Hazein and Ghalib as a part of a
polemics against their opponents, while Hazein clearly exhibited
a linguistic chauvinism in censuring all Indian poets. Ghalib was motivated by
a desire to prove himself superior to his contemporary Indian peers. Hence, his boast here and there that I’m from (speaking
in foreign language) Ghalib was a nightingale
from a garden in Persia. I was mistaken to call
him a parrot of India. And finally about these debates, the debates between
Siraj-ud-Din Ali Khan Arzu and Ali Hazein and the
books that were written during this period. In Shah Jahan’s time, for example. Munir Lahori wrote Karnamaya Munir describing the attitude of
Iranians towards Indians and deploring the arrogance of the former towards the latter. Lahori also defends the
style of earlier poets and criticizes the new style poets for what he termed as
their over-improvisation convoluted style, use of
hyperbole, strange metaphors and ambiguous constructions. In the preface Lahori
writes that he has seen many contemporary poets
mocking the style of classical Persian poets. He witnessed an assembly
where some new poets boasted of the greatness
of Urfi and Taleb Amoli, and he ridiculed the past masters like Rasjuddin Nisapuri, Kamal Isfahani, Amir Khusrau, Salman Savoji. And he writes (speaking
in foreign language) They reckon them small and poor. Siraj-ud-Din Ali Khan
Arzu wrote a rebuttal of Munir Lahori’s Karnama. The (mumbles) is purposefully
titled Siraj al-Munir, which simultaneously
means the glowing lamp and the lamp torching Munir
aims to refute Lahori’s charges against the poets of Tarse Taaza or the new style especially
the four reputed ones: Urfi Shirazi, Taleb Amoli,
Jalali and Zuhri Turshizi. Arzu condemns that
Lahori’s misunderstanding or misconstrue stems from
his inability to fathom the nuances of metaphorical usage. Arzu was in turn refuted
by Waras Tasial Koti and Abdul Hakeem-Lahori. So, and the debate goes on
between Indians themselves on the question of what
constitutes the correct and eloquent style of in Persian poetry and Siraj-ud-Din Ali Khan Arzu emerge as a very prominent figure in this. And I just want to refer to one book of Siraj-ud-Din Ali Khan Arzu, I have not really discussed
his Siraj-ul-Lught or some other works that he wrote. Arzu’s Musmir discusses the
commonalities in Persian and Sanskrit, but this should
not be seen as an attempt to postulate a distinctly Indian-Persian. Although Arzu observed correspondence between the two languages on phonological, morphological and semantic levels, he did not unlike William
Jones a few decades later postulate a single source
of these languages. To conclude, and this is the
last thing I have to say. To conclude re-examining
the conceptual category of Sabk-e Hindi in the light
of the discussion above allows us to see it as
a historically produce and bound a national imaginary narrative. Indeed there is a need to
reevaluate the Indo-Persian literatary tradition from a perspective that is fully aware of
the problems inherent in nationalistic historiography,
the dominant paradigm so far among the Indian critics
after independence. Thank you. (audience applauds) – I wish to thank the organizers
for giving me a opportunity to present a paper in this conference. Well, I mean, as you see I
am the last man standing, (laughs) but at the same time I’m also the odd man in this whole conference. Here we are talking
about great intellectual transformation changes
involving the Arab, Turkish, Safavid, Mughal period, and here I come from a
small island of Sri Lanka, a very notorious island famous
for its internal strife. And here I am going to come in and say what significance
the island of Sri Lanka hauls in the whole gamut of
this intellectual thought from the 16th to 19th century. After all Sri Lanka is not an easy place. Our ancestral great father,
Adam, set foot in my country, so much so people like Ibn
Battuta came all the way to visit that mountain. And the other foot, of
course, we know was imprinted not far away from here in Jeddah. So that much I can have
a claim for Sri Lanka. First thing I had to do is, I had to justify my presence here and I must tell my methodology
and what my approach here. As the professor says, I am using an out-and-out
a historical approach. And within the part of
the intellectual history, I’m going to compare what really happened between the Western Islamic scholarship. When I say Western, I’m
talking about Turkish, Safavid Moguls versus
the Malay scholarship. So what is my chance for this? Now I had to publicize myself a little bit why this whole event, where
I’m fitting into this system? This was the picture taken
when I happened to discover more than 200 manuscript for
the first time in Sri Lanka, which consisted of Arabic, Arabic-Tamil, Malay manuscripts, which
really became a great hit towards the Malay world is concerned. When this news came up, this picture was taken and sent all over the world
because the Malay world, the so-called Malay world,
which is in the East was very excited to find out that they never expected the
small island of Sri Lanka to be in this part of the Malay world through the intellectual
exchange of traditions. I’ll come to that. As you know this context between West and East is not something new, this has been going on for ages. My position is why Sri
Lanka has become important because of the reason why Indian Ocean became an important seaway in this. I think already one or two
speakers have mentioned the importance of Indian Ocean as a transmitting point
between the Islamic intellectual tradition from the Turkish and Safavid areas and
also to the Malay area. I have a point to say that, that what happened in the Malay world, I will come to that point. Malay world was actually what happened not between the Islamic
thought and the Malay world, Malay world in the East. It has been already happening
even in the pre-islamic time during the Hindu period. During the Hindu period, the
ideas, the ideas of kingship, ideas of religion, ideas of
justice, ideas of conduct were transmitted by Brahmins to Malayan world where they have
Hindu kingdoms at the period. When Islam appeared on the scene, Islam actually followed the same tradition of taking these ideas
from the West to the East just like what the previous Brahmins did. So my point is that now
we are talking about 16th, 17th century, that is during
the pre-print culture era when printing presses
came to exist in Cairo, Istanbul, Mumbai, Singapore,
Colombo and other places linked to the study, which
produced and duplicated, prolific publications is
critically important to trace the nucleus
formation of common themes for creating Islamic epics and kitab literature by the Arab-Persians, Indians and the Malay people. Now I don’t want to go over this thing, as you know the very important
face of Indian Ocean, which is a meeting point
of this, all the oceans. And the importance of Indian Ocean is at the southernmost tip of
India all the main coastal ports were there, like
Calicut on this side, on the Malabar side and all these places where the Arabs were able to stay to take the next ship using
the inter-monsoonal changes. So during this period, we see
emergence of a hybrid type of Islamic people emerging, who had Arab fathers and
the indigenous people, like Malabaris and also Tamilians. And their progeny, the
most populated Sri Lanka to a great extent and here
you have got another culture, not the West, not the Malay East, but you get a Southasian Islamic culture, which is also very critically important in the transmission of Islamic knowledge and ideas in the 16th, 17th centuries as I’ll be coming across. This Indian Ocean became
the crossing point of Europeans, Chinese, Arabs, Persians and Indians seeking
varied coastal markets. I have written out all
these points, very details. My paper, you can get it from the, I think I will avoid this, because I had to come to
contribute to this conference from the point of Sri Lanka. This is a part of the things. Again, I was talking about
the ports of South India. Here you get all the important ports: Goa, Calicut, Cochin, all
these highly Islamized ports. And on the Coromandel Coast, we have got Kayalpatnam, Kilakarai, (mumbles) everything Islamized. And you can see Sri Lanka
at the bottom of it. By nature itself the sea lanes have to cross through Sri Lanka. So Sri Lanka, and not only
Sri Lanka, even Maldives became very important
point in this transmission of ideas from West to East. Now I don’t want to talk again too much about Islam in Southeast Asia. Islam in Southeast Asia established somewhere in the 10th century, and the height of the period started from 13th and 14th century. And as a result of Islamization, all the coastal states,
we call peninsula states and archipelagic states like Indonesia, Malaysia became Islamized. And although Islam was
established on the 13th century, 14th century, the real
intellectual apprise, or what do you call
intellectual contributions began only from the 16th century. Now this is what next
I’m going to find out. What is the significance of the period from 16th to 18th centuries? Now the long-term
intra-oceanic connections that existed since the advent of Islam among the Arab-Persian
and the Indian Ocean Muslim communities thrived further between these two centuries. And with the advent of
Europeans in Asian waters pioneered by the Portuguese in 1498 by circling the Cape of Good Hope, the Muslim kingdoms faced threats, not just in the expansion trade, but also in preserving their religious and intellectual traditions. In other words, the Islamic
kingdoms in the East had to go into a self-preservation mode. Already the great Malacca
kingdom in the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula,
the home of glorious Islam and intellectual virility
fell in the year 1511. That is early part of 16th century. So the new coastal kingdoms
emerged to fill the vacuum of the Malacca empire in the East. The great Muslim empires
of the Ottoman Turk, Safavids of Iran and Moguls India thrived during this period. So I’m trying to tie up these two things exactly on the period when Islam states were emerging in the East, that is a time and all these three great ruling kingdoms were thriving. Now here we have seeing the
Islamic empire, the common, I’ve poached it from the internet. How the Islamic kingdoms is
connected to Southeast Asia, it’s a very map to understand, and through India and Sri Lanka these connections have been made, right. So I’ve written something
on Ottoman Turks, which I don’t think I need to repeat here. Then I’ve written something for Safavids from 1501 to 1736 just to prove the point that how the coexistence of
these three great empires have contributed to the idea
exchanges for this period, just as what happened
in the previous period. Then, of course, the Mogul empire we know from 1516 to 1857, Mogul empires too. So all these three, three great kingdoms have something to do with
the intellectual virility or intellectual activities
in the Southeast Asia. Now 17th and 18th century. What happened in 17th century, the most critical
important state was Aceh. Aceh was at the tip of the Sumatra, you can see the blue color,
the Pasai, Samudera Pasai. That was one of the early
stage to embrace Islam. And that is a very important nodal point for traders to pass through, and that created a very heavy Kingdom. And at that time already Portuguese and Dutch were active in Southeast Asia. And that is the kingdom
produced highest number of the well-known Islamic
intellectuals in the Malay world. Next come the Johor Kingdom. Johor is in the southern
part of peninsula. What I’m trying to say to you is, by the time 16th, 17th century started, very critically important kingdoms, like Pahang, Johor, Aceh had emerged already
in Southeast Asia. And these are the kingdoms, which nurtured and helped
Islam, not only Islam to thrive, for Islamic intellectual
tradition also to take roots. Right, and let me here briefly say, what were the most important names in the Southeast Asian Islam? Now we know all the
great names on the West as scholars we understand. Now I can point out this
great Hamzah Fansuri. Hamzah traveled widely
and was known to have visited the Malay Peninsula, Mughal India, Mecca and Medina and Baghdad. He was one of the first Southeast Asian to complete the Hajj. The date of his death is generally assumed to be around 1590. However, an inscription on a gravestone found in Mecca for Sheikh
Hamzah Bin Abdullah Al-Fansuri recorded date of 1527. Now Hamzah Fansuri actually is a writer, well-known writer, Sumatran Sufi and mystical pantheistic
in the Malay language. And he is the first to
introduce Jawi script or Arabic script to
write the Islamic poetry. And his poetry of Sufism still remain as greatest example of Sufi thinking in the Malay world. The next person will be, this is the Malay world I’m
talking, all the green (mumbles) All this, all this, in fact
part and parcel of this great intellectual changes that is
occurring during this period. Now there is a second
person I can quote it, you can see the date, 1615 to 1693, he is Abdul Rauf al Singkel. Abdul Rauf got his
early education in India before continuing studies in Mecca with Sheik Abu Hafas Umar
Bin Abdullah Bashahibban. He also received education
in Medina, Jeddah, Mecca, Mokha, Zavid and Belaifakih for over 19 years. Apart from that he also received education in Aceh and Palembang. Among his teachers identified
were not less than 15 people, including Abdul Qadeer Maori in Mecca, Ahmad Qureshi in Medina, and Burhan al-Din Maula
Ibrahim Ibh Hassan Al-Kurani. He’s authored a very
famous Malay work called Miratal At-Tullab Fi Tashif
Marifat Al-Ahkam Ash Shariyyah L-Malik Al-Wahhab, Um Al-Muhtajin. And Kifayaf Al-Muhtajin among other works on Fiqh and Tasawwuf. And mind you, all these works
were found in Sri Lanka also. So that is the link I’m
bringing Sri Lanka into this intellectual exchange traditions. Now other very important person
is Sheikh Yusuf Al Makassar. He was in Sri Lanka for four years and he was a great fighter and was expelled by the
Dutch to Sri Lanka first and he wrote several four
or five kitabs in Sri Lanka. One is a famous al-Barakat al-Salaniyyah. And the rest of the kitabs
he wrote in South Africa because the Dutch feared
that Sheik Yusuf Al Makassar, 1626 to 1699 was very popular leader, an Alim and a Sufi, the
Indonesians will land in Sri Lanka to capture him and send him back. So the Dutch feared that this will happen and they re-exiled them
to the South Africa where he died. So according to the Malay belief that his Krama or his grave are scattered all over the places in Sri Lanka, in Banten and also in South Africa. Why I’m mentioning all these names? From the dates you can see, these were some of the great names who have produced many kitabs for in terms of Islamic traditions. Now the religious and epics literature, how many minutes, how long I have? (mumbles) Oh, yes. Well, I think I better come back to, when I talked about Sri Lanka
too much, a little bit of it. I’m just leaving you to understand and you can read my paper, how the Islamic literature in this part of the world derived mostly from the examples they got it from great,
great intellectual scholars who were living in Mecca. And all these people learnt mostly Arabic and the literature at Makkah and (mumbles) So that’s how these people ended up here. Let me go fast back to Sri Lanka. Now Sri Lanka is a focal point. You can see how a tiny
Sri Lanka in the dot, in the world map, that is Sri Lanka. Here, there was a well-established Arab-Moor society emerged. Even today Sri Lanka has
8% of the Islamic people. They’re mostly Tamil speakers, they are the descendants of Arab fathers and the Tamil, Tamil and Malayalis. So they are known as Moors. Now arrival of the Portuguese arrested the spread of Islam island-wide. According to Tennent, if
not for the Portuguese Islam would have become the sole national religion of Sri Lanka. A British writer who saw, so he thought that just like
Maldives, like Malaysia, Sri Lanka would have been 100% Islamized, if not for the intervention
of the Portuguese in 1505. And to this country a new
group of people joined, that is from Malay and Indonesia, and I belong to that one of those group. These Malay people came largely as exiles, political exiles, Indonesian princes, kings was exiled to Sri Lanka and they were followed with
quite a lot of workers, particularly working in
the Dutch and British army. And they were mainly military people like Gurkhas of India. And those people brought along
with them important kitabs. Important kitabs belonging to
the Indonesian royal families. Right, yes, 1974 discovery
of significant amount of manuscripts, lithographed
and printed material in Jawi script, you know about Jawis, Arabic script adapted to
write Malay is Jawi script that date back to 17th and 18th centuries. Replica of Islamic learning
that prevailed in the Nusantara. Nusantara mean the Indonesia
and Malaysia put together as seen from many kitab, Tasawwuf and Fiqh written
by Sheikh Yusuf Makassar, Shaikh Rauf al-Singkel,
Shaikh Shamsuddin al-Pasai, and Shaikh Nuruddin al-Raniri and others were found in Sri Lanka. Significance of Tuhfah
e-Serandib, a catechistic text. Now I happen to discover another
important text in Chennai, which is Tuhfah e-Serandib,
which is talking about the Wahdatul Wujudiyyah or (mumbles) concept when the concept of Monism was thriving, Sri Lanka became the Center for studies, and in Sri Lanka was a home
and haven of Sufis, Sufism. And whose (mumbles) the
Indonesian Princes studied. So when the Indonesian
exiles came to Sri Lanka and worked with the Sufi people who are mostly from the West, either it could be Iranian, Iranian Sufis or it could be Baghdadi Sufis, there were two important
people mentioned in history. One is Ibrahim, one is Idris. So in other words, Idrisiah and Shattariyya orders were in
Sri Lanka in the 17th century where the Indonesian kings and princes and their progeny sat at
their feet in Sri Lanka and studied Islam thoroughly. And mind you, when they
went back to Indonesia, when they took power,
Indonesia like Yogyakarta, it was those people who
studied in Sri Lanka Islam, they became the ministers in Indonesia. So that way Sri Lanka
was quite significant. Now this is what I’m talking about it. This, the people Malay
people were regiment people. Now nobody knew that these regiment people were working with the
British as their soldiers had any kind of education or even any kind of intellectual activity, but suddenly as I said
in 1974 when I discovered there the whole theory
was proven not right because they were not
only brawny soldiers, but they were brainy people, just as much as they were
fighting for the British, they were also kept up a
very strong traditions of Islamic learning in Sri Lanka. Derived from all the great
Islamic intellectual leaders I just mentioned. All their works were also
studied thoroughly in Sri Lanka. And this is one of the Alim, of course, is very late period, very famous man. He is the first man to publish a newspaper in Sri Lanka in Malay. First the whole Malay world in
Sri Lanka has been published. You can see from their dress. Although he belongs to the 19th century, this tradition would
have continued before. And this is how one of our
typical alim of the period would have looked like. Now these are some of the manuscripts I discovered in Sri Lanka. Quite a number of them, 200 of them, and some are still not worked out. We need to study them. And at the moment I’m
working on two manuscripts. Right, finished. So here I’m trying to
tell you the relationship between Tamil and Arabic. Arabic, both are
returning the same script. The reason why Islamic
intellectual tradition thrived in Sri Lanka was because they were using a common script like Sindhis. Urdu, of course, little advanced, but in Sri Lanka they
used to write both Arabic and Tamil in the same kind of script. I’m just showing some of
the Sri Lankan Malays, they are current traditional Malays, and I want to show something of the Moors. So those are Sri Lankan Moors. Of course, those caps they wore late period during the time
of the Fez, Fez institution with then Sultan Abdul (mumbles) They emulated that. The Turkey was having a strong influence in the 19th century. These are the contemporary Sri
Lankan Malay people, right. Yeah, concluding question. Concluding, I must tell
you some of these things. I have a theory I need to work on. See, the Western Arabic Islam (mumbles) is somewhat deeper in origin. And they spread around very deep meaning, but as far as the Malay
Islamic scholarship, there’s only two aspects as
far as my learning is going on. One is (mumbles) the other
one is mostly Tasawwuf. For some reason the Tasawwuf
has attracted quite a lot. And if you see the Malay kitab, most of them are either adapted, derived or reworked Sufi work. So this is very good aspect of it. I need to work out on this. Anyway this conference has
opened up my own thoughts because in my studies, I’ve
done my PhD on this area. I never thought in terms
of the 16th, 17th century. I’ve only discovered this manuscript, I started describing as such, but from this conference
I have to think about what really happened
in 16th, 17th century. Why did the Western scholarship or Islamic scholarship could
have thrived to a great extent than in the Malay world? Partly because the Malay world did not have a very strong
tradition of madhhabs and also the madrasas. They started quite late. So what they needed was some basic ideas about how to bathe a
corpse, how to take wudhu, that kind of thing. So even in the 17th century, that is what becoming
very popular and famous. So in a society where they are trying to Islamize in a practical way, I don’t think there will
be deeper intellectual kind of questioning happening, even so. Even so the people who
are involved in that, they were attracted this
so-called Sufi tradition. So this is the thing
I’m trying to work out. And thanks for this great opportunity, when I go back I’ll work on this thing and think not only about Sri Lanka, about what happened in
the Southeast Asian Islam. – Okay. – So has to be worked out. – All right, I also want to thank you for this great opportunity. – Okay, thank you. – Thank you very much. (audience applauds) – So I know we’re pressed for time, but we’re gonna allow
just for some questions. I think it’s Refad, is it? Please. – I wish I could, I mean,
basically I should try to ask a question to both of you because I don’t have first-hand experience or knowledge or the kind
of scholarship you do. So the question that actually persists from other presentations today is the question of culture. And no one has actually addressed the phenomenon you’re dealing with. You dealt with it as religion, Islam, rather than what people
under the same umbrella invented together is a common culture. And you basically pointed
out there’s a propensity. There was no force in conversion, there were no missionaries in that sense, the way the Christianity
actually produced missionaries. And in a way forced it on non-Christians, whether in Africa or in Europe. So the question becomes, there seems to be some kind of sympathetic receptivity to Islam that actually finds a home. It’s not forced, nobody is imposing it, it seems to be a choice, and basically that’s your question. What’s the explanation? And I turn the question to the two of you and see if you can
actually bring us your own estimates of an answer to the question. – Okay, okay, thank you. I’m gonna collect the
another question, Sajid, and then I might collect a third question and then as we are on the time pressures. – [Sajid] I have a question
for, for Mufti Saab. In terms of how Sabk-e Hindi is constructed as a polemic, both internal and also external, I’m interested in how it relates
to other languages as well. So, for example, do you
find the same polemic about an Indian style of Arabic writing because, of course, there’s
a lot of Arabic poetry and prose being produced, both in India and the wider kinds of notion of Hind, and especially with some
of the poetry produced by someone like Bilgrami,
Azad Bilgrami on this, do you find the similar kind of polemic about a Arabic Sabk-e Hindi, and then that maybe tells us something about the way in which
identity is being contested with respect to language in this period? – Okay, and then maybe a third question before I turn to our panelists. Is there a third question? Gentleman over there. – [Man] I have a question about, you mentioned about the (mumbles) – Could you speak up again and say the question again please? – [Man] Yeah, sorry. A question on the (mumbles)
that Hussainmiya was mentioning. I would like to know more about why did, not only its condensed, you mentioned that it discusses (mumbles) but how did it end up in Chennai and its language and when was
it written and those things? – Okay, well, it’s just
those three questions. (mumbles) – You are right, sir. Islam in Southeast Asia,
this is one thing we learned that never spread by sword or force. There were a lot of
reasons why people had to, they surrendered themselves
peacefully to Islamic. According to my understanding the trade, trade accompanied with great Sufi leaders who come with
them were treated almost like a Puritan type of people. And the Malay people were
generally we call it more, more than others very
much propensity for magic. And they’re treated or they’re considered some of these Sheikhs who arrived there with the pure white, white Jubba and with their great
conduct, the prayers, etc. as great leaders unlike locals. So what really happened
was the local rulers who gave their daughters in
marriage to this Puritan sheik, and their progeny naturally
were able to set an example for other rulers to follow. So that’s how in the littoral states. What I mean is where,
wherever the traders went, you see all the areas were Islamized. Whereas in the central
state like Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, Islam could not penetrate because they were deeper
into the interior territory whereas Malaysia and all
the, like South India had all the littoral states, even Indonesia we called
Pazhassir, coastal states. So all the states we had
a small, small kingdoms and all these kingdoms one after the other embraced Islam for one of
the reasons I’m telling you. People make contest this. So that is how Islam could peacefully spread through the medium of trade and example, example. So it’s a totally voluntary
affair, voluntary affair. In South India, one of the
reasons with some of the, today the Hindutvas people were telling, the Jew people went and converted
all the low caste people. The low caste had no
way of social mobility if they don’t follow Islam. In Hinduism there will always low caste, and it was very easy for
all of them in (mumbles) to come and embrace Islam. That’s one of the theory, but having said that the
Arabian traders could dispense for the local women, local women, they were part of the vow. And they can patronize, patronize the local
village leaders, rulers, and through that form quite a large number of
them became Islamist. That is South India, but
in the case of Malay, Malayan Peninsula and Indonesia, certainly all the rulers were there. I’ve got a manuscript which says how Sheikh that is from South India went all the way to
Indonesia and could Islamize. The whole story is being told. That is one of the
manuscript I’m working at it. Yes. – But we need to let them, sorry (mumbles) – I’d just try, answer your question with
reference to my own place, that is Kashmir. Kashmir was predominantly a Hindu region up to 15th, even 16th century. Islam came to Kashmir first
in around 14th century, and then first few Sufis came who spread the message of Islam, then a king who was a Buddhist, Rinchan Shah, he converted
to Islam in 14th century, somewhere in the middle of 14th century. He was the first Muslim king of Kashmir. And thereafter it opened the door for what they call the influx of Sufis and other people from
Central Asia and Persia, but there is one important factor in conversion of Kashmir to Islam, that is the role of rishis. Now rishis was a, they were a group of, you could call them Hindu or Buddhist, those ascetics who devoted
themselves to the worship of God. They did not marry, they did not eat meat, and they led solitary lives. And these had a tremendous influence on the Islamization of Kashmir. These people who, now in modern-day historians when they look back, they try to see how they can place the contribution of these rishis to the Islamization of Kashmir. And one of the very interesting theories is that these rishis actually continued to live the kind
of lives they used to live before the coming of Islam. I mean, they were people who
were devoted to social service, they were self-abnegating
people who did things for the sake of, not for this world, but for something else,
higher spiritual reality, but once Islam came to Kashmir, they became Muslims but they
in some sense also retained some elements of their earlier devotion and earlier practices. And it is not up to the
18th century that we find, in 18th century rishism
actually disappears or you can say it gets assimilated into other Sufistic orders. And these people were, of course, known for their social service and their devotion to
God and other such ideas, but as far as this point is concerned, we know that there are narratives, there are stories, I
mean, of Sufis coming, and one of the things that
you find in medieval history about conversion is the very popular, you can say a conflict
or a kind of competition between Hindu saint and a Muslim saint. So there are stories
like this in Kashmir also that, for example, there
is that famous Sufi from Persia, Shah-e-Hamadan. Sayyid Ali Hamadani who came to Kashmir in somewhere around 15th century. Now this is a popular,
this folklore in Kashmir that there used to be a Brahman who was very famous and who
heard a large following, and once he challenged
Shah-e-Hamadan to a competition, a spiritual kind of where both will display
their spiritual powers. And in that competition, what happened is that this Brahman, he
started flying in air. He went up, and then Shah-e-Hamadan did not himself go up into the air. He asked one of his disciples or somebody else to take out his shoe, and that shoe went up into the air and brought that Brahman down. So these were the stories, which were circulated much later, but I think the transition
of Kashmir to Islam over a period of 300 years was largely because of the influence
of Sufis as well as rishis who came from Central Asia and Persia. As to Sajad’s question, firstly I don’t think that the
corpus of Arabic literature in India can be compared to Persian. I mean, if you look at the work that has been done in Arabic poetry, and if you try to
identify the main figures of Arabic poetry in
India, there are not many, but more importantly I think because of the Persian being the language of the Moghul culture, Moghul court, and, of course, the language
of the larger Islamic world from Iran, Central Asia down to India. I think because Persian has
attracted such scholarship and because these people
that I’m talked about, especially historians like Muzaffar Alam, who try to argue that, yes, in
languages of political Islam that when Persian came to India, it had to adapt itself
to the Indian context and it in a way provided that, that it was the vehicle through which not only a new kind of
Indianness was generated, but it also helped gel
the Mogul empire together, but i have really not
come across such a thing as far as Arabic poetry is concerned, maybe because there are
not many Arabic poets, as Azad Bilgrami wrote in Arabic. Also he wrote Arabic poetry, but I think some work really
needs to be done in that area to see whether you can find
some elements in Arabic also. – Well, the guy, did you
have your question answered? – [Man] Yeah, yeah, cool, yes. – The gentleman here, did you
get your question answered? – No, I’m gonna answer it. – Very quickly, very quickly. – I think I already
given the answer to you. In the port cities when the
Arabs came with their followers, they needed some kind
of spiritual guidance. And they, it’s a symbiotic relationship, they supported the Sufi leaders and Sufi supported the traders. So in that milieu the whole system of what you call Ratibs, Ratib mean the Friday
night gatherings were held. According to one story in
the Indonesian Chronicle. – [Man] The script in that manuscript. – Pardon? – [Man] My question was the
script in that manuscript. – Manuscript. – Yeah, that manuscript as I
told you, I am a Malay scholar, my problem is I’m not a Arabic scholar. So I need another Arabic scholar
to come and work together. It’s all 100% Arabic. I got somebody to translate
for me the first few pages. It shows that there is a
author called Ibrahim Mehkani. I know whoever it is, Mehkani, was engaged in a discussion
with one of his gurus on this catechism, catechismic
about the nature of the Atma, nature of the spirit. So that’s how told me this
is something to do with (speaking in foreign language) That’s all I know for the moment. I need to work more details on it. Thank you.

1 thought on “Transformations & Continuities in Islamic Intellectual Thought Conference – Literary Landscapes”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *