ABŪ ʿALĪ QALANDAR, ŠARAF-AL-DĪN PĀNĪPATĪ (also known as SHAH BŪ ʿALĪ QALANDAR), Indian poet and saint, d. 725/1324. His mausoleum at Panipat remains a popular center for pilgrimage. Unfortunately no authentic records of his life or teachings are available. Since he was a qalandar, we should not expect to find such records; none of his disciples had the time or inclination to make a collection of his sayings, and later writers have attenuated his personality with myth and miracle (see, e.g., Ḥamīd-al-dīn, Šaraf al-manāqeb, Delhi, 1937).
His finely refined Persian dīvān includes a maṯnawī that has been repeatedly published alone and with interlinear Urdu translation. It begins with an explosive eulogy celebrating the birth of Moḥammad (quoted and tr. A. Schimmel in Islamic Literature of India, Wiesbaden, 1973, p.15, and Mystical Dimensions, p. 217) and includes a long pean extolling ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭāleb. A small collection of letters (maktūbāt), addressed to Eḵtīār-al-dīn, throws light on his views about ʿešq (passionate love). They are both praised and quoted by Shaikh ʿAbd-al-Ḥaqq, even though the shaikh questions the authenticity of a pamphlet, Ḥokm-nāma or Ḥekmat-nāma, attributed to Abū ʿAlī by Abu’l-Fażl and Ḡawṯī Šaṭṭārī (Aḵbār al-aḵyār, pp. 125-26).
One of the earliest references to Abū ʿAlī exemplifies the predictive power (nafs-e gīra) often associated with great saints. In Šams-e Serāǰ ʿAfīf’s Tārīḵ-e Fīrūzšāhī (Calcutta, 1891, p. 28), it is reported that Ḡāzī Malek (the future Ḡīāṯ-al-dīn Toḡloq), together with his son, Jawna Khan (the future Moḥammad b. Toḡloq), and his nephew, Raǰab (the future Fīrūzšāh Toḡloq), once visited Abū ʿAlī. The saint allegedly served them food and remarked: “Three kings eat from one dish.”
The legendary account of his life in Āʾīn-e Akbarī (tr., III, p. 410) mentions his meeting with Šams-al-dīn Tabrīzī and Jalāl-al-dīn Rūmī, while other writers refer to some early Češtī saints, i.e., Qoṭb-al-dīn Baḵtīār Kākī and Neẓām-al-dīn Awlīāʾ, as his spiritual mentors. ʿAbd-al-Ḥaqq doubts these affiliations, at the same time that he relates an anecdote suggesting that Abū ʿAlī, despite his qalandar life style, had great respect for the šarīʿa or at least a sense of humor about its application to himself: Once his beard and moustaches had grown beyond the prescribed limits. Due to awe and fear of him, no one drew his attention to it. One day Mawlānā Żīāʾ-al-dīn Sonāmī, the chief enforcer of public censorship, came to him with scissors and trimmed the offensive hair. Thereafter the saint would kiss his beard, mumbling: “It has been taken prisoner in the path of the šarīʿa” (Aḵbār al-aḵyār, p. 125).
Legends concerning the saint extended even to the manner of his death. He is said to have had a double grave, reminiscent of the 15th-century Hindi poet-saint, Kabīr. When he died in 725/1324, he was first buried in Karnal, then reinterred in Panipat (apparently because the inhabitants of both cities claimed the right to possess his body). But he miraculously appeared as a complete corpse in two coffins in both cities, with the result that his death celebration (ʿors) is simultaneously celebrated at Karnal and Panipat to the present day. His popularity is further indicated by the claim of some Rajput clans that he was instrumental in their conversion to Islam (T. W. Arnold, The Preaching of Islam, London, 1913, p. 285).
ʿAbd-al-Ḥaqq Dehlavī, Aḵbār al-aḵyār, Delhi, 1280/1963, pp. 124-26.
Moḥammad Ekrām, Āb-e kawṯar, Karachi, 1952, pp. 287-88.
J. A. Subhan, Sufism: Its Saints and Shrines, Lucknow, 1960, inset picture and pp. 323-25.
A. Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam, Chapel Hill, 1975, pp. 350-51.
Accounts of Abū ʿAlī are also found in Golzār-e abrār of Ḡawṯī Šaṭṭārī (Storey, I, p. 984) and Maʿāreǰ al-walāyat of Ḡolām Moʿīn-al-dīn ʿAbdallāh Ḵᵛēšgī (Storey, I, p. 1011).
(Kh. A. Nizami)
Originally Published: December 15, 1983
Last Updated: July 19, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 3, p. 258