AḤMAD B. SAYYED MŪSĀ HAMADĀNĪ ČARMPŪŠ (ČERAMPŌŠ), Sohravardī poet-saint of 14th century Bihar (d. 26 Ṣafar 755/22 March 1354). Aḥmad was educated at home in various branches of Islamic learning before he began his wanderings as a vārasta qalandar (“liberated mendicant”; Mūnes al-qolūb, a malfūẓāt collection of Aḥmad Langar Daryā, grandson of Ḥosayn Moʿezz Balḵī). He adopted the laqab Čarmpūš as a mark of respect for his pīr ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn Čarmpūš, a Sohravardī saint of Multan who had come to Bihar and performed his čella (“forty day retreat”) at Puraini (Bhagalpur; see Rafīq al-ʿārefīn, a malfūẓāt collection of Ḥosām-al-dīn Manekpūrī, the Češtī successor to Nūr Qoṭb-e ʿĀlam Pandavī). Aḥmad himself tells us: “I am the little dog (sagak) of the hidewearer (čarmpūš).” Though held high in popular estimation, Aḥmad Čarmpūš was eclipsed by his younger first cousin, Šaraf-al-dīn b. Yaḥyā Manērī, who became the most famous saint of medieval Bihar. Aḥmad was both a gifted poet and an intense mystic; in the latter capacity, he displayed the awe-inspiring (ǰalālī) rather than the beneficent (ǰamālī) attributes of God. Occasionally his utterances were of the “theopathic” type (šaṭḥīyāt): “The self-existent God is in the form of Aḥmad, devoid of attributes, true or false”; “Do not expect to see Aḥmad in his own garb; the divine light shines through my woolen cloak.” Though he exposed himself to the charge of blasphemy and “spiritual insanity” (maǰḏūbī) by such utterances, he was fully alive to the need for restraint and observing the šarīʿa. Like so many Sufis, he saw God reflected in all forms: “For swimmers in the divine ocean, love (ʿešq) gives Islam and kofr the same hue”; “Regard all religions as one and esteem them all: in reality divinity is limitless.”
Aḥmad Čarmpūš is known chiefly for his dīvān, which portrays his mystical experiences. Many of his odes are modeled on those of Rūmī, Aḥmad Jām, ʿErāqī, Amīr Ḵosrow, Neẓāmī Ganǰavī, Maḡrebī, and Anwarī. A malfūẓāt collection is also extant, similar in tone to the dīvān and entitled Żīāʾ al-qolūb. Its nine brief chapters, compiled by an immediate disciple, ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn ʿAlī b. Ebrāhīm Ṣūfī, are based on observations of and letters from the saint. In one passage, written in Hindi, Aḥmad discusses the distinction between zāhed (religious recluse) and pārsā (abstemious devotee); he states that the full import of this distinction must be obtained from Hindu sages, since nothing similar exists in Arabic. Żīāʾ al-qolūb is devoid of personal references, pious frauds, and nonsensical miracles such as are frequently attributed to him in Manāqeb al-aṣfīāʾ and other writings of the Ferdowsī order. Aḥmad’s tomb still exists in the town of Ambersharif, northeast of Bari Dargāh, Biharsharif, the tomb site of his illustrious cousin, Šaraf-al-dīn. It is a quiet, shaded place, housing the last remains of many relatives and disciples of the saint. It is regularly visited by local devotees, especially on the occasion of the saint’s ʿors (death commemoration).
Of the mss. of Dīvān-e Aḥmad, those at Phulvarisharif and Oriental Public Library, Patna (wrongly attributed to Aḥmad Jām Žandapīl) are the best and the fullest. The lithograph edition from Lucknow, though alphabetically arranged, is unreliable. Żīāʾ al-qolūb, lith. ed., Cawnpore, 1320/1902-03; ms., O. P. L., Patna. Manāqeb al-aṣfīāʾ , lith. ed., Calcutta, 1895; ms. O. P. L., Patna. S. H. Askari, “Hażrat Aḥmad Čerampōš, a 14th century Sufi Saint of Bihar,” Patna University Journal 7, 1954, pp. 20-32.
(S. H. Askari)
Originally Published: December 15, 1984
Last Updated: July 28, 2011
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Vol. I, Fasc. 6, pp. 646-647