ČEŠTĪYA, the name of an influential Sufi order in India, derived from a village east of Herat on the river Harirud called Češt (q.v.).
History. The beginnings of the Češtī Sufi tradition are accounted for in Amir Ḵᵛord's (d. after 728/1328) Sīar al-awlīāʾ (pp. 40-44) and in Jāmī's Nafaḥāt (pp. 322-30, 340-42) written in 881/1476. Ḵᵛāja Abū Esḥāq Šāmī (q.v.), an obscure Sufi of Syria, is said to have settled at Češt for some time, allegedly at the direction of his Persian Sufi master Mamšāḏ Dīnavarī (d. 299/912). Abū Esḥāq's line of spiritual affiliation (selsela) is traced to Ebrāhīm b. Adham (d. 160/777) by Jāmī and later, by the sources of the Češtīya in India, from Ebrāhīm b. Adham to the Prophet in the historically flawed chain: Abū Esḥāq—Mamšāḏ Dīnavarī—Abū Hobayra Baṣrī (d. 287/900)—Ḥoḏayfa Marʿašī (d. 276/890)—Ebrāhīm b. Adham—Fożayl b. ʿĪāż (d. 187/803)—ʿAbd-al-Wāḥed b. Zayd (d. 177/793)—Ḥasan Baṣrī (d. 110/728)—ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭāleb (d. 40/661)—Moḥammad. Before returning to his native region, where he died at ʿAkkā (Acre) on the Palestine coast in 329/941, Abū Esḥāq is said to have educated a local Sufi, Abū Aḥmad Abdāl (d. 355/966), as his successor at Češt. In the latter's extended family the local Sufi tradition passed on to Ḵᵛāja Yūsof b. Moḥammad b. Samʿān (d. 459/1067), believed to have been in contact with Ḵᵛāja ʿAbd-Allāh Anṣārī (q.v.; d. 481/1089) of Herat and to have appointed as successor his son Ḵᵛāja Qoṭb-al-Dīn Mawdūd Češtī (d. 527/1133). From Mawdūd the succession passed to his son Aḥmad (d. 577/1181 in Multan), whose authority was challenged by Rokn-al-Dīn Moḥammad of Sanjān (d. 597/1201) and Ḥājī Šarīf Zandanī (d. 612/1215). The struggle for succession among these disciples during the ascendancy of the Ghurid capital Fīrūzkūh in the neighborhood of Češt under Sultan Ḡīāṯ-al-Dīn Moḥammad (r. 558-99/1163-1203) seems to have contributed to the dispersion of the local Sufi tradition. The Češtī tradition continued at Harvan in the district of Nīšāpūr with a certain Ḵᵛāja ʿOṯmān, a successor to Ḥājī Šarīf and leader of a group of dervishes said to have died in 617/1220. It was this man who was met by Moʿīn-al-Dīn Ḥasan Sejzī, the alleged founder of the Češtīya in India, and thus the association of Moʿīn-al-Dīn with the Češtī tradition rests on the tenuous link of Ḵᵛāja ʿOṯmān alone (Amir Ḵᵛord, pp. 40-44; cf. Moinul Haq, 1974a and b).
Ḵᵛāja Moʿīn-al-Dīn Ḥasan Sejzī is said to have been born in Sejestān (i.e., Sīstān) in 536/1141-42. After his father’s death Moʿīn-al-Dīn left Sejestān, possibly as early as the invasion of Khorasan by the Ḡozz against Sultan Sanjar in 548/1153 or later during their incursions into Sejestān in 564/1169 and 574/1178 (Tārīḵ-e Sīstān, pp. 391–92; tr. Gold, pp. 319–20). He first came to Bukhara and Samarkand and then to Nīšāpūr, where he joined Ḵᵛāja’s ʿOṯmān’s group as an errant dervish (qalandar). He traveled with the group of his pīr for a number of years (said to have been as many as twenty), until he made himself independent. His alleged visits to such prominent Sufis of his time as ʿAbd-al-Qāder Jīlānī (q.v.; d. 561/1166), Najīb-al-Dīn Sohravardī (d. 563/1168), and Najm-al-Dīn Kobrā (d. 618/1221) cannot be substantiated (See Lāhawrī, I, p. 257). Some time after the capture of Lahore in 582/1186 (which meant the end of Ghaznavid control there) by Moʿezz-al-Dīn Moḥammad, the Ghurid Sultan of Ḡaznīn since 568/1173, Moʿīn-al-Dīn is said to have journeyed to India, visiting the shrine of Abu’l-Ḥasan Hojvīrī (d. 465/1072 or 469/1077) at Lahore. When Moʿezz-al-Dīn finally defeated the Hindu Rājput Čawhāns, led by Prithvīrāja, in the second battle of Tarāʾīn in 588/1192. Moʿīn-al-Dīn is said to have traveled as far as Ajmer (Ajmīr) in Rajasthan (according to some accounts via Delhi after the city had been captured in 589/1193). According to some sources Moʿīn-al-Dīn came to Ajmer after the death of Sultan Moʿezz-al-Dīn in 602/1206, according to others he arrived there before the conquest of the city in 588/1192 and delivered the local ruler into the hands of the Ghurid army. At Ajmer, though he was getting on in years, he is said to have married twice, first a Muslim, then a Hindu woman, to have had three sons and a daughter, and to have been revered as a holy man performing fantastic miracles that attracted many pilgrims to his tomb after his death on 6 Rajab 633/16 March 1236. The main purpose of the hagiographical accounts about Moʿīn-al-Dīn appears to be the concern of his followers to link the immigrant Sufi tradition of an errant dervish from Sejestān with the indigenous tradition of a holy man of Ajmer and thus to build a bridge between the Iranian beginnings of the Češtī Sufi tradition and the Češtīya order that flourished in India.
In contrast to the Sohravardīya order, which spread mainly in the Punjab and Bengal along the edges of the Indian subcontinent, the Češtīya spread all over India keeping in step with the Muslim advance. The early development of the Češtīs in India is closely connected with the names of outstanding Sufis; some of them came as immigrants, such as Qoṭb-al-Dīn Baḵtīār Kākī (d. 633/1235), who was influential in the urban environment of Delhi, while others appear to be rooted in indigenous traditions of holy men, such as Ḥamīd-al-Dīn Moḥammad Nāgawrī (d. 673/1274), who lived in rural Rajasthan; and Farīd-al-Dīn Masʿūd Ganj-e Šakar (d. 664/1265), called Bābā Farīd, who established a Sufi ḵānaqāh at Ajūdhan (today Pākpattan), a strategic staging post on the main road from Multan to Delhi on the Sutlej river. Qoṭb-al-Dīn Baḵtīār came to India from UÚŠ in Farḡāna as a wandering dervish and after a brief stay at Multan during the rule of Naṣīr-al-Dīn Qabāča (d. 625/1228) settled at Delhi during the reign of Šams-al-Dīn Eltotmeš (IltütmiŠ; 607–33/1211–36). He declined the office of Šayḵ-al-Eslām offered to him by the Sultan and died in ecstasy during one of the performances of samāʿ, the mystical states induced by listening to music that he cultivated (see Böwering, in EI2 V, pp. 546–47). His grave at Mehrawlī was the principal shrine (mazār) in the Delhi area when Ebn Baṭṭūṭa visited India in 734–43/1333–42 (tr. Māzandarānī, II, p. 482). Ḥamīd-al-Dīn was born in India, lived on his eḥyā (unclaimed land) in the village of Sowāl outside Nāgawar and adhered to strict vegetarianism. He is the first (Češtī credited with a treatise on samāʿ, the Resāla-ye samāʿ. Also born in India, Bābā Farīd received his early education in Multan and lived many years at Hānsī before moving to Ajūdhan. There he trained disciples using the ʿAwāref al-maʿāref (q.v.) of Abuī Ḥafṣ ʿOmar Sohravardī (d. 632/1234) as manual of instruction and attracted Muslims and Hindus alike to his ḵānaqāh, where samāʿ was practiced. The novices shaved their hair upon entering the ḵānaqāh and completed their initiation (bayʿa) by clasping hands with the pīr. The Češtī ḵānaqāh was also known as a jamāʿat-ḵāna (community hall) since the group used to sleep, work, and live in one large room (Schimmel, p. 26). Bābā Farīd observed long prayer vigils, including the čella-ye maʿkūsa (praying suspended by the feet during a period of forty days), and regular fasting, including the ṣawm-e dāʾūdī (fasting on alternate days). The sayings attributed to Bābā Farīd in the Ādī-Granth of the Sikhs, compiled by Guru Arjun Dev in 1604, actually may have their author in the Češtī Ebrāhīm (d. 960/1553), known as Farīd-e Tòānī (see Nizami, 1976, pp. 121–22).
The most celebrated early Češtī Sufi in India, however, was Moḥammad b. Aḥmad b. ʿAlī Badāʾūnī (d. 726/1325) of Delhi, known as Neẓām-al-Dīn Awlīāʾ. His Turkish ancestors had migrated from Bukhara to Badāʾūn where he was born in 636/1239. After years of education at Delhi, he became Bābā Farīd’s disciple at Ajūdhan in 655/1257 and according to a dubious ḵelāfat-nāma (written authorization of succession) was appointed his successor (ḵalīfa) in 663/1265. Some time after his master’s death Neẓām-al-Dīn Awlīāʾ returned to Delhi and established his ḵānaqāh in the village of Ḡīāṯpūr outside Delhi and near the new palace built at Kīlokharī on the bank of the Jamnā (Jumna) by Sultan Moʿezz-al-Dīn Kayqobād (686–89/1287–90). Neẓām-al-Dīn Awlīāʾ’s disciples were known for carrying leather pouches and wearing four-cornered conical caps (kolāh) and a toothbrush (meswāk) attached to their turbans. Among his disciples at Ḡīāṯpūr were two poets who had left the court of Multan after 683/1284 and accepted the patronage of ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn Moḥammad Ḵaljī (696–716/1296–1316) at Delhi. They were Amīr Ḵosrow (q.v.; 651–725/1253–1325), the most celebrated Muslim poet of his time in India, who was buried next to Neẓām-al-Dīn Awlīāʾ’s tomb, and Amīr Ḥasan b. ʿAlāʾ Sejzī Dehlavī (655–737/1275–1336), who kept a record of his master’s sayings between 707/1307 and 721/1321 in the Fawāʾed al-foʾād. Other disciples of note were the historian Żīāʾ-a1-Dīn Baranī (q.v.; 684–758/1285–1357) and Faḵr-al-Dīn Zarrādī (d. 748/1347), the author of the Arabic Oṣūl al-samāʾ. Neẓām-al-Dīn Awlīāʾ enjoyed the favor of Sultan ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn Moḥammad Ḵaljī and counted his son and heir-apparent Ḵeżr Khan among his disciples. However, he fell in disfavor during the rule of the latter’s rival Qoṭb-al-Dīn MobārakŠāh (716–20/1316–20) and that of Ḡīāṯ-al-Dīn Toḡloq (720–25/1320–25). Neẓām-al-Dīn Awlīāʾ remained unmarried until his death in 725/1325 and outlived a dozen rulers in turbulent times, while his disciples spread the Češtīya in many parts of India.
Naṣīr-al-Dīn Maḥmūd b. Yaḥyā Yazdī Awadhī (d. 757/1356), born at Ajūdhyā and known as Čerāḡ-e Delhī (q.v.), became Neẓām-al-Dīn Awlīāʾ’s disciple at Delhi at the age of forty-three, remaining celibate like he. In 724/1324 his master designated him successor by passing on to him the ḵerqa (Sufi mantle) he had himself received from Bābā Farīd. At Delhi, Naṣīr-al-Dīn gave a Češtī ḵerqa to Maḵdūm-e Jahānīān Jalāl-al-Dīn Boḵārī (d. 785/1384), a Sohravardī Sufi of Oččh who was a trusted adviser of Sultan FīrūzŠāh Toḡloq (752–90/1351–88). Later, on the instigation of the ʿolamāʾ of Delhi, the same Sultan executed Aḥmad b. Maḥmūd Šīr Khan, known as Masʿūd Beg/Bīg (d. 789/1387), a Sufi with tenuous Čestī links renowned for his daring poetry and mystic utterance. Naṣīr-al-Dīn died without appointing a successor, and the insignia (tabarrokāt) he had been given by his shaikh (the ḵerqa, a staff, a prayer rug, and a begging bowl) were buried with him. This symbolized the end of the classical phase of great Češtī Sufis in India.
The policy of Sultan Moḥammad b. Toḡloq (725–52/1325–51) diverted Sufi influence from Delhi, the center of the sultanate, to the provinces and induced or forced many Češtī Sufis to settle in different parts of the country. The arrival of Češtī Sufis in provincial towns coincided with the rise of provincial kingdoms. Borhān-al-Dīn Ḡarīb (d. 741/1340) appears to have been the first to introduce the Češtīya in the Deccan, settling at Dawlatābād (the former Deogiri). There his disciple Zayn-al-Dīn became the spiritual guide of ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn ḤasanŠāh (748–59/1347–58), the founder of the Bahmanid kingdom (see BAHMANIDS). The honor of having crowned the latter in 748/1347, however, is accorded to Serāj-al-Dīn Jonaydī (d. 782/1380), another Češtī who settled in Bījāpūr (Eaton, p. 50). The most prominent Češtī of the Deccan was Sayyed Moḥammad Ḥosaynī Gīsūderāz (721–825/1321–1422), who migrated with his father Rājū Qattāl, one of Neẓām-al-Dīn Awlīāʾ’s disciples, from Delhi to Dawlatābād but returned to Delhi some time after his father’s death in 731/1330. In 736/1336 he became a disciple of Naṣīr-al-Dīn Čerāḡ-e Dehlī and later claimed to have been nominated by him as his successor. About the time of Timur’s invasion of India Gīsūderāz left Delhi for good, possibly in 801/1398, and lived at Golbarga in the Deccan until his death. There he enjoyed the favor of the Bahmanid kings, symbolized by the magnificent tomb erected over his grave by Aḥmad Shah Bahmanī (825–38/1421–35). Gīsūderāz was a prolific author, known for his Persian commentaries on the principal Arabic and Persian Sufi sources and credited with having been the first Sufi to write in Dakhnī Urdu.
In Malwa the order spread through the activities of Neẓām-al-Dīn Awlīāʾ’s disciples Wajīh-al-Dīn Yūsof (d. 729/1328–29) at Čandīrī and Kamāl-al-Dīn at Mandū. Serāj-al-Dīn Aḵī Serāj (d. 759/1357–58) brought the Češtī order to Bengal, where it spread, also into Bihar, especially through the activities of Ašraf Jahāngīr Semnānī (d. 808/1405) and Nūr Qoṭb-e ʿĀlam (d. 813/1410). In Gujarat the Češtīya was spread by Ḥosām-al-Dīn Moltānī (d. 755/1354) at Nahrwālā and Serāj-al-Dīn (d. 814/1411) at Aḥmadābād, the former deriving his Češtī lineage directly from Neẓām-al-Dīn Awlīāʾ and the latter indirectly from Naṣīr-al-Dīn Čerāḡ-e Dehlī. Three centuries later Serāj-al-Dīn’s line of Češtī affiliation was continued by Shah Kalīm-Allah Jahānābādī (d. 1142/1729), who revitalized the floundering Češtīya at Delhi and reformed its Neẓāmīya branch through a centralized organization. He had a significant indirect successor in Shah Faḵ-al-Dīn (d. 1199/1784–85) at Delhi, after whom the Neẓāmīya branch spread in Bareilly and Mahārān and from there into Multan and throughout the Punjab. With Shah Moḥammad-Solaymān (d. 1267/1850) it reached the Frontier Provinces at Tawnsa near Dera Ghazi Khan.
A branch of the Češtīya, known as the Ṣāberīya, traces its origins from Shaikh ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn ʿAlī b. Aḥmad Ṣāber (d. 691/1291–92) of Kalyar in Uttar Pradesh, known as Ṣāber-e Pāk, in whose alleged succession Aḥmad ʿAbd-al-Ḥaqq (d. 837/1434) organized a Češtī ḵānaqāh at Rodawli. There ʿAbd-al-Qoddūs Gangūhī (d. 944/1537) received his Sufi training before becoming influential during Lodi rule and settling at Gangūh. ʿAbd-al-Qoddūs counted among his disciples not only ʿAbd-al-Aḥad, the father of the famous Aḥmad Serhendī (d. 1034/1624), but also Jalāl-al-Dīn Moḥammad Fārūqī (d. 989/1581) of Thānīsār, through whose successors the Češtīya spread in Uttar Pradesh. The Mughal ruler Jahāngīr (1014–37/1605–27) forced one Ṣāberī shaikh, Neẓām-al-Dīn Fārūqī (d. 1036/1626), to leave India, while another, ʿAbd-al-Raḥīm Fāṭemī, was killed in 1247/1831 at Balakot after he had joined the jehād movement of Aḥmad of Bareilly. The Deoband school of ʿolāmāʾ, founded by Moḥammad-Qāsem Nanawtawī (d. 1295/1878), lays claim to its spiritual ancestry through the Ṣāberīya.
It is a questionable, yet often repeated, assertion that the Češtīya principally avoided collaboration with the state and refused grants in land from the court, in distinction to the Sohravardīya, who avidly embraced government service. Though they generally refused stipends offered by the Sultans, the Češtīs accepted unsolicited gifts (fotūḥ). In fact, Moʿīn-al-Dīn’s sons owned large lands, for which their father had to intercede in Delhi. Ḥamīd-a1-Dīn Nagawrī had his eḥyāʾ. Qoṭb-al-Dīn Baḵtīār came to Delhi at the request of Sultan Eltotmeš. Neẓām-al-Dīn Awlīāʾ accepted a large sum of money from Ḵosrow Khan, when the latter usurped the throne of the sultanate in 720/1320. The oath of office was administered to Sultan Fīrūzšāh Toḡloq by none other than Naṣīr-al-Dīn Čerāḡ-e Dehlī. When Češtīs moved to the provinces acceptance of land grants from the rulers became their frequent practice.
Literature. The literature of the Češtīya is known for its distinctive malfūẓāt, that is, conversations of the shaikhs collected by their disciples. The first genuine malfūẓ is the Fawāʾed al-foʾād of Amīr Ḥasan Sejzī Dehlavī. The conversations of Naṣīr-al-Dīn Čerāḡ-e Dehlī were collected by Ḥamīd Qalandar in the Ḵayr al-majāles, while the sayings of Hamīd-al-Dīn Nāgawrī were collected by his grandson Farīd-al-Dīn, known as Čāk Parrān, in the Sorūr al-ṣodūr. The conversations of Borhān-al-Dīn Ḡarīb (collected by Ḥammād Kāšānī in Aḥsan al-aqwāl), Gīsūderāz (collected by Sayyed Moḥammad-Akbar Ḥosaynī in Jawāmeʿ al-kalem), Aḥmad ʿAbd-al-Ḥaqq (collected by ʿAbd-al-Qoddūs Gangūhī in Anwār al-ʿolūm), and ʿAbd-al-Qoddūs Gangūhī (collected by his son Rokn-al-Dīn in Laṭāʾef-e qoddūsī) provide genuine insight into Češtī thought and practice, next to other, often spurious malfūẓāt. The collections of letters (maktūbāt) written by Češtīs are later than the beginnings of the malfūẓāt but offer valuable specimens in the letters written by Gīsūderāz, Ašraf Jahāngīr Semnānī, ʿAbd-al-Qoddūs Gangūhī, and Kalīm-Allāh Jahānābādī. Typically Češtī poetical works, other than those compiled by poets such as Amīr Ḵosrow, are rare but include some fine specimens in the Dīvān attributed to Jamāl-al-Dīn Hānswī (said to have died before 664/1265), the popular dīvān of Masʿūd Beg, and the Toḥfat al-naṣāʾiḥ, a verse treatise compiled in 795/1393 by Yūsof Gadā (Digby, p. 96). Gīsūderāz’s Asmār al-asrār and Masʿūd Beg’s Merʾāt al-ʿārefīn are fine expositions of Češtī thought. The most important of the numerous hagiographical accounts (taḏkera) of the Češtīya include Amīr Ḵᵛord Moḥammad b. Mobārak Kermānī’s Sīar al-awlīāʾ, compiled in the 8th/14th century (to which Ḵᵛāja Gol-Moḥammad Aḥmadpūrī, d. 1243/1827, wrote a Takmela), Jamālī’s Sīar al-ʿārefīn, a 9th/16th-century source, Neẓām-al-Dīn Ḥājī Ḡarīb Yamanī’s Laṭāʾef-e ašrafī, ʿAlī-Aṣḡar Češtī’s Jawāher-e farīdī, and many others, some of them extant in manuscript only.
Doctrine. It is an erroneous, though widely accepted, claim that the early Češtī Sufis of India adhered to Ebn ʿArabī’s doctrine of the unity of being (waḥdat al-wojūd) as their “cornerstone” (Nizami, 1965, p. 55) or “sheet-anchor” (Ahmed, p. 38) and that Moʿīn al-Dīn’s “firm faith in waḥdat al-wojūd provided the necessary ideological support to his mystic mission” (Nizami, 1965, p. 50). In fact, the works of Ebn al-ʿArabī (d. 638/1240) were hardly disseminated in India during the lifetime of the early Češtīs. The Fawāʾed al-foʾād and Ḵayr al-majāles make no mention of Ebn al-ʿArabī, and Češtī commentaries on his Foṣūṣ al-ḥekam were not compiled prior to Gīsūderāz; even his commentary, now lost, is said to have been critical of Ebn al-ʿArabī (Moḥaddeṯ Dehlavī, pp. 244–45). It appears that Ebn al-ʿArabī’s ideas became controversial in the Češtīya through the letters Gīsūderāz exchanged with Masʿūd Beg and Ašraf Jahāngīr Semnānī. Also, Jalāl-al-Dīn Rūmī’s Maṯnawī is not quoted in Češtī sources before the Sufi assemblies of Naṣīr-al-Dīn Čerāḡ-e Dehlī. Rather than waḥdat al-wojūd Češtī views of pre-Mughal India resemble a type of Sufism that places the Češtīya of India as a link between the Kobrawī teachings in 7th/13th century Persia and the notion known as waḥdat al-šohūd, elaborated in Mughal times by the NaqŠbandīya, and Aḥmad Serhendī (q.v.) in particular. It seems that the most distinct teachings of the Češtīya in pre-Mughal India focus on 1. the nature of mystic experience (the theory of walāya) and 2. the means of obtaining ecstasy (the practice of samāʿ).
Walāya. This is a fundamental notion of Islamic social, political and spiritual life, which denotes the authority of a walī(y) (a kinsman or ally; a patron or ruler; a friend or saint). The Sufis preferred the name “friends of God” (awlīāʾ Allāh, Koran 10:62) for themselves and distinguished between spiritual authority (walāya, also welāya) and prophetic authority (nobūwa). The main Sufi ideas on walāya spread among the Češtīs of India through Hojvīrī, who saw in walāya the very principle of Sufism itself and differentiated between the walāya of divine lordship (robūbīyat) and the walāya of divine love (moḥabbat). In the Ḵašf al-maḥjūb (pp. 265–311) Hojvīrī draws on the seminal teachings of Ḥakīm Termeḏī (d. between 295/907 and 310/922), according to whom Moḥammad is “the seal of the prophets” (ḵatm al-anbīāʾ), because he is divinely protected aganst error and sin, not because he is the last in time. There are two kinds of prophets: messengers (rasūl), who are sent by God to bring a revealed law to a people; and prophets (nabī[y] ), who do not proclaim a new law but summon people to follow the divinely revealed law. The nabīs are assisted in the world by a spiritual hierarchy of God’s friends (awlīāʾ), who receive divine friendship by grace and are the true successors of the Prophet—his “family” by spiritual, not genealogical descent. The mystic (walī) possesses insight into the hidden (al-ʿelm be’l-ḡayb), control of souls (taṣarrof), the gift of miracles, and the power to drive off Satan. There also is a seal of God’s friends (ḵatm al-awlīāʾ), who is the most perfect man and the prince of the other awlīāʾ—in Termeḏī’s thought none other than he himself (Radtke, pp. 89–94). This last point, left out in Hojvīrī’s summary, was developed by Ebn al-ʿArabī, who distinguished between the prophet Jesus (seal of universal walāya) and himself (seal of particular walāya)—both subject to the law of Moḥammad, the seal of prophecy and primal logos. For Ebn al-ʿArabi special prophecy came to an end with Moḥammad, but general prophecy continues to exist in the highest mystics on account of their walāya (cf. Izutsu, pp. 263–74). Criticizing Ebn al-ʿArabī and following the Kobrawī distinction of Moḥammad’s mystical experience (walāya) and prophetic authority (nobūwa), ʿAlāʾ-al-Dawla Semnānī (d. 736/1336) assigned walāya to the prophets and welāya to the mystics and compared the spirit of the mystic to the eye of the Prophet, which is capable of beholding the ultimate oneness of God (Landolt, Correspondence, p. 72).
Following Hojvīrī, Neẓām-al-Dīn Awlīāʾ (Sejzī, pp. 14, 93, 253) distinguished between walāya as the shaikh’s education and guidance of disciples and welāya as the mystic’s relationship to God explained in terms of divine love. When a shaikh dies he takes his welāya with him but leaves his walāya behind and bestows it on one of his disciples. Thus each shaikh has a spiritual walāya over a group of disciples in a geographical region. In their nature, Gīsūderāz (Asmār al-asrār, pp. 181, 209) ranks walāya above nobūwa, as walāya is nearness to God and prophecy a mission from God. Using a play of words afforded by Saʿdī’s Golestān (p. 74), he compares nobūwa to being at the Friend’s door (bar dar) and walāya to being inside (dar bar). Walāya is the foundation on which prophecy rests or the sword hidden in the sheath. Walāya is total worship of God (ḵodāparastī) while prophecy is an effort to please God (reżājūʾī). When Moḥammad, archetypal lover of God (ʿāšeq), was sent as a prophet he had to abandon the stage of walāya, turn his glance from the One, and leave divine companionship (hamnešīnī) so as to summon people to the Beloved (maḥbūb). This separation from union (jamʿ) with the divine source, however, renders nobūwa higher than walāya in the order of creation. To demonstrate this perspective Gīsūderāz expanded the teaching of ʿAzīz-al-Dīn Nasafī (Kašf, pp. 95–105), and distinguished between five stages in ascending order: bār (burdens), kār (works), ḥekma (wisdom), walāya, and nobūwa, correlating them with the five stages of šarīʿa (law), ṭarīqa (path), ḥaqīqa (reality), ḥaqq al-ḥaqīqa (absolute reality), and ḥaqīqat al-ḥaqq (reality of the Absolute), representing the speech (goft), action (kard), sight (dīd), existence (būd), and ultimate nonexistence (būd-e nā-būd) of the Perfect Man (ensān-e kāmel), respectively (Asmār al-asrār, p. 28). Gīsūderāz (Šarḥ, pp. 284–88) uses the same fivefold pattern to break open Qošayrī’s (but not Ebn al-ʿArabī’s) concept of ecstasy (wajd, wojūd, and tawājod) by correlating five phases of mystic experience (qoṣūd, worūd, šohūd, wojūd, and ḵomūd) to five layers of the human soul (nafs, qalb, rūḥ, serr, and ḵafī). This fivefold pattern, similar to, yet not dependent on, the structure of ʿAlāʾ-al-Dawla Semnānī’s thought, serves Gīsūderāz as theoretical foundation for samāʿ.
Samāʿ. Though a controversial practice for normative Islam, samāʿ was justified by the Češtīya on the basis of a statement recorded on the Prophet’s authority in Sohravardī’s ʿAwāref al-maʿāref (p. 178), according to which Moḥammad approved samāʿ in a dream of Mamšāḏ Dīnawarī as long as it was introduced and concluded with a Koran recital. This justification is frequently mitigated in Češtī sources by the view of Abū ʿAlī Daqqāq (d. 406/1015) that samāʿ is forbidden for the common people, yet permissible and lawful for the Sufis, for whom it is the closest path to God (Qošayrī, p. 644). Mawdūd Češtī is said to have given preference to samāʿ over ṣalāt, the Muslim ritual prayer, because in his opinion it was assured of divine acceptance without fail (Amīr Ḵᵛord, pp. 42–43). Moʿīn-al-Dīn allegedly organized samāʿ sessions and listened to music every night (Rizvi, 1941, p. 331). Like other Sufis before him, Bābā Farīd is reported to have understood samāʿ as a transconscious reactualization (bīhūšī) of man’s state at the mīṯāq, God’s covenant with mankind before creation, when the divine speech transported the human souls into a state of ecstasy (wajd; Amīr Ḵᵛord, p. 499). The Češtī practice of samāʿ, however, appears to have been popularized at Delhi by Qoṭb-al-Dīn Baḵtīār during the time of Eltotmeš, in whose reign Menhāj-e Serāj Jūzjānī (d. after 658/1260), qāżī of Delhi and author of the important chronicle, Ṭabaqāt-e nāṣerī, gave a legal opinion in its favor (Amīr Ḵᵛord, p. 519).
Neẓām-al-Dīn Awlīāʾ’s ḵānaqāh became known for its night-long samāʿ sessions, including dancing, led by skilled singers (qawwāl), who recited Persian poetry, the most popular medium of samāʿ accompanied by percussion instruments, such as drums, timbrels, and tambourines, but not by flutes or pipes. He laid down basic conditions for the performance of samāʿ, namely that the singer should be an adult, not a boy or woman; the recited verses neither lewd nor trivial; the listener a true participant in samāʿ, not a spectator; and that the instruments should not include the čang (harp) or robāb (short-necked guitar; Sejzī, p. 246; Amīr Ḵᵛord, pp. 491–92). Though he discouraged the use of string and wind instruments because they obviated the experience of taste (ḏawq) and pain (dard) in the mystic, he encouraged singing and dancing (raqṣ) during samāʿ as equal to meditation and recollection (ḏekr) in inducing mystical union. Neẓām-al-Dīn Awlīāʾ, as other Češtīs after him, permitted Hindus to take part in samāʿ and initiated them into the Češtīya without formal conversion to Islam. The ʿolamāʾ of Delhi opposed Neẓām-al-Dīn Awlīāʾ’s practice of samāʿ and tried unsuccessfully to obtain an official edict against it at a notorious meeting (maḥżar) with the shaikh before Sultan Toḡloq (Amir Ḵᵛord, pp. 525–30). Half a century later, upon a report that the participants prostrated themselves before Gīsūderāz, Sultan Fīrūzšāh Toḡloq ordered the Češtīs to practice samāʿ in seclusion.
The formulation of precise rules regulating Češtī samāʿ can be traced to Gīsūderāz (Ḵātema, pp. 20–48), who compared samāʿ to a form of lovemaking (ṣūrat-e ʿesq-bāzī), accepted Hendovī verses during samāʿ, and had novices take part in it for the purpose of inner purification. According to Gīsūderāz the practice is not ordinary prayer but an extraordinary power overcoming the practitioner as a visitation (wāred) from the Unseen. Samāʿ should be performed at night rather than during the day, with only disciples of the same shaikh taking part. It should not take place in a mosque or a public place but in a closed hall perfumed with incense of aloes and sandalwood. The participants should be dressed in white and perform ablution beforehand, yet not observe the qebla (direction of ritual prayer). They should have the goal of samāʿ clearly in mind, keeping their eyes on the singer (qawwāl), who should never be a woman. Though garments may be torn or thrown off in ecstasy, one should remain conscious of one’s movements and conform to others in the dance. During samāʿ one should practice ḏekr-e ḵafī, the silent recollection, not ḏekr-e jalī, the ḏekr concluding with the loud utterance of ella’llāh. There are three principal ways of inducing the samāʿ experience: it can overcome the listener as a sudden uncontrollable agitation, develop gradually in his inner being as a feeling of total harmony, or be assimilated by conforming to the routine of the movements of other. It may result in dance, with or without movements having beat (żarb) and rhythm (wazn). The Sufi may go around in circles in ecstasy, leap about, beat the ground in his place with his feet, or lift his hands over his head twisting them together and rotating them before bringing them down again. At the climax of the experience the Sufi may utter howa’l-ḥaqq (He is God) or simply aspirate the h, as if he were giving expression to the still point of divine oneness, the dot (noqṭa), which is pure He-ness symbolized by the aspirated h (Asmār al-asrār, p. 101).
With the establishment of shrines (dargāh) at the tombs of well-known Češtīs venerated as saints, such as the shrine of Moʿīn-al-Dīn at Ajmer built by the Sultans of Malwa shortly after 859/1455, devotion was transferred from living shaikhs to dead pīrs, that is, saints. This transfer led to the development of hereditary succession among patrilineal descendants of a saint’s family, occupying the position of sajjādanešīn next to the institution of spiritual succession of shaikhs appointed as ḵalīfa. Family control over a shrine turned the Češtī samāʿ into a routine that adopted the features of a ritual. Performed as a spectacular ceremony on the anniversary (ʿors) of a saint, but also on other occasions, this ritual was eventually called qawwālī. The word derives from its principal performers, who were professional musicians led by solo-singers (qawwāl) and accompanied by the portable harmonium, the barrel-shaped drum, and the clapping of hands. Qawwālī par excellence is performed as a maḥfel-e samāʿ, an assembly led by an experienced shaikh to induce ecstasy in the individual listeners—the musicians themselves are not participants. Today as in the past it begins and ends with a Koran recital. It includes a praise of God (ḥamd), a eulogy to the Prophet (naʿt), a praise of the saint (manqaba), a recital of the order’s spiritual genealogy, and the extensive repertoire of a series of mainly Persian but also Hindi and Urdu Sufi poems recited as mystical songs (ḡenā). The Češtī maḥfel-e samāʿ is related to the invisible spiritual hierarchy of Sufi saints (darbār-e awlīāʾ) which is seen as visibly manifest in the leader and members of the assembly, the counterpart of the royal court of Muslim rulers (Qureshi, p. 108).
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Originally Published: December 15, 1991
Last Updated: October 11, 2011
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