ʿALĪ AṢḠAR ČEŠTĪ, Mughal hagiographer, chiefly known for his Jawāher-e Farīdī, compiled in 1033/1623 during the reign of Jahāngīr (1014-37/1605-27). A descendent of Shaikh Badr-al-dīn Solaymān, who was the son of Shaikh Farīd-al-dīn Ganǰ-e Šakar of Pakpattan (d. 664/1265), ʿAlī-Aṣḡar compiled Jawāher-e Farīdī to rectify errors that had crept into the genealogy of Shaikh Farīd’s descendents. How far he could critically investigate patrilineal claims is unknown, since no earlier work on the subject is available. Jawāher-e Farīdī became popular in Češtī circles and was often quoted by later taḏkera writers, though ʿAlī-Aṣḡar interpreted Sufism so as to appeal to credulous instincts. He refers to earlier writings, such as Fawāʾed al-foʾād, Sīar al-awlīāʾ, and Ḵayr al-maǰāles, to lend his work an air of authenticity, while ignoring information counter to hearsay. Thus the author of Sīar al-awlīāʾ states that Shaikh Farīd performed the čella-ye maʿkūs for forty nights (p. 70), but ʿAlī-Aṣḡar extends the period to ten years. He ascribes preposterous miracles to the shaikh, e.g., that he made a woman pregnant with one glance, as a result of which her progeny were treated as his descendants. He declares that the shaikh had thousands of ḵalīfas on land, on sea, and in the air (Jawāher, p. 275) and cites Sīar al-awlīāʾ as his authority although no such statement is found in that work. He generalized the practice of reciting the names of saints to fulfill the petitioner’s desires, stating (Jawāher, pp. 296-98) that whoever recites the ninety-nine names of Shaikh Farīd would have his prayers granted. For the history of the Češtī selsela, Jawāher-e Farīdī has distinct value, since it consolidates accounts of the Češtī saints up to the time of the author. Used with caution, it can help in constructing an outline of the principal figures of the selsela after Shaikh Farīd. ʿAlī-Aṣḡar’s depiction of tribes living in Ajodhan at the time of Shaikh Farīd (Jawāher, pp. 396-98) is also interesting, though evaluating the shaikh’s actual role in converting them is difficult. The influence of ʿAlī-Aṣḡar’s work is evident in Akram Barāsavī, Eqtebās al-anwār (Lahore, 1895), Ḡolām Sarvar Lāhūrī, Ḵazīnat al-aṣfīāʾ (vol. I, Lucknow, 1873), and Moḥammad Ḥosayn, Waqāʾeʿ-e ḥażrat Bābā Farīd Ganǰ-e Šakar (Urdu; Lahore, 1302/1885).
Jawāher-e Farīdī, Lahore, 1301/1884; the Urdu tr. Lahore, n.d., is inaccurate and full of interpolations. See also Storey I/2, pp. 986-87.
K. A. Nizami, The Life and Times of Shaikh Farid-uʾd-din Ganj-i Shakar, 2nd ed., New Delhi, 1973, p. 9.
(K. A. Nizami)
Originally Published: December 15, 1985
Last Updated: August 1, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 8, pp. 859-860
K. A. Nizami, “ʿALĪ AṢḠAR ČEŠTĪ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/8, pp. 859-860, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ali-asgar-cesti (accessed on 30 December 2012).