ʿALĪ B. ŠEHĀB-AL-DĪN B. MOḤAMMAD HAMADĀNĪ, MĪR SAYYED, surnamed ʿAlī-e Ṯānī, Šāh-e Hamadān, and Amīr-e Kabīr, major 8th/14th century Sufi saint. He was born at Hamadān on Raǰab 714/22 October 1314 into an influential family claiming descent from Imam Ḥosayn. He was initiated into Sufi practices by Maḥmūd Mazdaqānī (d. 766/1365) and ʿAlī Dōstī (d. 734/1334), disciples of the Kobrawī shaikh ʿAlāʾ-al-dawla Semnānī (d. 736/1336). Hamadānī led the life of an itinerant Sufi, traveling extensively in the Asian parts of the Islamic world (Ḥeǰāz, Syria, Anatolia, Iraq, Iran, Ḵᵛārazm, and Transoxiana), where he allegedly met 1,400 Sufi saints (obtaining the eǰāza from some thirty of them) before he reached the climax of his career in Badaḵšān and Kashmir. Setting out in 734/1334, he journeyed for approximately twenty years, for a time in the company of Ašraf Jahāngīr Semnānī (d. 808/1405). In 754/1353 he married, settled down at Hamadān, and reorganized Mazdaqānī’s ḵānaqāh. Possibly fearing for his life at Balḵ when Tīmūr conquered Khorasan (772/1370), Hamadānī migrated to Ḵottalān in Badaḵšān, where his son Moḥammad was born in 774/1372 and Jaʿfar Badaḵšī became his disciple in 774/1373. Although Hamadānī may have visited Kashmir as early as 774/1373 during the reign of the Šāhmīrī sultan Šehāb-al-dīn (760-80/1359-78; cf. C. E. Bosworth, The Islamic Dynasties, Edinburgh, 1967, pp. 196-98), it was only in 781/1379 during the reign of Sultan Qoṭb-al-dīn (780-96/1378-94) that he came to settle at Srinagar. In 784/1383 he traveled to Turkestan and Khatay, returning to Kashmir in 785/1384. He died near Kūnār on Ḏu’l-ḥeǰǰa 786/19 January 1385, while on a journey. His body was transported to Ḵottalān (Kuliab in Soviet Tajikestan), where his shrine is still extant.
Hamadānī’s influence greatly contributed to the spread of Islam in Kashmir under his followers, known as the Hamadānīya. Their main centers were the ḵānaqāh-e maymūn at Ḵottalān and the ḵānaqāh-e moʿallā at Srinagar (built in 798/1395, destroyed by fire but rebuilt in 885/1480); they had minor ḵānaqāhs at Rostabazar, Tral, Vachi, and Matan. Hamadānī’s chief disciples were Nūr-al-dīn Jaʿfar Badaḵšī, his biographer, who negotiated with Tīmūr’s camp in 801/1398 as emissary of Sekandar Botšekan, sultan of Kashmir (796-819/1394-1416); his son Mīr Moḥammad Hamadānī (d. 854/1450 in Ḵottalān), who settled in Srinagar about 805/1402 and wielded considerable influence during Sekandar’s reign before leaving Kashmir in 817/1414; his son-in-law Esḥāq Ḵottalānī (executed in 826/1423 by order of Šāhroḵ), whose disciples split into the followers of Sayyed Moḥammad Nūrbaḵš (d. 869/1464), the later Nūrbaḵšīya, and the followers of ʿAbdallāh Barzīšābādī (d. 872/1468), the later Ḏahabīya; Qawām-al-dīn Badaḵšī, his companion on the journey to Kashmir; and, according to Qoššāšī (al-Semṭ al-maǰīd, Hyderabad, 1327/1909, p. 77), ʿAbdallāh Šaṭṭārī (d. 832/1428-29), the founder of the ŠaṭÂ¡ṭārī selsela. Hamadānī’s biography, Ḵolāṣat al-manāqeb, was compiled immediately after his death in 787/1385 by Jaʿfar Badaḵšī, while a biography based on it, Manqabat-e ǰawāher (also known as Masṭūrāt), was written in Kashmir in the middle of the 9th/15th century by the Shiʿite Ḥaydar Badaḵšī, who had belonged to the Šaṭṭārī selsela before becoming a disciple of Barzīšābādī.
Hamadānī was the author of some 100 works, most of them brief Sufi treatises, written chiefly in Persian but occasionally in Arabic. Many of them still exist only in manuscript form (Brockelmann, GAL II, p. 221, S. II, p. 311; Storey, I, pp. 36, 946ff.). His best known works are: Ḏaḵīrat al-molūk (Amritsar, 1321/1903, Lahore, 1323/1905; Urdu tr. Ḡolām Qāder, Nahī al-solūk, Lahore, 1333/1915), an ethical code in Persian on personal and political conduct, which was translated several times into Turkish with commentary for the benefit of Ottoman rulers during the 10th-11th/16th-17th centuries; Čehel asrār (Amritsar, 1303/1886, 1333/1915; ed. S. A. Boḵārī, Tehran, 1388/1968), a Persian dīvān on mystical themes also known as Ḡazlīyāt, employing the taḵalloṣ of ʿAlī or ʿAlāʾī (in deference to ʿAlāʾ-al-dawla Semnānī; Awrād-e fatḥīya (Lahore, 1289/1872, Cawnpore, 1300/1882, Lucknow, 1293/1876 with a commentary by Moḥammad-Jaʿfar Jaʿfarī; Urdu tr. Ḥakīm Moḥammad Esḥāq, Karachi, 1389/1969), a popular Arabic collection of Sufi invocatory prayers; and al-Mawadda fi’l-qorabāʾ (Bombay, 1310/1892-93, Lucknow, 1370/1950; cf. J. N. Hollister, The Shiʿa of India, London, 1953, p. 143), an Arabic collection of Hadiths in praise of the Prophet’s family.
Less well-known, yet crucial for Hamadānī’s Sufi doctrine, are his short treatises, a number of which have been published in little-known journals and collections: Resāla-ye dah qāʿeda (ed. M. Molé, FIZ 6, Tehran, 1337 Š./1958, pp. 38-66); a Persian translation of al-Oṣūl al-ašʿara by Naǰm-al-dīn Kobrā (cf. F. Meier, Der Islam 24, 1937, pp. 15-19); Resāla-ye fortūwatīya (ed. Molé, Šarkīyāt Mecmuasi 4, 1961, pp. 33-72), according to which Moḥammad b. Aḥmad Aḏkānī (d. 778/1376) was the master and Aḵī Ṭūṭī ʿAlīšāhī Ḵottalānī the pupil of Hamadānī in fotūwa; two succinct professions of faith, al-Resālat al-eʿteqādīya (ed. M. Molé, Bulletin d’études orientales 17, 1961-62, pp. 138-49), an Arabic epitome of the principles of Islamic theology and the nature of faith, and Resāla-ye bayān-e eʿteqād (ibid., pp. 150-83), a Persian treatise on the metaphysical qualities of God and Moslem religious practice; Rasāla-ye darvīšīya (= faqīrīya; included in Aḥmad b. Moḥammad Karīm Tabrīzī, Awṣāf al-moqarrabīn, Shiraz, 1338/1920), a tract on questions of mystical anthropology; Resāla-ye manāmīya, on the interpretation of dreams according to a theory of emanation (cf. German tr. by F. Meier in Eranos Jahrbuch 18, 1950, pp. 143-72); Ketāb asrār al-noqṭa (in the margin of, and wrongly ascribed to, Mollā Ṣadrā Šīrāzī, al-Mabdaʾ wa’l-maʿād, Tehran, 1314/1896-97, pp. l53-83), a fine Arabic treatise expounding a monist mysticism through the symbolic interpretation of the point, on which Barzīšābādī wrote a commentary (Rīāż al-awlīāʾ, discussed in V. Ivanov, Catalogue of the Persian Manuscripts in the Curzon Collection, Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta, 1926, no. 704); al-Wāredāt al-ḡaybīya wa’l-laṭāʾef al-qodsīya (Delhi, 1333/1915), a compendium modeled on the Monāǰāt of Ḵᵛāǰa ʿAbdallāh Anṣārī (d. 481/1089); Resāla-ye ḏekrīya (included in Ḥasan b. Ḥamza Palāsī Šīrāzī, Taḏkera-ye Šayḵ Moḥammad b. Ṣeddīq Koǰoǰī, Tehran, 1367/1948, pp. 53-66), on mystical union inspired by the sayings of Jonayd (d. 297/910); and Resāla-ye qoddūsīya, also known as Resāla-ye ʿaqabāt (ibid., pp. 71-78) on four principal flaws of character, addressed to the ruler of Kashmir. There are also two pamphlets, Resāla-ye čehel maqām-e ṣūfīya (ibid., pp. 67-70; also attributed to Abū Saʿīd b. Abi’l-Ḵayr; cf. S. H. Nasr, Sufi Essays, London, 1972, pp. 77-82, where the work is translated; F. Meier, Abū Saʿīd-i Abū Ḫayr, Leiden, 1976, pp. 36-37) on the stages of the Sufi path, and Menhāǰ al-ʿārefīn (appendix to Ḏaḵīrat al-molūk, Amritsar, 1321/1903, reprinted in Ḥosām-al-dīn Rāšedī, Taḏkera-ye šoʿarā-ye Kašmīr, Karachi, 1387/1968, II, pp. 915-17), an enumeration of the guidelines of good counsel.
Hamadānī’s personality and thought are marked by a harmony of contrast that permeates his religious practice and his Sufi outlook. Although he considered himself a scion of sayyed stock, accorded ʿAlī an exceptional position in his Arabic Hadith collections, and was later surnamed ʿAlī-e Ṯānī by his followers, he nonetheless professed a typically Sunni creed and successively belonged to two Sunni maḏhabs: He began as a Ḥanafī but changed to the Šāfeʿī school after dream visitations by Imam Šāfeʿī and the Prophet Moḥammad (cf. M. Molé, “Les Kubrawiya entre Sunnisme et Shiisme aux huitième et neuvième siècles de l’hégire,” REI 29, 1961, p. 114). By investiture with the garment of fotūwa and the mantle of taṣawwof, he was initiated into two parallel lines of affiliation (selsela) that had previously converged in Naǰm-al-dīn Kobrā (d. 618/1221; cf. F. Meier, Die Fawāʾiḥ al-ğamāl wa-fawātiḥ al-ğalāl des Nağm ad-dīn al-Kubrā, Wiesbaden, 1957, p. 34). Hamadānī adopted Kobrā’s fundamental principles of the Sufi path (dah qāʿeda), followed the Khorasanian tradition of Sufism and compiled Resāla-ye manāzel al-sālekīn in emulation of Anṣārī’s Manāzel al-sāʾerīn (ed. S. Laugier de Beaurecueil, Cairo, 1382/1962). In his mystical philosophy Hamadānī was influenced by Ebn al-ʿArabī (d. 638/1240); he summarized Foṣūṣ al-ḥekam in a Persian abstract, Ḥall-e foṣūṣ. In addition, he wrote a Persian commentary, Resāla-ye mašāreb al-aḏwāq, on thirty-two verses of the famous Qaṣīda mīmīya ḵamrīya by ʿOmar b. Fāreż (d. 632/1235) (ed. M. Rīāż, FIZ 20, 1353 Š./1974, pp. 266-315; cf. R. A. Nicholson, Studies in Islamic Mysticism, Cambridge, 1921, pp. 183-88).
Hamadānī’s metaphysical speculation, as it emerges from the philosophical sections of his works that are accessible in print, is marked by a duality of aspects integrated into a monistic system. God, the necessary being (wāǰeb al-woǰūd), is one and unique in His eternal and sublime essence (ḏāt-e motaʿālīa). He is the Omnipotent, the Creator, and the Everlasting Presence. The universe, from the divine throne to the planet earth, subsists through His majesty and power; it is at once the subject of His knowledge and the object of His will. All thought and activity, potential as well as actual, are governed by His statute and subordinated to His decree. In passing from the world of ideas (maʿānī) through spirits and archetypes (meṯāl) to the physical world, indeterminate being receives its manifold forms and is made articulate in concrete existence. The microcosm of man, reflecting the macrocosm of the universe, is composed of subtle, luminous substance (ǰawhar-e laṭīf-e nūrānī) and coarse, tenebrous substance (ǰawhar-e kaṯīf-e ẓolmānī). Man is endowed with an inner scale of organs of consciousness (nafs, qalb, serr, rūḥ) leading to the innermost core (ḵafī, aḵfā), where the attributes of the divine presence are made manifest through the experience of ecstasy. It is at the point of gnosis (maʿrefat) that man discovers his “descent” from the divine presence as the basis of theosophy (asās-e ʿerfān), at the same time that he realizes his “ascent” to the divine presence as the scale of certitude (meʿrāǰ-e īqān). Yet mystic experience is rooted in a double outward observance: 1. Submission (eslām), i.e., the practice of purification (ṭahāra) on the basis of the pillars of religion (arkān al-dīn); and 2. faith (īmān), i.e., profession (eqrār), assent (taṣdīq), and works (ʿamal) founded on belief in the eschatological realities of the Koran.
See also Brockelmann, GAL II, p. 221; S. II, p. 311.
Storey, I, p. 947. G. M. D. Sufi, Kashir, Being a History of Kashmir, Lahore, 1949, I, pp. 85-94.
F. Meier, “Die Welt der Urbilder bei ʿAlī Hamadānī,” Eranos Jahrbuch 8, 1950, pp. 115-72.
ʿA. A. Ḥekmat, “Les voyages d’un mystique persan de Hamadan au Kashmir,” JA 240, 1952, pp. 53-66.
Idem, “Az Hamadān tā Kašmīr,” Yaḡmā 4, 1330 Š./1951, pp. 337-43.
J. K. Teufel, Eine Lebensbeschreibung des Scheichs ʿAlī-i Hamadānī, Leiden, 1962.
S. A. Ẓafar, Amīr Kabīr Sayyed ʿAlī Hamadānī (Urdu), Lahore, 1972.
Originally Published: December 15, 1985
Last Updated: August 1, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 8, pp. 862-864
Gerhard Böwering, “ʿALĪ HAMADĀNĪ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/2, pp. 96-99, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ali-b-32 (accessed on 30 December 2012).