ALLĀHDĪĀ ČEŠTĪ, SHAIKH, Mughal author of Sīar al-aqṭāb, a biography of the masters of the Ṣāberī Češtī Sufi order. Born at Kayranah (near Panipat) in the early 11th/late 16th century, he died sometime after 1069/1659, probably in Ajmer; his paternal uncle and grandfather were physicians, the former in the service of Jahāngīr (Storey, I, p. 1003). Allāhdīā (“God-given,” dīa being the past part. of the Hindi verb denā “to give”) traced his spiritual descent from Shaikh Jalāl-al-dīn b. Maḥmūd Češtī Oṯmānī of Panipat (d. 765/1363, or, according to Digby, “ʿAbd-al-Qoddūs,” p. 4, after 785/1384), who originally came from Kāzerūn in Fārs. At Kayranah Allāhdīā received his early education and acquired proficiency in Persian and Arabic. He led a reclusive life, devoting himself to the study of books on the lives of Sufi saints. For practical instruction in taṣawwof he traveled the twenty miles to Panipat, where he became the disciple of Shaikh ʿAbd-al-Salām, better known as Shah ʿAlāʾ; while in his service he made a collection of his conversations (malfūẓāt), Jawāher-e ʿalāʾ. In 1036/1627, three years after the death of Shah ʿAlāʾ, Allāhdīā began a book on the lives of the early Ṣāberī Češtī saints, each of whom was said to have attained the supreme rank of qoṭb al-aqṭāb; he completed the work twenty years later, though it is only 200 printed pages in length. Sīar al-aqṭāb contains biographies of twenty-seven saints, beginning with ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭāleb and ending with Shah ʿAlāʾ. The distinctive biographies concern the Ṣāberī branch of the Češtī selsela; the work gives fuller details on Shaikh ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn ʿAlī Ṣāber (d. 691/1291) and his successors at Panipat and elsewhere in western Uttar Pradesh than can be found in any other medieval source. But as in most such works legends are intermingled with facts, while critical questions such as gaps in the selsela between Farīd-al-dīn Aǰodhānī and Jalāl-al-dīn Pānīpatī are left unanswered. Sīar al-aqṭāb is frequently cited by both late Mughal and contemporary scholars of Indian Sufism (e.g., Ḡolām Moʿīn-al-dīn ʿAbdallāh Ḵᵛēšgī, Maʿāreǰ al-walāya, passim; K. A. Neẓāmī, Tārīḵ-emašāʾeḵ-e češt, Delhi, 1372/1953, pp. 215-16); it exists in numerous manuscripts (Storey, I, p. 1004), several lithograph editions (Neval Kešūr, 1877, 1881, 1889 and 1913), and at least one Urdu translation (Neval Kešūr, 1888).
C. Rieu, Cat. Pers. Man., pp. 358-59.
D. N. Marshall, Mughals in India, p. 68.
Ḡolām Sarvar Lāhorī, Ḵazīnat al-aṣfīāʾ, Lahore, 1284/1867, pp. 456-58.
S. Digby, “ʿAbd-al-Qoddūs Gangohī,” Medieval India—a Miscellany III, Aligarh, 1975, pp. 4-5.
Originally Published: December 15, 1985
Last Updated: August 2, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 8, p. 890
G. Sarwar, “ALLĀHDĪĀ ČEŠTĪ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/8, p. 890, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/allahdia-cesti-shaikh-mughal-author-of-siar-al-aqtab-a-biography-of-the-masters-of-the-saberi-cesti-sufi-order (accessed on 30 December 2012).