DEYLAMĪ, ŠAMS-AL-DĪN ABŪ ṮĀBET MOḤAMMAD b. ʿAbd-al-Malek ṬŪSĪ (d. ca. 593/1197), original though obscure Sufi author of the 12th century. Jāmī (Nafaḥāt, p. 355) cited him as a teacher of the 13th-century Sufi Maḥmūd Ošnohī (Landolt, p. 210) and “a great master and scholar whose teachings on the true reality of time, as set forth in his writings, are rarely found in the works of others.” Deylamī was the author of about two dozen works on a variety of philosophical, theological, and mystical topics. Except for one minor treatise that has appeared in print (GÚāyat al-emkān fī derāyat al-makān, wrongly attributed by Raḥīm Farmaneš to ʿAyn-al-Qożāt Hamadānī, app. pp. 1-54), Deylamī’s works are extant in manuscript only; most important among them are two collections of his writings (Süleimaniye library, Istanbul, Şehid Ali Paşáa ms. no. 1346; Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi library, Ankara, İsmail Saib ms. no. 4120/2). Despite confusion in the sources (reflected in Brockelmann, GAL II, p. 207; cf. Arberry, p. 49; Böwering, p. 231), it is certain that Deylamī flourished in the second half of the 12th century and probably died in 593/1197.

Most of Deylamī’s works were written in Arabic, but a few were also written in Persian. It is difficult to establish an exact chronology of these writings because he appears to have systematically reworked many of them, including in his revisions frequent cross-references to his other treatises. It is therefore best to arrange them according to content, divided between major works and minor treatises. The minor works are known under the following titles, listed in Kašf al-ẓonūn and Kašf al-ẓonūn: Ḏayl: Mohemmāt al-wāṣelīn; ʿAjāʾeb al-maʿāref wa-badāʾeʿ al-ḡārāʾeb; al-Jamʿ bayn al-tawḥīd wa’l-taʿẓīm; Borhān al-maḥabba; Makāyed al-Šayṭān; Noṣrat al-mella; Oṣūl maḏāheb al-ʿorafāʾ; Maʿrefat alfāẓ al-ʿorafāʾ; al-Tajrīd fī radd maqāṣed al-falāsefa; Taḵjīl al-falāsefa; al-Azal wa’l-abad; al-Masāʾel al-molammaʿ; GÚāyat al-emkān fī derāyat al-makān; al-Qawl fī tafsīr al-ʿelm ʿalā’l-ʿaql; Meḥakk al-nofūs; al-Jāmeʿ le-dalāʾel al-nobowwa; Sawāneḥ al-sawānehá; and Ketāb al-maʿārej.

Deylamī’s major works, all written in Arabic, include a commentary on the Koran, a summary of glosses on Sufi sayings, a collection of Hadith, an epitome of Sufi ethics, a compendium of Sufi cosmology, and an abstract of Sufi theology. His Koran commentary, the longest of his writings, is extant in at least eight manuscripts. One of the oldest, copied in 794/1392, bears the title Fotūḥ al-Raḥmān fī ešārāt al-Qorʾān (Beyazıt Umumi Kütüphanesi, Istanbul, Veliyeddin Efendi ms. no. 430). On the other copies the title is given as Taṣdīq al-maʿāref, the title by which the author himself referred to the work in his other writings. In his introduction to the commentary Deylamī stressed the radical change in his intellectual outlook from a critical stance toward Sufism in his early writings to a favorable appreciation of Islamic mysticism at later stages of his life. The body of the work is a continuous yet eclectic commentary on selected koranic verses from all suras presented in sequence. It consists of two parallel levels of interpretive glosses on koranic phrases, specimens of Sufi sayings, and items of the author’s own explanation.

Šarḥ ketāb al-anfās, a summary of glosses on Sufi sayings, has erroneously been identified as a commentary on the teachings of Abu’l-Qāsem Jonayd (d. 298/910) and Ebn ʿAṭāʾ (d. 309 or 311/921-22 or 923-24) or as a gloss on the so-called Ketāb al-serr fī anfās al-ṣūfīya, wrongly attributed to Jonayd (cf. Sezgin, GAS, I, p. 648). In Šarḥ ketāb al-anfās; ʿOyūn al-maʿāref, his collection of Hadith; and Eṣlāḥ al-aḵlāq, his epitome of Sufi ethics, Deylamī employed a similar method of quoting Sufi statements and lengthy expressions of his own views.

His compendium on Sufi cosmology, entitled Merʾāt al-arwāḥwa ṣūrat al-wejāh, is extant in two manuscripts that offer a glimpse of the scope of the revisions undertaken by the author, for one manuscript appears to represent the first and the other a revised version. The work is divided into two sections, each subdivided into chapters. It is preceded by a chart providing a sketch of Deylamī’s cosmology, depicting the universe from the highest heaven to its lowest point. The author explained this chart as the reflection of a mystical vision in which he perceived the form and image of the invisible world as mirrors within mirrors, reflecting the nature and qualities of the spirits as if in a magnificent kaleidoscope. He defined the basic design and composition of the invisible world, explained its component parts, enumerated seven layers (badan “body,” nafs “soul,” qalb “heart,” īmān “faith,” ʿaql “intellect,” rūḥ “spirit,” and serr “inmost being”), and described the two conduits through which spiritual energy passes from the highest spirit (al-rūḥ al-aʿlā) and the most hidden reality to the lower world.

In his abstract of Sufi theology entitled Jawāher al-asrār Deylamī tried to define the theological foundations on which he anchored the world of his visions. He declared that he changed the original title of the work, Kašf al-ḥaqāʾeq be-konh al-daqāʾeq upon divine inspiration. The work, which was completed at the beginning of September 1193, is divided into fourteen chapters composed in the scholastic style of Islamic dialectical theology, frequently proceeding by answers to rhetorical questions. Its main thrust is on the nature of the human intellect, the vision of God, the compatibility of time and space with the idea of God, and the interpretation of Islamic monotheism in mystical experience (cf. Böwering, pp. 233-35). The frequent cross-references to most of Deylamī’s other writings in Arabic and Persian seem to indicate that the work was revised by the author toward the end of his life. In his theological argumentation he relied on the Maqālāt feraq ahl al-qebla, a work of the Baghdad Muʿtazilite Abu’l-Qāsem Kaʿbī Balḵī, which, as Deylamī observed, the author had begun to compile in 279/892. Deylamī also included exegetical disquisitions on Koran 42:11, 2:30, and 24:35, supported by quotations from the Old Testament in arabicized Hebrew.

Deylamī’s writings encompass much unpublished and original material. Although he did not equal the philosophical prominence of Yaḥyā Sohravardī (d. 587/1191), he bridged the gap in 12th-century Sufism between ʿAyn-al-Qożāt Hamadānī and Najm-al-Dīn Kobrā, foreshadowing ideas that emerged in the Kobrawī school and the Ḥorūfī sect. Deylamī’s arguments are frequently directed ad hominem and not free of inconsistencies. His thought is firmly based in theological reasoning and strongly permeated by visionary elements. In fact, the central purpose of his work may best be understood as providing a framework of thought for mystical vision. His writings mark a stage of transition in Sufi thought, breaking away from karāmāt (Sufi miracles) and legend and turning toward wāqeʿāt (Sufi visions) and dreams. The visionary world of the mystic is treated as totally real and fully identical with the spiritual world of the invisible realm. The twinship and correspondence of the inner world of man and the upper world of the unseen provide the platform for Deylamī’s thought on the bipolarity of divine nature, his notions of three-dimensional time and eternal space, and his stress on intuitive knowledge and direct vision of the divine.



(For cited works not found in this bibliography and for abbreviations found here, see “Short References.”) A. J. Arberry, “The Works of Shams al-Dīn al-Dailamī,” BSOAS 29, 1966, pp. 49-56.

G. Böwering, “The Writings of Shams al-Dīn al-Daylamī,” Islamic Studies 26, 1987, pp. 231-36.

R. Farmaneš, Aḥwāl o āṯār-e ʿAyn-al-Qożāt, Tehran 1339 Š./1960.

Kaḥḥāla, X, p. 257.

H. Landolt, Le révélateur des mystères, Paris, 1986.

(Gerhard Böwering)

Originally Published: December 15, 1995

Last Updated: November 22, 2011

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Vol. VII, Fasc. 4, pp. 341-342