Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sources on the North Indian Shiʿi Hierocracy III: Awrāq al-dhahab

The Shia Bibliographical Institute/Muʾassasa-yi kitābshināsī-yi Shīʿeh/Muʾassasat turāth al-Shīʿa based in Qum is doing some excellent work publishing biographical dictionaries, editions of key texts, and studies of particular Shiʿi scholars and intellectuals. In recent years, they have noticeably been contributing to the study of Shiʿi South Asia - which is, of course, highly commendable. 

As part of this effort, they produced a critical edition by ʿAlī Fāżilī in 2015 in three volumes of Muftī Sayyid Muḥammad ʿAbbās al-Jazāʾirī (b. 1224/1809, d. 1306/1889)'s biography of Sayyid al-ʿulamāʾ Sayyid Ḥusayn b. Dildār ʿAlī Naṣīrābādī (d. 1273/1856) entitled Awrāq al-dhahab aw al-Maʿādin al-dhahabīya al-lujjaynīya fī l-maḥāsin al-wahbīya al-ḥusaynīya along with some important correspondence of the author and relevant ijāzāt. There is an earlier edition of the text by the Kufa Academy based in Holland and run by Muḥammad Saʿīd al-Ṭurayḥī, which came out in 2007 printed in Beirut. However, in comparison it is a much weaker text since that editor is rather unfamiliar with South Asia and does not have the relevant grasp of Persian required (even if the actual text is in Arabic). 

The author of the text, Muftī Sayyid Muḥammad ʿAbbās, was fifth generation descendent of the Safavid theologian Sayyid Niʿmatullāh al-Jazāʾirī (d. 1701). His grandfather Sayyid Jaʿfar was the first to emigrate to India, settling in Lucknow in the early nawabi period. One of the earliest sources for Muftī was the account in Tadhkirat al-ʿulamāʾ al-muḥaqqiqīn written in 1263/1847 was his student Sayyid Mahdī Riżavī ʿAẓīmābādī. The standard account that most use is from Takmilat Nujūm al-samāʾ of Mīrzā Muḥammad Mahdī Kashmīrī. Muftī was known for his skills as a theologian and as a jurist (as Muftī of Lucknow) and as a poet and literary figure. Sayyid ʿAbd al-Ḥayy Lukhnavī (d. 1341/1923) the famous rector of Nadwat al-ʿulamāʾ in his major biographical dictionary Nuzhat al-khawāṭir wa-bahjat al-manāẓir wa-l-masāmiʿ gives a full account of him including his studies with the Farangī-Maḥallī Ḥanafī scholars ʿAbd al-Qawī and ʿAbd al-Quddūs in literature, and another Farangī Maḥallī Maulānā Qudrat ʿAlī in philosophy and logic; his main teacher was Sayyid Ḥusayn. Muftī was appointed to teach in the royal seminary (madrasa sulṭānīya) and as a judge.

The whole text is divided into an introduction on the author and his subject, then it is followed by Awrāq al-dhahab which has ten chapters (maʿdin) and a khātima, and then various appendices (mulḥaqāt): 
I: on the ijāzāt that Sayyid Dildār ʿAlī received from Sayyid Mahdī Baḥr al-ʿulūm, Sayyid ʿAlī Ṭabāṭabāʾī, Sayyid Mahdī Shahristānī and Sayyid Mahdī Iṣfahānī
II: on the ijāza that Sayyid Dildār ʿAlī gave his son Sayyid Muḥammad Sulṭān al-ʿulamāʾ
III: on the ijāzāt that Sayyid al-ʿulamāʾ gave including to Muftī Sayyid Muḥammad ʿAbbās and some more on his life and works
IV: on the ijāza that Shaykh Muḥammad Ḥusayn Najafī, author of Jawāhir al-kalām, gave to Sayyid Muḥammad Taqī Mumtāz al-ʿulamāʾ, the grandson of Sayyid Dildār ʿAlī
V: on the ijāzāt of Muftī Sayyid Muḥammad ʿAbbās
VI: on the correspondence of Sayyid Ḥusayn in Arabic and in Persian 
VII: on the correspondence of various ʿulamāʾ of the Iraqi shrine cities to Sayyid Ḥusayn
VIII-XII: various documents relating to the death and testament of Sayyid Ḥusayn
XIII: notes of condolences to Sayyid Muḥammad Taqī Mumtāz al-ʿulamāʾ on the passing of his father Sayyid Ḥusayn 
XIV: related obituaries
XV: the correspondence of Mumtāz al-ʿulamāʾ with Muftī Sayyid Muḥammad ʿAbbās
XVI: other correspondence of Muftī Sayyid Muḥammad ʿAbbās
XVII: other correspondence of Mumtāz al-ʿulamāʾincluding with Sayyid Muḥammad Qulī (d. 1844), father of Mīr Ḥāmid Ḥusayn Kintūrī [the father was a student of Sayyid Dildār ʿAlī and Sayyid Muḥammad, while the son was a student of Sayyid Ḥusayn]
XVIII: last testament of Mumtāz al-ʿulamāʾ

Taken together this is an invaluable source - hitherto only available in separate lithographs that are rare to find especially in European libraries and even Indian ones - for our understanding of the culture of the ʿulamāʾ in North India, especially in Awadh in the last days of the kingdom and in the early period of colonial rule, and their interactions with the Shiʿi hierocracy in Iraq (and Iran). What it demonstrates is just how integrated and significant the Indian ʿulamāʾ were considered in the 'centres' of learning. The ijāzāt tell us much about the curricula and how the texts were received and understood and what of them was actually studied. The correspondence tells us then more about the contexts of study. Any serious intellectual history of the Shiʿi hierocracy in North India especially in the early colonial period must engage with this valuable three volume work. 

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