The Spiritual Journey of Dara Shukoh

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<ul><li><p>Social Scientist</p><p>The Spiritual Journey of Dara ShukohAuthor(s): Tasadduq HusainSource: Social Scientist, Vol. 30, No. 7/8 (Jul. - Aug., 2002), pp. 54-66Published by: Social ScientistStable URL: .Accessed: 29/03/2014 21:43</p><p>Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms &amp; Conditions of Use, available at .</p><p> .</p><p>JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact</p><p> .</p><p>Social Scientist is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Social Scientist.</p><p> </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sat, 29 Mar 2014 21:43:48 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p></li><li><p>TASADDUQ HUSAIN* </p><p>The Spiritual Journey of Dara Shukoh </p><p>The Mughal Emperors, in general, were great scholars by themselves and patronized scholarship in all forms, be it worldly science, or the religious and mystical one. Right from Babur to Bahadur Shah Zafar, most of them persistently occupied themselves with patronizing the learned scholars of both creeds, Islam and Hinduism. It was with Akbar, however, that the interest in religious matters took a dramatic turn, and the emperor began to consider what the implications of the great mystical theories were in the realms of both spirit and the worldly life. </p><p>He claimed to have realized his Rabb-i Navy, the enlightened form, residing in the 'Alam-e Misal (the world of form), resembling the Platonic world of Ideas as put forword in Shihabud din Suhrawardi Maqtul's Ishraqi philosophy (illuminationism). Akbar's special minister and spokesman Abul Fazl, justified Akbar's own mystical status by inverting Maqtul's assertion about the illumined man's worldly power and wrote in the Ai'n-i Akbari that a just king (Badshah-i 'Adil) is illumined by Divine Light (farr-i izidi) and 'kingly luminiscence' (Kaiwan-Khura). Dara Shukoh, inheriting this legacy always made high claims about himself embodying the divine light, and thus being a sufi of the first order without putting on a sufi appearance and even after participating in the court business and his own political schemes. One cannot understand Dara Shukoh's combination of political ambitions with aspirations to obtain spiritual truth unless we keep in mind what may be called the Akbari version of the Ishraqi doctrine. </p><p>There was yet another link too with Akbar: the latter's deep interest in the philosophy of quasi-pantheistic thought that stemmed from Ibn 'Arabi. If all worldly difference are illusory, this applies as much </p><p>* Centre of Advanced Study in History, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh </p><p>Social Scientist, Vol. 30, Nos. 7 - 8, July-August 2002 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sat, 29 Mar 2014 21:43:48 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p></li><li><p>THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY </p><p>to religious or sectarian difference as to any other. The principle of Sulh-i Kul (Absolute Peace) required that such difference should be tolerated; and such tolerance required the guidance of the Insan-i Kamil, which Akbar could, of course, be held to be, without need of any explicit claims. Both these concepts were borrowed from the rich body of thought and speculation in the writings of Ibn'Arabi and his disciples, but were put (as is the case with Ishraqi thought) to unexpected use by Akbar and Abul Fazl - to sustain the character of the Mughal Empire not only as a multi-religious state but also as a (hopefully benevolent) despotism. </p><p>Once Ibn 'Arabi's quasi-pantheistic philosophy, known shortly as that of wahdat al-wujud, unity of all existence within God, became the imperial creed, as it were, all Islamic mysticism (tasawwuf) was now seen as covered by its light. Once this happened, the attractions of Sankaracharya's Vedanta, which was, perhaps, even more absolutely pantheistic in its ultimate version of truth were bound to exert their pull. Jahangir put the matter shortly but most significantly when he said that 'the science of Bedant [Vedanta] is the science of tasawwuf'.3 </p><p>The assertion is important, for, it concedes that sufism, which was placed at the spiritual heart of Islam, was infact identical with Vedanta, increasingly percieved to be the dominant darshana of Hinduism. Dara Shukoh, did not invest this notion, he inherited it; but he wonderfully elaborated it and endeavoured to prove it in detail. </p><p>One must assume that given his interest, Dara Shukoh was not only aware of sufi literature but also of works of brahmanical authorship that had been translated in Akbar's time. This included the translation of an abridgement of Yogavasishtha, which Dara Shukoh was not satisfied with, so that he sponsored a fresh translation completed by Habibullah in 1655-56.4 At Akbar's court had also been translated the Mahabharata under the title Razmnama; and this Akbar had regarded very highly. This must, of course, have included the celebrated Bhagvadgita.5 </p><p>On the other hand, Dara Shukoh's reading in sufic literature and attachment to sufi practices must have begun early. However, Qanungo in his book on Dara Shukoh writes an interesting story of the inclination of Dara Shukuh towards sufism. Till he was married with Nadira Begum, Dara was not inclined towards Sufism but was a Muslim with ordinary theological views. As a prince he enjoyed all the luxuries of royal life and was completely satisfied with his life- style. After the death of his baby daughter, the newly wedded couple were drawn into a gloom. In the meantime Dara accompanied </p><p>55 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sat, 29 Mar 2014 21:43:48 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p></li><li><p>56 SOCIAL SCIENTIST </p><p>Shajahan in his train to Kashmir. During his sojourn at Lahore, Shahjahan along with Dara went to visit Miyan Mir in his shrine (khanqah). The atmosphere of his shrine touched Dara's heart and he decided to swear allegiance to the revered Miyan Mir after returning from Kashmir. At this juncture, he showed keenness in the study of sufism. Dara began his pursuit from Lahore on the way to Kashmir.6 At the time of his return in December, the same year (1634) from Kashmir he had read a lot of sufi literature including the mystic works of Shaikh Junaid of Baghdad and the famous poet Rumi. The royal train stopped again at Lahore and the Emperor paid a third visit to Miyan Mir's shrine. Dara expressed his desire to become his disciple (murid) to which Miyan Mir agreed. Dara, however, could not become his disciple, because the aged mystic himself died before initiating him into Qadiriya order. Nevertheless, he called him his spiritual guide. Dara Shukoh was actually initiated into the Qadiriya order by Mullah Shah Badakhshi, a worthy successor of his preceptor Miyan Mir. </p><p>We may not be concerned with the historicity of the event described; nevertheless, the story is interesting and speaks of the potentialities in sufism to provide solace and gain influence. It is also narrated that Dara Shukoh was himself born near Sagartal in Ajmir after three daughters of Shah Jahan, who had eagerly prayed to God in the shrine of Khawaja Mu'iunduuin Chishti at Ajmer, made especially famous by Akbar. This must also have been dinned into the young prince's ear to make him concerned of the efficacy of sufistic prayers. </p><p>In addition to his sufistic ecstacies, Dara had some love for the unusual, including jugglery and magic. Magicians were occasionally invited in the court to present their show. Abdul Wahid, a contemporary court historian, writes of one such anecdote of Shaikh Nazir exhibiting his karamat in the court. The show astonished the audience including Dara Shukoh. I think this was a pastime for the royal family and had nothing to do with spiritualism. Dara Shukoh's interest in such practices encouraged and patronized them.7 </p><p>During the course of his spiritual journey, particularly after becoming the disciple of Mulla Shah Badakhshi, Dara Shukoh wrote many important sufi tracts. In his Risala-i Haqnuma Dara himself describes the stage he reached in the pursuit of the sufistic path (suluk). One night, Dara claimed to have heard the voice of an angel (hatif) in his dream four times continously telling him that he had been imparted knowledge which no other king ever received.8 Such claims are </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sat, 29 Mar 2014 21:43:48 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p></li><li><p>THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY </p><p>commonly made by many sufis. One need not however, doubt the sincerity of Dara's belief. </p><p>But Dara was not simply a part-time sufi. He has contributed substantially to sufi literature, notably to the history of sufism. He started his scholarly works with the Safinatul Auliya (completed in 1640), which presents a short biographical notices of a number of sufis of different orders in India and abroad. The book is divided into eight chapters beginning with the praises of the Prophet, the pious Caliphs, some of his companions, some companions of the companions, the twelve Shi'ite Imams, and the four Sunni Imams. The other six chapters describe five major and some minor sufi orders; and the last one deals with the female sufis.9 </p><p>The accounts of earlier mystics have been borrowed mainly from the Kashfu'l Mahjub of Hujwiri, the Tazkiratul Auliya of Attar and the Nafahatul-Uns of Jami. Dara was so much influenced by Jami that he imitated his style in this book.10 The account of the Qadiriya saints which he presents rather vigorously is borrowed from the Akhbarul Akhyar of Shaikh Abdul Haq Dehlawi.11 Dara again makes claims of having many visions in the dreams. He saw the four Caliphs according approval to his book. 2 He also saw himself circumambulating the tombs of Imam Musa Kazim and the Ghausul Azam in Baghdad.13 S.A.A. Rizvi wrongly charges him with being an orthodox Sunni by quoting the example of Sanai, but he forgets that Dara in the beginning of his books includes all the Shi'a Imams in his eulogy. Dara was absolutely convinced of the importance of sufis. He followed it as a conviction that the preceptors are next to the prophets in the eyes of God14 and are indispensible for purposes of guidance and education in religion. God deputes them in the world to look after the welfare of human beings by helping them in their needs without any discrimination of creed and colour, for, all are the servants of God. </p><p>The second tazkira that Dara Shukoh wrote (in 1642-43) was entitled Sakinatul Auliya, in which he remembered the Qadiriya saints. The book is divided in two parts. The first contains the reminiscences of the Qadiriya order and the second deals with living sufis. Miyan Mir, however, is the pivotal person and much of its portion is devoted to him and his sister Bibi Jamal Khatun. Although he acknowledges the importance of all the five major orders, yet, he continues to press for the superiority of the Qadiriya order. For, Abdul Qadir Jilani, the propounder of this order, claimed to have his feet on the neck of the saints of other orders and to have learnt the sufi precepts directly </p><p>57 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sat, 29 Mar 2014 21:43:48 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p></li><li><p>58 SOCIAL SCIENTIST </p><p>from the Prophet.1s. These statements are ecstatic in nature and should not be taken literally. The former claim metaphorically aims at establishing Abdul Qadir's importance over other saints and the latter shows his rivalry with Ali's descendants. Dara Shukoh, however, is covinced of the priority of Qadiriya order and advised others to follow the same. The Qadiriya order in those days became very popular because of the royal patronage. Sakinatul Auliya, however, is a more mature treatise, written in a better style which is Dara's own.16 </p><p>Dara also wrote another important treastise on sufism, the Risala- i Haqnuma, the 'Compass of Truth'. The book was written for the neophytes of sufism. In this book, Dara, proclaims himself a preceptor and addresses the novices as disciples without using the terms pir and murid (guide and disciple). The treatise discusses sufi doctrines including those of wahadat al-wujud and spiritual ascent. Dara Shukoh, before writing this book, studied all available literature on the subject like Ibn Arabi's Futuhat al- 'Makkiya, and Fusus al-Hikam the Lam'at of Fakhruddin Iraqi, Lawami' and Lawaih of Nuruddin Jami and so on.17 In his Risala, Dara claims that he has written this tract after a revelation received during the year 1645 when he was on tenterhooks because of anxiety regarding the illness of his beloved wife, Nadira Begum. Further he also claims that whatever he has prescribed therein is in conformity with the practices of the Prophet himself. If his claim is taken to be true, one may come to some perilous conclusions, for instance, that the Prophet practised the holding of breath in Ghare Hera, that he heard psychic sounds, that he fixed attention on centres flooded with illumination.18 Regarding the Prophet's holding of breath there is no evidence but a tradition of Bukhari confirms the Prophet's hearing of bizarre sounds. This could also be controverted. Dara Shukoh, however, by this time had learnt some yoga practices and considered them essential for the neophytes. The Risala-i Haqnuma describes the practices commonly performed over the ages by the sufis. </p><p>In the sufi discourse the unity of God is the most essential one. This is, indeed, also the core of the Semetic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, with the difference of interpretation and approach. Dara regarded it as the central feature even of religions like Hinduism. He was right in affirming it, for he studied such commentaries of the Upanishadas as emphasized monotheism. The difference of interpretation and approach was not important for him, as he thought these to be merely linguistic in nature. Dara, however, like other sufis, gave his own interpretation of the unity of god. </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sat, 29 Mar 2014 21:43:48 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p></li><li><p>THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY </p><p>Union with God is the ultimate goal of sufism. Despite many obstacles and impediments in the path (suluk), the sufis pursue it out of sheer love of God. The union is experienced only after the annihilation of the self, the stage at which a sufi becomes completely unconsious of himself. His identity is fully lost. He becomes non- existent (adam). It is a stage when even the realization of his being non-existent becomes impossible. At this juncture he sees nothing but God manifesting in all garbs. His urge of becoming one with Him is satisfied but nay, he has no sense of being satisfied. Union with God confirms the unity of God.19...</p></li></ul>