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Chisht? Sufis in the Sultanate of Delhi (book review)

When the shrine of Baba Farid Ganj Shakar in Pakpattan was attacked last year, the real significance of the incident was not fully understood. Baba Farid is a leading figure of the Chishti Sufi order that has played a major role in developing Sufi establishments ( khanqahs) as inclusive and multifaith spaces of spirituality and meditation in medieval India.

Tanvir Anjum’s book is an elaborate treatise on how the Chishti Sufis could create and sustain those spaces, sometimes in the face of opposition and suppression from the state.

It is rare to find Pakistani scholars or writers exploring Sufism, which is central to belief systems and worship practices in Pakistan and is perhaps a socially-embedded bulwark against exclusivist ideologies that have flourished of late due to state patronage. Anjum’s work, therefore, is a welcome addition to the meagre body of Pakistani writings on Sufism. The book is based on her doctoral dissertation and, therefore, its tone and structure are academic. […]

August 5th, 2011|books, Culture, Personal|4 Comments

Saints who ruled India

Book Review

The War that Wasn’t: The Sufi and the Sultan By Fatima Hussain Publisher: Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi Pages: 245

Last year I had a chance to meet Dr Fatima Hussain, a thoughtful and inspiring academic based in Delhi. We had all congregated in Agra for the SAARC writers’ summit and Hussain’s facility with subcontinental history, especially Sufism, was most impressive. This is when I found out that her book had just been published and my curiosity to read the book knew no bounds. The title of this book was even more intriguing: “The War that Wasn’t: The Sufi and the Sultan”. Essentially the title summarises a millennium of the societal resistance offered by the Sufis against state power as well as the embedded social relations in the Indian subcontinent.

Hussain teaches History at Delhi University and was educated at Lady Shri Ram College and Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has also authored The Palestine Question: A Historical Perspective (2003) and several scholarly articles. An interesting volume that she edited – Sufism and Bhakti Movement: Contemporary Relevance (2008) – perhaps explains the relative fluency of her familiarity with the subject. After her marriage to Pakistan’s leading Punjabi writer and activist, Fakhar Zaman, she is now delving into documenting the history, culture and morphology of Lahore. […]