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SHATTARIYAH. A Sufi order of importance in India and Indonesia, the Shattariyah is in the Tayfuri line of Sufi orders that follow the mystical tradition of Abu Yazid al-Bistami (d. 874) and was called the Bistamiyah in Ottoman Turkey and `Ishqiyah in Iran and Central Asia (the principal exponent in Transoxiana was Abu Yazid al-`Ishqi). The foundation of the Shattari order is attributed to the eponymous `Abdullah Shattari (d. 1485), who claimed hereditary descent from Shihab alDin Suhrawardi (d. 1244). The title shattari is said to have been given him by his spiritual master, Muhammad `Arif Tayffiri, in recognition of the rapidity with which `Abdullah advanced on the Sufi path. As such, the word should probably be read shugari (from shugar, pl. of shatir, meaning “skillful,” “clever”).

`Abdullah Shattari is said to have made a theatrical migration to India during the reign of the Timurid sultan Abfi Said (r. 1451-1469), wearing royal robes and accompanied by a retinue of black-gowned mystics beating drums and waving banners. He maintained a close

relationship with Sultan Ghiyasuddin Khalji (r. 14691501), dedicating his book Latd’if-i ghaybiyah to the king and providing him with spiritual aid during the siege of Chitor. The Mughal emperor Humayun erected a mausoleum for him at Mandu in Malwa. `Abdullah was succeeded by his son, Abulfath Hadyatullah Sarmast (d. 1497), and by a much more influential disciple, Muhammad ibn `Ala Qadin Tirhuti (d. 1495). The latter is said to have been initiated into the Shattari order during `Abdullah ShatOri’s journey to Bihar around 1475. Muhammad Qadin actively propagated the Shattariyah until his death and was the most important figure in its spread in Bihar, which ranks second only to Gujarat as a center of Shattari activity in India. He wrote two major works, Ma’adin al-asrdr and Awrdd-i Qddin Shattari. An annual fair is held on the anniversary of his death at a tomb atop a Buddhist stupa in Basharh, Punjab; the date of this festival is reckoned according to the Hindu/Buddhist calendar.

The most important figure in the formation of the Shattari order is Muhammad Ghaus of Gwalior (d. 1562), fourth in line from `Abdullah Shattari. Both Muhammad Ghaus and his brother and fellow Shattari Shaykh Bahlul (also known as Shaykh Phul, d. 1538) were held in high esteem by Emperor Humayun, which caused them much trouble. Shaykh Bahlul was executed by Humayun’s brother Hindal, and Muhammad Ghaus was forced to flee from northern India to Gujarat when Humayun was overthrown in 1539 by Sher Shah Suri. While in Gujarat, Muhammad Ghaus established important Shattari centers in Ahmadabad and Bharoch (Broach). He visited Agra briefly in 1558 after Akbar had restored Mughal rule and then returned to Gwalior. Akbar built an imposing tomb over his grave. Tan Sen, the most famous figure in the history of Hindustani classical music, was a devotee of Muhammad Ghaus and is buried near him.

Muhammad Ghaus was a rigorous ascetic who spent twelve years in solitary meditation in the Chunar hills near Benares (Varanasi). He was also a productive author to whom the following works are attributed: 3`awdhir-i khamsa, Risdla yi mi’rdjiyah, Bahr ul-haydt, Kalid-i makhdzin, Damd’ir, Basd’ir, Kanz ul-wahdat, and Awrdd-i ghausiyah. _7awdhir-i khamsa is the most important and exists in a popular Arabic version in addition to the Persian original. It deals with Sufi doctrines and practices as well as astrological issues in connection with the divine names. Risdlah yi mi’rdjiyah describes a spiritual journey and contains some ecstatic

utterances; it is reminiscent of a similar work by Abu Yazid al-Bistami, from whom the Shattariyah is derived. The Bahr ul-haydt is a Persian translation of the Hathayoga treatise Amnakunda and is probably the first translation of a Hindu religious work undertaken by a Muslim.

Muhammad Ghaus’s heterodox beliefs and active interest .in yogic practices earned him the condemnation of the `ulamd’ of Gujarat. He was vindicated by one of them, Shah Wajihuddin (d. 1589), a reputable religious scholar who became his main successor. Wajihuddin was a prolific author credited with approximately three hundred works. His famous madrasah at Ahmadabad attracted such important Sufis as `Abd al-Hagq Muhaddis Dihlavi (d. 1642) and survived until 1820. His shrine at Khanpur is a major pilgrimage center for Gujarat; his festival is held on the last day of Muharram and the first of War.

Wajihudd-m discarded many of the ecstatic and yogic practices of his teacher and forbade his disciples to accept non-Muslims as followers. He promulgated a form of Sufism that subordinated itself to the precepts of Islamic law, bringing the Shattariyah much closer to the vastly more popular Qadiri order to which he had originally belonged. A secondary branch of the Shattariyah, which continued to emphasize the more heterodox of Muhammad Ghaus’s practices, came to be known as the Ghausiyah.

Wajihuddin was succeeded by two disciples, Muhammad ibn Fadlullah Burhanpuri (whose At-tuhfa al-mursala ild’n-nabi was influential in spreading Sufism in Indonesia) and Shah Sibghatullah of Bharoch (d. 1607). Shah Sibghatullah migrated to Medina, where he built a khdngdh ($ufi convent), using money given to him either by the rulers of Bijapur and Ahmadnagar, or else by the local representative of the Ottoman sultan. It was largely through his disciple Ahmad Shinnavi (d. 1619) that the Shattariyah spread outside India.

In 1643 `Abdurra’uf ibn ‘Ali (d. about 1693) of Singkep in Sumatra made a pilgrimage to Mecca, where he became a disciple of Ahmad Qushshashi (d. about 1661), the successor of Ahmad Shinnavi. He stayed with Qushshashi until the latter’s death nineteen years later, when `Abdurra’uf returned to Aceh in Sumatra where he actively promoted the Shattariyah. He wrote several treatises in Malay, including the first known Malay translation of the Qur’an with a commentary. The Shattariyah was the first Sufi order to establish itself in Java, and `Abdurra’uf s shrine remains an important Sumatran and Javanese pilgrimage site.

A major source of information on the Shattariyah is Gulzar-i abrar, a biographical work written by a spiritual descendant of Muhammad Ghaus named Muhammad Ghauui (d. after 1633). Descriptions of the sect’s beliefs and practices are also found in As-salsabil almu’in by Muhammad al-Sanusi and in Irshadat al-`drifin by Muhammad Ibralilm Gazur-i Ilahi.

The Shattariyah is perhaps the most thoroughly Indian of the Sufi orders, having embraced wholeheartedly the Indian cultural milieu and Hindu-especially yogic-ideas. `Abdullah Shattari is said to have studied yoga and composed songs in Indian vernaculars. Later Shattari shaykhs went so far as to allow their disciples to use Sanskrit and Hindi formulae in dhikr (Sufi prayer). Meditation exercises involving yogic postures and breath control were certainly practiced by Muhammad Ghaus. These have been described by Sanusi as a dhikr exercise called the jujiyah (i.e., yoga). Among the Shattaris, mystical practice is directly related to magical and supernatural powers, and many of their shaykhs (including the sober Wajihuddin) are remembered as exorcists and healers.


Ahmad, Qazi Mueenuddin. “History of the Shattari Silsilah.” Ph.d. diss., Aligarh Muslim University, 1963.

Desai, Z. A. “The Major Shrines of Ahmadabad.” In Muslim Shrines in India: Their Character, History, and Significance, edited by Christian W. Troll, pp. 76-97. Delhi, 1989.

Eaton, Richard M. Sufis of Bijapur, 1300-1700: Social Roles of Sufis in Medieval India. Princeton, 1978.

Lawrence, Bruce B. Notes from a Distant Flute: Sufi Literature in PreMughal India. Tehran, 1978.

Margoliouth, D. S. “Shattanya.” In First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936, vol. 7, p. 339. Leiden, 1987.

Rizvi, S. A. A. A History of Sufism in India. 2 vols. New Delhi, 1978. The most encyclopedic source on Sufism in India published to date. Sanusi, Muhammad ibn `All al-. Al-salsabil al-mu’in t al-tard’iq alarba’in. In the margins of the same author’s Al-masd’il al-`ashar. Cairo, 1935. Extremely valuable work on the practices of Sufi orders.

Schimmel, Annemarie. Mystical Dimensions of Islam. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1975. Excellent introduction to Sufism; balances readability with exhaustive scholarship.

Schimmel, Annemarie. Islam in the Indian Subcontinent. Leiden, 1980. Subhan, John A. Sufism: Its Saints and Shrines. New York, 1970. Valuable introduction to the major Sufi orders and shrines of India.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/shattariyah/

  • writerPosted On: August 5, 2017
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