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Knowledge before Action

Islamic Learning and Sufi Practice in the Life of Sayyid Jalal al-din Bukhari Makhdum-I Jahaniyan

Amina M. Steinfels

Publication Year: 2012

In Knowledge before Action, Amina M. Steinfels examines medieval Sufism and its place in Islamic society by telling the story of the life and career of Sayyid Jalal al-din Bukhari, a revered figure in Pakistan. Considered one of the most important Sufi masters of South Asia, Sayyid Jalal al-din Bukhari, more popularly referred to as Makhdum-i Jahaniyan, is known for combining spirituality and scholarship in a formative period for Sufism. Steinfels assembles the details of Bukhari's life from records of his teachings, dynastic chronicles, and correspondence to discover how he achieved his status and laid the groundwork for a devotional cult that has lasted seven centuries. Steinfels also examines Bukhari's theories of the relationship between scholar and mystic. Bukhari's teachings provide windows into the underlying concerns and themes of medieval Sufism. Knowledge before Action describes Bukhari's training as a scholar and a Sufi, his exercise of religious authority over his disciples, and his theories of the relationships between saint and shaykh. Knowledge before Action discusses ritual and contemplative practices, the economic bases of Sufi institutions, and the interconnectedness between Sufi masters, the 'ulama, and the political authorities by telling the story of Bukhari.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press

Series: Studies in Comparative Religion


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pp. 1-5


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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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Series Editor’s Preface

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pp. ix-x

This is the “first ever critical academic evaluation of a figure exceedingly significant for understanding Islamic intellectual history in South Asia,” according to a distinguished scholar of Sufism in an external review of the manuscript as it was being considered for publication. ...

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pp. xi-xii

I would like to express my profound thanks to my mentor, Professor Gerhard Böwering, for his guidance, encouragement, and generosity, without which this project would have foundered long ago. Jamal J. Elias introduced me to the academic study of Sufism more than twenty years ago, ...

Note on Transliteration

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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. 1-12

Sufis tell stories. They tell stories to teach moral points or religious ideas, they tell stories of the pious or miraculous actions of past saints, and they tell stories of their own journey on the Sufi path. Anecdotes, myths, fables, hagiography, and personal reminiscences are all constant features of Sufi teaching. ...

Part One: The Education of a Sufi Shaykh

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One: Initiation into the Sufi Path

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pp. 15-36

By the time of his death in 784/1384, Makhdūm-i jahāniyān Sayyid Jalāl al-dīn Bukhārī1 was a widely respected Sufi shaykh and a recognized authority on Islamic religious practice and the Islamic intellectual traditions. Bukhārī’s later status was largely a product of his learning and Sufi affiliations. ...

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Two: Pilgrimage and Travel

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pp. 37-60

According to the various travelogues ascribed to Jalāl al-dīn Bukhārī, he truly deserved the title Jahāngasht (world-wanderer). In these tales, besides performing the hajj, Bukhārī roamed from one end of the Muslim world to the other, from Egypt to Kashmir, from Mount Sarandīb (Adam's Peak in Sri Lanka) to Mount Sinai to Mount Qāf, ...

Part Two: Teaching and Practice

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Three: Book-Learning and Islamic Law

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pp. 63-80

The twin concepts underlying Bukhārī's teachings were ‘ilm (knowledge) and ‘amal (action). ‘Ilm is an inescapable term in Islamic religious discourse and one with a rich semantic field.1 For Bukhārī, knowledge precedes action. While both knowledge and action are indispensable for his conception of the good Muslim and Sufi, knowledge has priority: ...

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Four: Ritual and Practice

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pp. 81-102

In the previous chapter, I discussed the place of ‘ilm, knowledge of Islamic law and the related religious sciences, in Bukhārī’s teaching. ‘Ilm, according to Bukhārī, is the prerequisite for ‘amal, the devotional and contemplative practices of a darwēsh, while the khirqa is a sign of the darwēsh’s commitment to such practices. ...

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Five: Money, Non-Muslims, Women, and Saints

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pp. 103-122

The primary means of support for Bukhārī, his khānqāh, and his disciples were unsought donations (futūḥ) from the community at large, especially its wealthiest members, the king and the nobility. Whether or not it was appropriate to accept such donations was a topic of some disagreement among Sufis at this time. ...

Part Three: Served by the Inhabitants of the World

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Six: A Public Figure

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pp. 125-143

Sayyid Jalāl al-dīn Bukhārī, having established himself as the head of his family’s khānqāh in Uch and as the leading heir to the Suhrawardī lineage in India, spent the last few decades of his life as an increasingly well-known public figure. From the mid-750s/1350s onward, he was sought out, not only by would-be disciples and students, ...

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Seven: Legacy

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pp. 144-153

For a Christian saint, death is the real beginning of one’s identification as a saint. For a Sufi saint too, though public recognition and activity as a holy person during one’s lifetime is important, death is not the end of one’s spiritual functions as guide, intercessor, and teacher. ...

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pp. 154-156

While recent scholarship on Islam has grown increasingly nuanced, much of it continues to presume a binary opposition between legalistic orthodoxy and the mystical tradition of Sufism. There is an underlying presumption that mysticism and legalism, identified respectively with Sufis and the ‘ulama, are essentially two independent and oppositional trends within Islam. ...

Appendix A: Jalāl al-dīn Bukhārī’s Khirqas

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pp. 157-164

Appendix B: The Malfūẓāt of Jalāl al-dīn Bukhārī

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pp. 165-168

Appendix C: Works Attributed to Jalāl al-dīn Bukhārī

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pp. 169-172

Appendix D: Taẕkira Entries on Jalāl al-dīn Bukhārī

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pp. 173-180

Appendix E: Jalāl al-dīn Bukhārī’s Bibliography

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pp. 181-190


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pp. 191-220


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pp. 221-238


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pp. 239-248

E-ISBN-13: 9781611171945
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611170733

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Studies in Comparative Religion