Making a “Muslim” Saint: Writing Customary Religion in an Indian Princely State

Nile Green

Printing the Saints: Muslim Hagiography in Colonial India

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hile scholars have long drawn attention to the “classic” medieval Persian hagiographies of the Sufi saints written by authors such as Farid al-Din ‘Attar and ‘Abd al-Rahman Jami, the continued survival of the genre through to the twentieth century has been largely ignored by scholarship. There seems to be a curiously inverse relationship between the focus of scholars on a small number of medieval “classics” and the neglect of the later examples of the genre whose numbers have grown voluminously with each passing century.1 The undoubted popularity of the genre of the Persian, and later Urdu, Sufi hagiography scarcely declined with the onset of modernity in India, and the history of printing in India is replete with examples of editions of both new and old hagiographical texts. As catalogs of early Indian printed works show, the need for tales of the saints was felt by members of all of India’s religious communities as the nineteenth century progressed and the twentieth century began. As a consequence of the long-standing neglect of postmedieval Sufi literature, early Urdu printed hagiographical texts have received scant attention from the arbiters of literary taste in both the East and West. This is perhaps reasonable enough, given their often meager literary merits. While some Urdu hagiographies do possess claims to literary craftsmanship, in many cases the readership at which such texts aimed led to their composition in a regional or otherwise simplified idiom. Yet when stylistic considerations are put aside, we may well approach the importance of the Urdu hagiography from the standpoint of its popularity. Lithographic editions of hagiographic texts—dealing with non-Indian as well as Indian Sufi saints—appeared in large numbers during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Some of these texts, such as the Hadiqat al-awliya, by Ghulam Sarwar Lahawri (d. AH 1307/1890), became well known through large parts of India and ran into several editions.2 Maqasid al-salihin, Muhammad ‘Abd al-Rahman of Kanpur’s Urdu translation of the Persian hagiographical text Hikayat al-salihin, similarly ran through numerous North Indian editions during the 1870s and
2. Ghulam Sarwar Lahawri, Hadiqat al-awliya (The Enclosed Garden of the Saints) (Lahore, India: Matba’a-ye Khwurshid-e ‘Alam, 1875; reprinted Lucknow, India: Munshi Nawal Kishawr, 1877; Kanpur, India: n.p., 1889).

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An earlier version of this article was presented in May 2004 at the “Texts and Their Historical Contexts in South Asia” workshop at St. Antony’s College, Oxford. I am grateful to Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Frank Clooney, and David Washbrook for their invitation. 1. See C. W. Ernst and B. B. Lawrence, Sufi Martyrs of Love: The Chishti Order in South Asia and Beyond (Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 1–9.

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afterward.3 This great expansion in hagiographical printing encompassed most of the languages with which South Asian Muslims were familiar, from Bengali to Punjabi, Sindi, Gujarati, and Tamil. In the case of Gujarati and Urdu in particular, many early hagiographical works were printed in Bombay. Bombay’s lithographic printing industry also helped uphold the use of Persian in India by printing considerable numbers of classic Sufi texts.4 The North Indian book market was similarly greedy for printed editions of Sufi classics in Persian during the late nineteenth century. The Rashahat-e-‘ayn alhayat (Sprinklings from the Springs of Life) of Wa‘iz Kashif¯ (d. AH 910/1504) is a case in point, ı running through at least nine editions from Kanpur and Lucknow between 1890 and 1911.5 The popularity of such texts may be understood in a number of different ways, alternatively as a sign of an emergent bourgeois religiosity or as part of a continuum with pre-reformist Muslim piety. What is clear, however, is that such texts play an important role in book as well as literary history in India. While the importance of these texts may be accepted, it might be argued that the most successful of them are in many respects the least rewarding. The great saintly compendia (tazkirat) of the nineteenth century are by their nature formulaic and often repetitive in the extreme.6 All too often, they also represent an emergent reformist model of the saint as preacher and instructor rather than miracle worker. Amid this expansive literature, however, there may be found numerous examples of hagiographies that continue to present the Sufi saint as miracle worker in a way that was com-

patible with both medieval Persian precedents (in which morality often came in a poor second to the exercise of miraculous power) and ongoing forms of popular religiosity whose practice often cut across religious boundaries. Of purely local reference and out of step with both literary fashion and reformist religious “progress,” and consequently marginalized from both within and without their own discursive tradition of hagiographical writing, such works may be regarded as the subaltern texts of early religious publishing in India. The development of printed hagiographies in many ways mirrored the development of printing itself in India.7 As lithographic printing spread after its introduction to India during the 1820s, the growing number of lithographic presses, and the suitability of lithographic presses for producing inexpensive editions in small print runs, made printing an increasingly viable option. By the 1860s, popular cheap print chapbooks and other short works were becoming increasingly common in numerous languages/scripts.8 The popularity of lithography over typesetting was in this way particularly well suited to the swift emergence of popular printed genres; restricted literacy was overcome through the widespread practice of reading texts aloud to an early Indian equivalent of the reading group. In this way, lithographic printing brought the written word into the sphere of subaltern as well as elite cultures. As in the gradual rise of legitimate vernaculars through the history European printing, this process also meant that texts of purely local linguistic as well as geographical and cultural reference could emerge.9 In this way, the rise of printing

3. ‘Usman ibn ‘Usman Kahf, Maqasid al-salihin (The Undertakings of the Pious Ones), trans. Muhammad ‘Abd al-Rahman (Kanpur, India: n.p., 1868; repr., Lahore, India: n.p., 1871; Kanpur: n.p., 1875; Kanpur: Matba’a-ye Nizami, 1878). 4. See O. Scheglova, “Lithographic Versions of Persian Manuscripts of Indian Manufacture in the Nineteenth Century,” Manuscripta Orientalia 5 (1999): 12–22. The scale of Persian printing in nineteenth-century India is made clear in the bibliographic listings contained in K. Mushar, Fihrist-e-kitabha-ye-chapiye-farsi az aghaz ta akhar-e-sal-e-1345 (Catalog of Persian Printed Books from the Beginning to the End of 1345 SH [1966]) (Tehran: Bungah-e-Tarjuma va Nashr-e-Kitab, 1352 SH/1973).

5. See B. Abu Manneh, “A Note on ‘Rashah¯ t-i ‘Ain ala Hayat’ in the Nineteenth Century,” in Naqshbandis in ¨ Western and Central Asia, ed. E. Ozdalga (Istanbul: Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, 1999), 61–66. 6. See M. K. Hermansen, “Religious Literature and the Inscription of Identity: The Sufi Tazkira Tradition in Muslim South Asia,” Muslim World 87 (1997): 315– 29; and M. K. Hermansen and B. B. Lawrence, “IndoPersian Tazkiras as Memorative Communications,” in Beyond Turk and Hindu: Rethinking Religious Identities in Islamicate South Asia, ed. D. Gilmartin and B. B. Lawrence (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000), 149–75.

7. See B. S. Kesavan, History of Printing and Publishing in India: A Story of Cultural Re-awakening, 3 vols. (Delhi: National Book Trust, 1985). 8. Cf. A. Ghosh, “Cheap Books, ‘Bad’ Books: Contesting Print Cultures in Colonial Bengal,” in Print Areas: Book History in India, ed. A. Gupta and S. Chakravorty (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2004), 169–96. 9. See B. Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991).

resulted in two contradictory trajectories. One witnessed the spread of normative religious texts in larger numbers than ever, rendering possible the creation of new or revived “imagined communities” of “Hindu,” “Muslim,” or indeed “Zoroastrian” readers.10 The other trajectory, generally less well documented, was the promotion of localized traditions of customary religiosity, with cheap print technology allowing relatively minor religious institutions and impecunious local movements means of publicity and textual expression. It is of course no coincidence that the rise of printing in Asia as a whole occurred simultaneously with the rise of new or renewed notions of collective religious identity, from panIslamism and (neo) Hinduism to a reawakening of collective identities among dispersed religious groups such as the Zoroastrians and Isma‘ilis. From the first publication of the writings of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (d. AH 1314/ 1897) in Hyderabad to the large-scale export of Parsi theological books from Bombay to Iran, the Indian lithographic publishing industry played a central role in this transition to modernist transregional identities.11 While this phenomenon has been well examined over the past decade, less attention has been paid to the role of printing in the converse process of the upholding and in some cases invention of local religious identities. For as I have noted, the inexpensive nature of lithographic printing also brought the written world into the hands of social groups previously inhabiting an effectively oral ecumene. The powerful traditions of manuscript learning in both Hindu and

Muslim India that printing quickly superseded during the nineteenth century possessed a notably transregional orientation.12 Islamic religious learning gave prominence to the study of Arabic, such that Indian Muslim scholars were still found teaching in Mecca throughout much of the nineteenth century; Brahmanic learning similarly fostered a Pan-Indian Sanskritic culture.13 Outside of the formally religious realm, the imperial/state sponsorship of Persian learning fostered a similarly transregional culture that, like Arabic and Sanskrit learning, was incapable of trickling down the social scale with the coming of printing.14 It is no coincidence that Urdu prose writing came of age with printing; the later transition of Urdu from vernacular into the transregional lingua franca of South Asian Muslims is another matter. Other vernacular or local languages underwent a similar promotion with the spread of cheap print, in the process opening up the world of writing to both popular and regional religious traditions through granting access to the written word to a whole new class of writers and readers/listeners.15 By the turn of the twentieth century, the evolution of local printing industries in regional cities and towns in India further enhanced this trend toward localization. Local religion, and the customary character it had adopted through centuries of development, was in this way no less favored by the spread of printing than transregional and reformist religious trends.16 This relationship between the spread and decentralization of printing and the breakthrough of local religious forms into print is

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10. With relation to Islam in India, see F. C. R. Robinson, “Technology and Religious Change: Islam and the Impact of Print,” Modern Asian Studies 27 (1993): 229–51; more generally, see J. R. I. Cole, “Printing and Urban Islam in the Mediterranean World, 1890– 1920,” in Modernity and Culture: From the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, ed. L. Tarazi Fawaz and C. A. Bayly (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), 344–64. 11. See Anon., “Jamaluddin Afghani’s Activities,” in Freedom Struggle in Hyderabad (1857–1885) (Hyderabad, India: Hyderabad State Committee, 1956), 2:278–84; and J. R. Hinnells, “Bombay Parsis and the Diaspora in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries,” in A Zoroastrian Tapestry: Art, Religion, and Culture, ed. P. J. Godrej and F. P. Mistree (Ahmadabad, India: Mapin, 2002), 458–77.

12. On the impact of manuscript and printing technology in the Islamic world, cf. J. Bloom, Paper before Print: The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001); and D. F. Eickelman, “Print, Writing, and the Politics of Religious Identity in the Middle East,” Anthropological Quarterly 68 (1995): 133–38. 13. On such issues in Sanskritic literary culture, see S. Pollock, “Cosmopolitan and Vernacular in History,” Public Culture 12 (2000): 591–625; and Pollock, “Sanskrit Literary Culture from the Inside Out,” in Literary Cultures in History, ed. Pollock (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003), 39–130. 14. Cf. M. Alam, “The Pursuit of Persian: Languages in Mughal Politics,” Modern Asian Studies 32 (1998): 317–49.

15. On Pashto cheap print works, see W. Heston, “Pashto Chapbooks, Gendered Imagery and CrossCultural Contact,” in The Other Print Tradition: Essays on Chapbooks, Broadsides, and Related Ephemera, ed. C. L. Preston and M. J. Preston (New York: Garland, 1995), 144–60. 16. See also K. Pemberton, “Islamic and Islamizing Discourses: Ritual Performance, Didactic Texts, and the Reformist Challenge in the South Asian Sufi Milieu,” Annual of Urdu Studies 17 (2002): 55–83.

Making a “Muslim” Saint

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also seen from what is currently known of the evolution of printing in Afghanistan. The establishment of the first lithographic press, imported to Kabul from India under royal command during the early 1870s, led to the publication of a series of historical and religious works aimed unequivocally at cementing the fragile new nation together.17 While a collective historical identity, and political condition between two Christian imperial powers, was emphasized in historical works, religious works seem to have emphasized a form of religiosity that was broadly reformist and scripturalist in nature. From current inventories of early Afghan printed works, the earliest expressions of regional religiosity seem only to have appeared during the late 1920s. It was then that the earliest known Afghan hagiographical publication appeared, devoted to the Sufi shrines and saints of Herat that had for centuries formed the focus of the city’s religious activities.18 The evolution of the Urdu saintly hagiography mirrored these wider trends both within India and beyond its borders. As the multiple editions of popular Urdu hagiographies by publishers such as Nawal Kishawr demonstrate, such works could be produced for profit. But at the same time, there seems to have been a relationship between content and popularity with such texts. Transregional hagiographies describing the lives of saints from larger rather than smaller regions would naturally attract a wider readership than texts dealing only with the saints of a given town. Saintly content in this way served as a mirror for the target readership of the texts in question. For this reason, the most widespread genres of early hagiographic publications seem to have been devoted to works dealing with either non-Indian saints or saints of large regions (often in the densely populated Muslim regions of North India). With his almost universal veneration by Indian Muslims, ‘Abd al-Qadir Jilani of Baghdad (d.

AH 561/1166) proved an emblematic saint in print; at least as popular as such saintly hagiographies were accounts of the lives of the Muslim prophets (anbiya), which could by definition be marketed to all Muslims. The evolution of the local hagiography was therefore a reflection of the spread of printing and the possibility of producing short-run editions for local readerships. The role of self-financed publishing, still a hallmark of Urdu publishing today, should also be reckoned in this process, for, as argued below, printed hagiographies played the role of accolades and offerings that could be used to enhance the status of given saintly cults in competition with local or distant rivals. Yet despite the multiple client communities that were typically attached to the shrines of the Sufi saints in India, the coming of print played an important role in the gradual wearing away of the often opaque and multiple religious personae of such saints. It is this process that is explored in some detail in the remainder of this article, for with the increasing politicization of language that was coeval with the rise of Indian printing, it seems important to try to explore the relationship between the power of printing and the communalization of customary religion in India. It appears that it was in part through the politics of language that the assistance inexpensive printing lent to customary religion was in varying degrees neutralized. While describing traditions of local religiosity that often transcended formal religious boundaries, such texts—whether in Muslim-Bengali or Urdu— came to be regarded as “Muslim” texts through their use of the Arabo-Persian script and, in greater or lesser degree, a vocabulary of learned Arabic religious terms unfamiliar to non-Muslim (and in many cases Muslim) audiences. Writing, and its normalization through print, was in this way closely involved in the separation of religious communities and the narrow defining of both Sufi saints and the religious
18. Amir Sayyid ‘Abd Allah Husayni Wa’iz’s Risalaye-mazarat-harat: Tazkira-ye-‘ulama wa masha’ikh (Treatise on the Shrines of Herat: A Biographical Compendium of Learned Men and Shaykhs) was published in Afghanistan in 1929. Another account of the Sufi shrines of Herat, ‘Abd Allah Qandahari’s Mazarate-harat (Shrines of Herat) was published in India (presumably on order from Afghanistan) slightly earlier, in AH 1346/1927–28.

17. See Wasil Noor, “Chronological Survey of the Dari Books Published in Afghanistan,” Central Asia: Journal of Area Study (University of Peshhawar, Area Study Centre) 1 (1980). I am grateful to R. D. McChesney for supplying me with his bibliography of early Afghan printed works.

activities connected to them in communal terms. This article therefore examines in detail one such hagiographical text along with its contexts as a means to explore the often contradictory forces at work in the written expression of customary religiosity in early-twentieth-century India.
Hagiographical Strategies in A‘zam al-karamat

The hagiographical text under discussion in this article, A‘zam al-karamat, describes the life and deeds of the early-twentieth-century holy man Banne Miyan (d. AH 1339/1921). As suggested in his saintly moniker, with its meaning of “the noble bridegroom,” his cultic identity and subsequently his constituency of devotees were not defined in clear religious or communal terms. While the use of the honorific miyan was suggestive of a male Muslim, the saint’s nominal presentation as a bridegroom reflected popular religious customs (such as the celebration of the ‘urs or “wedding” of the saints) in which Muslims and Hindus alike participated. Banne Miyan was born into a Punjabi Muslim family in the military service of the Nizam of Hyderabad; his given name was Muhammad A‘zam Khan. His cultic persona, however, most clearly mirrors that of the Islamicate faqir (“spiritually poor man”); he is a miracle worker who is accessible to all and is in no sense a teacher of religious doctrine. His hagiography, A‘zam al-karamat, seems to have been written either shortly before or shortly after his death. While his death is not mentioned in the text, it seems likely that the work was composed as part of the process of transforming the cachet of a living holy man into that of a dead saint. The text was therefore published around AH 1339/1921.19 It was published in Aurangabad, the second city of the Nizam’s State of Hyderabad, a city that though far away from the more famous centers of Urdu publishing (Lucknow, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Kanpur) was only one of many cities to develop a local publishing in19. Muhammad Isma‘il Shah Qadiri, A‘zam alKaramat (Greatest of Miracles) (Aurangabad, India: Mu‘in Press, n.d. [ca. AH 1340/1921]), henceforth AK. 20. Mawlwi ‘Abd al-Haqq, Urdu ki ibtida’i nashu wa numa men sufiyae karam ka kam (Aurangabad, India: Matba‘a-ye Anjoman-e-Tarraqi-ye-Urdu, 1933).

dustry at this time. A‘zam al-karamat is in this sense a product of the localization of publishing described earlier. During the previous two decades Aurangabad had enjoyed a considerable growth in Urdu publishing that was certainly helped via state sponsorship in the form of the opening of a branch of the Anjuman-etaraqqi-ye-Urdu (Society for the Promotion of Urdu) in AH 1321/1903. For much of the period in question, the anjuman was supervised by the great scholar of Urdu Mawlwi ‘Abd alHaqq (d. AH 1381/1961), who in addition to his works in the service of Urdu also made an important contribution to the Sufi traditions of the region through the writing and publication of his Urdu ki ibtida’i nashu wa numa men sufiyae karam ka kam (Work of the Sufis in the Early Development of Urdu) in Aurangabad in 1933.20 Isma‘il Khan, the author of the hagiographical A‘zam al-karamat on the life of his uncle Banne Miyan, was not a trained literary stylist; it is this naive quality that gives his text the vivid qualities that social historians value highly. A‘zam al-karamat contains many colloquialisms, as well as vignettes that provide great insight into provincial social life in Aurangabad. But of particular interest is the text’s representation of the value system of customary religiosity that was under threat during this period from a growing and increasingly bourgeois discourse of Muslim reform. This is seen in the way in which A‘zam al-karamat manages to bring such saintly activities as the regular consumption of cannabis together with more familiar ways of expressing Muslim piety, such as formal prayer (namaz). As a document that vividly reflects the foundation of a saintly cult, A‘zam al-karamat has a great deal in common with the earlier Malfuzat-e-Naqshbandiyya written in Aurangabad in the decades before AH 1164/1750 on the lives of the late Mughal Sufis Shah Musafir (d. AH 1126/1715) and Shah Palangposh (d. AH 1110/1699).21 The latter text was first published as a lithograph in Hyderabad in AH

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21. See Shah Mahmud Awrangabadi, Malfuzat-eNaqshbandiyya: Halat-e-Hazrat Baba Shah Musafir Sahib [Persian] (The Words of the Naqshbandis: The Spiritual States of His Holiness Shah Musafir) (Hyderabad, India: Nizamat-e-‘Umur-e-Mazhabi-ye-Sarkare-‘Ali, AH 1358/1939–40); translated by S. Digby, Sufis and Soldiers in Aurangzeb’s Deccan (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001).

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1358/1939–40, though it had to wait more than another half century before appearing in Urdu translation by sponsors in Aurangabad; direct influence of one text on the other is therefore probably unlikely.22 However, there are important similarities between the two texts. Both were written by the first spiritual successors (sajjada nashins) to inherit the charisma of their respective founder saints, authors who also played important roles in overseeing the management and expansion of the shrines of the saints they eulogized in their writings. It also seems that the composition of both texts was a singular act of authorship rather than part of a wider literary career; no further books are known to have been written by either author. Like many other hagiographies, there is an important sense in which both the Malfuzat-e-Naqshbandiyya and A‘zam alkaramat should be seen as examples of writing in the service of a cult.23 The purpose of A‘zam al-karamat, and its composition during the period in which Banne Miyan’s cult was being established, is certainly suggestive of a text composed to fulfill the proper criteria of sainthood in the Indian Sufi tradition. A noted saint invariably possessed both a shrine and at least one hagiography, often, perforce, written by a close relative. In this way, there is an important sense in which A‘zam al-karamat was an example of a kind of hagiographical vanity publishing, for given the norms of Urdu publishing during this period we can be almost certain that the costs of publication were met by the author. Since no other copies of the text have been located, the scale of both publication and readership seem likely to have been limited; this was a subaltern text in more ways than one. A useful comparison may perhaps be made between A‘zam al-karamat and the Muslim-Bengali cheap print books popular in Bengal during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which similarly reflected customary traditions of religiosity over and above the more narrowly Is-

lamic learning typical of madrassa and reformist literature.24 One of the most interesting comparative aspects of A‘zam al-karamat and Malfuzat-eNaqshbandiyya is the broad similarity in the kind of miracles that they describe, miracles that seem to operate more within a framework of the demonstration of saintly power than within any clearly moral ensemble. Such texts reveal a side to Islamicate devotional religion that is concerned with basic questions of power: the power to live through droughts and epidemics, or to secure employment and marriage on favorable terms. Here the saint is defined primarily by his possession of powers that his clients themselves lack but desire. As a narrative no less than social construction, he is in this sense the personification of his clients’ needs and desires. As supernatural tabulae rasae, holy fools like Banne Miyan seem particularly well suited to such purposes, with their own lack of a clearly articulated persona allowing space for the projection onto them of others’ desires in the way that silent but beautiful women have often served as mirrors for the fantasies of poets. The model of the nature of religious power that A‘zam al-karamat presents requires the text to make certain primary definitions about the nature of this power and its diffusion on earth that rely on well-established (if by this period also contested) models of the Muslim universe that explain the nature of sainthood. However, the price of relying on these models or prototypes of sainthood is that the saint is cast in a firm role: that of the Muslim saint (wali). There are several important dimensions to this question of religious definition that relate to the direct social contexts of the text’s composition in early-twentieth-century Hyderabad State and to wider questions of the drawing of religious boundaries and the role of writing within this. Such questions of definition play a central role in the strategies of the text, which explicitly define Banne Miyan as a Muslim saint within

22. Shah Mahmud Awrangabadi, Malfuzat-e-Naqshbandiyya, trans. Muhammad Muhib Allah Faruqi (Nagpur, India: Noori, 1999). 23. On the processes involved in the creation of Sufi saint cults in South Asia, see J. Frembgen, “From Dervish to Saint: Constructing Charisma in Contem-

porary Pakistani Sufism,” Muslim World 94 (2004): 245–57; and D. Matringe, “La Cr´ ation d’un saint et ses e enjeux dans le Panjab Pakistanais” (“Issues at Play in the Creation of a Saint in Pakistani Punjab”), Journal Asiatique 288 (2000): 137–52. 24. See Ghosh, “Cheap Books, ‘Bad’ Books.”

a line of earlier Muslim saints who are explained with reference to normative models of sainthood established in earlier Muslim tradition. Banne Miyan had a great many followers drawn from among the city’s Hindu (and possibly Christian) as well as its Muslim community. Given that he could in this way stand astride exclusive models of religious affiliation in practice, the question arises as to why this was not reflected in his hagiography. The answer to this important problem seems to have two dimensions. The first of these dimensions is more specific and local, relating to the society within which A‘zam al-karamat was composed; the second dimension, which to some degree also impinges on the first, relates to the nature of writing more generally. Early on in A‘zam al-karamat, there are approbations of the great Sufi saints of the Chishtiyya and a long quotation from an unnamed malfuzat of Mu‘in al-Din Chishti (d. AH 633/1236). A short section in Arabic also stresses the importance of performing the hajj to Mecca and ritual prayers, a stress on normative Muslim practice notably lacking in the biographical details provided on Banne Miyan’s life itself. This introduction serves to locate the text within a wider body of pious writings and traditions of the Chishti saints. In the second section (bab) of the text, the somewhat disorderly introduction is followed by an account of Banne Miyan’s family lineage and his childhood initiation into the Chishti, Qadiri, and Rifa‘i Sufi orders at the hands of his master, Afzal Shah Biyabani (d. AH 1273/1856). The author Isma‘il Khan is careful to ensure that his readers (many of whom would have been personally familiar with Banne Miyan and his disreputable lifestyle) are able to grasp that the saint’s antinomian ways and ecstatic manner are seen as signs of sainthood rather than disqualifications from it. In a section outlining the different kinds of Muslim saint, Banne Miyan is carefully categorized within the classic terminology of ec25. Hagiographies of majzub saints were by no means new; on the Persian hagiography of an earlier Indian Sufi ecstatic, see S. Digby, “Anecdotes of a Provincial Sufi of the Delhi Sultanate, Khwaja Gurg of Kara,” Iran 32 (1994): 99–109.

stasy in Islam as a majzub (“ecstatic, holy fool”).25 The place of jazb (“ecstasy, passion, craving”) in Islam is validated by Isma‘il Khan through a purported Arabic quotation on the subject by Imam Shafi‘i (d. AH 204/820). In an interesting aside, the author assures his readers that nothing is forbidden to the disciples of such a saint so long as their master remains in a state of communion (wasl) with God. Having provided the technical proofs of Banne Miyan’s status, the text goes on to provide what we might term authorized proofs through accounts of Banne Miyan’s affirmation by two well-known Hyderabadi saints of this period. The first of these was his own master, Afzal Shah Biyabani (d. AH 1273/1856), who in classic Sufi form is described as recognizing his prot´ g´ ’s greatness when he first sees Banne e e Miyan as a child and as predicting that Banne Miyan would become the perfect master of his age.26 Reflecting the importance of living figures of Sufi authority in the mediation and conference of sainthood, the text cites Afzal Shah’s sajjada nashin at Warangal as having declared Banne Miyan to be one of the “lords of special blessings” (arbab-e-fayzan-e-khas) and a “master of miracles” (sahib-e-karamat).27 The second figure to affirm the saint’s status is Habib al‘Aydarus (d. 1347/AD 1928?), a member of the influential ‘Aydarus clan of Hadrami scholars and Sufis long resident in the Deccan, who was said to have visited Banne Miyan in Aurangabad and spent an evening in meditation with him in his retreat (hujra).28 Aside from these two masters, the text is careful in its presentation of the religious figures with whom Banne Miyan dealt, most of them being drawn from the circle of Afzal Shah’s followers. Yet despite the imagery and activities through which Banne Miyan is described, from its opening pages A‘zam al-karamat was also careful to categorize Banne Miyan within an unambiguously Islamic framework of identity that linked him both with the social norms of a

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26. AK, 16. On a well-known similar story relating to Nizam al-Din Awrangabadi (d. AH 1142/1729) that may well have been known to Isma‘il Khan, see Ghulam Sarwar Lahawri, Khazinat al-Asfiya [Urdu] (TheTreasury of the Pure) (Kanpur, India: n.p., AH 1312/1894), 1:464. 27. AK, 14.

28. Ibid. On the presence of such Hadramis in the Deccan during this period, see O. Khalidi, “The Hadhrami Role in the Politics and Society of Colonial India, 1750s–1950s,” in Hadhrami Traders, Scholars, and Statesmen in the Indian Ocean, 1750s–1960s, ed. U. Freitag and W. G. Clarence-Smith (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1997), 67–81.

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Muslim princely state and with the typological norms of Islamic doctrines of sainthood (walayat). As the guardian (and in another sense creator) of Banne Miyan’s posthumous tradition, his heir and biographer Isma‘il Khan preserved the memory of the saint in a text that placed him squarely amid a grand tradition of Indo-Muslim saints dating back to Mu‘in alDin Chishti of Ajmer. The penning of a suitable hagiography, or tazkira, for a saint was considered an act of piety and the generic traditions and stylistic norms of tazkira composition that underlay such acts of learned piety demanded attention to genealogical and spiritual definitions of a saint’s identity.29 As a text written in early-twentieth-century Hyderabad State, it is unsurprising to find that the author of A‘zam al-karamat drew (however erratically) on earlier Arabic and Persian works that made up Hyderabad’s wider Muslim world of learning. Hyderabad remained an important center of Arabic and Persian scholarship and publishing during this period, and Urdu writers were often eager to display their knowledge of this earlier heritage. Urdu by this time had become the official language of the state, and literary production in Urdu was patronized by a variety of institutions at a state and local level, including, as we have seen, a local branch of the Anjumane-taraqi-ye-urdu. It is worth noting that A‘zam al-karamat was the first hagiography of any of the Sufi saints of Aurangabad known to have been published in Aurangabad and so marked an important local moment in the shift from manuscript production to printing that was reflected at the same time in the writings of such Deccani hagiographers as ‘Abd al-Jabbar Malkapuri (fl. AH 1331/1912).30 At the same time, the style and contents of A‘zam al-karamat reflected those of the hagiography of Banne Miyan’s spiritual master, Afzal Shah Biyabani. Afzal Shah’s miraculous deeds had earlier been described in a tazkira completed in AH 1331/1913 titled Afzal al-karamat,

a title that was echoed in Isma‘il Khan’s A‘zam alkaramat.31 Afzal al-karamat was written by Muhyi al-Din Darwesh Qadiri (d. AH 1362/1943), the son-in-law of Afzal Shah’s successor Sarwar Biyabani (b. AH 1258/1843) and descendant of the earlier Hyderabadi Sufi Musa Qadiri (d. unknown). A lawyer at the High Court in Hyderabad, Muhyi al-Din visited Aurangabad on numerous occasions in the early decades of the twentieth century.32 It seems likely that Isma‘il Khan and Muhyi al-Din were acquainted, since Isma‘il Khan was clearly familiar with Muhyi alDin’s Afzal al-karamat. In his A‘zam al-karamat, Isma‘il Khan cited several miracles of Afzal Shah that were drawn from Afzal al-karamat, while recommending the reader to peruse the latter text for more information on Banne Miyan’s spiritual master.33 Almost a decade before the composition of A‘zam al-karamat, Banne Miyan was described in AH 1331/1913 in Afzal al-karamat as a majzub, foreshadowing his presentation in A‘zam al-karamat.34 This intertextual quality suggests that Banne Miyan’s Muslim identity in A‘zam al-karamat was also influenced by the fact that his hagiography belonged to a local textual tradition whose normative models served to mold definitions of sainthood in line with an earlier Arabo-Persian tradition of hagiographical writings that had originally developed outside India. As Banne Miyan was the spiritual offspring of Afzal Shah, so was A‘zam al-karamat the literary heir to Afzal al-karamat, lineages of people in this way finding echo in lineages of texts in a reflection of the organization of writing throughout Islamic tradition. In speaking of this local textual ecumene, we should not forget the influence of the imagined readership of A‘zam al-karamat in the shaping of its contents. While Urdu had by no means been abandoned by non-Muslim readers in Hyderabad State by the early twentieth century, the Maratha nationalist movement and its active literary wing had begun to have a strong impact on the sociolinguistics of reading. Given the
32. I am grateful to Syed Shujathullah of the shrine of Afzal Shah at Warangal for details on the life of Muhyi al-Din Darwesh. 33. AK, 10. 34. Afzal al-karamat, 77.

29. On the conventions of the classical Sufi hagiographic genre, see J. A. Mojadeddi, The Biographical Tradition in Sufism: The Tabaqat Genre from alSulami to Jami (London: Curzon, 2001).

30. ‘Abd al-Jabbar Khan Malkapuri, Tazkira-yeAwliya-ye-Dakan [Urdu] (Biographical Compendium of the Saints of the Deccan) (Hyderabad, India: Hasan, AH 1331/1912–13). 31. Sayyid Shah Darwish Muhyi al-Din Qadiri, Afzal al-karamat (The Most Excellent of Miracles) (Hyderabad, India: Barakat, AH 1402/1981 [AH 1331/1913]).

social status of Isma‘il Khan as heir to a religious figure recognized by state officials, it seems likely that the readership he conceived for A‘zam al-karamat consisted mainly of Hyderabad’s small literate Muslim middle class, along with those Hindus who regarded the Deccan’s Islamicate traditions (including the reading and writing of Urdu) as part of their own heritage. Such a readership was mirrored by the dramatis personae who enter the text. Most of the figures who come to Banne Miyan for assistance in A‘zam al-karamat are Muslims of precisely this class: merchants, foot soldiers, lowranking officers in the Hyderabad Contingent, or minor civil servants. In other words, they belonged to the small but growing class in Aurangabad that was literate in Urdu; it is notable in this respect that between AH 1298/1881 and AH 1350/1931 the Muslim literacy rate doubled in Hyderabad State, especially with regard to literacy in Urdu.35 In this way, the written world of A‘zam al-karamat reflected the local world of its imagined readership, the world of the Hyderabad subaltern.
Looking beyond Islam: Customary Religion in A‘zam al-karamat

Under such conditions, it is unsurprising that one narrative in A‘zam al-karamat described the people of Aurangabad worrying about an epidemic affecting the town and sending someone to Banne Miyan to ask for help.36 His response is interesting, however, in delegating the miraculous task by sending the messenger to spend the night in vigil on the platform (chabutra) in a stream running beside the shrine of the late Mughal Sufi, Shah Nur Hammami (d. AH 1104/1692). This platform was also featured in the oral hagiographical tradition of Shah Nur, as a revered site (maqam) associated with Shah Nur’s miracles, hinting at the debt of Banne Miyan and his biographer to a preexisting local sacred geography associated with ear35. Ramar Char, “Education in Hyderabad,” Modern Review 66 (1939). 36. AK, 45. 37. On the role of this platform in the oral tradition of the shrine, see N. S. Green, “Oral Competition Narratives of Muslim and Hindu Saints in the Deccan,” Asian Folklore Studies 63 (2004): 221–42.

lier dervish figures and the oral historical traditions connected to them.37 While it was left deliberately unclear in A‘zam al-karamat which saint was ultimately responsible for banishing all talk of disease from the town the next day, Banne Miyan modestly put the disappearance of the epidemic down to the efforts of the messenger. The story in this way gives its own reading of how miracles occur, through showing them as a two-way process involving not only the power of the saint but also the faith of the devotee and his willingness to follow the commands of his preceptor. Here we are clearly in a realm of the devotional religion that, in the language of bhakti, was familiar to a much wider audience in the Aurangabad region than Muslims alone.38 The interplay between Banne Miyan and the older saints of the region is also seen in two other episodes in A‘zam al-karamat. In the first of these, a local soldier from the Contingent walked the sixteen miles from Aurangabad to Khuldabad on pilgrimage (ziyarat) to its famous Sufi shrines, but after becoming lost and exhausted on the way back was rescued through Banne Miyan’s intercession.39 In the second narrative, Banne Miyan’s influence is claimed to have stretched to the descendants of another of Aurangabad’s late Mughal Sufis, Shah Musafir (d. AH 1126/1715), for A‘zam alkaramat attested that the brother-in-law of the sajjada nashin of Shah Musafir’s shrine was a firm believer in Banne Miyan’s powers.40 Here, the prestige of the local religious aristocracies that such sajjada nashins lineages represented was rhetorically co-opted to authorize the merits of a saintly newcomer to the city. As we see below, this process was replicated in a document appointing the author of A‘zam al-karamat, Isma‘il Khan, as Banne Miyan’s deputy (khalifa). Such narratives provide great insight into the social and cultural contexts into which the older Persianate traditions of the Sufis had passed by the turn of the twentieth century and

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38. On the interface between Islam and bhakti, see P. Gaeffke, “How a Muslim Looks at Hindu Bhakti,” 80–88; and F. Mallison, “Muslim Devotional Literature in Gujarati: Islam and Bhakti,” in Devotional Literature in South Asia, ed. R. S. McGregor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 89–100; and Dominique-Sila Khan, “The Prannathis of Rajasthan: Bhakti and Irfan,” in Multiple Histories: Cul-

ture and Society in the Study of Rajasthan, ed. L. A. Babb, V. Joshi, and M. Meister (Jaipur, India: Rawat, 2002), 209–31. 39. AK, 67. On the Khuldabad shrines, see C. W. Ernst, Eternal Garden: Mysticism, History, and Politics at a South Asian Sufi Center (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992). 40. AK, 148–49.

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the ways in which dervishes continued to play important roles in their communities despite the influence of British colonial power on the one hand and movements of Muslim and Hindu socioreligious reform on the other. Such a determined emphasis on the intervention of the saintly miracle struck a firmly antimodernist rebuke against the reformist Islam that was making its influence felt strongly across South Asia during this period and that had by AH 1335/ 1916 entered Aurangabad’s own Sufi tradition through the teachings of Mu‘in Allah Shah (d. AH 1345/1926), the reformist missionary Sufi of Aurangabad.41 For Banne Miyan was effectively a miracle worker rather than a religious instructor of any kind, and the sole episodes in which Banne Miyan does provide a specifically mystical experience to his followers occur through the power of his grace ( fazl) rather than through instructing disciples in the performance of zikr or other religious exercises. Such acts of saintly grace are represented in A‘zam al-karamat as being a conscious alternative to the effort involved in the performance of spiritual exercises. When one devotee came to Banne Miyan after having spent twenty-five years performing the loud repetitive chant (zikre-ashghal) that he had been taught by a Naqshbandi Sufi master, instead of teaching him another meditative exercise Banne Miyan gave him a gift of a prayer rug. After performing the Muslim ritual prayer on this rug, the devotee immediately experienced a level of mystical experience that he had previously never even approached through the chanting of zikr.42 A similar story in the text describes a soldier from the Contingent coming to visit Banne Miyan, who then fed him and gently closed his mouth with his hands, a touching image that is repeated elsewhere in the text of the saint behaving as a mother to his childlike devotees. The immediate result of this feeding session was that the soldier underwent a mystical experience with-

out making any spiritual effort (riyazat) on his own part.43 Here we are probably dealing with a compound of religious imagery that should not be exclusively placed within either an Indic or Islamicate tradition. For while the scene carries echoes of the receipt of blessed food (prasad) within a Hindu milieu, it is no less a reflection of the similar consumption of blessed morsels (tabarruk) within Islamic contexts both within India and beyond it. Indeed, it is not uncommon for the Arabic- and Sanskrit-derived terms of tabarruk and prasad to be used interchangeably in Indian Sufi shrines to this day, suggesting that such acts of linguistic equivalence were conscious and deliberate attempts to suggest a shared metaphysical and symbolic universe in which Muslim and Hindu concepts were to some degree interchangeable.44 Banne Miyan demonstrates the ways in which Sufism had become absorbed into the pluralistic religious landscape of the Deccan, a region in which miracle-working Sufis or Yogis might be equally resorted to by Muslims and Hindus. While there is certainly a long tradition of this in many regions of India, this pragmatic approach to miraculous power had a particularly strong following in the Marathwada region in which Aurangabad was situated. In Aurangabad, for example, the cult of the aforementioned Shah Nur Hammami had over time become intertwined with that of the famous Sadhu, Manpuri Parshad, based at nearby Daulatabad; Shah Nur’s dargah (mausoleum) and Manpuri’s math (Sadhu lodge) both possessed mixed constituencies of Hindus and Muslims.45 For his part, Banne Miyan represented an outgrowth of this same style of religiosity. Despite the clear presentation of Banne Miyan in A‘zam al-karamat in the guise of a specifically Muslim saint, the forms of Banne Miyan’s religious expression and the associations that he made with fellow mystics and devotees from what might be too easily classified as

41. See N. S. Green, “Mystical Missionaries in Hyderabad State: Mu‘¯n All¯ h Sh¯ h and his Sufi Reform ı a a Movement,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 41 (2005): 45–70. 42. AK, 32–33.

43. Ibid., 73. 44. On this approach to “cross-cultural” exchange in South Asia, see T. K. Stewart, “In Search of Equivalence: Conceiving the Muslim-Hindu Encounter through Translation Theory,” History of Religions 40 (2001): 260–87.

45. On the alternatively competitive and cooperative relationships between such saints, see Green, “Oral Competition Narratives”; and H. van Skyhawk, “Nasiruddin and Adinath, Nizamuddin and Kaniphnath: Hindu-Muslim Religious Syncretism in the Folk Literature of the Deccan,” in Flags of Fame: Studies of South Asian Folk Culture, ed. H. Br¨ckner, L. Lutze, u and A. Malik (Delhi: Manohar, 1993), 445–68.

other religious traditions show him as part of the pluralistic religious landscape of Marathwada. Indeed, the introduction to A‘zam alkaramat stressed that Banne Miyan had followers who were Hindus, Parsis, and even Britons (ingrez). This cosmopolitan following places Banne Miyan in a cognate position to the most famous saint of the region during this period, Sai Baba (ca. 1838–1918) of Shirdi, to the south of Aurangabad. To an even greater degree than Banne Miyan, Sai Baba had large numbers of devotees drawn from each of the region’s religious traditions and over time also gained European followers. But Sai Baba’s subsequent fame was bought at a price, and his prominence has meant that his formal religious identity quickly became a matter of dispute after his death, for he has been claimed as both (and neither) a Sufi and a Sadhu.46 Yet like Banne Miyan, Sai Baba more accurately represented the lived expression of a religious imagination that had developed outside the formal categories of religious identification that often exist more comfortably in written lives than in lived ones. Given the fact that Banne Miyan and Sai Baba were contemporaries resident in the same region, it is not surprising that there seems to have been contact between them. Banne Miyan was also visited by Meher Baba (1894– 1969), the other notable pan-religious leader to emerge from the region during the later part of this period.47 Like that of Banne Miyan, the early life of Sai Baba is enmeshed in uncertainty, but most sources agree that he visited Aurangabad a number of times during his early travels (and may have lived there for several years) and came into contact with Banne Miyan during this period.48 He is sometimes regarded as having been the student of an otherwise unknown Sufi of Aurangabad called Rawshan Shah. Shortly before his death in 1918, Sai Baba

is also reported to have sent word to Banne Miyan in Aurangabad advising him of his coming demise with the words, “On the ninth day of the ninth month, Allah will take away my life, for such is Allah’s will” (Nau din nau tarikh, Allah miyan ne apna dhuni lagaya, marzi Allah ki).49 On hearing this, Banne Miyan is said to have burst into tears of grief. Interestingly, no reference is made to Sai Baba in A‘zam al-karamat, possibly in reflection of the limited fame of Sai Baba at the time of its composition. Yet Banne Miyan and Sai Baba were remarkably similar figures, divided more by their posthumous fortunes than by the character of their earthly careers. As we have seen, true to the traditions of the antinomian faqir, Banne Miyan was also famous for his use of cannabis. Several narratives in both A‘zam al-karamat and the saint’s later oral tradition revolve around his smoking of the straight Indian clay pipe (chillam).50 Aside from his pipe, Banne Miyan’s only possessions in A‘zam al-karamat seem to have been a simple local blanket (kamal), with which he sometimes covered himself in public, and the pebbles (konkar ) or occasionally bones (hadi) that he would throw to supplicants when granting a request. However, undoubtedly the most vivid impression of Banne Miyan is gained through the few photographs that survive of him in the last years of his life. In one of these, he is seen naked with his legs curled up before him in a pose that echoes a well-known painting of another antinomian Sufi majzub from Bijapur in the southern Deccan more than two centuries earlier.51 Another photograph shows him draped in a large black Egyptian cloak, embroidered with gold and silver thread and apparently given to him by the Nizam’s Hindu prime minister, Kishen Parshad (in office from AH 1320/1902 to AH 1329/1911), before being passed down to his heirs.52

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46. For recent reconsiderations of Sai Baba’s religious identity, see M. V. Kamath and V. B. Kher, Sai Baba of Shirdi: A Unique Saint (Mumbai, India: Jaico, 1991); Y. S. Sikand, The Shirdi Sai Baba and His Message of Communal Harmony (Bangalore, India: Himayat, 2001); and M. Warren, Shirdi Sai Baba in the Light of Sufism (Delhi: Sterling, 1999). 47. See C. B. Purdom, The Perfect Master: Shri Meher Baba (London: Williams and Norgate, 1937), 24. 48. Warren, Shirdi Sai Baba, 116–18.

49. Ibid. I have somewhat altered the transliteration of this sentence in line with what seems (to me) to make sense. See also A. Rigopoulos, The Life and Teachings of Sai Baba of Shirdi (Delhi: Indian Books Centre, 1993), 240; and B. V. Narasimhaswami, Life of Sai Baba, 4 vols. (Madras: All India Sai Saraj, 1980–83), 3:164. 50. E.g., AK, 28.

51. This miniature painting is published as the frontispiece to R. M. Eaton, Sufis of Bijapur 1300–1700: Social Roles of Sufis in Medieval India (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978). 52. The cloak measures around three-by-two meters and is preserved by Banne Miyan’s great nephew Mustafa Shah Biyabani, to whom I am grateful for showing me this and other relics of the saint.

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The issue of Banne Miyan’s religious identity is compounded both by the assertion in his hagiography that he had many non-Muslim followers and by the fact that his cult eventually came to be dominated by non-Muslim devotees. The picture gained of Banne Miyan’s own activities from the later oral tradition of his family and followers presents him in the less sharply defined tradition of the South Asian holy man, rather than as a definitively Muslim figure. One of the earliest descriptions of Banne Miyan in A‘zam al-karamat pictures Banne Miyan sitting alone in ascesis near to the Cantonment on the edge of Aurangabad as dozens of worms crawl from his ears.53 Here he appears as the classic South Asian ascetic, a figure who belongs more to India as a whole than to any of its specific religious traditions uniquely.54 It was perhaps this very marginality, this occupation of a religious space between narrower conceptions of Muslim and Hindu religiosity, that lent Banne Miyan a following that drew on each of Aurangabad’s religious communities. Like that of Sai Baba, Banne Miyan’s religiosity drew on the composite culture that had been an integral part of life in the Deccan for centuries. Reflected earlier in the Dakhani poetry patronized by the preMughal sultanates of the Deccan, this composite culture had earlier manifested itself in Aurangabad in the cult of Shah Nur Hammami, particularly with regard to his connection with the great Sadhu, Manpuri Parshad.55 As A‘zam al-karamat expressly declares toward the end of its long introductory section, its main contents of miracle accounts form the most substantial of all proofs of Banne Miyan’s sainthood.56 Yet it is in the accounts of these miracles, narratives that contain a great deal of ethnographic detail and present a vivid picture of the living Banne Miyan, that the saint’s affinity to a solely Muslim tradition of holy men be-

gins to appear less firm. There are several narratives dealing with his regular use of cannabis and suggested use of opium, activities that occupied a common ground between a certain class of holy men of Muslim or Hindu family background. Other stories deal with the saint’s regular practice of throwing a pebble or bone toward his supplicants as a sign of granting their requests, activities that occupy a similarly neutral religious symbolism. A‘zam al-karamat presents very little by way of Banne Miyan’s teachings, but we do occasionally see a glimpse of the nature of his teaching style. In the few instances where his words are directly quoted, he speaks only in pithy riddles. On one occasion, he greets two of his followers by declaring that “Mecca and Madina have arrived,” before telling them to “humble themselves and tremble.”57 On another occasion, he is heard only to repeat over and again the words, “Yes brother, yes brother” (Han bhai, han bhai).58 In this manner of speaking and in the numerous accounts of his erratic behavior, we gain a lively picture of the words and deeds of an ecstatic dervish or holy fool. Banne Miyan’s mental distraction contains echoes of the biography of the early Urdu poet of Aurangabad, Siraj al-Din Awrangabadi (d. AH 1177/1766). Siraj similarly spent years in states of alternating joy and anguish that would be classified in modern terms as a form of mental illness, wandering naked among the Sufi shrines of nearby Khuldabad.59 While Banne Miyan’s manner of speaking clearly does at times place him within a Muslim cultural and religious framework with earlier echoes in local dervish culture, Isma‘il Khan’s insistence at one point in the text that Banne Miyan always performed his prayers and upheld the Sharia seems to clash with the wider antinomian image of the saint that is presented in the text.60 At times, there seems to be

53. AK, 17–18. 54. For an interpretation of the meanings of such figures, see J. Parry, “Sacrificial Death and the Necrophagous Ascetic,” in Death and the Regeneration of Life, ed. M. Bloch and J. Parry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 74–110.

55. On this earlier Dakhani literature, see A. Suvorova, Masnavi: A Study of Urdu Romance (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 2000). 56. AK, 14. 57. Ibid., 20–21. 58. Ibid., 14.

59. The main source of Siraj’s biography is the Tuhfat al-shu‘ara (The Gift of the Poets) (AH 1165/1751) of Afzal Beg Khan Qaqshal (d. unknown). Extracts from this text are presented and its contents discussed by ‘Abd al-Qadir Sarwari in his Urdu introduction to the complete works of Siraj. See Siraj Awrangabadi, Kulliyat-e-Siraj (The Complete Works of Siraj), ed. ‘Abd al-Qadir Sarwari (repr., Delhi: Qawmi Kawnsil baraye Furugh-e-Urdu Zaban, 1998), 17–81. 60. AK, 43–44.

a nervous twitch toward respectability on behalf of the nephew and biographer of this saintly vagabond.
The Contexts of Hagiography: Authors, Heirs, and Architecture

Four years before Banne Miyan’s death in AH 1339/1921, in AH 1335/1917 a formal Persian certificate (sanad-e-khilafat) was issued appointing his nephew and subsequent biographer Isma‘il Khan (d. AH 1376/1956) as his deputy, or khalifa. This extant document gave Isma‘il Khan the right to appoint disciples on his own behalf and to lead the death anniversaries (‘aras) of the preeminent figures of Banne Miyan’s Sufi tradition, namely, ‘Abd al-Qadir Jilani (d. AH 561/1166) and Afzal Shah Biyabani (d. AH 1273/1856).61 The document was certified with the seals and/or signatures of several witnesses, who included the hereditary Sufi representatives (sajjada nashins) of the famous late Mughal Sufi Nizam al-Din Awrangabadi (d. AH 1142/1729) and the minor local Sufi saint Shah Sokhta Miyan (fl. AH 1080/1670?), along with the official seal of the khilafat office (daftare-khilafat) in Aurangabad. Intertwined with legal matters of the inheritance of endowed (waqf ) property, as well as the purely symbolic capital of the saint’s barakat, such certificates demonstrate the way in which Sufism had become interwoven with the bureaucracy and legal procedures of an Indo-Muslim princely state.62 In a sense, the document embodies the meeting of ecstasy and order that has been a theme in the history of Sufism since its ninthcentury beginnings in Baghdad and Khurasan. For in princely Hyderabad, as in other Muslim environments during the same period, as a public matter sainthood and its inheritance attracted the regulating hands of the state.63 By virtue of the power that Banne Miyan’s popu61. Banne Miyan Papers, shrine of Banne Miyan, Aurangabad, document A (copy in author’s possession). 62. On the status of waqf properties in British India, see G. C. Kozlowski, Muslim Endowments and Society in British India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985). 63. On similar procedures in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt, see J. ClancySmith, Rebel and Saint: Muslim Notables, Popular Protest, Colonial Encounters (Algeria and Tunisia, 1800–1904) (Berkeley: University of California Press,

larity demonstrated that religious ecstasy (jazb, wajd) possessed, ecstatic religion required socialization and control.64 Much of the character of Sufism as a formal mystical discipline has been defined by attempts to walk between these two poles of ecstasy and order, a balance constantly reinforced in the ritual musical performances (mahfil-e-sama‘ ) played before Muslim and Hindu participants in the shrines of India’s Sufis from the medieval period to the present day.65 The oral tradition of Banne Miyan’s family describes the Nizam’s Hindu prime minister, Kishen Parshad, throwing pearls and gold coins (ashrafis) before Banne Miyan, which were collected by his brothers Mahmud Khan and Ibrahim Khan for the subsequent foundation of the shrine. Given Kishen Parshad’s welldocumented devotion toward the shrines of Khuldabad, and the fact that he maintained a mansion (deori) at a short distance from Banne Miyan’s compound, this does not seem an unreasonable claim.66 As was mentioned earlier, there was the gold-embroidered Egyptian cloak that Kishen Parshad also presented to the saint. Numerous other gifts were also bestowed on Banne Miyan by devotees, which were later kept by his family as relics. Appropriately, these included a large folio Persian commentary on the Koran (dated AH 1315/1897–98) and an earlytwentieth-century Hindi edition of the Bhagavad Gita. A large number of the rudraksha beads often associated with Sadhus were also given by devotees, while another visitor gave a 1910 hundred-ruble Russian banknote. Around AH 1309/1891, the Nizam Mahbub ‘Ali Khan had granted an income of fifteen rupees per month for Banne Miyan’s food and drink (khur wa nush), which five years before his death was increased to twenty-five rupees, and eventually fifty rupees, after the Nizam visited

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1994); and V. Hoffman, Sufism, Mystics, and Saints in Modern Egypt (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995). 64. On different aspects of this theme in the earlier Sufi tradition, see J. C. B¨rgel, “Ecstasy and Oru der: Two Structural Principles in the Ghazal Poetry of Jalal al-Din Rumi,” in The Heritage of Sufism, ed. L. Lewisohn, vol. 2, The Legacy of Medieval Persian Sufism (1150–1500) (Oxford: Oneworld, 1999), 61–74; and C. W. Ernst, The Words of Ecstasy in Sufism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1985).

65. On these performances in past and present, see B. B. Lawrence, “The Early Chishti approach to Sama,” in Islamic Society and Culture, ed. M. Israel and N. K. Wagle (Delhi: Manohar, 1983), 69–93; and R. B. Qureshi, Sufi Music of India and Pakistan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986). 66. On the early-twentieth-century deoris of Aurangabad, see D. G. Qureshi, Tourism Potential in Aurangabad (Delhi: Bharatiya Kala Prakashan, 1999), 61–63.

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Aurangabad in person.67 This income was later transferred to Banne Miyan’s nephew, Bahadur Khan, who acted as caretaker (muntazim) of Banne Miyan’s shrine when his cousin, the author of A‘zam al-karamat, Isma‘il Khan, became the first official successor (sajjada nashin) of Banne Miyan. The occasion of Banne Miyan’s death and funeral in AH 1339/1921 are described in some detail in an official letter written to the chief administrator (subehdar ) of Aurangabad shortly after Banne Miyan’s death.68 The letter describes the funeral as being attended by a huge crowd composed of the saint’s Hindu and Muslim followers. The Muslim party alone was large enough to fill the great Friday Mosque built in the city by Awrangzeb and spill out into the ruins of Awrangzeb’s former palace, the Qila Arak. Because of the eagerness of so many people to pay their last respects to Banne Miyan, the funeral lasted from the morning until the last hours of the evening, during which time the shops of the city’s bazaars all closed out of respect. Given the composition of A‘zam al-karamat around the time of Banne Miyan’s death, the text should be seen as in some ways coeval with the shrine to the saint that developed in the years following his death. As we have observed, Isma‘il Khan was not only the author of A‘zam al-karamat but also the first official successor of Banne Miyan and as such the key figure in the establishment and maintenance of his shrine until his own death in AH 1376/1956. As is so often the case, hagiographic writing and funerary architecture cooperate in the processes of memory that are at the heart of cultic activity. The oral tradition of Banne Miyan’s family describes a hujra that Banne Miyan made for himself by hollowing out a mound of clay. This retreat was located in the family compound (ahata), which subsequently became the location of the saint’s shrine, where Banne Miyan’s rustic shelter was kept after his death as a reminder of his presence. It remained intact until the late 1930s when it was destroyed by

a falling tree during a monsoon storm. Yet Banne Miyan’s clay hujra echoed a wider tradition among Indian ascetics. This tradition of occupying an earthen mound included the legendary anthill that appeared over the meditating author of the Ramayana, Valmiki (“he of the anthill”), the similar association of anthills and other earthen mounds with Maratha holy figures in the Aurangabad region, and ultimately the association of the Aurangabad Sufi Shah Nur with another such mound in the oral tradition of his shrine in the twentieth century.69 Here again, Banne Miyan’s symbolic repertoire belonged to a class of holy men united by a common ascetic tradition rather than separated by more formal religious boundaries. After the destruction of Banne Miyan’s original clay retreat, it was rebuilt in brick by his great-nephew, Mu‘in al-Din Khan (b. AH 1323/ 1905). It was also around this time that a domed mausoleum was built over Banne Miyan’s grave in 1351/AD 1932, so rendering permanent the charisma of the living saint. A‘zam al-karamat mentions several landowners (jagirdars) and Hyderabadi officials as being followers of Banne Miyan, and their attachment to the faqir during his lifetime seems to have been enough to grant him sufficient land in the center of the city for his shrine to be established. The text referred to people coming to see the living Banne Miyan while he was still alive at his ahata, a term that is used synonymously with reference to family residences and shrines. The attachment of local notables to the saint later resulted in Banne Miyan’s family being given more land outside Aurangabad, around the village of Harsul, as a pious endowment, or waqf, for the foundation and upkeep of a shrine. The main bequest of land amounting to around sixty-two acres came from one Ramz ‘Ali Shah, while the mausoleum itself was paid for by a local member of the Asaf Jah bureaucracy called Zamir al-Hasan.70 The architectural style of the mausoleum closely followed the prototypes of the region’s earlier Sufi shrines, particularly those of Nizam

67. Banne Miyan Papers, document D (copy in author’s possession). 68. Ibid.

69. On such associations, see Green, “Oral Competition Narratives”; and J. Irwin, “The Sacred Anthill and the Cult of the Primordial Mound,” History of Religions 21 (1982): 339–60.

70. This information is based on interviews with members of Banne Miyan’s family at his shrine in Aurangabad during August 2003. I am grateful to Muinuddin Khan, Kashifuddin Khan, and Seyyid Quddus for their cooperation and hospitality.

al-Din Awrangabadi (a short distance away) and Shah Nur Hammami. The style of the mausoleum in this way placed Banne Miyan within an Islamicate tradition of saints in the Deccan, architecture in this case giving a more clearly bounded definition of his religious identity than his own activities seem often to have done during his lifetime. For while Hindu and Muslim pilgrims paid equal devotion to the babas buried in these shrines, often through religiously ambiguous language and practices, the fact remains that Banne Miyan was commemorated in a shrine built according to Muslim architectural tradition rather than in the samadhi or math of a Yogi or Sadhu. While we should be careful not to regard architecture as definitively fixing religious identity, the posthumous changes in Sai Baba’s burial site from Sufi mausoleum to samadhi clearly reflect the symbolic and at times communal currency of the architecture of death.71 It is also important to bear in mind the continued social and political prestige of Islam in Hyderabad State as a factor in the shaping of Banne Miyan’s religious identity. Defining Banne Miyan as a Muslim saint brought the assets bequeathed to him by his followers within the realm of the Muslim law of charitable endowments (awqaf ), a legal category that was administered and promoted by Hyderabad’s administration. Isma‘il Khan was successful in creating a shrine that could continue his uncle’s cult after his death and also, through the laws governing shrine administration, enable his extended family to maintain control of the shrine. The legal definitions governing Muslim religious institutions, the security of which was maintained by Hyderabad’s historic protection of Muslim interests, thus played a part in hagiographic definitions. In this way, legal formulas echoed hagiographic formulas: if Banne Miyan was a Sufi, his shrine was therefore a dargah, which in turn meant that its income would be protected by Muslim endowment law. This legal and hagiographic cohesion is also borne out by
71. On recent communal tensions over shrine architecture and the religious identity of cult figures in India, see Y. S. Sikand, “Another Ayodhya in the Making? The Baba Budhangiri Dargah Controversy in South India,” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 20 (2000): 211–27.

the fact that the author of A‘zam al-karamat was the first sajjada nashin of Banne Miyan’s shrine, having previously had his appointment as the saint’s khalifa ratified by the state administration in Aurangabad in AH 1335/1917. With Banne Miyan’s identity fixed in the terminology of Islamic sainthood, we are presented in the pages of A‘zam al-karamat with the perspective on the saint’s identity of an aspiring Muslim religious notable in a Muslim princely state. Legal categories aside, we should not ignore the social prestige that came with entry into the class of sajjada nashins in Hyderabad State. This was still a period in which Hyderabad possessed a self-consciously Muslim establishment, proud of its traditions and maintenance of the legacy of Mughal culture. Through the help of their “ecstatic” relative, whose distracted and manic states were interpreted as a sign of divine favor through recourse to the Sufi notion of the majzub, the family of Banne Miyan were able to move from one pillar of respectability to another, from the military to the religious class. No longer the scions of minor officers in the Hyderabad Contingent, the family were now the heirs of a saint whose renown was capable of attracting the attention of the Nizam’s prime minister, Kishen Parshad. Inside the mausoleum of Banne Miyan, a wooden frame was built above the saint’s tomb, from which four ostrich eggs were hung. The presence of the eggs in a shrine of this period is testimony to the ongoing tradition of importing ostrich eggs as pilgrimage goods from the hajj at a time at which the ostrich was being hunted to extinction in Arabia. In further testimony to the Islamicization of Banne Miyan’s legacy by some of his followers, a small mosque was added to the shrine shortly after the construction of the mausoleum. The rest of the compound was taken up with the living quarters (zanana) of Banne Miyan’s family and a small family burial ground, where the saint’s brothers and successors were later interred. A small supplementary shrine (astana) to the great medieval Sufi Mu‘in

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al-Din Chishti was later constructed in a corner of the shrine, where one of Banne Miyan’s devotees had witnessed a vision of the Indian founder of the Chishti order. Here, visions served to link Banne Miyan and his shrine to a wider Sufi geography of pilgrimage in South Asia, making the astana at Banne Miyan’s shrine in Aurangabad a local surrogate for the main shrine of Mu‘in al-Din at Ajmer. In these ways, whatever the religious ambiguities of his own life and the multiple faiths of his followers, it was ultimately hagiography and the architecture and patronage of Banne Miyan’s shrine that solidified his memory as an heir to the earlier Sufi saints of the city, whose shrines were reflected so clearly in his own. The work of the text was thus reified by the architectural contexts of Banne Miyan’s cult.
Conclusions

Amid the various forms of ideological attack on traditional religiosity present in Hyderabad State in the guise of Muslim and Hindu doctrines of religious nationalism and reform during the early twentieth century, in A‘zam alkaramat customary religion was able to find literary expression in a text that describes devotional activities unaffected by Hindu or Muslim calls for religious reform. Despite this, A‘zam al-karamat manifested a struggle to define and control the religious identity of the faqir that was by no means unique to the cult of Banne Miyan. Here Banne Miyan’s career was reflected by those of his faqir contemporaries in the region, and in the years following Banne Miyan’s death the forces of communalism struggled over the legacies of each of his contemporaries in turn.72 The gradual “Hindu-ization” of Sai Baba of Shirdi is the best-known example of this tendency, by which the faqirs’ connections with Islamic and even Islamicate tradition have progressively shrunk over time. Yet this process was also alive in the colonial milieu of the faqirs themselves. A dispute broke out be72. Cf. I. Copland, “‘Communalism’ in Princely India: The Case of Hyderabad, 1930–1940,” Modern Asian Studies 22 (1988): 783–814. 73. On this figure, whose colonial career bears many echoes of that of Banne Miyan, see K. A. Shepherd, A Sufi Matriarch: Hazrat Babajan (Cambridge: Anthropographia, 1985). The principal early account of Baba

tween Sai Baba’s Hindu and Muslim followers straight after his death over whether he should be buried or cremated. In the case of Baba Jan of Poona (d. AH 1350/1931), burial disputes were even more premature and actually began several years before her death.73 What is interesting about Baba Jan’s case, however, is the way in which they highlight fractures within the Muslim community itself. As recounted in reports in the Times of India from 1926, the dispute revolved around protests that her burial in Poona’s Pensioners’ Mosque would mean that performances of praise singers (qawwals) would not be possible on her death anniversary, since it was claimed that such performances were forbidden in or near mosques.74 Such performances were also, of course, a shared feature of Hindu-Muslim piety and so there was also clearly a communal dimension to the dispute. In the case of another famous faqir of the region, Taj al-Din of Nagpur (d. AH 1344/1925), such contentions were principally concerned with the location of his burial. For while his patron, the deposed Maharaja of Nagpur, desired him to be buried in the grounds of his palace, other followers successfully demanded the construction of a dargah in a place that they claimed Taj al-Din had himself selected.75 Expressed in the various nuances of these different disputes were the various interpretations of the identity of the faqir. In A‘zam al-karamat, Banne Miyan’s successor Isma‘il Khan attempted to make sense of the religious tradition represented by Banne Miyan in accordance with a preexisting Muslim conceptual schema of sainthood, or walayat. In attempting to do so, A‘zam al-karamat demonstrated a clash between textual definitions and social practices that is common to many other forms of religious writing. For A‘zam al-karamat was part of a discursive tradition of Muslim writings on sainthood on which it drew itself in its attempt to give a clear definition in words of a complex social being, Banne Miyan. From one
75. On Taj al-Din’s life, see Ekkirala Bharadwaja, Shri Tajuddin Baba (Ongole, India: Sri Gurupaduka, 1999). This book is also currently available online at www.geocities.com/nagpurbaba/contents.htm. A short early account of Taj al-Din’s life also appears in Purdom, The Perfect Master, 25.

Jan’s life is that of her follower, Abdul Ghani Munsiff, “Hazrat Babajan of Poona,” Meher Baba Journal (Ahmadnagar/Bangalore, India), 1938–42 (repr. in Awakener [New York] 8 [1961]). A shorter account of her life also appears in Purdom, The Perfect Master, 19–21. 74. The reports on Baba Jan appeared in the Times of India on 4 September and 7 September 1926.

perspective the text was successful: it presents the reader (or, at least, the reader with a familiarity with Muslim tradition) with a clear idea of who its subject was and the place he occupied in the cosmic scheme of things. But from another perspective, the text was a failure: its descriptive, but also implicitly prescriptive, model failed to address the complexity of its subject’s social and religious identity. In simple terms, A‘zam al-karamat was an act of writing that failed to adequately describe the world. Instead, in reflection of a widespread and perhaps inherent propinquity of writing, A‘zam al-karamat reflected the contents of earlier books out onto the world at the very moment that it reflected the forms and movements of the world into the pages of a new book, so describing the local world of Aurangabad through the lenses of Muslim written tradition. Alongside the contextual influences on the shaping of Banne Miyan as a Muslim saint in A‘zam alkaramat, the written word itself seems to have played a role in the narrowing of his religious identity. This may be explained by the fact that A‘zam al-karamat drew on a wider discourse of Muslim sainthood as expounded in local hagiographies like Afzal al-karamat and earlier writings in Persian and Arabic with which Isma‘il Khan showed some familiarity. Yet the very act of writing is in itself an act of defining, of the editing out of the ambiguities and nuances of the outside world. As in part a failure of writing itself, the limited vision A‘zam alkaramat presents of Banne Miyan’s complex religious identity is a reminder of the limitations of written knowledge. As with the suspicion of writing shared by platonists and postmodernists alike, it is also appropriately a failure that has many echoes in the paradoxical mistrust of writing displayed by the Sufi writers of previous generations.

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Making a “Muslim” Saint

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