The kashfu al-Mahjub
The oldest person treatise on sufism by ali ibn Uthman al-Jullabi al-Hujwiri
THE KASHFU AL-MAHJUB – THE OLDEST PERSON TREATISE ON SUFISM
This translation of the most ancient and celebrated Persian treatise on Sufiism will, I hope, be found useful not only by the small number of students familiar with the subject at first hand, but also by many readers who, without being Orientalists themselves, are interested in the general history of mysticism and may wish to compare or contrast the diverse yet similar manifestations of the mystical spirit in Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam.
The origin of Sufiism and its relation to these great religions cannot properly be considered here, and I dismiss such questions the more readily because I intend to deal with them on another occasion. It is now my duty to give some account of the author of the Kasf al-Mahjub, and to indicate the character of his work.
Abu Hasan b. ‘Uthman b. al-Ghaznawi al-Jullabi al-Hujwiri was a native of Ghazna in Afghanistan.
Of his life, very little is known beyond what he relates incidentally in the Kasif al-Mahjub. He studied Sufiism under Abu ‘1-Fadl Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Khuttal 3 (p. 166), who was a pupil of Abu ‘1-Hasan al-Husri (371 A.H.), and under Abu Abbas Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Ashqan or al-Shaqan4 (p. 168).
He also received instruction from Abu ‘l-Qasim Gurgání 1 (p. 169) and Khwaja Muzaffar (p. 170), and he mentions a great number of Shaykhs whom he had met and conversed within the course of his wanderings.
He traveled far and wide through the Muhammadan empire from Syria to Turkistán and from the Indus to the Caspian Sea. Among the countries and places which he visited were Adharbáyaján (pp. 57 and 410), the tomb of Báyazíd at Bistám (p. 68), Damascus, Ramla, and Bayt al-Jinn in Syria (pp. 94, 167, 343), Tús and Uzkand (p. 234), the tomb of Abu Sa’id b. Abi ‘l-Khayr at Mihna (p. 235), Merv (p. 401), and the Jabal al-Buttam to the east of Samarcand (p. 407).
He seems to have settled for a time in ‘Iraq, where he ran deeply into debt (p. 345). It may be inferred from a passage on p. 364 that he had a short and unpleasant experience of married life. Finally, according to the Riyád al-Awliyá, he went to reside in Lahore and ended his days in that city.
His own statement, however, shows that he was taken there as a prisoner against his will (p. 91), and that in composing the Kashf al-Mahjúb he was inconvenienced by the loss of the books which he had left at Ghazna. The date of his death is given as 456 A.H. (1063–4 A.D.) or 464 A.H. (1071-2 A.D.), but it is likely that he survived Abu ‘l-Qasim al-Qushayri, who died in 465 A.H. (1072 A.D.). Rieu’s observation (Cat. of the Persian MSS. in the British Museum, i, 343) that the author classes Qushayrí with the Șúfís who had passed away before the time at which he was writing, is not quite accurate.
The author says (p. 161): “Some of those whom I shall mention in this chapter are already deceased, and some are still living.”
But of the ten Şúfís in question only one, namely, Abu ‘l-Qasim Gurgání, is referred to in terms which leave no doubt that he was alive when the author wrote. In the Safinat al-Awliyá, No.71, it is stated that Abu ‘l-Qasim Gurgání died in 450 A.H.
If this date were correct, the Kashf al-Mahjúb must have been written at least fifteen years before Qushayri’s death.
On the other hand, my MS. of the Shadharát al-Dhahab records the death of Abu ‘l-Qasim Gurgání under the year 469 A.H., a date which appears to be more probable, and in that case, the statement that the author survived Qushayrí may be accepted, although the evidence on which it rests is mainly negative, for we cannot lay much stress on the fact that Qushayri’s name is sometimes followed by the Moslem equivalent for “of blessed memory”
. I conjecture, then, that the author died between 465 and 469 A.H.1 His birth may be placed in the last decade of the tenth or the first decade of the eleventh century of our era, and he must have been in the prime of youth when Sultan Mahmúd died in 421 A.H. (1030 A.D.).
The Risála-i Abdáliyya,2 a fifteenth-century treatise on the Muhammadan saints by Ya’qub b. ‘Uthmán al-Ghaznawí, contains an anecdote, for which it would be hazardous to claim any historical value, to the effect that al-Hujwírí once argued in Mahmúd’s presence with an Indian philosopher and utterly discomfited him by an exhibition of miraculous powers.
Be that as it may, he was venerated as a saint long after his death, and his tomb at Lahore was being visited by pilgrims when Bakhtáwar Khán wrote the Riyád al-Awliyá in the latter half of the seventeenth century.
In the introduction to the Kashif al-Mahjiib al-Hujwírí complains that two of his former works had been given to the public by persons who erased his name from the title-page, and pretended that they themselves were the authors.
In order to guard against the repetition of this fraud, he has inserted his own name in many passages of the present work. His writings, to which he has occasion to refer in the Kaslıf al-Mahjúb, are- 1. A díwán (p. 2). 2. Minháj al-dín, on the method of Șúfiism (p. 2). It comprised a detailed account of the Ahl-i Şuffa (p. 80) and a full biography of Husayn b. Manşúr al-Halláj (p. 153).