Amir-I-Kabir and Shakh-i-Akbar: A Study of Concord

Sayyid Faruq Bukhari (1949-1997) was a prominent scholar of Arabic and Islamic Studies. Born in Kashmir, his insight in the history of Kashmir before and after the advent of Islam was really wonderful. His research methodology, conclusion making, and the way of presenting facts are both convincing and infused with the taste of academics.

The present write-up is almost solely based upon his research he has presented in his books, especially in “Islam in Kashmir” (Srinagar, Ashraf Book Center, n.d.) and “The Glorious Past of the Ulama of Kashmir” (Srinagar, Maktabah ‘Ilm-o-Adab, 2014).

Both the books are in Urdu language. Only the articulation is from this humble writer. (May Allah grant him peace in the Jannah).

Who doesn’t know that Amir-i-Kabir Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani was not only a scholar of very high stature, well versed in the sciences of the Qur’an, Hadith, Tasawwuf, logic, etc., but was also a very sincere and staunch follower of the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Rasulullah (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).

But does every one of us know that he was also a supporter of Ibn Arabi? With this in mind, let’s glance over the pages of history and try to find out how truth, with the passage of time, gets buried under the debris of ill-conceived propaganda so much so that that even the academicians get hoodwinked; and then ponder for a while how the rejectionist approach can lead to very dangerous consequences in matters like the present.

In fact in such situations where rejection of one definitely results in the rejection of the other, reconciliatory approach has always been the most appropriate one adopted by the doctors of religion.

Hence the principle of the Shari‘ah that if there are 99% reasons for treming anybody a Kafir but only 1% is still there to consider him as a Muslim, he should not be termed as Kafir.

And that is not every layman’s prerogative. That is what is needed direly today when every ignorant fellow boldly claims to be the most knowledgeable. To bring this spirit of religion to the fore is what is the only purpose of writing this article. And Allah Knows the Best.

Amir-i-Kabir Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani was greatly influenced by Imam Ghazzali, Shaykh Najm al-Din Kubra (the founder of the Kubrawi order of Tasawwuf) and Shaykh-i-Akbar Ibn ‘Arabi.

However, he had also spent a considerable time in the company of Shaykh ‘Ala al-Din Simnani who, although belonging to the moderate section of the Sufis, used to publicly disagree with some tafarrudat (unique opinions) of ‘Ibn Arabi.

In his Majmu‘al-Fatawa (Vol.iv, p.42,43), Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah praises him as being full of knowledge and faith. In addition, Hamadani, being a contemporary of Ibn Taymiyyah, was well aware about the latter’s great services and puritanical efforts.

All these mixed influences collectively proved vital in moderating the approach of the Sayyid. While on one hand he was very hard and fast in following the Shari‘ah, on the other he, even for a moment, did not dissociate himself from the mashaikh and the Sufis whose spiritual descendent he was.

In fact, Ibn Taymiyyah also had the same approach. People of knowledge know that he was not any enemy of the true Tasawwuf but was a great Sufi himself who had received the Khirqa in the Qadri order of Shaykh Abd al-Qadir Jilani whom he often calls as shaykhuna ‘our master’. (This humble student will write a detailed write-up on this aspect of his life in future. Insha Allah).

There is no gainsaying that Sayyid Ali Hamadani was no less fervent and sincere in following the Shari‘ah than Ibn Taymiyyah, yet, unlike Ibn Taymiyyah, he had great respect and reverence for Ibn ‘Arabi. While on one hand he would not spare even the people in power in matters of the Shari‘ah, on the other he would explain the seemingly bewildering terms of Ibn Taymiyyah to those people who took them on face value.

Two factors are responsible for Sayyid Ali Hamadani’s praise for Ibn Arabi: one, he (the Sayyid) was a student of Abd al-Razzaq Kashani who not only had been a student of Ibn ‘Arabi but was also an ardent propagator of his teachings, and two, he benefitted from a well known scholar and ‘arif  Hadrat Imam ‘Abdullah Yaf‘i (d. 1366) who had high appreciation for Ibn ‘Arabi. Once the Sayyid asked him about Ibn ‘Arabi.

He replied that Shaykh Akbar had been the leader of the propounders of Wahdah al-Wujud; although some ‘ulama-i-zahir (literalist scholars) have criticized him, yet great people like Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (a great Shaf ‘i muhaddith and commentator of Sahih Bukhari) and Majuddin Ferozabadi have highly valued his teaching.

It was none but Sayyid Ali Hamadani who first introduced the teachings of Ibn ‘Arabi to the ulama of India. He wrote two commentaries of Fusus al-Hikam. According to Professor Khaliq Ahmad Nizami (late Professor of History at the AMU and a Sufi who had bay‘at with Sayyid Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi),  “ It is probably the first commentary of the Fusus which has been written in India.”

The Sayyid wrote this commentary in such a situation where there were being raised great controversies about Fusus al-Hikam and Futuhat Makkiyyah. Both the proponents and the opponents of Ibn ‘Arabi were at daggers drawn position.

While the opponents were making scathing attacks on Ibn ‘Arabi and his books, his proponents were leaving no stone unturned to interpret the seemingly controversial things in accordance with the Qur’an and the Sunnah. While Shaykh al-Islam was leading the opponent front, Sayyid ‘Ali Hamadi was among the proponents.

In his commentary he tried to explain that nothing in the Fusus was actually against the Qur’an and the Sunnah. [this humble student thinks that unfortunately now both the proponents and the opponents of wahdah al-wujud have turned into the worst kind of ghgullat (extremists) in proving and disproving this doctrine which is by no means any essential teaching of Tasawwuf)].

The Sayyid also wrote a treatise entitled Hal al-Fusus (Key to the Fusus) to explain the difficult terms in that book. About Ibn Arabi’s another book Futuhat Makkiyyah, Professor Muhammad Ibn Zahra has quoted Shaykh Muhammad ‘Abduhu saying: There is a key to understand al-Futuhat al-Makkiyyah. Hence I read this book just like a history book.

Bottomline

If Wahdah al-Wujud means salvation for all irrespective of faith in the final revelation then why did Sayyid ‘Ali Hamadani preach a new faith here?

And if Wahdah al-Wujud means everything is God, which is certainly the most heinous Kufr, then why did Sayyid Ali Hamadani support it despite being himself a devoted follower of the Shari‘ah?

The author teaches at Central University of Kashmir