Hybrid Sufi Texts and the Problem of Genre Classification: A Study of Amir Khurd Kirmani’s Siyar al-auliya’
Sufi literature occupies a significant place in the literary and religio-spiritual history of medieval India. This sufi literature is categorised in varied genres ranging from tadhkirah to malfuzat. However, it is noteworthy to mention that many of the early sufi texts were hybrid, thus defying any neat categorisation as per present-day literary standards. The study of a fourteenth-century sufi text, Siyar al-auliya’ dar ahval-o malfuzat-i mashayikh-i Chisht, authored by Amir Khurd Kirmani (d. 1368–69 CE) reveals such problematic categorisation of medieval writings. The title of this fourteenth-century sufi text, composed between 1351–1368 ce in north India, also reflects this problem. It is classified sometimes as tadhkirah or a memoir, or a malfuz or a collection of conversations of the Sufis of silsilah-i Chishtiyyah-Nizamiyyah, and partly considered a sufi manual on sufi ethics and doctrines. Nonetheless, it is considered the very first work of its kind. The present study is an attempt to assess and analyse all the categories of genres assigned to this hybrid text. It argues that Siyar al-auliya’ is primarily a tadhkirah since the bulk of its content deals with sufi biographies, whereas only a small part of it contains the malfuzat or the sayings and conversations of Shaykh Nizam al-Din Auliya’. Moreover, it may be considered a “proto-tadhkirah” since the tadhkirah-writing tradition was in its nascent phase, and yet was not fully developed in South Asia compared to other parts of the Muslim world. That is why, it included non-biographical material as well.
sufi literature, genres, tadhkirah, malfuzat, medieval India, Chishti silsilah, Siyar al-auliya’, Amir Khurd Kirmani.
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