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3. World Enough and Time:
Religious Strategy and Historical Imagination in an Indian Sufi Tale1

Muzaffar Alam

© Muzaffar Alam, CC BY

Stories and anecdotes have been integral to sufi discourses, doctrinal expositions, and rhetorics. A large number of malfuz texts are comprised mostly of anecdotes, while even in others where the discussion is predominantly doctrinal, the exposition is interspersed with stories. Nizamuddin Auliya, Mir Hasan Sijzi reports in Fawā’id al-fu’ād, related stories from Baghdad, Bukhara, and other cities of the Islamic East in almost every gathering with his disciples and devotees. In some sufi texts, such as Khwaja Nasir Ali Andalib’s Nāla-i ‘andalīb, compiled in eighteenth-century Delhi, the entire tariqa code is outlined through/cloaked in tales.2

The text that concerns us here, the Persian treatise Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt,3 written in 1041AH/1631-32 by the eminent Mughal sufi ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti (d.1638), weaves together/uses stories drawn from a wide range of Islamic and Puranic materials, in order to construct an original argument about the origin of the world, pre- and post-Adamitic history, the coming of Islam to India, and the complementarity of Islamic and Hindu historical narratives.4 More specifically, to connect and combine these traditions ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti uses stories with familiar characters but in unfamiliar combinations and doing and saying sometimes unfamiliar things. In line with the conventions of his putative source text of which it claims to be a “translation”, the Bhabikottar [Bhaviṣyottara] purāṇa, the narrators are the god Shiva (to Parvati) and the rishi Bashist (Vashishta), yet ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti remains firmly in control of the narrative, adding quotations from the Qur’an, hadis, and Persian poets, introducing digressions, and stating his own arguments and conlcusions. The ability to tell a good story and the rhetorical skill to draw home an argument and convince through a story are linked to the “embodied knowledge” of the pir—and of the storyteller—and the effects are achieved, as we shall see, through precision, self-assurance, a wealth of details, and by invoking specific sources of authority.

This book argues that, as a genre, stories are particularly amenable to reworking, experiments of combination, substitution, etc. Storytellers can count on the audience’s familiarity with certain elements and characters, which they manipulate and combine in new ways. The case of ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti’s texts shows how stories (presumably told and listened to as well as written and read) elaborated and transmitted original religious ideas. The Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt centres on the figures of Mahadeva and Krishna. It effectively makes use of the concept of yugas in order to present a relativist argument that places the Prophets Adam and Muhammad (and his grandson Husain) in a narrative continuum with events from the time of the early Hindu tradition. The text bears some generic resemblance to versions of the Bhaviṣya-purāṇa that we know from the nineteenth century—particularly in the device of Mahadev’s prophecy about the “future past” that here serves to include Adam and the Prophet Muhammad within a narrative of the destiny of the gods—but it precedes them by two centuries. Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt also seems to draw upon several other Puranas that ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti may have read or kathas based on the Puranas that he may have listened to; it employs to great effect the Puranic narrative strategy of multiple narrators and multiple time-frames.5 I shall show how the Mir’āt and its author combined rhetorical and political strategies to provide a reconciliation between Hindu and Muslim traditions while manipulating them in such a way as to give the Muslim tradition the upper hand.

The Age of the World and the
Coming of Adam

‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti’s account of human genesis should be seen as part of the broader interest of Mughal rulers and intellectuals in India’s Hindu religious traditions and its “Hindu past”. Mughal emperors commissioned translations into Persian of several major Hindu texts, including the Mahābhārata.6 With the appearance of these translations, Muslim scholars and religious divines were given access to pasts and legends that stretched their imaginations. For instance, Muslims traced the origins of this world to the birth of Adam, who in their estimate lived around 7,000 years ago, while they now learned that, in the Hindu tradition, the world and its inhabitants had existed for hundreds and thousands of years. Many of them must have dismissed these new discoveries as mere myth, but many others struggled to make sense of them, faced, as they were, with the need to develop effective strategies for affirming their views and authority in a heterogeneous religious environment.7

In Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti begins by describing the four eras (yugas) according to the Hindu calculation of Time and aligning the age of the world with the hijri calendar. This chronology corresponds to a typology of beings that is crucial to his argument: jinns, a.k.a. devatās and daityas (gods and demons), lived in the two earlier ages, while Adam and his descendants lived in the latter two:

The first of the four ages was Satjug [Satyayuga], comprising over seventeen lakhs twenty-eight thousand years (1,728,000), the second was Traitya [Treta], comprising over twelve lakh ninety-six thousand years (1,296,000), the third is known as Dwapar which comprised over eight lakhs sixty-four thousand years (864,000), and the fourth is Kaljug [Kaliyuga], comprising over four lakhs and thirty-two thousand years (432,000). Today, which is the one thousand forty-one year (1041 AH) since the hijrat of our Prophet has passed and four thousand seven hundred and thirty-years (4731) since the Kaljug […] In two of these four ages the jinns reigned supreme in the inhabited portion of the earth (rub’-i maskūn). They had a law (sharī‘at), given by God, and acted according to it. During the third era most of them became too involved in this world (ghalba-i kasrat-i dunyā), and began to turn their faces from and revolted against the Divine Commands. [Subsequently] God commanded the angels to chastise them until they were annihilated.8

Already in earlier Islamic literature, the time before Adam had been divided into four ages, even though the duration of each of the four ages was much shorter than that of a Hindu yuga.9 Further, according to the sufi tradition, as we will see below, the world had existed long before the creation of Adam. ‘Abd al-Rahman himself drew upon this tradition when he wrote about this topic in his tazkira Mir’āt al-Asrār (1065AH/1655). In his account of the thirteenth-century sufi Shaikh Sa‘ad al-Din Hamawi, ‘Abd al-Rahman introduces the topic of different accounts of the beginning of time and draws upon the authority of Ibn ‘Arabi to propose an even more mathematically precise comparative calculation of the age of the world:

The Indian, Chinese, and Firangi philosophers put the beginning of creation to several thousand years ago […]. This belief is supported by Chapter 331 of the Futūḥāt al-Makkīya of the Great Shaikh [Ibn ‘Arabi], in which he narrates a ḥadī of the Prophet: “Verily God created hundred thousand Adams”.10 In the same chapter the Great Shaikh relates a story: “While circumambulating the Ka’ba, I witnessed a vision in the World of Similitudes (‘ālam-i miāl) that a group of pious people were circumambulating the Ka’ba with me, but I did not recognise them. Upon this, they said that some years ago we too were circumambulating the Ka’ba sanctuary, just as you are doing it now”. Then the Great Shaikh relates: “When I heard this, a thought came to my heart that these must be bodies belonging to the World of Similitudes. As soon as this occurred to me, one of them turned to me and said: ‘I am one of your forefathers.’ I asked: ‘How long has it been since you left this world?’ He said: ‘40,000 years passed since I died’. Astonished, I said: ‘But it was only 7000 years ago that Adam died’. He asked: ‘which Adam are you talking about? This Adam was in the beginning of the first cycle of these 7000 years’”.

The Great Shaikh says: “Upon hearing this, I remembered the ḥadīs of the Prophet according to which God Most High created one hundred thousand Adams the way he created the Father of the Mankind (Abū al-bashar)”. Following this, the Great Shaikh writes that it is possible that after every cycle of 7000 years the descendants of one Adam become extinct and descendants of another Adam come into existence, and this chain will go on as long as the world is contingent, until the Resurrection comes (wa badīn waża’ ta qiyām-i qiyāmat muntahī gardad), because all prophets had brought us news regarding this, and on the day of Resurrection God Most High will bring to life the progeny of all Adams, all at once; this is not anything difficult for the Omnipotent (Qādir-i muṭlaq). And God knows the best.11

Confronted by apparently conflicting traditions—the Indic historical imaginings of yugas populated by gods, rishis, and heroic kings, and the sufi and also non-sufic Islamic imaginations—‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti had enough support in his own tradition to enable him to blend the two, at least in the imagination of the origins of the world, for in sufi circles too, then, “the world and the people of the world” were much older than the 7,000 years ascribed to them in the Islamic tradition.12 And it is interesting, for example, that in ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti’s narrative the originary being is always named Adam. By comparison, we may note here that Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi considered the 100,000 Adams, even as they appeared in Ibn ‘Arabi’s vision, to have lived in the World of Similitudes (‘alam-i misal) and in that world alone.13

To return to Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, it is worth noting that ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti begins with inclusive and universalist language that would have been intelligible to his Hindu audiences. At the same time he exercises intellectual authority and distinction by arguing that it is incorrect to think (“as some people do”) that Rama, Krishna, and Arjun were the descendents of “the father of humankind” (Abu al-Bashar), Adam. Hindu gods, he argues, had lived before Adam, and Rama, Krishna, and Arjun had no connection with him:

Ramchand lived during Traitya [Treta] and Bashist has written that he was a descendent of Brahma, who lived in Satjug. Mahadev also lived in Satjug and both these two person were created by absolute God, without mother and father. Brahma was created out of light (nūr) and fire (nār) and Mahadev from fire and air (bād), while Adam was created towards the end of the Dwapar age. Although Kishan and Arjun were contemporaries of the descendants of Adam, Biyas [Vyasa] has traced their genealogy to Raja Jadu [Yadu]. Raja Jadu also lived in Traitya age and because of this connection Kishan is known as Jadu bansī, that is, from the family (nasl) of Raja Jadu. In fact, until the time of Kishan and Arjun, Adam’s descendents had not come to the country of Hind and the jinns and ‘unṣūrī, i.e. non-nūr, angels were still in command there.14 Biyas writes that the coming of Kishan was for the annihilation of Kans and for the killing of the entire community of the jinns in the battle of Mahabharat. The purpose was to vacate Hind so that Adam’s descendents would take it over. Thus ended the time of the jinns.15

Note that both Brahma and Shiva-Mahadev in this scheme are jinns created by the absolute God. As we shall see, in ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti’s narrative Mahadev plays a crucial role in prophesying the coming of Adam and of the Prophet Muhammad and his descendants, while Kishan’s (Krishna) conflict against his uncle Kans (Kamsa) merges with his role as avenging and exterminating angel in the Mahabharata war, a war that here marks the end of the rule of jinns on Indian soil.

‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti had already indicated that each era had its own “law (sharī‘at), given by God, and acted according to it”; at the end of this remarkably synthetic narrative he adds that in the exterminated past the world had been graced with the Divine Truth, too, which was brought from Heaven by the Hindu gods and sages. This is what he projects to be the true religion (mashrab) of the sufis, who in any case are instructed to “appropriate the good thing and good word (sukhan-i nīk) from each community”:

Mahadev jinn was made of fire but in his own community he was matchless, both in physical and spiritual perfection. He would come out with the message of oneness of God/Unitarianism (tawḥīd) and would divulge the divine secrets. The Qur’anic verse, “I did not create the jinns and the humans except to worship Me alone”,16 is a proof of the (divine) gnosis of the jinns. It is written in the Tafsīr-i Zāhidī that before the coming of our Prophet, the Devs and the jinns would rise high to the sky, and listen to the conversation of the angels. After the advent of the Prophet, however, their way to the sky has been closed [...] In believing this there is no harm. The religion of the sufis is that we should appropriate the good thing and good word from each community. This is the message in the ḥadī of the Prophet, “take what is good and pure, reject what is dirty and impure”.17

While inserting Islamic chronology within Hindu time, ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti’s historical narrative follows a logic of insubordination and punishment that appears modeled on the story of Iblis. Here it is Mahadev and Hanwant (Hanuman) who get inserted within an Islamic sufi scheme. It is also here that Mahadev becomes the narrator of the ‘true story’ in response to his wife Parvati’s queries:18

Since during the time of Satjug (zamān-i satjug), that is the first age, the ‘unṣurī angels and the jinns led their lives in comfort and luxury, without any problems, they grew haughty. During the entire period of Traitya, the second age, they did things contrary to the divine commands. At that time, Mahadev told them that “if you wish your welfare, you should not give up the path of the divine law (sharī‘at)”. They did not listen to his advice out of their arrogance. They were too attached to the world [of their own]. Mahadev felt ashamed [when his advice was turned down by his own community]. He told these rebels: “Beware that, God willing, during the time of Dwapar God will create a person who will not leave a trace of you in the inhabited part of the earth”. Having said this, he set out for Kailash.19

Mahadev’s wife, Parvati, heard all this in astonishment. She also followed her husband. One day when Mahadev was well settled in his appointed place on the Kailash mountain and was resting, Parvati considered it a good opportunity to ask a question. She asked, “Since the day when you said that in the Dwapar age God will create a person who will annihilate the entire community of the devatās (gods) and daits (daityas, demons), and so on and will take over the inhabited part of the earth, I have not ceased to be amazed. Now do please tell me the nature of that person”. Since Mahadev had immense love for his wife, he started telling the true story (bayān-i wāqi’).20

After a digression on the chain of transmission of the story, to which we will turn later, Mahadev continues the story by prophesying the coming of Adam. Not only is it remarkable that we have Mahadev praising Adam as God’s favourite creature in distinctly Islamic tones, but Chishti has Mahadev use Hanuman as an exemplum to deliver a small sermon on the evil of haughtiness. The dig at Hanuman—a most popular figure in contemporary North Indian devotion—suggests that ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti’s inclusivism had a competitive edge.

Adam is pivotal in suturing the history of Hindu gods and demons with the origin and spread of the human race throughout the world, and into the local geography of Hindustan:

“O Parvati he will have a long life and will be the best of all creatures. His eyes will be bulging like the lotus (nīlofar) flowers, his face will be illuminated like thousands of full moons. O Parvati, when Brahma manifests that world-adoring and matchless person in the being of Adam, the people will be helpless all around and will fall prostrate before him. It is about this situation that Shaikh Farid al-Din ‘Attar [d. ca 1230] writes:

Gar nabūda zāt-i haq andar wujūd,
Āb o gil rā kai malak karda sujūd.

If God Himself were not manifest in his person,
How would then angels have prostrated before a person made of mud and water?21

O Parvati, at that time God will command all the creatures to prostrate before Adam, all devatās, rishīs, daits, rākshas, and so on will then fall in prostration. God has said, ‘And when we said to the angels “Fall prostrate before Adam”, they all fell prostrate except Iblis; he refused, and was arrogant and a disbeliever’.22 O Parvati, when all the creatures have fallen in prostration, a devatā named Hanwant, that is Azazil [i.e. Iblis], will refuse to prostrate out of jealousy; in contempt he will utter a word and say that ‘this is the worst creature, created out of dirty earth, while I was created from a delicate fire’. He will then address the other devatās and will say, ‘O dear ones please do justice, how can I prostrate before him? The Word of God—he [i.e. Iblis] said—“I am better than he; you created me from fire, and he created him from clay”,23 carries the same meaning’. O Parvati, Hanwant24 devatā will turn disobedient because all devatās see that God made Adam with his own hands and instilled his own light into him [Adam]. After Brahma observed this and the devatās will prostrate before him. Hanwant will humiliate himself because of his arrogance and ignorance. He will live neither in the heaven nor in any other place where Brahma will live, nor in my place, nor in the home of any other devatās or gandharbas (a category of angels). He will be nowhere near any rishi or rajas, not even in the company of the jogis. No one will give him a place and he will become a vagabond (sargardān), roaming between the earth and the sky. O Parvati, arrogance is the worst vice, a real ‘ārif [man of gnosis] is the one who regards God as present and watchful everywhere and remains humble and obedient. Since he looked at Adam with contempt, Hanwant was thrown into Hell. O Parvati, God has given Adam the rule of the seven climes (bādshāhā-yi haft iqlīm) and has endowed him with full strength, bravery and all kinds of sciences of the people of ancient times. God says, “and He taught Adam all the names”.25 O Parvati, all beings created of fire will fear Adam, he will dominate over all others and make the entire earth the residence of his descendants, and he will thus bring the world under his control”.26

In a way, then, Adam acts as the point of suture between the Hindu and Islamic histories of time and creation—a suture strengthened by the analogy between Mahadev and Parvati and Adam and Eve. ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti then shows how the birth of Adam inaugurated the history of the human beings who inhabit the world of the time that he and the others—including both Muslims and Hindus—live in. The names of Adam’s sons and daughters that ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti gives are unusual: even though some details remind us of the Biblico-Islamic story of the clash between Habil and Qabil (Gabel/Abel and Cain), the survivor takes the girl with him to Koshal, a country with a clearly Indian name, thus giving the Islamic story an Indic colour.

“O Parvati, the first son that will be born of them will be called Badila, he will be very strong and will perform several miracles. Then there will be a daughter who will be married to him. Then Badila, accompanied by his wife, will leave Adam to settle [in other parts of] the earth. Within a short time there will be so many sons and daughters, steadily taking control of the world. A second son of Adam will be named Hansila, he will be so brave and strong that all the jinns and daits will fall obedient to him. Whosoever will refuse to obey him will be killed (halāk). And then there will be another daughter who will be handed over in marriage to Hansila. The third son of Adam will be named Dahanki and will be fearless, he will not accept Brahma and Bishun [Vishnu] and will contemptuously annul all the rituals and prayers of their faith. Wherever their places of worship will be, he will urinate over them. Thus our faith will encounter evils. Dahanki will do everything, religious or worldly, in opposition to our devatās. Adam’s fourth son will be named Badhal. Five iqlīms [climes, countries] will be under his control, some of these he will forcefully wrest from the deotās [devatās] and daits. He will also forcibly collect kharāj [tributes, revenues] from them. He will do the thing that should never have taken place, all rulers will be obedient to him, and he will bring in a new sharī‘at. O Parvati, in the same manner each son of Adam will be married to the daughter who will follow. In all there will be twenty-one sons and twenty-one daughters, and one son will clash with another over one daughter, as a result of which one of the sons will be killed. Taking that girl with him, he will set out for the country of Koshal where he will grow in power and strength and accumulate piles of gold and silver, extracted from the mines as well as the mountains, and he will distribute them to the people. Thus many will go to his country and will get the gold and silver according to their own desire. He will be a great king and will repent for the sin he had committed and will do excessive prayer, all the time dressed in blue. O Parvati, from the sons of Adam countless people will be born. One son there will bear one thousand, from one thousand there will be one lakh, and from the one lakh there will be one crore, and so on. I cannot in fact give you the exact figure of the descendents of Adam”.27

As an astute narrator, after giving us the pre-history, ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti brings the story up to present times. The next stage is the birth of Muhammad, his mission for the people in the Kali age, the Qur’an, and Islam:

“[After] six thousand years [when “Adam’s descendants will have adopted strange ways of living and the earth will be fed up with their sinfulness”], the Almighty (God) will create a wonderful person from among the children of Adam in the country of Mundali, which is located between the seas, a land which will be appropriate for [God] Bishan [Vishnu]”. Upon hearing this, Parvati asked Mahadev, “Tell me the truth, whether the person who is going to be created by God in such a blessed place will be born in the house of a devatā or a rishī”. In response Mahadev said, “O Parvati, he will be from the loin of Kant Bunjh, who in wisdom and gnosis will be like an ocean, so that from him [whatever] emerges [will be] the pearl. And the name of his wife will be Sak Rekha [Sagarika?]. He will have read the three Beds, Siyām Bed, Rig Bed, and Jajar Bed, and the fourth Bed, Atharban Bed he would give up after having read only up to the letters alif, lām”.28

The name of Kant Bunjh for Muhammad’s father Abdullah is also given in a much later commentary on ‘Abd al-Rahman’s text by Maulana Sayyid Rahat Husain Gopalpuri.29 The detail of the “hidden fourth Veda” is tantalising and clearly significant for ‘Abd al-Rahman’s argument, and we will return later to this issue and to the digression that occurs here. ‘Abd al-Rahman then moves to the praise of the Prophet, this time drawing upon familiar/popular Islamic literature. Mahadev tells Parvati that Byas [Vyasa], too, attributes to Muhammad manifold virtues—in fact nearly all the virtues and miraculous qualities that were then popular in Indian sufi Islam. Kant Bunjh will have three sons and the name of the third son, who survives, will be Mahamat, i.e. Muhammad, who will be endowed with excellent etiquette (awżā’), will already be circumcised, will have no hair anywhere on his body except for the hair on his head and face, and will not worship the gods venerated by the people of his tribe. Mahadev tells Parvati:

“Biyas has also written in his book, the Bhavikh [Bhaviṣya] Uttarpurān, that in the future, i.e. in Kaljug, Mahamat will take birth, who the Muslims will call Muhammad. He will always have the shade of a cloud over his head and he will not have his own shadow. No fly will ever sit on his body. And for him the earth will shrink (ūrā ṭayy-i zamīn kwāhad būd) and he will have enormous virility, he will struggle only for the dīn (faith, religion) and will have no concern for dunyā (this world), and whatever he will gain he will spend in the name of God. He will eat little; the king of the time will be his enemy but he will be the friend of the people. The Almighty will send to him a Purān of thirty adhyāy (divisions), i.e. the sīpāras of the Qur’an will be revealed to him, and everyone acting according to this book will reach God. At that time there will not be any path left to reach God except for this”.

Mahamat, Mahadev reports, will not simply set aside

“all the prayers and sharī‘ats of previous ages, he will impart the teaching of his own sharī‘at to the people of his time. He will struggle to make the world like his own self and… in the manner that we write the sankh, that is era, in our books, in the same way they will have their sanat (era) of Mahamat until the end of the Kaljug age in their books”.30

Just as Mahamat’s sharī‘at will supersede “all the prayers and sharī‘ats of previous ages”, so, ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti implies, will time be measured according to a new calendar that will supersede previous measurements, and nothing will be left outside of it. Not only does Islamic theology provide the overarching frame for ‘Abd al-Rahman’s narrative, then, it also provides the conclusion to his story of time.

The martyrdom of Husain, the Prophet’s grandson, forms the third important part of the narrative, and here we note not only the familiar trope of dissent and insubordination leading to conflict, but also a significant feature of ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti’s ideology, namely the high stature of Ali and his scion.31 The Prophet Muhammad, ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti writes (reporting of course Mahadev’s words, mediated through the words of Vashistha), will have a daughter, better than a thousand sons, very beautiful, peerless, and extremely devoted to the worship of God; she will never lie and will be free from all minor and major sins. Through the intercession of her father, she will be close to God, who will bestow upon her two auspicious sons. The sons will both be men of gnosis, brave, courageous, generous, and matchless in all good works. God will make nobody as perfect as them, either physically or spiritually. These sons of hers will be the Prophet’s successors. Here, too, ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti adds his own voice to the narrative by citing a hadis, while giving impression that this also comes from the mouth of Mahadev.32 He then continues by saying that the descendants of the Prophet’s grandsons will be many, and through them Islam will grow day by day. The Prophet will love his grandsons, and all of their deeds will be in keeping with the Divine Will. They will always endeavour to perform God’s duty and will attend to the plight of the poor and seek to ameliorate it. After the death of the Prophet, some unlawfully born miscreants (harāmzādas) will kill them unjustly, and thus the entire earth will be left without a leader. Their killers will be renegades (malechh, murtad), dishonoured and rejected both in faith (din) and worldly matters (dunya). They will have little devotion to the Prophet in their hearts though they will outwardly claim so. Gradually, many people will join them and will act in opposition to the shining path the Prophet and his descendents had shown.33 Here ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti is clearly stating his own position regarding the martyrdom of Husain and his killers, i.e. the Umayyid Caliph Yazid, his commander Ibn Ziyad, and their army, a position to some extent in polemical dialogue with his own community. The polemical overtones become louder as he nears the end of the story and asserts—through Mahadev—the triumph of his faith vis-à-vis that of Hindus and dissenting Muslims alike:

“Towards the end of Kaljug the strength of the miscreants will increase, with the entire world facing turbulence (fasād). O Parvati, at that time God will send a perfect man (mard-i kāmil) to support the faith of Mahamat. He will bring the entire inhabited part of earth under his control and will put the hypocrites (munāfiq) to shame. Then all will tread on the right path, the shining path that Mahamat and his descendents will have bequeathed. The [true] faith will again be triumphant from east to west, and there will no one left who opposes it. There will be no Hindu or hypocrite to be seen. Mahamat’s faith will everywhere triumph in perfect form in the last phase of Kaljug. All people will act upon the sharī‘at of Mahamat that the incomparable God (bīchūn) had laid down in Atharban Bed, that is, the fourth book”.34

‘Abd al-Rahman suggests here—again through Mahadev—that this future “perfect man” will convert the whole world to Islam. Yet—perhaps in accordance with the general decay of Kaljug?—even this happy outcome will not last for long. Mahadev adds that since the rule is that everything that rises will also decline, the power of that perfect man will also eventually wear off after his death. The world will once again acquire a different hue; chaos and disturbance will prevail all around. People will start living like animals, without discriminating between mothers and sisters. Fearing its total destruction through the excessive sin of the people, the earth will then appeal to God for deliverance. What follows is an impressive combination of the idea of cosmic conflagration (pralaya) under the final avatar of Kalki, with the Islamic end of the world (qiyamat), and of cosmic regeneration with a renewal of Islamic creation and a second (and final) Day of Judgement, all expressed through Mahadev’s prophecy:

“O Parvati, God will accept the earth’s prayer and will subsequently appear in Sambhal in the house of a Brahmin, in the form of the powerful (qahhār) Kalki. The sky and the earth will be shaken, a forceful storm will blow, and the Day of Judgment (qiyāmat) will descend upon the people of the earth. Everything will be annihilated, darkness will prevail over the world, and the world will remain in the same state of ruination and desolation for some time. At that moment God will recreate Adam along with all his descendents. He will then address Mahamat’s daughter and ask her to appeal for justice on behalf of her sons. God will command: ‘Go there to Heaven to meet your sons’. God will again command her to request anything she wants. Mahamat’s daughter will then raise her hand and say: ‘O God, be kind and deliver those who recited the word (kalima) of Mahamat’. In kindness God will then say: ‘I have forgiven the community of Muslims.’ Mahamat’s daughter will then lie in prostration together with her sons and will then take the entire community of Muslims with her to Sarg, i.e Bihisht. Their time (daura) will thus end. Kaljug will be over”. These are the words (kalimāt) that Mahadev communicated to Parvati. God knows best what is right.35

Here ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti either borrowed literally from a late medieval Vaishnava text, the Kalki-purāṇa, a continuation of the Bhāgavata-purāṇa that deals with future events and describes the deeds of Vishnu that will take place at the end of the Kaliyuga, or from stories about Kalki that circulated orally.36 He apparently also conflates other parts of the Kalki-purāṇa that mention the creation of Adharma, the degradation of the people and God and the earth approaching Brahma together to get redress, but in ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti’s story the coming of Kalki is not in order to free the earth from the influence of the Kali age and establish varnashrama dharma, a perfect version of which to him was obviously in the teachings of Muhammad. What is notable is that ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti once again integrates his own Islamic voice into the story—for instance here he states that the human time that began with the birth of Adam is not cyclical but linear and will terminate with qiyamat, when all people finally are given the reward and punishment for their deeds. And while ‘Abd al-Rahman disputes and refutes the notion of cyclical time, he also takes issue with his own community when he condemns the killing of Husain as the gravest sin committed in Kaljug. Thus, among the first things that God will do on the Day of Judgment is to award justice to Fatima, who is portrayed as the most compassionate intercessor for Muslims. Here ‘Abd al-Rahman also introduces a directly polemical note: “in sum the speech (kalām) of Mahadev clearly repudiates [the idea of] the transmigration of human soul (tanāsukh) which implies continuity of time, whereas time eventually has an end“.37

As I note in a longer version of this essay, it is on the subject of transmigration that ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti displays most explicitly and impressively his knowledge of Sanskrit texts and Indian philosophy.38 For the purpose of this book, it is worth noting how he employs the narrative structure of the Puranic tale to further a philosophical-theological argument—namely by using Mahadev as spokesman for his own ideas. Not only does ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti present the debate between Hindu philosophers on transmigration, he intervenes in it while demonstrating his knowledge of Vyasa’s Vedanta:

The third ashlok is from Jabal Rishi and Biyas, available in the third chapter (charn) in the Bedānt, which rejects Jamin and Gautam who advocate transmigration and support avātar. They say that one earns the returns of both the good and the bad deed in this world itself. It is because of this assumption (wahm) that they had adopted the mazhab (belief) of transmigration (tanāsukh). Jabal and Biyas say that, “You have misunderstood it; the returns of good and bad are surg (swarg) and narg (narak), that is heaven and hell. And, as one gets the result of vice and virtue, then what will be the purpose of the souls coming back again into the different bodies in this world? It is sure that the seeds of vice and virtue blossom into flowers in heaven. As they get this return the seeds get terminated, and without seeds nothing can grow”.39

‘Abd al-Rahman then gives his own assessment of Vyasa and Jabal as supreme theologians and saints, while he calls Gautam and Jaimini mere philosophers “who had gone astray (ba-jānib-i dīgar rafta and)”. They were nonetheless great—“Plato, too, was Gautam’s pupil”—he says.40 ‘Abd al-Rahman thereafter concludes Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt with a polemical and interesting message. He writes that “the Hindus are Adam’s descendants, but they have forgotten their ancestors, the religion of their ancestors, and their own selves, indeed. They are wrong in tracing their genealogy to the community of jinns. They do so unknowingly and out of ignorance“.41 This argument, as we shall see, is central to ‘Abd al-Rahman’s position in the text.

Geography and the Age of Humankind

We have already noted ‘Abd al-Rahman’s strategy of beginning with pre-history and coming to a more recent and familiar time. He employs a similar strategy when dealing with geography: while the earth is divided in to quarters (rub’) and domains (iqlim), and there exists an underlying polarity between the inhabited world and the world of forests and mountains, more familiar names also crop up—one of Adam’s son comes to settle in Koshal; a future “perfect man” will be born in Sambhal. When he comes to the part of his narrative devoted to the end of the age of the jinns, devatās, and rishis and the coming of the age of humankind, ‘Abd al-Rahman moulds the story of the Mahābhārata to his own purposes and introduces toponyms like Nimkhar and Qannauj that were familiar to his audiences, a territorialising gesture similar to those of the Dadupanthi sermons analyzed by Monika Horstmann in this volume. At the same time, the narrative of conflict for supremacy between the recalcitrant jinns and the advancing sons of Adam (with their new sharī‘at) reads also as a narrative of Hindu-Muslim competition, with Krishna as the avenger sent by God to punish the jinns. This time Bashisht [Vashishta] is the narrator—and a witness to the event that occurred millions of years ago.

After all the creatures at God’s command had prostrated before Adam, Bashisth narrates, God proclaimed that He had given the whole inhabited part of the earth to Adam and that the community of the jinns would have to move to the forests, mountains, and islands. On hearing this, some devatās left for heaven, while Mahadev, accompanied by Parvati, left for Kailash mountain, “where they are still living luxuriously“. Most of the sensible rishis left the earth and set out for the mountains. But some rulers of that community and others did not vacate the earth at once. As the number of Adam’s descendants increased and pushed ahead, these rulers and the people who were gradually being dislodged from the earth decided to resist the advance, and in the scuffle that ensued they actually gained the upper hand. Some of Adam’s descendants who were close to God then complained to Him about it. God accepted their entreaty and ordered Narad to go down to earth to tell the jinns that the three Vedas that contained their sharī‘at had been annulled and that their shlokas and prayers were no longer of any use. Whereas in their sharī‘at the cow was worshipped, in the new world it would be slaughtered and eaten.42 Narad was particularly instructed to warn them of the dire consequences they would have to face if they refused to act upon God’s command. Narad, initially hesitant to descend to earth since the country of the jinns had turned into a “breeding ground of sins”, eventually communicated God’s message to the leaders of the jinns. He remained on earth for twenty years in the attempt to persuade them. The devatās who set out for Kailash met Mahadev there and told him about Narad’s visit and God’s orders. Mahadev is said to have told them: “I live in one branch (shākh) of Kailash, there are still two more branches vacant, you should go and settle there”—in other words, Mahadev advised them to retire to the mountains. Those jinns then retired to these branches and began to live there, “where from the power of God they have the elixir of life (āb-i ḥayāt) at their disposal”. This is where the story in Vashistha’s words (sukhan-i Bashist) ends, and Byas comes in.43 Among the disastrous consequences of which Narad warned them, the following is of special interest for us, since it bears upon a significant feature of ‘Abd al-Rahman’s narrative. Narad said:

“If you disobey the Divine Command out of your arrogance, you will be ruined. It is to your advantage if you leave this land, otherwise God will create in your own community a person named Kishan who will be endowed with His [God’s] attributes. He will annihilate you so completely that no trace of your existence will ever be found”.44

In Vashistha’s story it was Mahadev, Lord Shiva, who had predicted the birth of Adam, the beginning of human time and its triumph. ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti now shows Lord Krishna too as the one who fights the demons in order to facilitate the settlement of Adam’s descendants in India. Mahadev, Krishna, Adam, Muhammad, and Husain, in ‘Abd al-Rahman’s narrative, all fought against evil and struggled to establish truth on earth, though they belonged to different sets of time.

The ‘Bharata katha and the stories of Krishna from the Bhāgavata-purāṇa circulated widely in oral performance and in Sanskrit and vernacular written versions in North India at the time (see Hawley and Orsini in this volume), as well as in Persian translation.45 ‘Abd al-Rahman weaves together in his narrative the details of the battle of the Mahabharata (the Pandavas, Kauravas, Arjuna, and Krishna) and the exploits of Kansa and Jarasandha and their annihilation at Krishna’s hands in order to fashion his own story of the transition to the current period of human history.

The way in which ‘Abd al-Rahman manages to weave together all these stories and characters in order to advance his vision is highly dramatic. Once again, it is Bashist and his disciples Sut and Saunak (on whom more below) who, together with Krishna, act as God’s instruments in the story and in God’s plan of vacating the earth for the descendants of Adam.

The jinns who had not left for the mountains assembled at Sut and Saunak’s place in Nimkhar and requested their advice with a pledge to follow it, considering their authority “as respectable members of the community”, their knowledge of the Vedas and of Divine Will. Sut and Saunak gave them the same advice as Mahadev and instructed them that, since Kaljug would soon descend, they would all have to give up their “transient lives” anyway.46 Many of the jinns agreed, but once again some of the daits (daityas, demons), like Kans, Saspal (Sisupala), Jarasandh, and others who were big kings, did not heed their advice out of arrogance and haughtiness. Most of these tyrants lived in India (Hindustan), Byas’s narrative continues, and for this reason Adam’s descendents, who by then were in control of several countries, could not enter the land. After observing the situation, Narad, accompanied by Bashisht, returned to Heaven and reported it to God. It was at this juncture and for the purpose of punishing the recalcitrant daits of Hindustan that God created Krishna. Byas sums up Krishna’s “well-known story” as follows:

“[Krishna] was born from the womb of Devaki, the sister of Kans Dait. Basudev, an ‘unṣurī devatā, was Kishan’s father. This Kans was a cruel king and lived in Mathura. He had a huge army and power, had subjugated all the rajas of Hind, and was a source of a variety of mischief and turbulence. Tired of his tyranny, the people approached the pious people of their own community. They consoled them and assured that Kishan, born from the womb of Devaki, would kill Kans. Some of the astrologers had also forewarned Kans of this. Kans thus got every child born of Devaki killed, as this story is well-known, and he made great plans to destroy Kishan. God however kept Kishan safe, and after some time he destroyed Kans and brought the country under his control. After that Jarasandh, Kans’s father- in-law, mobilised another army together with several other rajas and invaded Mathura. Kishan defeated him, too”.47

‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti thus portrays Krishna as the destroyer of all the evil forces that were in power on the eve of the Kaliyuga. Even after his retreat from Mathura to Dwarka following his triumph over Kans, Jarasandha the king of Magadha, Sisupala the king of Cedi and commander-in-chief of Jaransandha’s armies, and Vajranabha, another demon king and the famed warrior Chanur, Kishan returned to kill all the other remaining demons.48 He never failed, because “the all-knowing God, using His absolute power, manifested Himself in the guise (kiswat) of Kishan; no one therefore could overpower him”.49 ‘Abd al-Rahman thus neatly combines a nod to Krishna’s status as the avatar of God, the end of Dwapar and beginning of Kaliyuga, and Krishna’s instrumental role as exterminator of all remaining jinns, a job he concludes with the Mahabharata war.

The description of the Mahabharata war concludes the narrative part of Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt. Yet, as with many of the earlier stories, the ending is never final: here some of the descendants of the Pandavas who had not left for the Himalayas continue to live in Hindustan. And some of the descendants of Cain, who had come to India after the murder of Abel, married the daughters of the jinns, “forgot the book of Adam, embraced the religion of the jinns and read the Beds [Vedas]”. Is this mixed parentage and the forgetting of their true descent a possible explanation of why, centuries after the coming of the sons of Adam to Hindustan, the religion of the jinns was still practiced in India? As ‘Abd al-Rahman writes (and Byas says):

“Thereafter the battle of Mahabharat took place between the Kauravs and Pandavs. They [Kauravas] were a hundred brothers and there were several lakhs of people in their retinue. Kishan subjugated them all in one fell swoop (ba-yak qalam). He then advised the Pandavs to perform jagsmed [yajña Aśvamedha]. Together with their armies they took a round of the whole earth. And wherever [the old] rajas were left, they killed them. When no haughty person was left on this earth, Kishan wanted to depart and go into hiding. At that time he summoned Arjun, Udhav, and Ankod and told them that ‘since Kaljug has arrived, I am going into hiding. You, too, take all the Pandavs and go to the snow-clad mountains. Give up your transient existence since you have no more time left anymore to live on this earth.’ He told Udhav to go to Badri Kedar mountain and engage in the worship of God. Ankod was advised to go to Mansarvar [Mansarovar] and stay there. Kishan then went into hiding. He lived in this world for one hundred and eight years. After him the Pandavs climbed the snow-clad hills and sacrified their lives. About one thousand years later, some of the rajas from their [i.e. Pandavas] lineage who had stayed back on earth gained in strength around the time when several of Adam’s descendants had settled there. Their power grew day by day. Some descendants of the son who had killed his brother and had run away had become rulers in India, married the daughters of the jinns, and built and settled in [the city of] Qanauj, named after their father, Qabil (Cain). Deprived of the book of Adam, they embraced the religion of the jinns and read the Beds. After some time, as the time of the advent of Mahamat drew close and the succession of lineages of the jinns began to be discontinued, they were constrained to adopt the descendants of Adam as their sons and settled them in their place instead. They themselves disappeared and [then] the entire inhabited quarter of the world came in control of Adam’s descendants. Whatever God desired became manifest. This is the meaning of what God said, ‘Allah does what He wants, and He commands what He intends’”.50

As we noted above, ‘Abd al-Rahman’s pointed conclusion to the text is that this is the history that Hindus have forgotten, a history of which he is reminding his audience.

Books and Oral Transmission

While Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt models itself on the dialogic model of the Puranas and retains much of their oral quality of discourse, the authority of books is invoked many times and in multiple ways in the text: from the putative Sanskrit book of which it purports to be a translation (and from which it quotes), to the scriptural quotes and other Arabic, Persian, and Sanskrit authorities that are invoked, to the question of the “hidden fourth Veda” that Mahamat revealed to the world.

Though, as we have seen, the Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt is a deeply creative narrative, ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti invests considerable energy in showing that it is in fact the faithful and authentic translation of a Sanskrit book. He begins the text with the claim that he had read several well-known Indian history books and scriptures, written in antiquity, in search of an account of Adam, the father of humankind. Initially he had failed in his search, but “after a great effort” he had “discovered a book written by Bashist Muni in which the births of Adam and Muhammad along with their descendents were given in detail”.51 ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti calls it Malfūż-i Bashist,52 invoking the well-known sufi genre of the “table-talk” of a master, even though it is written in the style of a Purana, as we have seen, and purportedly borrows from the “Uttarākhaṇḍa (i.e. the last book) of the text in question. The leaders of the Hindu community had deliberately taken the text out of their “books” and kept it secret (makhfī midāshtand) because of their prejudices (ta‘aṣṣub), he alleges.53 This statement allows ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti both to justify why the version he presents of the “Purana of the future” was not known and in circulation, and to buttress his own superior knowledge. The implication being that the “leaders of the Hindus” hid the text because it contained evidence in support of Islam and the beliefs of Muslims. His tone is therefore polemical here, even as he invokes a set of equivalences (on which more below) and a close relationship between the traditions of the two communities:

Bashist was an accomplished member of the community of jinns and had a position of muni. Muni in their terminology is used for prophet. Bashist communicated the knowledge to that community, having received it from Mahadev. Mahadev was Abū al-Jinn (father of the jinns) and he was the [principal] prophet (rasūl-i mursal) of the jinns. Tabari and other historians agree to the fact that there were prophets amongst the jinns for their guidance and education.54 The Qur’an says ‘and the jinns, we had created before, from the fire of a scorching wind’55 [...] The author of Rawżat al-ṣafā’ reports from Ibn Abbas [a companion and cousin of the Prophet] that the name of Abū al-Jinn was Soma with the title of Jann and that in the Book of Adam it is written that Jann’s name was Tarnus… In sum the author Tabari and Rawżat al-ṣafā’56 have mentioned the four ages (zamāna) as four cycles (daura) of the stars (s̱awābit).57

We noted above ‘Abd al-Rahman’s attempt to bring together Islamic and Indic accounts of the origins and age of the world. What is worth noting here is his swift and skillful move of buttressing his statement about Bashist with unimpeachable Qur’anic, prophetic, commentarial, and historical authorities. Also skillful is the way in which he makes the authorities he quotes serve his argument, even if this involves a careful selection.58

Another striking instance of ‘Abd al-Rahman’s negotiation between Sanskrit “sources” and Persian text, and between orality and writing, regards the matter of authentic transmission, and here again he creatively combines Puranic and Islamic traditions. At one point ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti breaks his narrative and digresses into a clarification as to how the conversation between Mahadev and Parvati came down to this world through Bashist Muni, and why he, ‘Abd al-Rahman, has translated it from Sanskrit, “the language of the gods”, into Persian. He writes that when Mahadev started telling the story,

Bashist Muni, who was busy with prayers at the base of the Kailash mountain, overheard it. Since he had immense devotion for Mahadev he wrote (dar qalam āwurd) all the details. From Bashist Sut and Saunak, who were great scholars in Nimkhar, report these details (dar qaum-i khwud mujtahid-i kāmil būdand, wa ‘ābid wa zāhid, ānha az Bashist Mun naql mīkunand),59 the ashloks of which are translated here. Initially, I had intended to communicate and copy these ashloks verbatim, but since not everybody can understand them, I have given here only one of the [original] ashloks as evidence. The rest are in translation so that everybody understands them without any difficulty (bītakalluf).60

Several moves are in evidence in this statement about the chain of transmission: first we have strong oral transmission (supported by devotion) and transcription, then faithful written transmission from Bashist to Sut and Saunak, in other words through an authoritative chain of transmitters, to ‘Abd al-Rahman, who could have copied the text in Sanskrit but chose to translate it into Persian for the sake of general understanding (among new audiences, is the implication). Yet a Sanskrit shloka is copied as proof both of ‘Abd al-Rahman’s reliable knowledge and of the existence of the original Sanskrit text. A further ring to this chain is added in another digression towards the end of the narrative, when Sut and Saunka question Bashisht on the precision of Mahadev’s prophecy about Adam and his world. Bashisht berates their lack of faith in the prophecy, which they could test empirically since the events occurred before their own eyes. But Mahadev’s words were not just his but were given to him—Qur’an-like—from above:

Sut and Saunak asked Bashist, “You knew what Mahadev said about the world of Adam; later his birth and the birth of his descendants also took place in your presence. Was all that happened later the same way as Mahadev had forecast or was there any discrepancy?” Bashist replied, “You and I have lived all through this world, and still you have not gained full knowledge (‘irfān-i kāmil). They all were born in our presence (ḥużūr-i mā wa shumā). What difference (tafāwut) did you see that you dared ask this question and doubt the truth of what Mahadev said?”61

Bashisht then adds:

“O my dear ones, what Mahadev said was not from himself; he reported what was written there in the Surg (Swarg), i.e. heavens (aflāk). Where will the discrepancy then be?”62

Finally, ‘Abd al-Rahman displays his superior knowledge of hidden mysteries and secret texts in the intriguing detail of the “fourth Bed”, the Veda that the Prophet Muhammad’s father knew but refused to write down (see above). Once again, the explanation is provided through a digression. Sut and Saunak question Bashist once more about the truth and meaning of his story. ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti writes:

Sut and Saunak asked Bashist why he [Kant Bunjh], who was going to be like the ocean in gnosis, refused to proceed beyond alif lām in the fourth Bed. Bashist replied: “Brahma created the four Beds [for us in the four different ages], which were all taught to some of the ‘unṣurī devatās who were really able and who were advised to work according to the Siyām in Satjug, Rig in Traitya, and Jajar in Dwapar. The Almighty would then created people from the globe (kura) of the earth who would practise according to the Atharban Bed. There are four charans (sections) in the Atharban Bed. Three of these will be read by Adam and his other descendents. The fourth one, which will combine in itself the purpose and substance (maqṣūd) of all the Beds, will be practiced by none other but Mahamat. If anyone will read the fourth charan without the permission of Mahamat he will not get any benefit. Kant Bunjh will not read this fourth charan of Atharban Bed so that it remains intact as held in trust (amānat)”. Up to this point was the speech of Bashist.

‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti’s language of universalism here assumes added density. The prophets before Adam, even though the Divine Truth was revealed to them, were jinns, genealogically different from Adam and the other prophets of humankind. But the Books of both the Hindu and Muslim worlds, Bashistha affirms through ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti’s words, share the same lineage—they are what the Hindus of his time identified as the Vedas. The first three of them were guides for the eras of the jinns, whereas the last one found expression for humankind in the four major Divine Books—the Zabur (Psalms), Torah, Injil (Gospel), and Qur’an—at different stages of their history. In one stroke, ‘Abd al-Rahman manages to assimilate the Qur’an into the Indic history of revelation (the Vedas), while at the same time he suggests that it is in fact the appropriate Book for the present age.


‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti lived in a milieu that confronted him with conflicting cosmologies and theological principles. He wanted to carefully craft something that sounded plausible, did not offend anyone, and allowed him to argue and maneuver his position while maintaining his inherited identity and traditions in the complex religious and political space of Mughal India. There is no doubt that the narrative of Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt is a remarkable feat that achieves several striking effects. These effects are made possible through a set of equivalences, by slightly twisting familiar narratives and extending familiar tropes, and by having familiar characters like Mahadev and Bashisht saying some unfamiliar/unusual things. Through Mahadev and Bashisht, ‘Abd al-Rahman manages to align Hindu and Islamic (including sufi) calculations of the age of the world and of the origin of humankind; through the equivalences of devatās and daityas with jinns he manages to give them (including Shiva, Rama, and Krishna) an honourable place, but in an earlier age. The Islamic trope of rebellion and punishment of unruly angels takes a new guise with the rebellion of Hanuman (Hanwant) and Krishna’s punishment of the recalcitrant devatās. Brahma creates Adam but is subordinated to Qadir-i Mutlaq (Absolute God); God manifests Himself in Krishna, comes down to earth to fight the evil, but Krishna is not God himself. Historical narrative combines with geography in the history of the coming of Adam’s children (more specifically Cain’s children) to India and their intermarriage with local women, the descendants of the last jinns. Having Mahadev prophesy the coming of Adam, of the Prophet Muhammad, and the Qur’an is a masterstroke. It is a strategy both of accommodation (between yugas and Islamic time, a sharī‘at for every age) and of one-upmanship, in which ‘Abd al-Rahman repeatedly tells his audiences, Hindus and Muslims alike, that he knows more than the Hindus who have forgotten the history of the defeat of their jinn ancestors and of their common origin as children of Adam, and more than the “leaders of the Hindus” who chose to keep secret the inconvenient truth of the fulfillment of the prophecy through Muhammad and the Qur’an.

‘Abd al-Rahman used the religious concepts of the others in such a way that the key concept of his beliefs remained unimpaired. Central and startling in Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt is the idea that both Hinduism and Islam are many-stranded and internally plural, and thus there can be significant similarities between individual strands of Islam and Hinduism. This breaks down the abstract and comprehensive difference between the two religions that completely obstructs any mutual curiosity or accommodation. We cannot however ignore the polemic in his position, whatever its politics. He endeavours to have his tradition emerge paramount.

‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti’s reflection on time was esoteric, and included questions about the age of the world, human genesis, and so on. He found that the scales of Hindu time are much vaster than the scales in “orthodox” Islamic thought. He used this discrepancy not simply to say that Hindus believe in fanciful and false things but subsumed one time scale within the other; and what is even more remarkable is that the subsumption is of Islamic time within the larger cycles of Hindu cosmogony. Islam had encompassed several aspects of Judaism and Christianity—admitting, for instance, the prophetic status of Moses and Jesus. Early Islamic scholars had discussed the significance of such integration. But it was much easier to do, as the Qur’an is full of Biblical prophets and Muhammad proclaimed himself to be their successor. To describe the Indic gods and sages as prophets was a far more difficult task. None of them is mentioned anywhere in either the Qur’an, the hadis or for that matter in any early Islamic text of the “classical” Islamic period. But in a sense what ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti does here with reference to his discourse on time is the opposite. He subsumes Islamic time into Hindu time, even as he makes the latter the time of the jinns. I assume that he does so to explain the discrepancy in Islamic terms and thus to enhance his position’s acceptability within his own community. I might add that ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti makes a distinction between the core and the secondary beliefs of his religion. His intellectual move relates to secondary ideas. He does however modify the hard separation and necessary conflict between the doctrines of the two religions and employs a fundamentally dialogic mode. Is there an implicit piece of advice to Muslim theologians, the Naqshbandi shaikhs who were so close to the royal family, and a significant section of the nobility that in order to live and function in this world they should take seriously and interact with the serious central ideas of the other religion, and not live in ignorance of it? The question could be addressed with some amount of certainty only if we were sure about ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti’s audience. If we imagine that, as a story, the Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt circulated both orally (in Hindavi) and in written form (in Persian), we can envisage at least three, if not four audiences: first, local Muslims (both sufis and non-sufis), to whom he says that accepting these other worlds and truths is not forbidden or haram; second, local Hindus, before whom he parades his knowledge of their scriptures and stories, in fact his superior knowledge, as we have seen; and third, Mughal authorities, before whom Chishtis like him showed that they had a lot to offer, including embodied authority as well as textual knowledge. To these one could also add Persian-educated Hindus, who read these and other texts that attempted to combine the Indic and Islamic worlds.

1 “World Enough and Time” is taken from the poem “To his Coy Mistress” by the seventeenth-century poet Andrew Marvell, which begins:

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love’s day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews [...]

From The Poetical Works of Andrew Marvell, ed. by H. Rogers (London: A. Murray, 1870), p. 49. A fuller version of this essay has appeared in The Indian Economic and Social History Review 49.2 (2012), 151-96.

2 See Riazul Islam, Sufism in South Asia: Impact on Fourteenth Century Muslim Society (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 1-67, for a discussion on stories and parables in sufi texts. See also, for example, Amir Hasan Sijzi Dihlawi, Fawā’id al-fu’ād (Lucknow: Nawalkishor, 1302H/1885), trans. by Bruce Lawrence as Morals of the Heart (New York: Paulist Press, 1992); and Fawaid Al-Fuad: Spiritual and Literary Discourses of Shaikh Nizamuddin Awliya by Ziaul Hasan Faruqi (New Delhi: D.K. Printworld, 1996); Khwaja Muhammad Nasir Andalib, Nāla-i ‘andalīb (Bhopal: Matba’ Shajahani, 1894).

3 The text, still unpublished, is one of five major books by ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti. Several manuscripts are available in India and abroad. I have read and collated three of them: the Aligarh MS (Maulana Azad Library, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, Habibganj Collection, Fārsiyya taṣawwuf, 21/343), the Chishti Khanqah, Sarkhej, Ahmadabad MS (microfilm, Noor Microfilms Centre, Iran Cultural House, Embassy of Iran, New Delhi), and the British Library, London MS (India Office Library Or. 1883). All references here are from the British Library MS, which is bound and paginated continuously with several other manuscripts, including ‘Abd al-Rahman Chishti’s rendering of the Bhāgavadgītā, entitled Mir’āt al-ḥaqā’iq. Since the texts I refer to are all unpublished and untranslated, I have chosen to provide liberal quotations from them. Svevo d’Onofrio and M. Karimi Zanjani-Asl are preparing a critical edition and translation of the text.

4 For biographical details and some descriptions of his writings, see S.A.A. Rizvi, A History of Sufism in India (Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1983), Vol. 2, pp. 27, 289, 368-69, and 396; Carl W. Ernst and Bruce B. Lawrence, Sufi Martyrs of Love: Chishti Sufism in South Asia and Beyond (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002). See also Simon Digby, ‘Mas‘udi’, in Encyclopedia of Islam, New Series, 1991, vi, pp. 783-84; Shahid Amin, ‘On Retelling the Muslim Conquest of Northern India’, in History and the Present, ed. by Partha Chatterjee and Anjan Ghosh (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2002), pp. 24-43; idem, ‘Un Saint Guerrier: Sur la conquête de l’Inde du Nord par les Turcs au XI siècle’, Annales: Histoire, Sciences Sociales 60.2 (March-April 2005), 265-93. See also N.R. Faruqui, Medieval India: Essays on Sufism, Diplomacy and History (Allahabad: Laburnum Press, 2006), pp. 52, 54, 62, and 126n.

5 The argument for oral sources rests on the phonology of the Indic names, common words, and toponyms used, e.g. bhabhik, jug, Kishan, etc.

6 Described by Abu’l-Fazl as “the most honoured, most sacred and most comprehensive book” of the Hindus; Mahābhārat, Persian translation by Mir Ghiyas al-Din ‘Ali Qazvini, ed. by S.M. Reza and N.S. Shukla (Tehran: Kitabkhan-i Tahuri, 1979/1358 shamsi), Vol. 1, Abu’l Fazl’s Introduction, pp. 18-19. See Audrey Truschke, ‘The Mughal Book of War: A Persian Translation of the Sanskrit Mahabharata’, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 31.2 (2011), 506-20.

7 See e.g. Abu’l Fazl, Ā’īn -i Akbarī, ed. by Saiyid Ahmad Khan (reprint, Aligarh: Aligarh Muslim University, 2005), Aḥwāl-i Hindustān, Vol. 3, pp. 360-556; English trans. by H.S. Jarrett (reprint, Delhi: Low Price Publications, 2008), pp. 1-358; Dara Shukoh, Majma’-ul-baḥrain, ed. with English translation and notes (Calcutta: Asiatic Society, 1929), p. 182. See also Bikrama Jit Hasrat, Dara Shikuh: Life and Works (Calcutta: Viswabharati, 1953), Part Two, pp. 174-292.

8 Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, f. 240a.

9 See Mir Khvand (d.1498), Tārīkh-i rawżat al-ṣafā’ (Tehran: Markazi Khayam Piroz, 1338 shamsi/1959), Vol. 1, pp. 20-21. According to Ibn ‘Arabi, the jinns had lived and been in control of this world for sixty thousand years before the creation of the humankind. There were twelve principal groups of them and they also fought among themselves; see Muhyi al-Din Ibn al-Arabi, al-Futūḥāt al-Makkīya (Cairo: Al-Hai’at al-Misriyya al-Amma and Paris: Sorbonne, 1972), Vol. 2, pp. 276-86.

10Innallāha khalaqa mi’ atah alfin Ādama’; in Ibn ‘Arabi (1972), Vol. 3, p. 549. See also William C. Chittick, Imaginal Worlds: Ibn ‘Arabi and the Problem of Religious Diversity (Albany: State University of New York, 1994), pp. 81-95.

11 “Because the father of the humankind (Adam) came into existence in the Cycle of Saturn (Zuḥal), or, at the end of the third period, his life span and the life span of his descendants that were born in this period, was longer. In this way Adam’s life span was thousand years, or, according to a different tradition, 930 years. Likewise, the life spans of his sons too were long. Because the appearance of our Prophet is connected with the Cycle of the Moon, or, the fourth period, in which the life spans are in between 60 and 70 years, with some reaching to 100 years, for this reason the Prophet said the life span of the people of my community is within 70 years (bain al-sab‘īn). Therefore, the scholars, verifiers of the Truth hold the view that when 7000 years are completed, one week of God’s days—one of which is equal to thousand years—is completed. But it should be known that according to them [these scholars], there are two types of the days of God, short (ṣighār) and long (kibār). The short days are also called temporal days (ayyām-i zamānī, ‘days of time’) and the long ones [are called] God’s days. The duration of the short day is a thousand years, as the venerable verse of Qur’an has it: ‘Verily a Day of your Lord is like a thousand years of your reckoning’ (‘wa-in yauman ‘inda rabbika ka-alfi sanatin mimmā ta‘uddūn, Qur’an, 22:47), while the long day, which is from God’s days, is equal to about 50,000 years. The venerable verse of Qur’an ‘The angels and the Spirit ascend unto Him in a Day that equals fifty thousand years’ (‘ta‘ruju-‘l-malā’ikatu wa-‘r-rūḥu ilaihi fī yaumin kāna miqdāruhu khamsīna alfa sanatin’, Qur’an, 70:4) points to this truth. This is the reason why the author of the Futūḥāt al-Makkīya writes that in the Hereafter (ākhirat) one day is equal to 50,000 years, while one day in the World of Similitudes is equal to thousand years”; Mir’āt al-asrār, ff. 243a-244a.

12 Relevant here are also the hadis regarding Moses’ queries to God regarding the origins of the world, which are traced to one million years ago; see Alam (2012), 184-85. Such hadis were of questionable authenticity from the point of view of orthodox theologians, but they continued to be cited in Islamic literature, and became part of the Muslim imagination.

13 Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi, Maktūbāt-i Imām Rabbānī, ed. by ‘Aziz al-Din Dehlavi (Delhi: Matba Murtazavi, 1873), Vol. 2, pp. 42-44.

14 Earlier in his introductory note in the Mir’at, Chishti mentions two categories of the angels (mala’ik), one nurani, i.e. made of light, and the other ‘unsuri, made of elements, and he says that these angels are the same that are identified as nari, i.e. made of fire; Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, f. 238b.

15 Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, f. 240b. For Kans (Kamsa), the notorious demon King of Mathura who was killed by Krishna, and Kishan (Krishna) and Ram (Rama), the Hindu gods, see Vettam Mani, Purāṇic Encyclopaedia (reprint, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, 1998), pp. 382-83, 420-29, and 631-40.

16ma khalaqtu’l jinna wa’l insa illa liya’ budūn”. Qur’an, 51:56.

17 Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, f.241a. The hadiskhu mā safā, da’ mā kadir”, is oft-cited in sufi texts, see Izz al-Din Mahmud bin Ali Kashani, Miṣbāḥ al-hidāya wa miftāḥ al-kifāya, ed. Iffat Karbasi and Muhammad Riza Barzgar Khaliqi (Tehran: Intisharat-i Zavvar), 1387 shamsi/2008, p. 281; Baqir Sadriniya, Farhang-i māsūrāt-i mutūn-i ‘irfānī (Tehran: Intisharat-i Sukhan, 1387 shamsi/2009), p. 230. The Tafsīr-i Zāhidī by Abu Nasr al-Raruha, a notable sufi commentary on the Qur’an, is still unpublished; an important manuscript is available in the Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library in Patna, see Catalogue of Arabic and Persian Manuscripts in Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Patna, Vol. XIV, ed. by Khan Bahadur Abdul Muqtadir (reprint, Patna: Khuda Bakhsh Library, 1970), no. 1112. Unfortunately I have not had access to any of these manuscripts and have therefore been unable so far to verify Chishti’s statement. For a summary of Qur’an commentaries see Alan Godlas, “Sufism”, in The Blackwell Companion to the Qur’an, ed. by Andrew Rippin (London: Blackwell, 2006), pp. 350-61.

18 For a useful discussion of the Puranas as a genre constructed around the central principle of “revealing mysteries”, see Ludo Rocher, The Purāṇas (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrasowitz, 1986); idem, ‘Reflections on one hundred and fifty years of Purāṇa studies’, Purāṇa 25.1 (January 1983), 64-76; see also Giorgio Bonazzoli, ‘Remarks on the Nature of the Purāṇas’, ibid., 77-113; idem, ‘Composition of the Purāṇas’, Purāṇa 2 (July 1983), 254-80. For the style of the Kathāsaritsāgara, see Arshiya Sattar, Tales from the Kathāsaritsāgara, Somadeva: Translated from the Sanskrit with an Introduction (New York: Penguin Books, 1994), Introduction and p. 2 in particular.

19 The mount Mahameru with the golden colored peak of Himavan, the seat of Siva according to the Puranas, Mani (1998), pp. 364-65 and 462-63.

20 Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, f. 241.

21 There are several verses by Farid al-Din ‘Attar bearing strong affinities to this verse, besides being in the same metre; see Musībat-nāma (Tehran: Zawwar, 1959), pp. 58, 242, Ushtur-nāma (Tehran: Chap-e Taban, 1961), pp. 30, 302-03, under Hikāyat-i Ādam. In the Asrār-nāma (Tehran: Chap-e Sharq, 1959, p. 47) ‘Attar gives the same verse in a different order: “dar ādam būd nūrī az wujūd-ash / wagarna kai malak karda sujūd-ash” (there existed a light in the existence of Adam / otherwise how could the angels have prostrated before him). Interestingly, another poet, Amir Husaini Haravi, cites the same verse with a difference in the second part of the first line of the verse. Instead of ‘Attar’s “āt-i ḥaq andar wujūd”, Amir Husaini writes “partav-i ḥaq dar wujūd”, in Manavī-hā-yi irfānī (Tehran: Mu’assasah-i Chap va Intisaharat-i Danishgah-i Tihran, 1993), p. 44.

22wa iz qulnā lil malā‘ikati usjudū fasajadū illā iblīs aba wa istakbara wa kāna min al-kāfirīn”, Qur’an, 2:34.

23anā khair minhu khalaqtanī min nārin wa khalaqtahu min ṭīn”, Qur’an, 38:76.

24 Since -want is the same suffix as -mān, so Hanuman and Hanuwant are the same name; “Hanivant” is the common Avadhi spelling in Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s Padmāvat, ed. by V.S. Agrawal (Jhansi: Sahitya Sadan, 1998 edn), index p. 781. This could be an earlier “birth” of the very popular Hanuman.

25wa allama adam al asmā’a kullahā”. Qur’an 2:31.

26 Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, f. 242.

27 Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, f. 243.

28 A version of this part is also available on the website, which shows the nineteenth-century milieu of religious disputations in India. It cites and translates from the introduction to a commentary on the Qur’an titled Anwār al-Qur’ān by one Maulana Seyyed Rahat Husain Gopalpuri. Gopalpuri apparently read this part as drawn from a “Baran Uttar khand” (Brahmottarakhand?).

29 Gopalpuri glosses the names “Kant Bunjh” and “Sank Rakhiya” mentioned by Mahadev with those of Muhammad’s own father and mother, Abdullah and Amina; ibid.

30 Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, ff. 244a, 244b.

31 I have discussed this feature in my essay ‘The Debate Within: A Sufi Critique of Religious Law, Tasawwuf and Politics in Mughal India’, in Religious Cultures in Early Modern India: New Perspectives, ed. by Rosalind O’Hanlon and David Washbrook (London: Routledge, 2011), pp. 8-39.

32 The hadis is inallāha ja’la uriyata kulli nabfī sulbayhi wa ja‘ala uriyatī fī sulbi ‘alī ibn abī ṭālib’ (God placed the descendants of every prophet in his backbones/loins, but He placed my descendants in the loins of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib). The hadis is reported in several collections, manaqib, tazkira, and history books. See Shams al-din Muhammad ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Skhawi, Al-ajwibat al-murdīyya, ed. by Muhammad Ishaq Muhammad Ibrahim (Riyad: Dar al-Raya fi al-Nashr wal-Tauzi’, 1418AH/1997), Vol. 2, pp. 424-25; ‘Ala al-din ‘Ali al-Muttaqi, Kanz al-‘ummāl fī sunan al-aqwāl wa al-af‘āl, ed. by Shaikh Bakri Hayyani and Shaikh Safwat al-Saqa (Beirut: al-Mua’ssasat al-Risala, 1405AH/1985), Vol. 11, p. 600. Chishti mentions this hadis as copied from Mishkāt (kamā fī al-Mishkāt). I could not locate it in Miṣhkāt al-masābīḥ in these very words, but he may have referred to Mishkāt al-anwār.

33 Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, f. 245.

34 Ibid., f. 246a.

35 Ibid.

36 cf. R.C. Hazra, Studies in the Upapurāṇ̣as, Vol. I, Saura and Vaiṣṇava Upapurāṇas (Calcutta: Sanskrit College, 1958), pp. 303-08, where Kalki is said to be the son of Visnuyasas and Sumati of Sambhalnagarama. For a brief description of Kalki Avatara, see also Abu’l Fazl, Ā’īn-i Akbarī, ed. by Saiyid Ahmad Khan (2005), p. 532, trans. by H.S. Jarrett (2008), pp. 318-19.

37 Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, f.245a.

38 See Alam (2012), 185-89. ‘Abd al-Rahman quotes Udayanacharya, Vyasa (as author of the Vedānta sūtra) and Shankara—though he considerably over-simplifies their views.

39 Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, f. 246a.

40 This remark, while it shows ‘Abd al-Rahman’s close reading of Indian philosophy and his contacts with the Brahman scholars of his own time, is not so fictitious. There is a fragment, preserving a memory of the claim that Indian philosophers taught Plato, via Socrates, particularly concerning theology. Cf. Joachim Lacrosse, ‘Some Remarks about a Meeting between Socrates and an Indian (Aristoxenus 53)’, Archiv fur Geschichte der Philosophie 89.3 (2007), 247-63. Islamic philosophers also noticed the similarity of Indian and Greek ideas of transmigration, and in some cases sought to show a diffusion of ideas. For example, Suhrawardi in his Philosophy of Illumination places the doctrine of the Pythagoreans and Plato on reincarnation in the mouth of the Buddha (bodasaf). See John Walbridge, The Wisdom of the Mystic East: Suhrawardi and Platonic Orientalism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001), p. 79.

41 Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, f. 249b.

42 Besides moving to the mountains, the jinns also had the option of giving up their worldly life and going up to Heaven to live in the world of the spirits, Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, f. 248b.

43 Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, f. 247.

44 Ibid., f. 248b.

45 See Muzaffar Alam and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Writing the Mughal World (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), pp. 396-428 for some seventeenth- and eighteenth-century works that include these histories; also Truschke (2011).

46 Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, f.248a.

47 Ibid., f. 248a.

48 Ibid. For Jarasandha, Sisupala, Chanura, and Vajranabha, see Mani (1998), pp. 177, 349-50, 719-20, and 821.

49 Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, ff. 249b-250a.

50yaf‘al-ullāhu mā yashā-u”, and wa yahkamu ma yurīd”, Qur’an, 14:27 and 5:1; Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, ff. 249-250a. Udhav (Uddhava) was a Yadava, a friend of Krishna who plays an important role in the “songs of the bee” exchange with the Gopis; see Mani (1998), pp. 803-04.

51 Mir’at al-makhlūqāt, f. 238a.

52 Ibid. The Sarkhej Ahamadbad ms (f. 1) has Malfūż, only the Aligarh MS (f.1a) calls it Kitāb-i Bashist. This is probably the reason why Rizvi (1983, Vol. 1, p. 14) identified the text as a translation of the Yoga-Vasiṣṭha; see Alam (2012), 153.

53 Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, f. 239a. It is difficult to say what exactly this treatise was. Chishti generally mentions unknown books as sources for his writings elsewhere too. See his Mir’āt-i Madārī (British Museum Manuscript, f. 2b), where he mentions Īmān-i Maḥmūdī, a biographical account of Shah Madar by one Qazi Kanturi, as his source. See also Amin for Mir’āt-i Mas‘ūdī.

54 In his history, Tabari (d.922) mentions jinns in the context of his discussion of the angels and of Iblis’s position in their midst, and also in his discussion of the creation of Adam. See Abu Ja‘far Muhammad bin Jarir al-Tabari, Tārīkh al-rusul wa al-mulūk, ed. by Muhammad Abu’l-Fazl Ibrahim (Cairo: Dar al-Ma’arif, 1960), Vol. 1, pp. 81-90. In his commentary on the Qur’an, however, interpreting the verses “O you assembly of jinns and humans! Did you not receive messengers from among you, who told you of My Signs, and warned you about the meeting of this day?” (Qur’an, 6:130), Tabari mentions several hadis and views of early Muslim scholars to discuss whether there were prophets from among the jinns themselves; idem, Jāmi‘ al-bayān ‘an ta’wīl āy al-Qur’ān, ed. ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abd al-Muhsin al-Turki (Riyad: Dar-i Alam al-Kutub, 2003), Vol. 9, pp. 559-62. See also Vol. 14 for his comments on the verse, “I did not create the jinns and the humans except to worship Me alone” (Qur’an, 51:56). It is significant that in some commentaries on the Qur’an written in India in the later Mughal period, Hindu deities are identified with some such jinn prophets, e.g. Qazi Sana-Allah (d.1810), Tafsīr-i maẓharī, Urdu trans. Abd al-Dayim al-Jalali (Delhi: Dar al-Musannifin), Vol. 4, pp. 217-18. For Qazi Sana-Allah (Qadi Thana’-Allah Panipati), see S.A.A. Rizvi, Shah ‘Abd al-Aziz: Partisanism, Sectarian Polemics and Jihad (Delhi: Munshram Manoharlal, 1982), pp. 558-73.

55wa’l jānna khalaqnā-hu min qablu min nār is-sumūm”. This verse follows the verse, “We created man from sounding clay, from mud molded into shape”; Qur’an, 15:26 and 27.

56 Here the text has signs of deletion following the word “Tabari” and “awurda” (has mentioned) and has to be read with some care. Since ‘Abd al-Rahman mentioned Tabari and Rawżat al-ṣafā’ earlier in the text, when he summed up here the scribe first wrote both and then deleted Tabari. He deleted the verb “awurda”, too, which is an obvious error, for the verb for this sentence (‘qarār dāda and’) comes later.

57 Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, f. 239b; for cycles of time, Mir Khvand (1959), pp. 36-38. Mahadev in the Hindu tradition is the God Siva, and Bashist (Vasistha) is a noted rishi whose sayings form the well-known text, Yoga-Vasiṣṭha; see Mani (1998), pp. 723-31 and 834-37.

58 E.g. we know that the discussion of time (zaman) in Tabari’s history is totally different, see Tārīkh al-rusul wa al-mulūk, Vol. 1, pp. 9-80. But Mir Khvand in the Rawżat al-ṣafā’ does mention cycles (dauras) of time as well as cycles of “recompense”, a notion echoed in ‘Abd al-Rahman’s description of the jinns’ time as a sequence moving from their glory to their dishonour and decline; see Mir Khvand (1959), pp. 20-21; see also The Rauzat-us-Safa, or, Garden of Purity: Containing the Histories of Prophets, Kings, and Khalifs, trans. by E. Rehatsek, ed. by F.F. Arbuthnot (reprint Delhi: Idarah-i Adabiyat-i Delli: 1982), Vol. 1, pp. 36-38.

59 Sut (Suta) was the disciple of Vyasa who learnt from him the Puranas and the Mahābhārata and recounted them to Saunaka and the other rishis assembled at Naimisharanya (Nimsar in the modern district of Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh). Saunaka was the one who organised the assembly; Mani (1998), pp. 517 and 774. Abu’l Fazl writes Nimasar as Nimakhar and describes it as a “shrine of great resort”, with numerous temples, a tank called Brahmawaratkund, and the springhead of a stream about which the Brahmans say that “its sand shapes itself into the form of Mahadeo and quickly disappears again, and of whatever is thrown in, as rice and the like, no trace remains”; Abu’l Fazl, Ā’īn-i Akbarī (2005), p. 327, trans. (2008), p. 183.

60 Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, f.240b. Chishti cites here a shloka: ‘ado manya pra’it bodha ait mahesha nilakanthi hast maha kotaha tarkand hadiya’, which appears to contain Sanskrit words but is totally unintelligible. I have approached several Sanskrit specialists to make sense of this shloka, but to no avail. The shloka may have been distorted because of the Persian copyists’ ignorance of the language; Chishti instead seems to know Sanskrit. We know that he translated the Bhāgavadgītā as Mir’āt al-ḥaqā’iq; see Roderic Vassie, ‘Persian Interpretations of the Bhagvadgita in the Mughal Period, with Special Reference to the Version of Abd al-Rahman Chishti (PhD dissertation, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1988). We have already seen his unusual familiarity with Sanskrit philosophical texts.

61 Mir’āt al-makhlūqāt, f. 246.

62 Ibid., f.246b. Surg (Swarg), i.e. heavens (aflāk) here probably refers to the lauḥ-i maḥfūẓ, which according to Muslim beliefs are the tablets preserved in Heaven on which the transactions of mankind were written by God from eternity.