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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: September 2016

Preface

Summary

This book is an adaptation of the author's doctoral thesis, Shi'a-Isma'ili Motifs in the Sufi Architecture of the Indus Valley 1200-1500 (London, 2009), which deals with the connections between Isma'ilism and the Suhrawardi Sufi Order in the middle Indus region, or rather what is now the southern Punjab region of Pakistan. In academia, Sufism has long been reckoned to have connections to Shi'ism, but without concrete proof. Quite simply, the book shows this generally hidden connection by examining current scholarly work on the subject, historical sources, and most importantly, metaphysics and archaeological evidence.

Something special happened in Multan and Uch eight centuries ago, around the time when the Mongol invasions devastated the Middle East and Central Asia. Large-scale migration from these areas swelled the numbers of Isma'ilis, and the various Sufi denominations, that pre-existed here. One such Sufi order was the Suhrawardi, which had previous connections with Isma'ilism in Iraq. In Multan and later in Uch, the Suhrawardi Order secretly collaborated with Isma'ili missionaries on a model of religious transcendentalism. In Isma'ilism this model was known as the Satpanth, or True path. The Satpanth is based on the Shi'a metaphysical concept of wilayat, or vice regency, of the first Imam 'Ali, and its connection to Nawruz, the Persian New Year. The Isma'ili missionary Pir Shams was the first to develop and apply this model to the Indian context in Multan, through religious ceremonies centred on his shrine. Subsequently, it was developed further by the Suhrawardi Sufi Order into a grand scheme of envisioning monotheism, one which has been found represented in the architecture left behind by the order in Multan and Uch. The monuments of the Suhrawardi Order, which are derived from the basic lodges set up by Pir Shams in the region, constitute a building archetype which is unique. It is hoped that this book will play a role in revealing the covert connections that existed between Shi'ism and Sufism in the medieval era, and redefine the methodology that is used to study this relationship.