P. M. Currie

P.M. Currie was educated at Cambridge and Oxford where he gained a doctorate on Islam in India,published as The Shrine and Cult of Muin al-din Chishti of Ajmer (Oxford University Press, 1989; re-issued 1993 and 2006). He has also contributed to the new edition of The Encyclopaedia of Islam published by Brill. He is a Senior Visiting Fellow at the School of International Relations, St Andrews University.


The Shrine and Cult of Muin al-din Chishti of AjmerEdit

The Shrine and Cult of Muin al-din Chishti of Ajmer (Oxford University Press, 1989; re-issued 1993 and 2006).
  • [Most of the mystic records and Diwans are forgeries] “but regard for public opinion has prevented them (Indian scholars) from making a public declaration that these are forgeries.”
    • P.M. Currie, p 24 citing Mohammad Habib. Quoted also in Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 5
  • To settle in Ajmer, before dealing with the local secular ruler, Mu‘in al-din had to overcome the local deity, Shadi Dev, and Jogi Ajaipal, ‘who had no equal in the whole of Hindustan.” Mu‘in al-din’s encounter with Shadi Dev is not without interest. Having settled his opposition and converted him to Islam, Mu‘in al-din, at Shadi Dev’s suggestion, moves into his former temple. The take-over of ‘pagan’ sites is a recurrent feature of the history of the expansion of Islam. The most obvious precedent is to be found in the Muslim annexation of the Hajar al-aswad at Mecca… Sir Thomas Arnold remarks that ‘in many instances there is no doubt that the shrine of a Muslim saint marks the site of some local cult which was practised on the spot long before the introduction of Islam.’
    “There is evidence, more reliable than the tradition recorded in the Siyar al-Aqtãb, to suggest that this was the case in Ajmer. Sculpted stones, apparently from a Hindu temple, are incorporated in the Buland Darwãza of Mu‘în al-dîn’s shrine. Moreover, his tomb is built over a series of cellars which may have formed part of an earlier temple… Tradition says that inside the cellar is an image of Mahadeva in a temple on which sandal used to be placed every day by a Brahman.“ The shrine still employs a Hindu family to prepare the sandal which is now presented on the grave of Mu‘in al-din. A tradition, first recorded in the ‘Anis al-Arwãh, suggests that the Sandal Khãna is built on the site of Shãdî Dev’s temple.”
    These relics of Hindu buildings and practice imply that there is some substance behind the Styar al-Aqtab’s story of Mu‘in al-din moving into Shadi Dev’s tomb. At the least 1t serves as a useful explanation to his followers of why Mu‘in al-din, else-where portrayed as a powerful evangelist, is-buried on ground sacred to the Hindus.
    • P.M. Currie, The Shrine and Cult of Mu‘in al-Dîn Chishtî of Ajmer. About Shykh Mu‘în al-Dîn Chishtî of Ajmer (d. AD 1236) (Rajasthan) and about sufis in Ajmer and of the Sãbriyya branch of the Chishtiyya silsilã. Siyar al-Aqtãb, Thomas Arnold. Quoted in P.M. Currie, The Shrine and Cult of Mu‘in al-Dîn Chishtî of Ajmer, OUP, 1989 p. 86-87
  • There has so far been little scholarly success in de-mystifying the Mu’in al Din legend.’ Unfortunately, there are no reliable histories which refer to Mu‘in al-din. The three contemporary historians do not mention him.....
    All the raw materials from which the later hagiographers constructed their pictures of Mu‘in al-din have been assembled above. They borrow from each other and elaborate on each other, but their basic resources are to be found in the four texts, Siyar al-Awliya’, Syar al-‘Arifin, the apocryphal malfizat, and the Siyar al-Aqtab.
    • P.M. Currie, The Shrine and Cult of Mu‘in al-Din Chishti of Ajmer, OUP, 1989
  • In the later hagiographies, where the picture of Mu‘in al-din’s tolerance is replaced by a portrait of him as a warrior for Islam, his miraculous powers are used to enhance his success as an evangelist. He brings the seven fire-worshippers to Islam because they see that fire has no power to burn him, and it is through his miraculous powers that Shadi Dev and Jogi Ajaipal are converted.
    • page 94
  • The khuddam are the servants of the shrine... Some khuddam claim that they are descended from Mu‘in al-din deliberate misrepresentation... There is an alternative tradition, that the khuddam are descended from converts originally belonging to the Bhil tribe. It is said that there were five brothers called Laikha, Taikha, Shaikha, Jhoda and Bhirda. Jhoda and Bhirda never accepted Islam and settled in Pushkar. The other three brothers became converts through Mu‘in al-din himself. They dedicated their lives to his service and, after his death, looked after his grave as have their descendants ever since.
    • p 146.
  • Mu‘in al-din is believed to have been Allah’s appointed evangelist in Hindustan, to have been instrumental in the victory of the Muslim armies in their final invasion of India, to have had authority over Mughal emperors, to have performed countless miracles, embodied the values of Islam, to communicate readily with God and man, and to watch constantly over the welfare of his devotees. However, this faith in Mu‘in al-din rests on assumptions about his life and about the origins of the cult which subsequently developed that have only very limited historical justification.
    • Chapter Conclusion.

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