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The Book of Muinuddin Chishti

The Book of Muinuddin Chishti


Item Code: IHF054

by Mehru Jaffer

Paperback (Edition: 2009)

Penguin books
ISBN 9780143065180

Size: 7.0" X 4.2"
Pages: 165 (9 B/W Illustrations)
Price: $19.00
Discounted: $14.25   Shipping Free
Viewed times since 1st Apr, 2010


From the jacket

India has attracted all sorts of visitors from times unknown and for various reasons. While the likes of Mahmud Ghazni and Muhammad Ghori coveted the country's material wealth and came as territorial conquerors, Muinuddin Chishti came to India, at the turn of the twelfth century, to fulfil a spiritual quest.

The book of Muinuddin Chishti introduces this 'conqueror of conquerors', revealing the life and teachings of a great saint who chose not to battle over God but to practise the love of God. Through the use of historical records and creative imagination, Mehru Jaffer brings to life the story of a human being who became a saint and the development of Chishti Sufism in India, examining the most important dynamic in the understanding of a phenomenon like Sufism: tension between the outsider's point of view and the insider's vision.

Muinuddin Chishti spent his life reminding us that hidden behind the paraphernalia of rituals of all the diverse religions of the world is love and curiosity for the creator. The book of Muinudding Chishti takes forward his message- of how to remain humane in hostile times, balance the material with the spiritual, and reach out and cement the foundations of love and mysticism that ultimately unite all humanity.

Originally from Lucknow, Mehru Jaffer is a Vienna-based journalist. She is the author of the book of Muhammad (Penguin India, 2003).


I discovered Sufism at a time in my life when my entire world was falling apart. 'So, what is new?' a Sufi would ask when faced with a similar situation, for according to mystics worlds exist in order to fall apart. What is important is to explore the alternatives to rage, revenge and militancy as responses to life when it seems to be less kind.

To understand Sufi philosophy is therefore a privilege and one of the most inspiring among the Sufi masters is Muinuddin Chishti. This book is an attempt to appreciate his story, as also the story of the beginnings of the Chishtiya tariqa in India, with some analysis of the time in when he lived.

The Chishti Sufi order was originally founded in central Asia and Muinuddin was the first one to introduce the Chishtiya way of life in India, where he lived for over four decades. His disciples Qutubuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, Baba Farid Ganj Shakr, Mubarak Himiduddin Nagauri, Nizamuddin Awliya and Khwaja Nasiruddin Chiragh latter fanned out into different parts of the Indian subcontinent and spent their lives trying to match their deeds to their words.

Very little is known of Muinuddin's personal life. Moreover, although the literature on Sufi saints is massive, the powerful evocation of the virtuous and ideal life approaches hagiography in most texts. In this biography I have tried to balance the records of the historical origins and actual occurrence of Chishti Sufism with the ideal vision of a new idea. This is particularly essential since existing hagiographic literature pays little heed to history. It is the spiritual victory of Chishti over Ajmer that interests me most.

The most important dynamics in the understanding of a phenomenon like Sufism is the tension between the outsider's point of view and the insider's vision. This book is an attempt by an outsider to imagine the internal vision of Muinuddin and to view both the man and his vision against the background of global events.

Muinuddin's story is essentially about a human being who became a saint because his personal endeavour at all times was to surmount the unforeseen circumstances that life brought his way- a valuable and significant lesson for any person, believer or not.


The memory of Muinuddin Chishti, the Sufi saint of Ajmer is much mired in mythology. It is therefore often frustrating to sift fact from fiction. Lovable as the legends are, they naturally insist that Chishti was considered to be so.

A man born in an Arab family on Persian soil, Chishti was almost fifty years old when he decided to make India his home at the beginning of the thirteenth century. What was it that made Chishti choose this path? Why did Chishti prefer to live and to die in India?

In The Book of Muinuddin Chishti the author opens wide the window of he imagination and travels back nearly a millennium to answer some of these questions. Through her words Chishti's life unfolds against the historical and social realities of his time. The author writes about Chishti as if the sage himself recites his story to her.

Chishti spent his entire life making sure that he remained humane when times were most hostile. He made himself so at home in his adopted land that when he died he was most mourned by those who did not belong to his creed. In The Book of Muinuddin Chishti, Chishti is portrayed as a man who stood up to the diverse challenges of the day but without offending the people he chose to live with. Here history revolves around a human being who was able to perfect the art of love in the midst of hate. The spirit of Chishti soars beyond the single- dimensional image of him as a man of one religion. He emerges as a major cultural broker, a person whose only politics was that of love. He comes alive as a beloved human being, far removed in time from the reader, but a dear, intimate friend nonetheless.

Above all, his story is an invitation to ordinary people that it is possible to balance the material with the spiritual here in this life.


Foreword by Muzaffar Aliix
The Early life of Muinuddin Chishti1
Muinuddin Arrives in India17
In search of Peace37
Gharib Nawaz, a friend of the Poor65
Sufi Thought85
Muinuddin's Legacy105
Royalty, Clergy and Sufis119
Scholars on Sufism137
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