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Amir Hasan Sijzi: Forgotten contemporary of Amir Khusrau

Art 26 Nov 2020
Amir Hasan Sijzi

It is not rare in history that of two or many stars of the same period, one outshines others in public memory. One such example is that of the two 13th century-‘Amir’s of Delhi: Amir Khusrau and Amir Hasan Sijzi. While, at least to those in the arts and literature of the period, the former is a familiar name, the Amir Hasan remains largely unknown. Yet as noted historian Richard Eaton points out in his tome India in the Persiante Age, “Among Nizam al-Din Auliya’s most prominent disciples were the two principal Persian poets in India at the time Amir Hasan and Amir Khusrau.”

The flame of love is not kindled in your heart unless it is purged of all impurities / Your soil of hope is not watered unless you become as humble as earth.

– Hazrat Nizam al-Din Auliya

Contributions of Amir Hasan Sijzi

In another of my columns I have briefly discussed the contribution of the great polymath Amir Khusrau to the flowering of India’s classical music and poetry in the middle ages, it would be fair not to forget his namesake’s contribution to what is technically known in literature as the ‘Malfuz’. What is Malfuz. Researcher Aasia Yusuf in an article in the journal Islam and Muslim Societies (Vol. 6, No.2, 2013) describes it succinctly: “The Malfuz writing is one of the most important literary inventions of medieval India.

The word ‘Malfuz’ is a derivative of ‘lafz’ (‘word’), meaning uttered, spoken. The Malfuz writing is that branch of literature in which the utterances and teachings of eminent sufis are recorded, generally chronologically in book form, by one or more of their devotees (Murids/ students), present at those talks…”

And it is here that India owes immensely to the great poet Amir Hasan Sijzi, because the deep and beautiful words of the great Sufi saint, such as one quoted right at the beginning of this piece, may have remained largely unknown to us with the painstaking compilation done by the disciple-poet. The title of this compilation is Fawa’id al Fawad. “This book is of such splendour,” writes Aasia Yusuf, “that Hasan’s contemporary poet, Amir Khusrau Dehlavi, suggested exchanging all his works for Hassan’s book, Fawa’id alFawad.”

Widely regarded as Sa’di-e-Hind

The book records in the form of conversations the holy utterances of Sheikh Nizam al-Din in the majalis of his jama’at khanqah at Ghayathpur. Besides being a devotional text it is also considered to be a reliable mirror of the poets times, because, as Yusuf points out, Fawa’id alFawad is devoid of narration of exaggerated karamah and super natural elements.

However, this great work apart, Amir Hasan is by the dint of his own poetry one of the greatest Persian poets India has produced. During his time he was widely regarded as the Sa’di-e-Hind, Sa’di of India, after the renowned Iranian poet Sa’di Shirazi. He was born in Badaun, in present-day Uttar Pradesh, India in 1253. And he passed away in Daulatabad, in 1337. He is said to have made his name as a poet in Multan in the 1280s, but later moved to Delhi with his friend Amir Khusrau.

 

(Written by Author and Translator Nilanjan Hajra)