Twin Cities Campus Department of History 1110 Heller Hall 271 – 19th Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55455 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: 30 May 2022 To Whom It May Concern: My acquaintance with Professor Olimov began with editing and translating his articles for inclusion in the following books published by the Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan: Firdowsi’s Shahname: 1000 Years After (1994); Kamal Khujandi: Epoch and its Importance in the History of Central Asian Civilization (1996); and The Samanids and the Revival of the Civilization of Iranian Peoples (1998). His articles were chosen because they highlighted aspects of Perso-Tajik heritage and outlined the relevance of the medieval events to aspects of present-day reality. They indicated how trends developed and the reasons for the gravitation of certain groups to them. For instance, in an article dealing with Taṣawuuf, he showed why those who lived during the good times of the Sāmānids, when Rūdakī and Firdowsī wrote, did not gravitate to Taṣawuuf, while those who experienced the rule of the Seljūqs and the Mongols did. Over the years, I got to know Dr. Olimov as a friend. I listened to his poetry, which dealt with the difficulties surmounted by the Tajiks, especially the difficulties that Tajik women underwent. At the time, I was preparing a monograph on the 17th century philosopher Mullā Ṣadrā Shīrāzi called Modern Iranian Philosophy: From Ibn Sinā to Mullā Ṣadrā Shīrāzi (2014). Professor Olimov not only discussed al-Asfār and its importance to the development of eastern philosophy, but also commented on the socio-political difficulties that were visited on him at the court of the Ṣafavids. With that said, what follows is a brief appreciation of Professor Olimov’s monograph entitled Taṣawuuf in Khorāsān and Transoxiana during the 10th–12th Centuries. Mysticism is a unique experience. It is what an individual who seeks mystical union with Ultimate Reality experiences. As such, mysticism is a feature of human experience, religion and ideology included. Different cultures provide different methods for creating the connection. In Zoroastrianism, for instance, the vehicle is Olimov - 2 summarized in thinking good thoughts, uttering good words, and performing good deeds. Manichaeism, requires the individual to dissociate his soul from evil. Similar analogies are drawn between Christianity and gnosis. Taṣawuuf (Sūfism) is Islamic mysticism. The vehicle within Taṣawuuf that makes the union possible is love (ʿishq). Through ʿishq, the Sūfī annihilates his self in the beloved (maʿshūq). Academic Olimov studies the historical developments that undergird Taṣawuuf and outlines the social, political, historical, and philosophical factors that impart nuance to mysticism to create Taṣawuuf. In the process, he shows the variety of approaches to understanding the source of taṣawuuf in the works of Ilya Pavlovich Petrushevsky and Saeed Nafīsī. They present the following major groups. Those who believe:  the Qurʾān and the aḥādīth as the source;  Indian philosophical thinking, especially Buddhism;  Christian influences through Gnosticism;  Zoroastrian and Manichaean dualistic influences; and  A combination of the influences outlined above Olimov’s study shows how, when Arab suzerainty over the vast Islamic empire faltered, Iranian (Taherid, Sāmānid) and Turkic (Ghaznavid, Seljūq) rulers of Khorāsān and Transoxiana supported the scholars of the time and solidified the mystical trends that had entered Islamic society leading to the contributors of Farid al-Dīn ʿAttār and others. He also shows how the trend was continued in the monumental work of Jalāl alDīn Rūmī and culminated in the precious ghazals of Shams al-Dīn Ḥāfiẓ and ʿAbd alRaḥmān Jāmī. In that context, Olimov also highlights the importance of the efforts of the Javānmards and the Malāmatīs. Javānmardī refers to manliness in the same vein as medieval European chivalry. He shows how Javānmardī lifts the spirits of both the javānmard and the one who receives his munificence (futuwwa). The Malāmatīs contributed to the growth of Taṣawuuf both in content and popularity. The Malāmatīs sought to belittle themselves by publicizing and aggrandizing their own mistakes and, by doing so, made themselves objects of undeserved hate, derision, and contempt. This to the point that mainstream Sūfīs rejected them. Olimov shows how these trends and their adherents contributed to grounding Sūfism deeper in Khorāsān and Transoxiana. Academic Olimov highlights the contributions of the Sāmānids in particular. That is understandable given the fact that during their short tenure as rulers, they Olimov - 3 revived the ancient Iranians’ appreciation of light, leading to the illuminationist theory of Shahāb al-Dīn Suhrawardī, and the Mythraic gradation that led to the mystical flights of Ḥāfiẓ and Jāmī. He extols Tajik rulers of the past, alongside those at the present, for their achievements in government, medicine, pharmacology, and astronomy. He highlights their contributions to the solidification of the status of the Perso-Tajik language, as well as literature, including mystical literature. One of the major contributions of Olimov is his keen insight in relation to the number of manuscripts that exist in libraries, and which are in need of editors and publishers, vis-à-vis the number of manuscripts that are currently in use. He painstakingly reviews the works of western scholars, as well as Perso-Tajik scholars and informs his reader, in a concise manner, about the content of each manuscript. The reality that emerges from his study is that those scholars who have the facility to read the texts in the original lack the analytical skills necessary to fret out the nuances in the work, and those who are equipped to analyze a piece are handicapped by their inability to read the original. Consequently, they rely on translators. As for the translators, by dint of their profession, they are satisfied with conveying merely the surface meaning. The movement of Taṣawuuf from Baghdad to Nishāpūr took place under the supervision of Nishāpūr elders, mostly faqīhs and men of science, literature, and culture. The aim of the elders was to lower the intensity of the religious bigotry that permeated the society of the time. They intended to do that by creating the type of mutual understanding that the Qurʾān and the aḥādiīh put forward. The process of organization and instruction begins with Ḥakīm Termezī and continues in the contributions of Abūnaṣr Sarrāj, Abduraḥmān Solāmī, Abūḥasan Kharaqānī, Khwajah Abdūllāh Anṣārī, Abū Saʿīd Abulkhayr, and Aḥmad Jām. Each of the scholars mentioned above is discussed with respect to life history, influence on the field and standing among peers. This section is a unique contribution to the enhancement of Taṣawuuf in general and of the school of Khorāsān and Transoxiana in particular. Generally speaking, the great Sūfīs of Khorāsān and Transoxiana (Solāmī, Qushairī, Anṣārī, and others) interpreted Qurʾānic exegeses and the ahādīth in light of Neo-Plutonian and Zoroastrian philosophy. As Sūfīs, they could be divided into two groups. Those like Bāyazid Basṭāmī and Abul Ḥasan Kharaqānī, who were proponents of Waḥdat al-Wujūd (unity of being), and those like Kalābady, Qushairī, Hujwīrī, and Anṣārī, who were followers of Montheism. The former found the godhead in human beings as Olimov - 4 well as in natural phenomena. The latter recognized the godhead as a sum of His attributes, to wit: eternity (abadiyyat), power (qudrat), knowledge (ʿilm), and will (irāda). The ideas of both groups were challenged by the Ashʿarites, Muʿtazilites, Mutakallims, as well as the Fuqahā and some Sūfīs. Olimov discusses the ideas espoused in detail and provides life history for the contributors to both philosophy and Taṣawuuf. He ends this important section with a discussion of the chain that intellect (ʿaql), ego (nafs), and matter (jism) create to connect man with the godhead. Following Olimov’s analysis, it becomes clear that the Khorāsānī scholars paved the way for Mullā Ṣadrā Shīrāzī’s movement in essence (ḥarakat-i jawharī). According to Ṣadrā, in the context of time, the visible part of the object is not the only thing that undergoes change. Its essence, too, is subjected to change. In other words, jism becomes plant, plant becomes animal, and so forth. In the confines of this world, and within their allotted purpose, ʿaql, nafs, and jism serve as rungs on the hierarchy of existence. Ḥarakat-i jawharī controls their movement and directs their progress towards their destined purpose, i.e., achievement of the status of supreme intelligence (ʿaql-i kull). The last subject discussed is the Path (ṭarīqah), its creation, formation, and purpose. The ṭarīqah consists of a practical aspect called stations (maqām) and a spiritual aspect resulting from the maqāms called states (aḥwāl). The maqāms include tawbah (repentance), waraʿ (refrain from anything doubtful), ṣabr (perseverance), tawakkul (trust in God), riḍā (contentment), and the like. In obeying the dictates of the maqāms, the individual combats nafs (self). Aḥwāl are sparks of divinity that invade the heart and soul of the seeker as he completes the maqāms. They include guarding (murāqibah), proximity (qurb), fear and hope (khawf wa rijāʾ), love (maḥabbah), observation (mushāhida), and annihilation (fanāʾ) followed by certainty (yaqīn), gnosis (maʿrifah), and permanent existence in the abode of light (baqāʾ). Olimov argues that Taṣawuuf, especially the Khorāsānī version, used the stations and states of the ṭarīqah to respond to the socio-political, ethical, and spiritual needs of the people of the region and their rulers. The stations, practical in nature, promoted good behavior. The states, derived from the Qurʾān and the ahādīth, were spiritual in nature. They taught the individual how to become a useful contributor to society. A discussion of the interaction of the guide (murshid) and his follower (murīd), as well as the devotion of the Sūfī to remembrance (dhikr), and listening, including music, singing, and dancing (samāʿ) concludes the volume. Olimov - 5 In sum, Professor Olimov provides a comprehensive account of the sources of information on aspects of philosophy and Taṣawuuf in Khorāsān and Transoxiana in the X-XII centuries. They include sources on the formation and development of fields, as well as extensive study of the lives and contributions of the scholars involved. He does the same in his investigation of the problems surrounding existence (hastī). In this regard, he deals with both theory and practice. In fact, he takes his reader to the monastery (khānqāh), discusses the activities of the murīd and murshid, as well as the role of dhikr and samāʿ. Finally, throughout the volume, he discusses the various Sūfic and philosophical dimensions of the historical, political, and ethical trends shaping Taṣawuuf in Khorāsān and Transoxiana in the X-XII centuries. I consider his efforts commendable and his volume a major contribution to scholarship in the field. Sincerely, Iraj Bashiri Professor of History University of Minnesota USA




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