The present book was welcomed, as soon as it came to light, by several reviews that all sing its praises (by Françoise Aubin in Central Asiatic Journal 5/12; Catherine Mayeur-Jaouen in Turcica 38; Michele Bernardini in Eurasian Studies 6; and Jürgen Paul in Studia Iranica 36), to which the present reviewer hastens to add his own. This is indeed a beautiful work, which for the first time in western-language historiography offers a synthesis of the religious, intellectual and political history of Central Asia, more specifically of Eastern Turkistan in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. Thanks to his shrewd analysis of the mentality of the Sufi intellectual milieus, this work by A. Papas prevails over its Chinese and Japanese precedents which, though already numerous, deal mainly, if not exclusively with the history of events. The real issue of this book is situated on the level of hagiography. Such a choice is at the same time appropriate and inevitable, to the extent that the most part of the literature of that period of time consists of hagiographies. Besides, the chronicles themselves are as submerged by esoteric spirit as the hagiographies. Contrary to the ‘historians of events’ who use to focus their endeavour on the cleansing of thaumaturgical narratives, for distilling out of them some drops of a tasteless extract—of an unquestionably ‘reasonable’ historicity—, the author at once gets to the heart of hagiographies, underlying that “hagiography is never insignificant (l’hagiographie n’est jamais anodine, 124),” in order to reconstruct the Sufi Weltanschauung of Central Asia. By the way, his project is a success.
Amongst the fourteen hagiographical texts used by the author, three of them appear more frequently: the Ziya al-Qulub, the Hidayat-nama (both in Persian, unpublished), and the Tadhkira-yi ‘Azizan (in Chaghatay Turkic). As for the latter, the author has been using, for most of his quotations, a contemporary version in Uighur language. These texts roughly correspond with the three main steps of the history of the Ishanate (French ishanat, a particularly well-coined neologism for the designation of the political and religious structure of the Naqshbandi mystical path, notably of its Afaqi branch). The first part of the book is devoted to the “dynastisation” of the Makhdum-zada family, on the basis of the Ziya al-Qulub among others, whence in the second and third parts it is the discourse of the Hidayat-nama that divulgates the mythology of the genesis of the exiled Afaqi branch, as well as the Sufi utopia dreamed of by the hagiographer and, quite certainly, by his master Afaq Khwaja. In this utopia, the political and religious leadership are embodied in the person of the Khwaja. At the same time all the inhabitants of Turkistan belong to the path, participate in the dance séances, sing the litanies, and fall in raptures (jadhba) by an effect of the Master’s glance. In the third part devoted to the later period, the Tadhkira-yi ‘azizan becomes the main sources, at least till the conquest by the Qing.
His solid and in-deep knowledge of Islamic thought in general, of Islamic mysticism in particular, allows the author to reveal how traditional religious authority becomes a prevailing political power, and how the Akbari tradition continues to inspire Central Asian Sufi ideals until a late period of time. Thanks to such clarifications, the reading of hagiographies can reach a deeper level, and the reader can better understand the signification of mystical narratives as well as the intentions of the hagiographers who have been writing them. The periodisation of this development and the characteristics of each proposed step can be globally admitted. However, for a historian like me, accustomed to look at thing from afar because of his long-sightedness, the terms sometimes lack transparency.
One can agree indeed that it is Ahmad Kasani himself, and no doubt his contemporaries who have required a unification of sanctity and lineage in a form more precise than in the past, for facilitating the identification of the spiritual line (nisbat-i ma‘nawi) with a corporal one (nisbat-i suri). The author once asserts that “the two nisbats become identified with each other beginning from the Khwajagan branches—Ishaqiyya and Afaqiyya—of Eastern Turkistan. In other words the shaykh and the father are one and the same person: Ishaq is Shadi’s father and master . . . (40).” However, among the Ishaqi Naqshbandis this identification did not spread out at once. As the author himself suggests in another place (60) through the Anis al-talibin, it is a certain Shutur Khalifa who is entrusted with Ishaq’s holy silsila. According to this same hagiography, the Ishaqi nisbat-i ma‘nawi comes as follows: Ishaq Khwaja – Muhammad Khan – Khalifa Shutur – Khwaja Yahya (son of Ishaq) – Khwaja Sepi Khalifa (son of Shutur) – Khwaja Muhammad ‘Abd-Allâh (son of Yahya). Therefore the two Ishaqi nisbats are not identical. Inserted between two saints, father and son, the royal link, Muhammad Khan, never contaminates the hereditary sanctity, though he enhances the political dignity of the Ishaqi lineage.
Relying notably on the Hidayat-nama, the author proposes a model of holy power, the “king saint (saint roi)” embodied by Afaq Khwaja, facing the “saint king (roi saint)” from the Ishaqi branch. In this hagiography Afaq Khwaja is indeed called “Khan Khwaja”—as far as I know this is the first appearance of this title in primary sources—whence in the same period of time Khwaja Muhammad ‘Abd-Allah is usually called “Khwajam Padishah.” It remains perhaps to the author to examine the latter’s activities (they are evoked by Mahmud Churas, one of his disciples, at several places of his chronicle) and to search the signification of this denomination for the novelty of this conception of the “king saint.” Whatever may be the origin of the “king saint,” one observe that this conception was latent in Eastern Turkistan after the banishing of the Makhdum-zada lines and under the Qing, for reappearing in the nineteenth century. During the revolt against the Qing, Khwaja Rashidin (a contracted form of Rashid al-Din), from the Kataki lineage, copies exactly the experiences of the Ishanate’s utopia. The scale of his brotherhood covers almost a state which, when considering jihad against the infidels, mobilises all the inhabitants-disciples by all possible means. The history of this brotherhood-state offers, apparently, a more desirable conclusion.
The author’s philological erudition lets very few places where the reading and translation of the sources has to be reconsidered. For instance on p. 84 the document “addressed” to a sultan of Yulbars Khan on behalf of a group of donors who were evidently of Qarataghliq or Ishaqi obedience is not at all an act of waqf, contrary to the assertion of G. Raquette who discovered and published it. Actually, it is an act issued from Yulbars Khan in the interest of a certain Sayf-Allah Beg Churas for confirming the hereditary possession of a piece of land. The expression “subject of khwajas” that the author introduces as attested in that whole document is in fact located at the end of the long list of people ordered to recognise the act’s content, beginning with the khan’s brothers and sons, and does not have this meaning. The text in question (. . . öz wa ish tegär ulugh kichik khwaja sharik ra‘iyyatlargha andagh wazih u rushan wa laih u mubarhan bolsun-kim . . .) can be translated in: “May it be clear, evident, manifest and demonstrated to (all) subjects, great and small, khwaja and sharik.” These two terms khwaja and sharif mean perhaps the traders in general, and the khwajas whose existence in Tibet is attested by the author (95) are certainly people of this kind, not members of the family of the religious khwajas.
The sentence concerning the enthronement of ‘Abd al-Karim (“Three days later Muhammad-Wali [Sufi] announced him his promotion to the rank of khan ”) requires an explanative note. This sentence is apparently a slightly abridged translation of the text of the Anis al-Talibin (ba‘d az se ruz yak ruz sahar Muhammad Wali Sufî ‘Abd al-Karim Khanra bisharat dadand), in which the words sahar (‘daybreak’) and bisharat (‘good augur,’ ‘good announcement,’ or ‘approval given by the souls of the trespassed ones’) suggest that this event happened in the khan’s dream. The dead master shows himself alone to the khan, not to his emirs (Muhammad Wali Sufi bi-khan zahir shudand umara nadida and), then the khan encourages his emirs, telling them that the late Sufi—to whom the khan refers through the formula ‘alayhi al-rahmat—hastens, i.e. marches with them upon the enemy. The soul of the trespassed Sufi supports the khan in the invisible world. These details notwithstanding, the result reached by the author is excellent and remarkable. The exegesis method adopted for the present work is a model to be followed. The book is a solid basis on which every future study will have to rely.