Other View

Shiekh Yaqoob Sarfi- The Scholar of International Repute

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

By: Bashir Ahmad Dar

Kashmir, from the earliest times has earned fame for being a cradle of learning and spirituality. It has produced men of eminence who have shone for their scholarship not only in the sub-continent but their influence in scholarly sphere extended to the international arena as well. One amongst these shining stars was Shiekh Yaqoob Sarfi- one of the most learned among his contemporaries who gained international reputation for learning, scholarship and piety. Shiekh Yaqoob Sarfi was born in 1521 A.D(928 Hijra) to Sheikh Hasan Gania of the Asmi Clan. This clan traces its descent from ‘Asim’ a son of caliph Hazrat Umar Farooq(R.A). The young Yaqoob committed the whole Quran to memory when he was just seven years old.At the same age, he also began to compose verses in Persian.

As I stepped in the seventh year of my life,I commenced composing verses. My father used to do corrections(Islah) of my verses and thus helped me andguided me in the craft of poetry.

He had his early education under Mulla Aini. The latter was the pupil of the great scholar and sufiMoulana Abdur Rehman Jami and had come to Kashmir. He breathed his last here in the valley and was laid to rest in the shrine of Bhaa-ud-Din Ganj –Baksh.

Mulla Aini had prophesied that Yaqub would, in due course of time, rise to the literary eminence of the second Jami.It was on the instruction of his revered teacher Mullah Aini that he chooseSarfi as his pen name. He then studied under Mulla Basir Khan Khandabhavani. Thereafter, following the medieval tradition of the Sufis and the learned, he left for his education abroad and stayed at Sialkot, Lahore, Kabul, Samarqand, Mashhad, Mecca, Medina etc. At Khwarzim in Turkistan, he received instruction in mysticism from Shaikh Hussain and became his spiritual successor. At Mecca, Shaikh Yaqub received instruction from the renowned Muhadith (expert in the sphere of Hadith or the traditions of the prophet) who accorded him the Sanad or authority to give instructions in Hadith. The scholar was well versed in the writings of Ibn-ul Arabi. Clad in the robes of the Shaikhs of Arabia and Iran, he profited greatly by his interactions with them. Shaikh Yaqub had also the opportunity of meeting the well knownChisti Sufi, Shaikh Salim Chisti and was blessed with the instruction in the Chisti Order by the latter,thus becoming the first from the valley of Kashmir to receive instruction in the ChistiSilsilah.   He was ordained to assume the prerogatives of a religious teacher and spiritual guide and, as such, had many disciples both in Hindustan and Kashmir. Shaikh Ahmad Sarhindi, better known as Mujaddid-i Alf-i-Sani, too was blessed to receive instructions in Hadith and Tasawuf (mysticism) in the Kubrawi order from Shaikh Yaqub.

Dr Abudl Majid Mattoo mentions, in his book ‘Kashmir under the Mughals’ that ‘Shiekh Yaqub was a pupil of Sheikh Ahmad Sarhindi’ which does not seem correct as all the chronicles and later day historians have detailed ShiekhSarhinid’s being a disciple of the Kashmiri spiritual and religious teacher. Sheikh Yaqub Sarfi, proved his mettle in the religious teachings at the international level as he delivered instructions in the religious sphere to the scholars right from Kashmir upto Arabia. Sheikh Sarfi’s international stature in the domain of religious scholarship is of immense importance considering the fact that the people of Kashmir exhibited a slackness in receiving instructions in the religious education once the valleyites lost their political power. Interestingly in the present times there is such a dearth of religious instruction in Kashmir that hundreds of Imams are imported from outside to lead the Muslims in prayers.

As an author, Shaikh Yaqub wrote an Arabic taqriz or introduction on Faizi’s Tafsir entitled Sawati-ul- Ilham. Sarafi completed a khamsa or a series of five masnavis in imitation of the Khamsa of Moulana Abdur Rehman Jami. These include Tafsir MasalakulAkhyar, Wamiq-u-Azra, Layla Majnun, Maghazin Nabi, Maqamat-i- Murshid. Other works attributed to him are a Diwan, Qasaid and Ghazals, Manasik-i Hajj, Sharah(commentary) to the Sahih Bukhari. Not long before his death, he was writing a commentary which, in the words of Badayuni was ‘one of the most wonderful productions of his perfect genius’.

During his sojourn, he is said to have met the king of Iran Shah Ismail (Prof. Shams ud din calls him Shah Thamasip) who reportedly indulged in the killing of people on religious grounds. The king is said to have been got so much influenced by the knowledge and spirituality of the Kashmiri scholar that he became a devotee of Sheikh Sarfi and henceforth refrained from the sectarian killings. Thus, the scholar and a spiritual leader from Kashmir was instrumental in exerting influence at the international level in averting genocide and resorting peace in a far-off land.

The contemporary historian Badyuni, who was in correspondence with the Sheikh, remarks: “He was illustrious, and was relied upon as an authority on all branches of learning which are treated of in Arabic, such as Quranic commentaries, Hadith and Sufism and was an authorised religious leader”. The Mughal court historian Abul Fazal regards him ‘the greatest authority on religious issues. The author of the Dabistan considers him as ‘the spiritual guide of the age’.

Today when the world is having the edge of knowledge explosion and various sorts of modes are available for the acquisition of knowledge,Kashmir is craving for the scholar having the depth and multi-dimensional scholarship of Sheikh Yaqoob Sarfi and the best tribute to this great scholar would be to groom the young scholars who aim to go for heights in this sphere.

(The author is Sufi-writer associated with Haqani Memorial Trust J&K and can be emailed at:[email protected])

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *