Areeba Ahmer

I am a 19 year old student studying medicine in Pakistan. I have always been interested in creative writing and so I started content writing for a few friends. I would mostly write university academic papers on a variety of topics including history, anthropology, philosophy, psychology and narrative essays. I also did brand descriptions for a few websites and have a personal blog where I document a lot of events in my life. Currently looking for content writing jobs to earn as a student and also gain some experience.

Feb 14, 2021 - 0 Minutes read

Religious Sufism in Central Asia

An analysis by Jeff Eden on a 19th century controversy

With a sharp observatory and analytical eye, Jeff Eden articulately explains, or rather questions, the different methods employed to understand a recondite branch of literature-the hagiographical texts, particularly the ones associated with Central Asian Sufism. The hagiography in question is of the influential Sufi scholar, Khwaja Ishaq set in sixteenth century East Turkistan. As a prominent scholar in this region, there have been many sources which attempt to understand the life, beliefs and teachings of Khwaja Ishaq, the problem persisting however, is how these sources are interpreted and edited to fit the thinking of modern day society and its perception of religious Sufism. One of the strategies employed to understand the above stated text, mentioned in the thesis is the ‘Royal Patron’ model. This model explores the success and shortcomings of different Sufi lineages in an attempt to understand the thought process of the saints who developed them. While explaining this method, Jeff Eden unfolds the main reason as to why these sources are subjected to excessive editing by the narrator. The reason being that the original text sources include instances of supernatural occurrences which are critically ignored as they are not seen as ‘facts’, and while to most it seems like a reasonable enough point of view, Jeff Eden argues, and his view is backed by the Ney Elias, that after omitting these occurrences, one is left which a ‘relatively threadbare material with which to map out worldly events’. He also mentions how this fragment of Sufi literature- the supernatural narrations, have lead to the critical analysis of even the simplest, most fact-oriented details of the text. For instance, he mentions one of the narrations of Khwaja Ishaq’s life where it is stated that the influential scholar was very intelligent and had completed his education by the age of ten. While this seems like a factual detail, the promising abilities of a mere ten-year old, is considered questionable and rightly so. Hence, arises the dilemma which Jeff Eden explains in his thesis that if these supernatural occurrences are kept intact in narrations, the credibility of the account is questioned. However, if the above mentioned fragments are excluded, the true essence of the text is lost. This precisely is what Jeff Eden aims to resolve; how to deploy effective methods such that the historical context of hagiographies, specifically those centered around East Turkistan, is not lost all the while fostering the integrity of these accounts.