Shaykh Khattu, Sayyid ’Abdullah, and the Process of “Settling” in Fifteenth-Century Gujarat

Saturday, January 4, 2014: 11:30 AM
Columbia Hall 4 (Washington Hilton)
Jyoti Gulati Balachandran, Colgate University
The formation and expansion of the Gujarat Sultanate (c. 1407-1572 CE) was an important context for the flourishing of a regional community of learned Muslim men – religious scholars, teachers, spiritual masters and others involved in the transmission of religious knowledge - in the central plains of eastern Gujarat. Many members of this community shared a history of migration into Gujarat from the southern Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, Iran, Central Asia and the neighboring territories of the Indian subcontinent. This presentation explores the circumstances and motivations that brought two migrant sufi shaykhs, Shaykh Ahmad Khattū (d. 1445) and Sayyid Burhān al-Dīn ‘Abdullāh (d. 1453), to Gujarat in the early decades of the fifteenth century, and looks at the manner in which they found stability and security under the expanding realm of the Gujarat sultans. By the end of the fifteenth century, Shaykh Ahmad, Sayyid ‘Abdullāh and the latter’s son Sayyid Sirāj al-Dīn Muhammad (d. 1475) emerged as the pre-eminent members of the learned Muslim community in Gujarat, memorialized through texts and tomb shrines. While revealing the competitive nature of their initial migration and settlement, this presentation highlights how the varying historical moments of textual production on these learned men generated differing narratives of migration.
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