Eternal Garden

Mysticism, History, and Politics at a South Asian Sufi Center

By Carl W. Ernst

Subjects: Islam
Series: SUNY series in Muslim Spirituality in South Asia
Paperback : 9780791408841, 416 pages, March 1992
Hardcover : 9780791408834, 416 pages, April 1992

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


Foreword by Annemarie Schimmel

Preface and Acknowledgments

PART I: Historical Orientation: Sufism and Islam in South Asia

1. Sufism


The Sufi Tradition
Sufism in Islamic Society


2. Historiographies of Islam in India


The Problem of Nationalist Historigraphy
Medieval Islamic Views of India
Medieval Indian Views of Islam


3. Religion and Empire in the Delhi Sultanate


Persian Kingship and the Indo-Muslim State
Non-Muslims and the Sultanate
Sultanate and Caliphate
Sultanate Imperialism and Sufism


4. The Textual Formation of Oral Teachings in the Early Chishti Order


From Oral Teaching to Written Text in Sufism
The Foundation of the ChishtiMalfuzat Literature: Nizam al-Din
The Elaboration of the Malfuzat Tradition: Chiragh-i Dihli
The Elaboration of the Malfuzat Tradition: Burhan al-Din Gharib
The Problem of "Inauthentic" Malfuzat


5. The Interpretation of the Sufi Biographical Tradition in India

PART II: Chishti Sufism at Khuldabad

6. From Delhi to the Deccan


The Historiography of Sufism in the Deccan
Sufism and the Turkish Conquest of the Deccan


7. Burhan al-Din Gharib's Establishment and Teaching


The Khalifa of Nizam al-Din
The Sufi Master
Teachings and Practices
The Disciples
Sama': Listening to Music


8. The Indian Environment and the Question of Conversion

PART III: The Khuldabad Sufis in History

9. Political Relations of the Khuldabad Chishtis

10. Political History of the Khuldabad Shrines


The Bahmani Sultans
The Faruqis of Khandesh
The Mughuls and Nizams


11. Khuldabad as a Sacred Center in the Local Context


The Khuldabad-Burhanpur Axis
The Local Saints of Khuldabad

PART IV: ConclusionsPART V: Appendixes

A. A Sufi Bookshelf: The Bibliography of Rukn al-Din Dabir Kashani

B. A Fifteenth-Century Revenue Memorandum

C. Mughul and Deccan Farmans from Khuldabad



Index of Names

Index of Terms and Subjects

Reveals the mystical teachings and practices of the Chishti Sufi order as taught by the ecstatic Shaykh Burhan al-Din Gharib (d. 1337) and his disciples.


Ernst's research, based on rare Persian manuscripts preserved in Sufi shrines in the medieval town of Khuldabad, a major center of pilgrimage in the Indian Deccan, reveals the mystical teachings and practices of the Chishti Sufi order as taught by the ecstatic Shaykh Burhan al-Din Gharib (d. 1337) and his disciples. The book clarifies the diverse historiographical approaches found in an array of narratives. It redefines major topics in the often emotionally charged study of religion and history in South Asia, and it raises provocative theses on much-argued topics such as the basis of Islamic political power in South Asia and the alleged roles of Sufis as warriors and missionaries.

Carl W. Ernst is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Religion at Pomona College in Claremont, California. A specialist in classical Sufism and Indo-Muslim culture, he is the author of Words of Ecstasy in Sufism, also published by SUNY Press.


"This is an extraordinary piece of scholarship. I like the constant sense of discovery that Ernst brings to his work, not only with regard to the literary archival material, which he has arrayed in painstaking detail, but also his enthusiasm about discovering new ways of seeing oral data in relationship to textual data, and textual data in relationship to ritual data.

"Reading this book has taken me far afield in my own thought, and I must end by remarking that, like the pilgrim to Khuldabad, I have come back from the experience much enriched and full of a certain spirit of renewal that I would not have imagined nor found before this trip. Eternal Garden marks a major, transformative advance in the study of institutional Sufism, especially, but not solely, in South Asia. " — Bruce B. Lawrence, Duke University

"One of the most exciting and readable contributions to the study of Islam in India to appear in years. " — Middle East Journal

"No other sacred space in Islamdom has been subjected to such thorough, penetrating, and illuminating historical research. " — Digest of Middle Eastern Studies

"The book may serve well as a useful text for advanced courses that seek to explore the complex interplay of Islam and politics in precolonial India … It will certainly be long regarded as an important contribution to the cultural history of Indian Sufism. " — International Journal of Middle East Studies

"An important contribution to the growing field of scholarship on South Asian Islam and the nature of Islamic society in South Asia. " — Iranian Studies