A. Alikberov

Institute of Oriental Studies, the Russian Academy of Sciences,

Moscow, Russia

E-mail: alikberov@mail.ru


History and Legend: Mythologizing the Image of a Saint in Islamic Tradition (The Case of Ibrahim b. Adham)

Abstract. The article analyzes the relationship between history and legend on the basis of the mythologized image of Ibrahim b. Adham (d. 164/781), the famous mystic and ascetic from the Balkh region. In this legend, the historical facts have been subjected to distortion in several stages. The early sources portray him as a ruler's son who gave up the riches of worldly life and devoted himself to the service of God; the later sources show him as a ruler who becomes a saint. The transformation of the image of the saint, who came from the dynasty of the rulers of Balkh, can be clearly traced in the miniatures of the Mughal School, resonating with the images of the “holy rulers” of the Mughal dynasty, typically shown with a halo over their heads.

Key words: mythologization of history, legends, Sufi tradition, saint, Ibrahim b. Adham, Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri, Abu Bakr al-Darbandi, Arabic manuscripts, Indian miniatures, Mughal School Tocharian, manuscripts, Berlin Turfan Collection, Brahmi script, palaeography, Buddhism, Matrceta, buddhastotras, Varnarhavarnastotra, bilingual texts, Sanskrit


  • ‘Attar, Farid al-Din (1973), Muslim Saints and Mystics. Episodes from the “Tadhkirat al-Auliya” [Memorial of the Saints], transl. by A. J. Arberry, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
  • Al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid (1980), Ihya’ ‘ulum al-din [The Revival of Religious Sciences]. Selected chapters, transl. from Arabic, with research and comments by V. Naumkin, Moscow: Vostochnaja literatura.
  • Al-Isfahani, Abu Nu‘aym (1351—1357 / 1932—1938), Hilyat al-awliya’ wa tabaqat al-asfiya’ [The Ornaments of God's Friends and the Generation of the Pure Ones], vols. 1—10, Cairo.
  • Al-Qushayri, ‘Abd al-Karim b. Hawazin (1418/1997), Al-Risala al-Qushayriyya fi ‘ilm at-tasawwuf [The Epistle of Sufism], Cairo: Dar al-Khayr.
  • Al-Sulami, Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman Muhammad b. al-Husayn (1960), Kitab Tabaqat al-Sufiyya [The Book of the Ranks of the Sufis], texte arabe avec une introduction et index par J. Pedersen. Leiden: Brill.
  • Anecdotes of Aurangzib: English Translation of Ahkam-i Alamgiri Ascribed to Hamid ud-din Khan Bahadur with Life of Aurangzib and Historical Notes by Sir Jadunath Sarkar, (1958). Calcutta: M. C. Sarkar & Sons.
  • Ansari, ‘Abd Allah (1962), Tabaqat al-Sufiyya [The Ranks of Sufis], ed. with introd., notes, glossary, indices and completed from three manuscripts by Habibi, ‘A. H., Kabul.
  • Böwering, G. & Orfali, B. (2013), The Comfort of the Mystics: A Manual and Anthology of Early Sufism, Leiden: Brill.
  • Böwering, G. (1997), “Al-Sulami”, EI2, Leiden: E. J. Brill.
  • Cruz, L. & W. Frijhoff (eds.) (2009), Myth in History, History in Myth, Leiden — Boston: Brill.
  • Ernst, C. W. (2016), Refractions of Islam in India: Situating Sufism and Yoga, New Delhi: SAGE Publication — YODA Press.
  • Ettinghausen, R. (1961), Paintings of the Sultans and Emperors of India in American Collections, Bombay: Lalit Kala Academy.
  • Frye, R. N. (ed.) (1975), The Cambridge History of Iran. Vol. 4: The Period from the Arab Invasion to the Saljuqs, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Green, N. (2004), “Stories of saints and sultans: remembering history at the sufi shrines of Aurangabad”, Modern Asian Studies, vol. 38, No. 2, pp. 419—446.
  • Lal, M. (1988), Auranzeb. Delhi: Vikas.
  • Makdisi, G. (1963), Ibn ‘Aqil et la résurgence de l'islam traditionaliste au XI siècle (V siècle de l'Hégire), Damascus: Presses de l'Ifpo.
  • Sarkar, J. (1924), History of Aurangzib: Based on Original Sources. Vol. 5: The Closing Years, 1689—1707, Calcutta: M. C. Sarkar & Sons.
  • Tamse, C. A. (1975), “The Political myth”, in: Bromley, J. S. and Kossmann, E. H. (eds.), Some Political Mythologies: Papers Delivered to the Fifth Anglo-Dutch Historical Conference, The Hague: Nijhoff.
  • Vanina, E. (2012), “Konchina imperatora — konec imperii” [“The demise of the emperor — the end of the empire”], Smert' v Maharashtre. Voobrazhenie, vosprijatie, voploshhenie, Moscow: Natalis, pp. 140—171.
  • Welch, S. C. (1964), The Art of Mughal India. Paintings and Precious objects, New York: Asia Soc. Gals.
  • Welch, S. C. (1978a), Imperial Mughal Painting, New York: George Braziller.
  • Welch, S. C. (1978b), Room for Wonder. Indian Painting during the British Period 1760—1880, New York: Asia House Gals, & American Federation of Arts.
  • Wellecz, E. (1952), Akbar's Religious Thought as Reflected in Mughal Painting, London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.
  • Wolpert, S. A. (2004), New History of India, New York: Oxford University Press.



Copyright © 2010-2016 Manuscripta Orientalia. All rights reserved.

Sign In