I first came across mention of this text in the classic published dissertation of Juan Cole on the hierocracy in Awadh (you can view that book for free here). It is an anonymous 'biography' of Sayyid Dildār ʿAlī 'Ghufrān-maʾāb' (d. 1235/1820), the prominent mujtahid of Awadh and a work that in its promotion of him and his thought often denigrated his opponents among Sufis, Akhbārīs and even some prominent Sunni theologians (such as the epigones of the Farangī-Maḥall). It was written by a group of his students in 1231 H just a few years before his death and probably at the height of his power. The text often refers to his as the jurist of the age (mujtahid al-ʿaṣr). The Muʾassasa-yi kitābshināsī-yi Shīʿa in Qum continues to give to those of us interested in Islamic intellectual history in India.
The edition comprises two volumes, once again edited by ʿAlī Fāżilī (who has again done a stellar job of annotating the text) and includes in detail the text that provides a biography of Sayyid Dildār ʿAlī but also of his opponents and in critique of those who also wrote about the hierocracy such as Āqā Aḥmad Bihbahānī (d. 1834/1819), a scion of the Majlisī-Khātūnābādī family who spent time in Awadh and Benaras mainly lamenting the fact that India was not Iran, in his Mirʾāt al-aḥvāl-i jahān-numā. The one feature shared by the two texts is the promotion of the authority of the hierocracy and a clear sense of mission to defend true knowledge and the authority of the jurist.
[There are two editions, an Iranian one edited by the late ʿAlī Davānī, Tehran, 1370 Sh/1991, and a facsimile one by Shayesta Khan published by the Khuda Bakhsh Library in Patna in 1992 - pictures from which are above.
There are two two useful articles on this text by Juan Cole:
'Mirror of the world: Iranian "Orientalism" and early 19th century India', Critique 1996, 41-60, and 'Invisible Occidentalism: eighteenth-century Indo-Persian constructions of the West', Iranian Studies 25 (1992), 3-16]
The edition is based on 6 manuscripts - I suspect that the photocopy noted as manuscript 1 is probably identical to the Nāṣirīya manuscript used by Cole (but which seems now to be 'missing'); the others are in the Mumtāz al-ʿulamāʾ library in Lucknow, in Raza Library in Rampur, the former Āṣafīya Library in Hyderabad, and the Subḥānullāh Collection at the Azad Library in Aligarh.
[It has now come to my attention that there is indeed a manuscript of this in the British Library - Delhi Persian 259, fol. 148v-279v - see the descriptor here in the digitised but unpublished volume 3 of the India Office Persian catalogue]
The text itself is divided into three sections (abwāb), and is followed by nine appendices on the lineage, ideas, will and testament and waqf of Sayyid Dildār ʿAlī, as well as responses to critiques of him levelled by others. The first appendix deals with a refutation of Āyīna-yi ḥaqq-numā by Sayyid ʿAbd al-ʿAẓīm b. ʿAlī Riḍā Ḥusaynī Linjānī (it is possible that he was an associate of Bihbahānī and a copy of his refutation is in the British Library). The appendix is a refutation of Linjānī by Sayyid Muḥammad Fayżābādī entitled al-Rumḥ al-maṣqūl fī aʿdāʾ Āl al-rasūl or al-Sayf al-lisānī li-qatl al-Linjānī (these fun titles retain the military symbolism of polemics!). Linjānī had studied with the same teachers as Sayyid Dildār ʿAlī in Iraq and was known for his skill in philosophy; he dedicated his gloss on the Metaphysics of Avicenna's al-Shifāʾ to Ghāzīuddīn Ḥaydar, ruler of Awadh. This would also make him a potential rival of the mujtahid of Lucknow. Fayżābādī also claimed a certain prowess in philosophy. The editor quotes sections of the text from a Nāṣirīya manuscript.
1. The first section, which is by far the briefest, is in praise of ʿulema who are good and practice what they preach and in condemnation of 'bad' ʿulema. In a nutshell, it is a defence of the uṣūlī method and of ijtihād, laying down the conditions necessary for acquiring the status. The message is clear - it is the mujtahids who are the representatives of the Imam in occultation.
2. The second section is on Sayyid Dildār ʿAlī and comprises two chapters. The first of these is on the teachers of Sayyid Dildār ʿAlī: Sayyid Mahdī Ṭabāṭabāʾī known as Baḥr al-ʿulūm (d. 1212/1799) a major jurist in Najaf with a saintly reputation, Āqā Muḥammad Bāqir Bihbahānī known as Vaḥīd (d. 1207/1791) the arch-uṣūlī who attacked Akhbārīs and Sufis in the shrine cities, Sayyid ʿAlī Ṭabāṭabāʾī (d. 1231/1816) author of Riyāḍ al-uṣūl, and Mirzā Mahdī Shahristānī (d. 1216/1803). The second chapter (called a detailed exposition of the ʿulema of India) is divided into nine sections (tabṣira):
i) on Sayyid Dildār ʿAlī - this includes details on his teachers in India: Sayyid Ghulām Ḥusaynī Dakanī Ilāhābādī, a known philosopher, student of Muḥammad Aʿlam Sindēlvī, who taught in Allāhābād and whose work on the nature of instauration (jaʿl) is extant; Maulvī Ḥaydar ʿAlī Sindēlvī (d. 1225/1810) with whom he read the Sharḥ Sullam al-ʿulūm of his father Ḥamdullāh Sindēlvī in logic - the author notes that he was a Sunni Ḥanafī but praises his father and grandfather who were Shiʿi especially the father Ḥamdullāh who wrote a famous gloss on al-Shams al-bāzigha of Maḥmūd Jawnpūrī; and Bābullāh Jawnpūrī a prominent student of Ḥamdullāh. It also mentions his disputation in Shāhjahānpūr with Mullā Ḥasan Farangī-Maḥallī on issues in Mullā Ṣadrā's Sharḥ al-hidāya. What is clear is that his training in India was in the intellectual disciplines and he gained a particular expertise in this text of Ṣadrā (who is mentioned as the author of the Asfār and Sharḥ uṣūl al-Kāfī which gives us some evidence for the fame of these texts in early 19th century India; the question of the status and fame of the Asfār has not been analysed and determined thus far, not even in Akbar Subūt's book on Mullā Ṣadrā in India entitled Fīlsūf-i Shīrāz dar Hind). Accounts are given of his sons and his ijāza to his son Muḥammad Sulṭān al-ʿulamāʾ, and encounters with his patron Ḥasan Riżā Khān, and his rival 'the leader of the deviant Sufis' Shāh ʿAlī Akbar Mawdūdī, a tafżīlī Sunni who led his own Friday prayer congregation at court.
ii) on his students - a very full account including Sayyid Muḥammad Qulī, the father of Sayyid Muḥammad ʿAbbās Shūshtarī, and others. The author particularly defends the students against the critique of Aḥmad Bihbahānī.
iii) on his opponents - the author identifies three groups: Sufis especially those who espoused monism (waḥdat al-wujūd), Sunni Ḥanafīs, and Akhbārīs.
iv) on his works - prominence is given to his polemics beginning with Asās al-uṣūl, followed by Shihāb-i sāqib, then ʿImād al-islām (a full Persian translation is given of the khuṭba), and his refutations of Shāh ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz. Mention is made of his gloss on the Sharḥ al-hidāya that included 'critique of some of the claims of the bigot Maulvī ʿAbd al-ʿAlī' (this being the famous Farangī-Maḥallī philosopher Baḥr al-ʿulūm d. 1225/1810) and cites approvingly the views of Tafażżul Ḥusayn Khān (d. 1216/1800).
v) on the reasons why the people of India often ignore their true scholars - primarily about the conflict with Sufis including Bihbahānī against the Niʿmatullāhīs (this and other elements of the text that refer extensively to events in Iran suggest to me that the author was either someone trained and lived in Iran or someone who at least had a good familiarity with intellectual developments there)
vi) on the correspondence addressed to Sayyid Dildār ʿAlī - two letters, one from Sayyid ʿAlī Ṭabāṭabāʾī and the other from Sayyid Mahdī Baḥr al-ʿulūm
vii) on the opposition to Friday prayer's establishment in Lucknow (which was a key initiative of Sayyid Dildār ʿAlī) - there are three parts: the first is the letter of Mullā ʿAlī Pādshāh Kashmīrī to the court on the need to establish Friday prayer and to appoint Sayyid Dildār ʿAlī as the prayer leaders; the second is his ijāza to his son Muḥammad to lead the prayer; and the third is the author's debate with Aḥmad Bihbahānī on the issue.
viii) on the reasons for the publication of his sermons and for penning his uṣūlī manifesto Asās al-uṣūl,
ix) and on his ijāzāt received in Iraq - text of Sayyid Mahdī authorising the teaching of fiqh works and ḥadīth including the chain of transmission, followed by a Persian translation, and then the texts of Sayyid ʿAlī Ṭabāṭabāʾī, Mīrzā Mahdī Shahristānī and Mīrzā Mahdī Iṣfahānī, each followed by a Persian translation
3. The final section is divided further into ten sections called tadhkiras. These range from the account of the visit of the nephew of Vaḥīd Bihbahānī to Lucknow to a critique of Mīrzā Muḥammad Akhbārī and also a long set of critiques of Āqā Aḥmad Bihbahānī and others who visited or tried to settle in India. This section in particular in rich in the forms of mullah gossip essential to 'memorials' of ʿulema and a great source for the intellectual and cultural historian. There are scholarly analyses and debates. The various sections contain correspondence, vaqfnāmas and other sorts of documents which are invaluable. Lots of details are given of scholars coming for Iran seeking the patronage of the Awadh courts (with letters of recommendation from major ʿulema of Iran and Iraq).
Large parts of the text read like refutations of Bihbahānī which was written around seven years before. The author responds in three ways: first, in response to Bihbahānī's dismissal of the quality of the ʿulema in India, he proposes that true ʿulema do indeed exist in India who are active and represent the Imam; second, he deals in detail with Akhbārīs and there is a sense that the Iran of Bihbahānī and his own family background is tainted with Akhbārīs - a corollary to this is displaying his knowledge of philosophy and Sayyid Dildār ʿAlī's skill in that discipline; third, he plays up his knowledge of the scholarly scene in Iraq and Iran to show how integrated the Awadh networks were. In all, this is a presentation of the Indian hierocracy as equal if not superior to their counterparts in Iran. A refutation of Mirʾat al-aḥvāl-i jahān-numā.
I look forward to the Muʾassasa producing critical editions of these two texts: Tadhkirat al-ʿulamāʾ al-muḥaqqiqīn fī āthār al-fuqahāʾ wa-l-muḥaddithīn of Sayyid Mahdī Riżavī ʿAẓīmābādī written in 1263/1847 about his circle of the students of Ghufrān-maʾāb and his sons (a section was published as an appendix to Warathat al-anbiyāʾ which I discussed here), and Shudhūr al-ʿiqyān fī tarājim al-aʿyān of Sayyid Iʿjāz Ḥusayn Mūsavī Kintūrī (d. 1286/1869), the famous bibliographer and scholar, who discusses the famous figures of the family. The set will then be complete for a full account of the Shiʿi hierocracy in North India on the cusp of colonialism.
The value of this source, the Āyina-yi ḥaqq-numā, is clear. Alongside the other works on the Shiʿi hierocracy that I have discussed in previous blog posts, they demonstrate the connected nature of the intellectual history of the Shiʿi hierocracy across Iraq, Iran and India in the 18th and 19th century, a feature that is now lost in increasingly monolingual semiospheres and in a world of (failing) nation-states. They force us to think beyond the confines of nationalist historiography as well as recognising the multilingual semiosphere of the Persianate world. It is also refreshing to see in Iran that scholarship is trying to do just that, to engage in the study of 'Indian' texts as part of their own common heritage in the scriptural, religious, literary and philosophical disciplines.