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THE IDENTITY OF A MYSTIC: THE CASE OF SA'ID SARMAD, A JEWISH-YOGI-SUFI COURTIER OF THE MUGHALS

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Sa'id Sarmad's dargah (saint's tomb) dominates the entryway to Delhi's imposing Jama Masjid. But Sarmad was a Jew, both by birth and affirmation. He was also, according to his Rubaiyat, "a follower of the Furqan (i.e., a Sufi), a (Catholic) priest, a (Buddhist) monk, a Jewish rabbi, an infidel, and a Muslim." Indeed, it is hard to imagine a mystic with a more complex confessional identity. This paper explores both Sarmad's apparently contradictory religious self-identification and the complex religious context which Sarmad found in seventeenth-century North India. It will trace Sarmad's spiritual path as it meandered between Judaism, Islam and Hinduism, as recorded in his poetry and in the hagiographical (taskira) traditions which surround him, and will contribute to the discussion of the relationship between the mystic and his or her religion of birth or adoption.

Affiliations: 1: Florida International University, Department of Religious Studies, Miami FL 33199, USA

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