‘Ala’l-Dawla Simnani

‘Ala’ al-Dawla Simnani, Rukn al-Din Abu al-Makarim Ahmad ibn Sharf al-Din Muhammad ibn Ahmad (1261-1335), a prominent Persian mystic, Sufi, writer, and poet flourishing in the 13th and 14th centuries. He was born in the village of Biyabanak to a family of nobilities and notables from Simnan. His father was well known as Malik Sharaf al-Din Simnani. ‘Ala’ al-Dawla bore different titles, e.g. ‘Ala’ al-Din, Rukn al-Din, Shams al-Din, and Sultan al-Muta’allihin. His father was a vizier under the Mongols. ‘Ala al-Dawla studied jurisprudence, traditions, philology, and belles-lettres in his early years and served as a companion of Arghun, a Mongol Khan. It was in the year 1284 when there was an engagement in the vicinity of Qazwin between the armies of Arghun and that of Amir Ilinaq, the well-known army general of Sultan Muhammad Takudar, Arghun’s paternal uncle that Shaykh ‘Ala’ al-Dawla experienced a divinely inspired intuitive trance. He abandoned the elegant robe of honor, donned the Sufi robe, and engaged himself in repentance, prayers, and ascetic practices. He returned to Semnan and turned toward treading the Sufi path. He had held exalted political and administrative offices under the Ilkhanid Abaqa and Arghun Shah. In his Sufi practices, he believed in moderation, though he was strict in acting upon religious precepts and establishing harmony between beliefs and religious principles. He was an affluent man and made several journeys in pilgrimage to Mecca. It was upon Uljaytu’s permission that in 1305 he totally disengaged himself of administrative offices. He retired to a Sufi center in Sakkakiyya after 1320. A Sufi by the name of Akhi Sharaf al-Din Sa’d Allah, a Sufi attached to the Kubrawiyya Order, taught him the formulas of invocation in Semnan and later departed for Baghdad at the latter’s suggestion and joined the audience of Shaykh Nur al-Din ‘Abd al-Rahman Kasraqi Isfarayini, seemingly received the Sufi robe from him, lived in seclusion, went on pilgrimage to Mecca, lived in seclusion upon his return to Baghdad, engaged himself at all times with recitation of the Qur’an and different ascetic practices. Finally, he settled at the Sakkakiyya or Shakkakiyya Sufi center and led a life of seclusion. However, this time he embarked upon guiding the seekers of treading the Sufi path and spent all his affluence on the poor and the Sufis. Rukn al-Din Simnani was distinguished Shaykh of the Kubrawiyya Order and a strict opponent of Ibn al-‘Arabi’s thought. There were many debates between him and Shaykh ‘Abd al-Razzaq Kashani. He died in Sufiabad, Semnan. Khwaju Kirmani was a devout follower of his and he is credited for collecting ‘Ala’ al-Dawla Simnani’s poetical works (divan). Shaykh ‘Ala’ al-Dawla Simnani’s tomb is one of the ancient edifices in the village of Sufiabad, Semnan. The tomb had been originally a colossal and splendid edifice constructed with raw brick at the behest of ‘Imad al-Din Jamal al-Din ‘Abd al-Wahhab, vizier to Sultan Muhammad Khudabanda, but Simnani had a Sufi center built there, engaged himself in ascetic practices and was later buried there. Owing to lacking a solid foundation and neglect, the edifice, an architectural monument from the late 14th century fell into ruin such that the edifice, except for two columns in its court, lay entirely in ruin. Khwaju Kirmani devoted many years of his life to collecting the Shaykh’s poetry and joining his audience. It is reported that ‘Ala’ al-Dawla Simnani composed about 300 works. His extant works reflect his independent views on mysticism and Sufism. They include: Malfuzat or Chihil Majlis, a collection of his saying compiled by his disciple, Amir Iqbal Sistani;  al-‘Urwa li-Ahl al-Khalwa wa Jilwa; a selection of his poetry collected by Khwaju Kirmani; a supplement to Najm al-Din Daya Razi’s Qur’anic Exegesis (Tafsir); Najm al-Qur’an fi Ta’wilat al-Qur’an; Manazir al-Mahazir li-‘l-Nazir al-Hazir, about the event of Ghadir Khum and a commentary on Ayat al-Tabligh; Fazl al-Shari’a, also well-known as Fazl al-Tariqa; Qawa’id al-‘Aqa’id, also known as Fawa’id al-‘Aqa’id; Sirbal al-Bal fi Atwar Suluk Ahl al-Hal; Adab al-Khalwa.

Atashkada-yi Azar (1, 409-412); Tarikh-i ‘Irfan va ‘Arifan-i Irani (553-563); Dunbala-yi Justuju dar Tasawwuf-i Iran (168-178).