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The Qalandarnāma by Abū Bakr Qalandar Rūmī

Le Qalandarnāma d’Abū Bakr Qalandar Rūmī
Milyausha Shamsimukhametova
p. vol. 143


Résumé : Cet article offre une description et une analyse d’ensemble du Qalandarnāma d’Abū Bakr Qalandar Rūmī. Cette œuvre, rédigée dans l’ulus de Jochi au xive siècle, demeure méconnue dans l’historiographie occidentale. Abū Bakr Qalandar est considéré comme le fondateur de la ṭarīqa des ʿUshshāqīyān. Imam de l’une des mosquées de la ville de Qrïm (actuellement Starij Krym en Crimée), il fut également Shaykh al-Islām et se fit connaître comme une personnalité influente de l’élite de la Horde d’Or. Cet article dévoile son lieu de naissance et son parcours biographique. Dans une dernière partie, l’auteur analyse les interprétations possibles du titre de Shaykh al-Islām dans la Horde d’Or.

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Texte intégral

وانمود این گنج کز من بد نهان

گفت برگو اقسرایی این زمان « This treasure, which was concealed from me, appeared.

It said : “Narrate, o Aksarāyi, at this time” »

(Abu Bakr Qalandar, Qalandarnāme, 2017: 557)


1For a long time Russian scholarship on Golden Horde religion focused on shamanism and was little concerned with Islam. This was mainly because scholars thought there was a lack of developed cities and culture in the Jochid ulus (Shpilevskiy, 1877; Smirnov, 1951). After the discovery of new archaeological (e.g., Muslim cemeteries, mosques, and tombs; see Izmaylov, 2016) and narrative sources (e.g. Mәhmүd әl-Bolgari, 2002), it became clear that there were several big cities in the Golden Horde and that its social and religious institutions were highly developed. Nevertheless, one of the main sources on Islam in the Jochid ulus, the Qalandarnāma, remains poorly known among historians of the Golden Horde. My current PhD project describes this manuscript and attempts to determine its impact on the religious life of the Golden Horde. This project is carried out under the guidance of Ilnur Mirgaleev, who is the director of the Usmanov Center for Research on the Golden Horde and Tatar Khanates at the Sh. Mardjani Institute of History (AS RT). So far, we have published a facsimile of the Qalandarnāma (Abū Bakr Qalandar, 2015), a Russian translation of most of its chapters (Abū Bakr Qalandar, 2017), and a series of commentaries (Mirgaleev et al, 2017).

Description of the Manuscript

2The Qalandarnāma is a well-preserved manuscript of c. 800 pages. The whole book follows the poetic form called mathnavī and is written in naskh script in two columns. The manuscript consists of five books, each starting with several chapters about monotheism, the Prophet, and the first four caliphs, which suggests that the author was a Sunni Muslim. Together, the books contain c. 1000 chapters and 16121 bayts.

سنیانه بیتهای جان فزاست

در ره شرع و طریقت رهنماست

« These thrilling the soul bayts are Sunni,

They are guides on the road of sharīʿa and ṭarīqa ».

3The chapters are of varying lengths, ranging from several lines to several pages. Most of them are theological and contain anecdotes about Prophets, explain Sufi terms such as futuwwa, akhī, ʿashq, murīd, and samā‘, and mention different Sufi figures (e.g., Manṣūr al-Hallāj, Maʿrūf Karkhī, Junayd, Sanāyī, and ʿAṭṭār,), including Anatolian Sufis (e.g., Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, Barāk Rūmī, and Faqī Aḥmad Rūmī). Several chapters concern the author himself, his mission, and his work.

The Authenticity of the Manuscript

4Abū Bakr Qalandar mentions that he wrote the first four books of the Qalandarnāma in the reign of Khan Özbek, between 1320 and 1340, and the fifth during the reign of Janibek, which began in 1341. The manuscript is a copy of a lost original, which was made very soon after the original manuscript had been completed. The name of the copyist, Bāyazīd ʿUshshāqī al-Samarinī (السمرنی), and the date of the copy, 761 H./AD 1359-1360, are mentioned on the final page. This is the only known copy of the Qalandarnāma.

5The language of the manuscript is close to modern Persian and similar to the language of Rūmī’s Mathnavī. The same holds true for the themes of the text. The use of special letters, such as چ/پ/ژ, and the absence of گ shows that the language used is Middle Persian (12th-14th centuries). In Middle Persian the hamza started to be used as hemze-i-izafet (linking hamza), which is also the case in this manuscript (Akimushkin, 1987). The features of the manuscript thus fit the date given in the text.

Location and Aim of Writing

  • 1 Qalandars (Qalandariyya) is the name of a widespread movement of Islamic ascetics, which originated (...)

6Abū Bakr Qalandar Rūmī writes that his birthplace is Aksarāy in Rūm, which is located in modern-day Turkey. In Ottoman sources, this city is сalled Aksarā. Both versions, Aksarāy and Aksarā, are used in the Qalandarnāma. At the time, Rūm was full of evliya, ‘ulemas and Sufis, which explains why Aksarāy was called the « City of the Righteous ». Aḥmed Eflākī (d.1360) (Aḥmed Eflākī, 2006: 453) writes that there was a ṭarīqa of Qalandars in Aksarāy.1

7The contents of the book show that Abū Bakr Qalandar received the best possible education in Sufism in Aksarāy or Tokat. The text contains much information about Muslim saints belonging to different ṭarīqas, including Abū’l Vefā, who was the founder of the ṭarīqa Vefaīyya, Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī and Sultan Veled, founders of the Mevlevīye, and Sarı Saltuk, who was a saint respected by the Bektashī. Abu Bakr Qalandar did not have animosity towards any Sufi authority. On the contrary, he praised the qualities and doings of many Sufis, which makes it difficult to determine to which ṭarīqa he originally belonged. However, he does mention that his teacher was Bahā al-Dīn ʿUmar Zilāvī. He also claims that he was « the following one » (Abū Bakr Qalandar, 2017) after Sanāyī, Farīd al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār, and Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, to whom God gave the ability to teach people nice things in a nice language:

در بیان آنک حق سبحانه و تعالی هر چه خواست و دیگر هر چه خواهد کند بدین منوال که پیر قلندر رومئ امّی اقسَرایی را در کلام آورد که تا فصحای عالم و فضلا نیز دَرتعجبّ بمانند بر قدرت او

گفتم ای الله رحمان و رحیم پادشاه بس عظیمی و عظیم

مر سنایی را تو دادی التی تا بفکری می برآرد حکمتی

گر بود عطّار عُطر وی ز تست در سخن استاد چالاکست چست

آخر این هر دو بلخی دررسید بس نهان را که عیان کرد او بدید

بعد از ایشان آن قلندر را عطا بیشتر ده کم مده ای کبریا

تا ز هر خاری برآرد یک گلی تا بسازد پر دلی هر بی دلی

تا بنظم آرد بسی در هر صفت تا ز یک نطقی گشاید یک لغت

تا بپردازد بسی نظم از یقین تا ببینند حکمتت ز آن و این

« [The Chapter] is about the fact that God did what he wanted and will do what he wants, so he made Pīr Qalandar Rūmī Ammī (the Illiterate) Aksarāyī speak, for artists in words and famous scientists of the world will be surprised by his power

I said: “O Allāh, The Most Gracious and The Most Merciful”

You are a very and very Great King

You gave to Sanāyī a tool

To draw wisdom by thoughts

  • 2 Abū Bakr Qalandar uses wordplay here. ʿAṭṭār refers both to Farīd al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār, the Persian theore (...)

If he is ‘Attār,2 then the fragrance he [received] from You

He is a very outstanding word painter

After these two came Balkhī [Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī]

Many things that were hidden he [Rūmī] made appear.

After them, Bestow much more

Upon that Qalandar, not just a little, o The Great [God]!

So he would make roses from each thorn

So he would make brave every heartless

So he would make poetry about any feature

So he would show the whole language in one speech »

(Abū Bakr Qalandar, 2015: 174).

8Sanāyī, ʿAṭṭār, and Rūmī are known for being independent Sufis, which was also the case for the Qalandars: « They never attached to any famous spiritual teachers or Sufis of their day. They believed in the praxis of mysticism more than its theory, in what the Sufis called “tasting” (zowq) or experiencing for oneself » (Lewis, 2000: 34). Lewis (2000) compares these Sufis to al-Khiḍr, who claimed to receive directions directly from God.

9Sometimes Abū Bakr calls himself a Qalandar. Sources provide different information about the Qalandars. One of the most famous Qalandars was Jamāl al-Dīn Savī, who lived in Damascus and Egypt in the 12th c. It is known that Savī behaved strangely. He lived in a cemetery and had shaved all his hair, eyebrows, moustache, and beard. According to one anecdote, Savī was once captured in the house of a woman who desired his love, but after he shaved all his hair, including his facial hair, the woman felt frightened and let him go (Karamustafa, 1994). Following Savī, Qalandars started shaving their facial hair. Abū Bakr Qalandar dedicates two chapters to Savī and his miracles but does not recognise him as his master. Qalandar is sometimes used as a general term for all kind of Sufis. It is not clear what the term meant to Abū Bakr. Several scholars mention Qalandars (e.g., Averyanov, 2011; Karamustafa, 1994), but an accurate picture of this group can only be achieved after a detailed analysis of the Qalandarnāma.

  • 3 The ʿUshshāqīyān (‘those who fell in love’) ṭarīqa was founded by Abū Bakr Qalandar in Qrïm at the (...)
  • 4 The name of this person is not found in encyclopedias. The only source mentioning him is the Qaland (...)

10Obviously, Abū Bakr Qalandar was a very important Sufi, one of the ‘high level’ Qalandars that followed sharīʿa. He did not belong to the marginal ones, otherwise he could not have written such a sophisticated manuscript. One of Abū Bakr Qalandar’s most significant accomplishments was the foundation of the ṭarīqa of the ʿUshshāqīyān (Abū Bakr Qalandar, 2015: 200).3 Members of this ṭarīqa had to follow five important principles. They had to hide the failings of other people, improve themselves, do good deeds to their enemies, follow the precepts of the sharīʿa, and serve (ḥizmet) everybody, rich and poor, without considering their status. They wore special clothing, including canvas shirts, six-wedge hats, and sandals, which had been prescribed by God. One of Abū Bakr’s murīds was Ḥājjī Muḥammad Qïrïmī.4 Abū Bakr had five more murīds whom he highly respected but their names are unknown. However, we were not able to find further information about the later history of this ṭarīqa.

  • 5 One can find this quotation on folio 382 – an image is attached to this article.

11Abū Bakr wrote his book in Qrïm (i.e., modern-day Stary Krym in Russia), which was the chief city of the tümen of Qrïm and headed by a Jochid amīr. Referring to himself, Abū Bakr Qalandar wrote that « Qalandar came to Qrïm to do irshād », which means ‘to enhance religion’ or ‘spread religion’. Irshād is one of the central themes of the Qalandarnāma. The word is mentioned at least 30 times in the text. Irshād was achieved through a system of murshīd-murīd teachings, in which an initiate (murīd) committed to a spiritual guide (murshīd) on his path to mystical development. That is why Abū Bakr describes a murshīd as « the one, who revives the dead hearts » (Abū Bakr Qalandar, 2015: 382).5 He also writes that one murīd should not leave his first shaykh to go live under the guidance of another. A shaykh was intended to slowly lead his murīds to reaching ʿashq, ‘the love of God’. The word ʿashq is used 676 times in the text, which suggests that this was the main theme of the Qalandarnāma.

The Meaning of the Title Shaykh al-Islām

12Abū Bakr did not simply call himself shaykh but Shaykh al-Islām. The latter could mean ‘spiritual leader’ but could also be a political title, as was the case in the later Ottoman Empire. To properly understand the title in the time of Abū Bakr, it is necessary to look at its historical context.

13Islam has deep roots in the Golden Horde. It was widespread among the population and the ruling elites. In order to rule according to sharīʿa law, the khan needed a highly-educated, spiritual leader, who would behave himself in front of the ruler and at the same time would not be afraid to give his opinion. Abū Bakr Qalandar possessed the appropriate skills for such a position. In his book, Abū Bakr shows that he was well acquainted with the society of his time, knew its problems, and offered ways to solve them. He repeatedly made appeals to khans and amîrs, confirming that he had close connections with the elites of the Golden Horde. He also reports that he enjoyed the favour of the khans. However, perhaps even more important is that Abū Bakr Qalandar (2015: p. 310) claims to have been Shaykh al-Islām.

14As far as we know, Abū Bakr Qalandar was the only one who bore the title Shaykh al-Islām in the Golden Horde. The question is what this title meant in this specific region. The title meant various things at different times and in different places, including ‘head of the educational system’, ‘examiner’, ‘head of scientists’, ‘jurist in sharīʿa’, ‘head of Sufis’, and ‘a person who has the right to issue fatwas’ (Bulliet, 1972; Ihsanoglu, 2006).

15The title Shaykh al-Islām existed in Central Asia before the formation of the Golden Horde (Kramers, 1997: 399). Juvaynī (1958: 120) reports that the Mongols gave the Shaykh al-Islām and qāḍī of Samarkand the right to save the lives of 50,000 citizens. Chagatay Khan had a minister who was a descendant of the Shaykh al-Islām of the Ferghana (Bulliet, 1972). Did this title experience a resurgence in different parts of the Mongol Empire? Was there a single Shaykh al-Islām in the whole Horde, or were there several? These are questions with no real answers, but the Qalandarnāma clearly shows that Abū Bakr Qalandar had a wide knowledge of Islam and of the problems of his society (e.g., marginal Sufism, people living their lives without usefulness to society, boasting, homosexual relations, and inattentions while praying). Taking this knowledge into consideration, we may conclude that this spiritual title had been politicised. Abū Bakr may have been the sharīʿa advisor of Khan Özbek and Khan Janibek. At the same time, he was probably the head of a madrasa or institution that educated elite children. At the very least he probably was a respected lecturer in one of the mosques of Qrïm (Mirgaleev, 2014). As mentioned above, Abū Bakr had murīds, which means he was also a spiritual leader. Furthermore, as scholarship has established, in the courts of the Golden Horde khans Muslims were so powerful that they influenced politics and could even decide on a new khan. Khans used them in turn to strengthen the Horde’s political system and appointed Muslims as secretaries and ambassadors. Therefore, it is not surprising that Özbek and Janibek khans gave political power to Abū Bakr Qalandar, a shaykh who devoted himself to « serve » people. It is hoped that further research on the Qalandarnāma will shed more light on this unique shaykh.


16Understanding the Qalandarnāma is very important for understanding political and social developments in the Golden Horde. The fact that Abū Bakr Qalandar lived in the Jochid ulus is a good example of the spiritual and political connections between the Golden Horde and Asia Minor. The Qalandarnāma not only proves that there were different ṭarīqas in the Golden Horde, it also provides evidence for the foundation of the ṭarīqa of the ʿUshshāqīyān. Abū Bakr Qalandar’s work, full of mysterious secrets, constitutes a rich reservoir for future research, which will require the cooperation of a wide range of researchers from different fields to write commentaries for each of its chapters. It is hoped that one day the Qalandarnāma will be translated into different languages and become a reference work, not only for historians but for all scholars with an interest in Sufism, as is the case with Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī’s famous work, the Mathnavī.

Abū Bakr Qalandar’s Qalandarnāma, Folio 382

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Primary Sources

ABU BAKR QALANDAR RUMI, 2017, Qalandar-name: izbrannoe, transl. from Persian by Gibadullin, Ismagil R., and Shamsimuhametova, Milyausha R.; Obshhaja i nauchnaja redakcija, predislovie, kommentarii Gibadullin, Ismagil R., Kazan, Institut istorii im. Sh.Mardzhani AN RT.

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© llnur Mirgaleev (the author mentions here the qualities of a shaykh).

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1 Qalandars (Qalandariyya) is the name of a widespread movement of Islamic ascetics, which originated in the 9th century. Each group of Qalandars interpreted the meaning of the term differently, making it difficult to give a single definition. Qalandars are known for shaving all of their facial hair (i.e., a tradition called chahār dharb « the four shaves »), wearing rings on different parts of the body, and for not marrying. Sometimes Qalandars are called « marginal ṭarīqa » (Yazıcı, 1997: 472). According to Abū Bakr true Qalandars were those who followed sharīʿa law and practised devotional acts like samāʿ and dhikr to glorify and be closer to God. Shams al-Dīn Tebrīzī, who inspired Jalāl al-Din Rūmī to write the Mathnavī-i Ma’navī, is sometimes called a Qalandar.

2 Abū Bakr Qalandar uses wordplay here. ʿAṭṭār refers both to Farīd al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār, the Persian theoretician of Sufism, and to the word’s literal meaning, ‘seller of fragrance’ (I. Gibadullin, personal communication). Farīd al-Dīn probably worked as a seller of fragrance, which is why he was given the name ʿAṭṭār (Ritter, 1986: 752). In these lines Abū Bakr says that ʿAṭṭār received his talent as a poet from God.

3 The ʿUshshāqīyān (‘those who fell in love’) ṭarīqa was founded by Abū Bakr Qalandar in Qrïm at the end of the 13th or the beginning of the 14th c. The Encyclopaedia of Islam has an entry for ṭarīqa of «’Ushshakīyān» but this states that it was founded in the 16th c., long after Abū Bakr’s death, so it should be a different tarīqa.

4 The name of this person is not found in encyclopedias. The only source mentioning him is the Qalandarnamā. Ḥājjī Muḥammad Qïrïmī was Abū Bakr’s main successor and favourite murīd. He probably wrote the Qalandarnamā according to the dictates of Abū Bakr Qalandar (Abū Bakr Qalandar, 2017: 40).

5 One can find this quotation on folio 382 – an image is attached to this article.

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Référence papier

Milyausha Shamsimukhametova, « The Qalandarnāma by Abū Bakr Qalandar Rūmī », Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée, 143 | 2018, vol. 143.

Référence électronique

Milyausha Shamsimukhametova, « The Qalandarnāma by Abū Bakr Qalandar Rūmī », Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée [En ligne], 143 | octobre 2018, mis en ligne le 12 octobre 2018, consulté le 21 février 2020. URL : ; DOI :

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Milyausha Shamsimukhametova

Marjani’s Institute of History of AS RT (Kazan, Russie)

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