The Sikh Zafar-namah of Guru Gobind Singh: A Discursive Blade in the Heart of the Mughal Empire
Louis E. Fenech offers a compelling new examination of one of the only Persian compositions attributed to the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708): the Zafar-namah or 'Epistle of Victory.' Written as a masnavi, a Persian poem, this letter was originally sent to the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (d. 1707) rebuking his most unbecoming conduct. Incredibly, Guru Gobind Singh's letter is included today within the Sikh canon, one of only a very small handful of Persian-language texts granted the status of Sikh scripture. As such, its contents are sung on special Sikh occasions. Perhaps equally surprising is the fact that the letter appears in the tenth Guru's book or the Dasam Granth in the standard Gurmukhi script (in which Punjabi is written) but retains its original Persian language, a vernacular few Sikhs know. Drawing out the letter's direct and subtle references to the Iranian national epic, the Shah-namah, and to Shaikh Sa'di's thirteenth-century Bustan, Fenech demonstrates how this letter served as a form of Indo-Islamic verbal warfare, ensuring the tenth Guru's moral and symbolic victory over the legendary and powerful Mughal empire. Through analysis of the Zafar-namah, Fenech resurrects an essential and intiguing component of the Sikh tradition: its Islamicate aspect.
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Adi Granth Afrasiyab Amritsar Anandpur appears attributed to Guru Aurangzeb Bachitar Nāṭak bait 22 Bhai Daya Bhai Gurdas Bhai Nand Lal Brajbhasha Chamkaur claim couplet court courtly cultural darbar Dasam Granth Daya Singh Delhi Dhavan divine eighteenth century epic epistle Esfandyar example Ferdausi ﬁnd ﬁrst Ganda Singh Granth New Delhi gur-bilās Gurdwara Gurmukhi Guru Arjan Guru Gobind Singh Guru Nanak Dev Guru's Guru’s hait Hikayat Ḥikāyats Hindu hukam-nāmās India Iran Iranian Islamicate Kangar Khalsa Sikhs Khan king later Sikh letter manuscript Muhammad Muslim nāmah Nanak Dev University narrative noted oath ofSikh ofthe Oxford University Press Padam pahari pahari rajas Panth Patiala perhaps Persian poetry poets Prakas Punjabi University Rajput reference Rostam ruler Sa‘di Sainapati Santokh Seyavash Shah Shāh-nāmah Sikh Gurus Sikh History Sikh literature Sikh tradition Sikhan sovereignty Sri Gur story suggests Sukkha sword tenth Guru trans victory Ẓafar Zafar-nāmā Ẓafar-nāmah Zafarnama Zaﬁzr—namah