Faculty Publications

The Sikh Z{Dot Below}Afar-Nāmah Of Guru Gobind Singh: A Discursive Blade In The Heart Of The Mughal Empire

Louis E. Fenech, University of Northern Iowa


This book deals with one of the only Persian compositions attributed to the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708), the ?afar-namah or "Epistle of Victory." Written as a masnavi or Persian poem this letter was originally sent to the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (d. 1707) rebuking his most unbecoming conduct. Yet the missive does far more than censure. By teasing out the letter's direct and subtle references to the Iranian national epic, the Shah-namah, the epistle's mythic template, and to Shaikh Sadi's thirteenth-century Bustan, from which the letter's most popular couplet derives, the book 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. In the process of analyzing the ?afar-namah, this book resurrects one of the key components of the Sikh tradition, its Islamicate aspect.