Princess Jahanara’s biography of a Sufi saint


An autograph copy of the Mughal Princess Jahanara’s Muʼnis al-arvāḥ (‘The confidant of spirits’), a biography of the famous Sufi saint Muʻin al-Din Chishti.

Who was Princess Jahanara?

Jahanara Begum (1614–1681) was the eldest daughter of the Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor of India (r. 1628–1658). Like her brother Dara Shikoh, the heir to the throne, she was profoundly spiritual, and they were initiated together into the Qadiriya order of Sufism. Jahanara was an influential political figure, receiving the title Sahibat al-Zaman (‘Mistress of the Age’) after her mother Mumtaz Mahal’s death in 1631. In 1644 she was given the port of Surat, and she also owned her own ship, the Sahibi, which transported cargo and pilgrims between Surat and Mecca. Revenues from maritime trade made her extremely wealthy. Jahanara paid for the construction of the famous Jamiʻ Masjid in Agra, completed in 1648 and one of the largest mosques in India. She also commissioned a huge mosque and religious complex dedicated to her spiritual teacher Mulla Shah in Srinagar in 1650.

What is the work about?

This work is primarily about Muʻin al-Din Chishti (1135–1229) who introduced the Chishti order of Sufism into India. Called the Mu’nis al-arvāḥ (a play on the title of one of Muʻin al-Din Chishti’s own works, the Anīs al-arvāḥ), she completed it on 27 Ramazan 1049 (21 Jan. 1640). She compiled it using a number of sources (including her brother’s treatise, Safīnat al-awliyāʼ) and her own extensive knowledge. A comparison with known examples of Jahanara’s handwriting also suggests that it was in fact written in her own hand.

View images of the entire manuscripts via our Digitised Manuscripts website.

Full title:
Muʼnis al-arvāḥ (‘The Confidant of Spirits’), by Jahanara, daughter of Shah Jahan
17th century, India
Jahanara Begum
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Or 5637

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