HUJWĪRĪ, AL- (d. ah 469?/1076? ce), more fully ʿAlī ibn ʿUthmān ibn ʿAlī al-Jullābī al-Ghaznawī al-Hujwīrī, was the author of Kashf al-maḥjūb (The unveiling of the secrets), a very early textbook of Sufism in the Persian language. Almost all the facts of al-Hujwīrī's life that can be trusted come from what he says about himself and his contemporaries in the Kashf al-maḥjūb. His name relates that he was a native of Ghaznīn; Jullāb and Hujwīr were apparently quarters of that town. From the descriptions of his contemporaries, it is clear that he was born around the beginning of the eleventh century. He studied Sufism with Abū al-Faz̤l Muḥammad Khuṭṭalī and read some other sciences with Abū al-ʿAbbās al-Ashqānī. Al-Hujwīrī traveled widely through Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Iraq, and Syria as a dervish, staying in Ṣūfī hospices (khānqāh s) and apparently subsisting on alms. For the first eleven years that he was a mystic, he says, he had been preserved from marriage; but then either a marriage or a love affair (for the words are not clear) created a dangerous diversion, although he was able to escape after one year. By the time he wrote the Kashf al-maḥjūb he had already composed as many as nine works, all of which, except for a collection of verses (dīwān ), were devoted to mysticism and ethics. Of these none has survived.
Contrary to later tradition, al-Hujwīrī does not seem to have had a single spiritual guide (pir), and certainly his visit to Lahore, to judge from his own words, was not at this unnamed pir's orders. He says that he was separated from his books in Ghaznīn and forced to be (giriftār ) among strangers (nājinsān ) in Lahore. The use of the past tense suggests that he was no longer in Lahore when he was writing the Kashf al-maḥjūb, and from a passage on contemporary saints it would seem that he was then in Ghaznīn. His tomb in Lahore is, therefore, not likely to be genuine. The traditional year of his death (ah 465) inscribed on this tomb is probably not far wrong, however, though Nicholson believes that he might have died within the next four years.
Al-Hujwīrī's Kashf al-maḥjūb became a classic text for later Persian and Indian Sufism, partly because of its comprehensive nature, partly because of its moderation, and partly because of its eclecticism. Al-Hujwīrī wrote when many of the later elements of Sufism—the erotic concept of relationship with God, the total submission to the pir (leading to the "chain" of teachers, or silsilah ), and the doctrine of pantheism—were either subdued or held only in secret. These are, therefore, not prominent in the text, though, as in the section on Manṣur al-Ḥallāj, al-Hujwīrī shows himself capable of both rejecting and tolerating pantheism; elsewhere he attempts a distinction between maḥabbah and ʿishq to grapple with the tendency toward eroticism. The separate Ṣūfī discipline, of which the pir was later to become the kingpin, is boldly elaborated: The life of poverty, acceptance of alms, the patched garment, the practice of verse recitation (samāʿ ), even the trend toward celibacy, are all expounded, though always with a willingness to state or even tolerate contrary opinions. In his treatment of the ḥājj, he expresses the same curious reserve toward the actual performance of that ritual as is found in subsequent Ṣūfī tradition.
Kashf al-maḥjūb has been edited by V. A. Zukovsky (Leningrad, 1926) and, from a very old manuscript, alleged to date from the thirteenth century, printed by Aḥmad Rabbānī, with an introduction (posthumous) by Muḥammad Shafīʿ (Lahore, 1967). An abridged translation has been published, with an important introduction by Reynold A. Nicholson, Kashf al-Mahjūb: The Oldest Persian Treatise on Sufism, "Gibb Memorial Series," 2d ed., (1936; reprint, Lahore, 1976).
M. Athar Ali (1987)