ʿABD-AL-NABĪ, SHAIKH, Mughal traditionist, for a time much esteemed by the emperor Akbar. He was a grandson of the noted Češtī saint, Shaikh ʿAbd-al-Qoddūs Gangōhī (d. 944/1537). He visited the Hejaz several times and pursued Hadith studies there. He spurned his family’s tradition of mysticism, adopting the ways of externalist scholars (ʿolamāʾ-e ẓāher) even to the extent of criticizing his father, who had written a resala in support of Sufi musical gatherings (maǰāles-e samāʿ). Akbar appointed him head of religious endowments and charities (ṣadr al-ṣodūr) in 973/1564-65, a position which allowed him to exercise supreme control over religious affairs in the Mughal empire. His power was resented and resisted by Maḵdūm-al-molk (q.v.) ʿAbdallāh Solṭānpūrī, who wrote a resāla against him, holding him responsible for the executions of Ḵeżr Khan and Mīr Ḥabšī on charges of heresy (Badāʾūnī, Montaḵab, tr., II, p. 262). ʿAbd-al-Nabī was one of the signatories to the declaration which invested Akbar with a limited power to interpret Muslim law (ibid., II, pp. 278-80). Akbar originally had profound respect for him, and for a time he employed the shaikh to instruct Prince Salīm (the future Jahāngīr) in Hadith. The king, however, wearied of ʿAbd-al-Nabī’s arrogance and his disputes with Maḵdūm-al-molk; in 986/1678-79 he sent them both on pilgrimage to Mecca (ibid., II, p. 275) and appointed a new ṣadr al-ṣodūr, Solṭān Ḵᵛāǰa. ʿAbd-al-Nabī, on his return, was arrested after a dispute arose over his allocation of some charitable funds. He was put to death, either in 991/1583 (Āʾīn-e Aḵbarī, tr., I, p. 283) or in 992/1584(Montaḵab, tr., II, p. 321).

The disparaging portrait of ʿAbd-al-Nabī provided by Badāʾūnī may have been motivated by their personal conflict (see, e.g., Montaḵab, tr., II, p. 176). Several other writers regarded him as an eminent scholar: the author of Sanawāt al-atqīā (cited by Moḥammad Ekrām, Rūd-e kawṯar, Karachi, 1968, p. 87); ʿAbd-al-Ṣamad, Aḵbār al-aṣfīāʾ (Ind. Off., no. 641); Moḥyi’l-dīn ʿAbd-al-Qāder al-ʿAydarūs, al-Nūr al-sāfer ʿan aḵbār al-qarn al-ʿāšer (Aḥmad, Ind. Arab. Lit., p. 178); and Moḥammad Ḡawṯī, Golzār-e abrār (in the account of Shaikh ʿAbd-al-Qoddūs Gangōhī).

Works attributed to ʿAbd-al-Nabī are: 1. A lost resāla against samāʿ. 2. Resāla dar vaẓāʾef va aḍʿīa (also known as Waẓāʾef al-yawm wa’l-laylat al-nabawīya; see Brockelmann, GAL S. II, p. 602), written during his confinement. 3. Sonan al-hodā fī motābaʿat al-Moṣṭafā (described in detail in M. Hidāyat Ḥusain, Catalogue of the Arabic Manuscripts in the Būhār Library, Calcutta, 1923, II, pp. 446-50). A lost Arabic treatise refuting Qaffāl Marvazī Šāfeʿī’s criticism of Imam Abū Ḥanīfa, from whom ʿAbd-al-Nabī traced his descent. He had a mosque constructed in Delhi which still stands (Mesǰed-e ʿAbd-al-Nabī, see MASI, 9, Calcutta, 1921).


See also Moḥammad Ḥosayn Āzād, Darbār-e Akbarī, Lahore, 1947, p. 397.

Raḥmān ʿAlī, Taḏkera-ye ʿolamāʾ-e Hend, Lucknow, 1914, p. 134; Urdu tr., with notes by Qāderī, Karachi, 1961, pp. 325-27.

ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy, Nozhat al-ḵawāṭer, Hyderabad, 1954, IV, pp. 219-22.

Ahmad, Ind. Arab. Lit., repr., 1968, pp. 116, 178, 349-50.

Muhammad Ishaq, India’s Contribution to the Study of Hadith Literature, Dacca, 1955, pp. 130-31.

A further reference to ʿAbd-al-Nabī occurs on the reverse side of a farmān from Akbar relating to the shrine of Shaikh Moʿīn-al-dīn Češtī in Ajmer (ʿAbd-al-Bārī Maʿānī, Asnād al-ṣanādīd, Ajmer, 1952, p. 3).

(K. A. Nizami)

Originally Published: December 15, 1982

Last Updated: July 14, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 2, p. 130

Cite this entry:

K. A. Nizami, “'Abd-Al-Nabi” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/2, p. 130; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abd-al-nabi (accessed on January 16 2014).