Iran/Persia & India (? - 1659) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Poems by Sarmad
Books - Links

Sarmad (sometimes called Sarmad the Cheerful or Sarmad the Martyr), is a fascinating and complex character who seems to have bridged several cultures in Persia and India. Sarmad originally lived in the Kashan region, between Tehran and Isfahan, in what is today Iran. He was from a minority community of the society. Some biographies say Sarmad was originally from a Jewish merchant family, though others say he was Armenian. Because of his possible Jewish heritage and his later migration to Delhi, he is sometimes called the Jewish Sufi Saint of India.

He had an excellent command of both Persian and Arabic, essential for his work as a merchant. Hearing that precious items and works of art were being purchased in India at high prices, Sarmad gathered together his wares and traveled to India where he intended to sell them.

Near the end of his journey, however, he met a beautiful Indian boy and was entranced. This ardent love ('ishq) created such a radical transformation in his awareness that Sarmad immediately dropped all desire for wealth and worldly comfort. In this ecstatic state, he abandoned his considerable wealth and, losing all concern for social convention, he began to wander about without clothes, becoming a naked faqir.

Some biographers assert that Sarmad formally converted to Islam, while others claim he had a universalist notion of God and religion, seeing no conflict between his Judaism and the esoteric truth of the Sufi path he adopted. In his own poetry, Sarmad asserts that he is neither Jew, nor Muslim, nor Hindu.

He continued to journey through India, but now as a naked dervish rather than as a merchant. He ended up in Delhi where he found the favor of a prince in the region and gained a certain amount of influence at court. That prince, however, was soon overthrown by Aurengzeb. The new king and orthodox religious authorities were offended by Sarmad's open criticism of their social hypocrisy and mindless religious formalism.

Aurengzeb, in fear of the people's love of Sarmad, staged a show trial. Sarmad was initially accused of breaking an injunction against public nudity, but that was later dropped in favor of the charges of atheism and unorthodox religious practice, for which he was convicted. The army was called in to occupy Delhi and prevent a popular uprising, and the naked saint was publicly beheaded. The story is told that, after the beheading, Sarmad's body picked up its own head which recited the Muslim affirmation of faith the kalima-i taiyaba ("There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his Prophet") and then proclaimed to the crowd, "Ana al-Haq" ("I am Reality, I am one with God"), a statement famously made by another beloved Sufi martyr, Mansur al-Hallaj. Sarmad thus proclaims the continuing stream of truth despite violent repression, and also his unity with the Ultimate.

Sarmad's tomb in Delhi is today visited by pilgrims of all faiths: Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, and others.

Poems by Sarmad

Recommended Books: Sarmad

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Real Thirst: Poetry of the Spiritual Journey The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Sarmad: Martyr to Love Divine Sarmad: Jewish Saint of India
Sarmad the Saint

Related Links

Chishti Poetry

A couple of quatrains by Sarmad, as well as poetry by several other Sufi poets.

Hazrat Sarmad Shaheed: The Naked Sufi Martyr

A good, detailed biography of Sarmad, with a few poem excerpts.

CRDA - Sarmad, a mystic poet

A more detailed biographical sketch, written in 1937.

Sarmad the Armenian and Dara Shikoh

An article exploring the Sarmad's relationship with Dara Shikoh, along with the politics and religion of the day.

Stories of Sarmad

A good, intelligent discussion of the life and stories of Sarmad.