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Sarmad (Persian: سرمد) was a Persian mystic, poet and saint in India of Jewish[1] and Armenian origin[2] during the 17th century. He arrived in India from a Jewish, Persian-speaking Armenian merchant family,[3] only to renounce his religion and adopt Islam, which he allegedly later renounced in favor of Hinduism. Sarmad was known for espousing and ridiculing the major religions of his day, but also wrote beautiful religious poetry in the form of quatrains in Arabic and Persian.[4] 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 this journey, he fell in love with a 14 year old Hindu boy. His ardent love ('ishq) created such a radical transformation in his awareness that he abandoned his considerable wealth and, losing all concern for social convention, began to wander through the streets and courts of the emperor completely naked, a naked faqir.[5]

Sarmad was close to Dara Shikoh, the heir presumptive to Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor. However, the actual successor to Shah Jehan, the Emperor Aurangzeb, beheaded Sarmad in 1661 for poetry deemed heretical and apostasy from Islam .[1]

During his life, Sarmad produced a translation of the Torah in Persian.[6]

Sarmad described himself as “a follower of the Furqan (i.e., a Sufi), a (Hindu) priest, a (Buddhist) monk, a Jewish rabbi, an infidel, and an apostate Muslim."[1] Sarmad's ambiguous religious affiliation is disputed today by Jews, Muslims, and Hindus. His grave is located near the Jama Masjid in Delhi, India.

Colonial India Reference

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, one of the leading political personalities involved actively in India's struggle for freedom, had equated himself with Sarmad in an essay which he had written at the age of 23. He had identified himself with Sarmad for his freedom of thought and expression.[1]


Further reading

  • Gupta, M.G. Sarmad the Saint: Life and Works, Revised Edition. MG Publishers, 2000. ISBN 81-85532-32-X.
  • Ezekial, Isaac A. Sarmad: (Jewish Saint of India). 2nd ed. Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 1974. ASIN B0006EXYM6.

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