The Metaphysical Epistemology of Shaykh Shams al-Dīn al-Sumatrā’ī: A Study of the Ḥaqq al-Yaqīn fī Aqīdat al-Muḥaqqiqīn is sought to challenge the view that Shams al-Dīn has only been a mere follower of Hamzah Fansuri, and to show that Shams al-Din was indeed a scholar of his own right. Where Fansuri was inclined to teach with poetry and a few prose works, al-Sumatrā’ī was a master of prose and the Ḥaqq al-Yaqīn is a testament to that fact. Quoting from many Sufi authors from the school of Ibn ‘Arabi and earlier Sufis, the text is hereby studied and interpreted to ease understanding for the modern reader. Though at times difficult the text testifies to the advanced and complex nature of discussion achieved in Malay Sufi literature.
The author’s approach has been a mixture of textual analysis and content analysis. Textual analysis is undertaken by relying on the text of Haqq al-Yaqin as the focal point of reference in understanding and deriving the teachings of Shams al-Dīn. The reason the text is chosen is due to the nature of discussion within the text which is the essence of metaphysical epistemology. Metaphysical epistemology refers to an episteme that is rooted in a certain metaphysics. In the case of Shams al-Din, it is rooted in God. Thus the epistemology that is discussed here is an epistemology that sees God as its pinnacle. The aim of the text is to allow people to be inducted into this epistemology, to become verifiers or Muḥaqqīq as stated in the introduction of Ḥaqq al-Yaqīn. Therefore each chapter of the text is a movement towards the final achievement of this episteme.
Therefore this text can be seen as a complete embodiment of the teachings of Shams al-Dīn. All other texts can be seen to be mere footnotes if compared to this text. For it is in this text that Shams al-Dīn puts together his understanding of the episteme which is rooted in God. As such the approach here is textual analysis reliant upon three extant manuscripts of the said text. Content analysis is undertaken in the annotations and commentary on the text. Efforts had been made to contrast, compare and trace the origins of discussions within the wealth of Sufi literature most especially the school of Ibn ‘Arabi. Particular attention is given to the writings of the Shaykh al-Akbar and his prominent commentators Sadr al-Dīn al-Qunawī, ‘Abd al-Razak Kashanī, ‘Abd Rahmān al-Jāmī, and ‘Abd al-Karim Jīlī. Other thinkers include Shaykh Mahmud Shabistarī via his celebrated poetry Gulshan-i Rāz. The author had also looked at the Tuhfah al-Mursalah for comparative reasons.
The Metaphysical Epistemology of Shaykh Shams al-Dīn al-Sumatrā’ī: A Study of the Ḥaqq al-Yaqīn fī Aqīdat al-Muḥaqqiqīn is divided into 5 chapters, with an introduction, a concluding chapter, and an appendix. The first chapter charts the intellectual and cultural milieu of the period and a select biography of Shams al-Dīn. The second chapter outlines the transmission of metaphysical thought to the Nusantara up to the time of Shaykh Shams al-Dīn. This is done via a brief discussion of the figures involved. The third chapter includes an annotated translation and commentary of the Ḥaqq al-Yaqīn. The fourth chapter deals with the various quotations from the texts taken from various Sufi masters from the lands of Persia, Arabia, and the Indian Sub-continent as they are seen in the text. An analysis of the impact of each of the main figures will be conducted within the chapter. The fifth chapter is the main analysis chapter where ontology, epistemology, and soteriology are discussed. It is here that via content analysis we would be able to systematically put forward Shams al-Dīn teachings vis a vis the other writers and Sufi thinkers which is discussed above.
The conclusion would reiterate our findings in the preceding chapters and include a brief excursus into the contemporary era and the various groups that have creatively utilized the teachings mentioned by Shams al-Dīn in their own teachings. The final section of the book contains are appendix with various minor treatises authored by Shams al-Dīn which are romanized for the first time in its original Malay to enable ease of reading for the interested reader. The author hopes this book is received well by an audience that would like to know more about Malay Sufi thought of the 17th century and how those ideas are still alive in today’s Age of Extremes (pace Hobsbawm) via the various writings in the market.