Gerald Joe Moreno

Marianne Warren – Unravelling The Enigma – Shirdi Sai Baba In The Light Of Sufism

Posted on: December 11, 2009

Marianne Warren – Unravelling The Enigma – Shirdi Sai Baba In The Light Of Sufism

Marianne Warren Book

Marianne Warren Book

Dr. Marianne Warren Ph.D (University of Toronto, Canada) wrote a book entitled “Unravelling The Enigma – Shirdi Sai Baba In The Light Of Sufism” (1997; Sterling Paperbacks; ISBN 81-207-2147-0. ).

Kevin Shepherd (a pseudo-philosopher, pseudo-moralist and Findhorn fanatic) selectively (some would say “dishonestly”) quoted Marianne Warren as saying:

Kevin R. D. Shepherd: “Dr. Marianne Warren was obliged to acknowledge that ‘Shepherd was the first author to question this Hindu bias….most of his arguments concerning [Shirdi] Sai Baba’s Sufi connections are strong’.”

Now, let us take a look at the full text as published in Marianne Warren’s book:

Snippet From Marianne Warren – Unravelling The Enigma Shirdi Sai Baba In The Light Of Sufism

Snippet From Marianne Warren – Unravelling The Enigma Shirdi Sai Baba In The Light Of Sufism

Marianne Warren: A harsh critique of Narasimhaswami is found in Kevin Shepherd’s monograph entitled Gurus Rediscovered: Biographies of Sai Baba of Shirdi and Upasani Maharaj of Sakori, which introduces a new and thought-provoking perception of Sai Baba. [38] His material was first drafted in 1967, but only updated and published privately in 1985. Prior to Shepherd, the perennial question was whether Sai Baba was Hindu or Muslim, with most of the secondary writers emphasizing the Hindu interpretation. Shepherd was the first author to question this Hindu bias and to redefine the broad ‘Muslim’ category, dividing it into the orthodox Islamic law or sharia and Sufi mysticism. By definition, an Islamic mystic is a Sufi, and as Sai Baba was a Muslim mystic, he was perforce a Sufi. Shepherd observes many links between Sai Baba and the strong Sufi tradition in the Deccan. He notes that since his death, the saint has been totally embraced by the Hindus and that in the process the Muslim minority in Shirdi has been eclipsed. [39] He feels that Narasimhaswami was one of those responsible for perpetrating this process of Hinduization. While most of his arguments concerning Sai Baba’s Sufi connections are strong, he provides very little corroboration from the Sai Baba literature itself. For example, there is no evidence that he read Dabholkar’s Sri Sai Saccarita nor that he knew Marathi or the Maharashtrian Bhakti tradition. In fact, no bibliography was given with his monograph.

[38] Kevin R.D. Shepherd, Gurus Rediscovered: Biographies of Sai Baba of Shirdi and Upasani Maharaj of Sakori (Cambridge: Anthropographia Publications, 1985). Shepherd is very opinionated in this book. For example he summarily dismisses Narasimhaswami as an opportunist, whose only interest was in elevating himself through writing the biographies of holy men. (PDF Reference)

Marianne Warren referred to Kevin R.D. Shepherd’s writings as “very opinionated” and emphatically stated that Shepherd’s book had “very little corroboration from the Sai Baba literature itself” and had no supporting bibliography. Kevin Shepherd omitted Marianne Warren’s criticism about him and only snipped out those sections that suited his big ego. Marianne Warren’s views about Kevin R. D. Shepherd were critical and she rightly questioned the objectivity, credibility and integrity of Shepherd’s unsupported, unsourced and subjective claims. So much for Kevin R.D. Shepherd’s boast about following “academic rules in citing sources to a greater extent than many academic philosophers” (PhD Marianne Warren didn’t think so)!

KevinRDShepherd also cited information against Sathya Sai Baba from Marianne Warren (as published by Sai Baba critic and defamer Robert Priddy). It is amusing that Shepherd cited and eulogized the very same woman who condemned him for his subjective, unsupported and opinionated writings!

Unravelling The Enigma – Shirdi Sai Baba In The Light Of Sufism Description:

Unravelling The Enigma-Shirdi Sai Baba in the Light of Sufism is an exciting new piece of research which examines Sai Baba of Shirdi from the standpoint of Islamic mysticism-the Deccani Sufism of 19th century Maharashtra-in order to unravel the mystery surrounding the saint. Sai Baba is consistently described by his Hindu biographers as a Muslim faqir and a mystic, which, by definition, makes him a Sufi. However, no previous researcher has examined him thoroughly in this light.

The author assumes the reader will have some familiarity with previous biographies of Shirdi Sai Baba and reviews incidents, anecdotes and sayings of he hagiography surrounding Sai Baba, in the light of the goals, practices and stories of the Sufis from the golden era of Sufism, and discovers that an amazing similarity and correspondence begins to emerge. Immediately, the more puzzling aspects of the saint’s actions and sayings fall away, and Sai Baba himself becomes more understandable, attractive and lovable.

In the book, Dr Warren brings two new pieces of scholarship to the subject. First she elucidates the English translation of part of the works of some 17th and 18th-century Maharashtrian Sufi poet-saints-their contribution having hitherto been neglected by scholars. Their lives and writings echo the life and teachings of Sai Baba. Secondly, she includes the English translation of the previously untranslated Urdu notebook, jotted down by Abdul, Sai Baba’s faqiri pupil, from teachings based on the Qur’an given to him by his pir Sai Baba. Both these contributions allow us to se into a word hitherto closed, and expand our awareness of the famous miracle-worker of Shirdi.

While Sai Baba has attained a universal appeal, transcending any one sectarian religious tradition, it is necessary to understand his Sufi origins in order to obtain a deeper and fuller appreciation of the enigmatic saint of Shirdi.

A fresh new light is thrown upon the Maharashtrian saint Sai Baba of Shirdi in this rare and fascinating book by Dr Marianne Warren. Discovering that there is a rich history of Sufism in the Deccan in the past, especially at Khuldabad, where there was a large Sufi center, and also at Pathri, Sai Baba’s reputed birthplace, she first explores these areas. Then, in the light of this knowledge, she re-examines the life and teachings of Sai Baba. The results are spectacular. Sai Baba’s previously bizarre or mystic behaviour and enigmatic saying instantly become more understandable. By comprehending the stages of the Sufi path, such facets as Sai Baba’s adherence to the vow of poverty, begging for food until the last few days of his life, fall naturally into place.

The confirmation of Sai Baba’s Sufi status is the discovery and translation of Sai Baba’s faqir servant Adbul’s notebook, written in Urdu. The document contains Abdul’s actual notes and jottings taken while reading the Quran with Sai Baba. From this, it is now possible to state authoritatively that Sai Baba a Sufi Master, and directly taught the precepts of Islam and Sufism to his servant/pupil and probably to a host of wandering faqirs throughout the Deccan in the nineteenth century.

The goal of a Sufi aspirant is to reach God realization to realize his own inner divinity. Shirdi Sai Baba attained this divine status and throughout his life he also played the traditional role of a Sufi Master guiding others along the path.

Table of Contents






– An Overview of the Life of Sai Baba
– Sufi Mysticism and Sai Baba
– The Historical Background: Sufism in Maharashtra
– Sai Baba-the Muslim Faqir
– Sai Baba and the Maharashtrian
– Bhakti Movement-Its Poet-Saints, Mystics and Deities
– Sufi Accommodation to the Hindu Milieu
– Outwardly Different-Inwardly the Same
– Nineteenth Century Sufi Contemporaries of Sai Baba


– Sai Baba and the Sufi Tariqat (path
– Abdul and his Notebook
– English Translation of the Sai Baba MS
– Some Observations of the Saibaba MS


– The Hindu Embrace of Sai Baba
– The Sathya Sai Baba Connection
– Drawing the Threads Together






1 Response to "Marianne Warren – Unravelling The Enigma – Shirdi Sai Baba In The Light Of Sufism"

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