Journal of
Persianate Studies

The Journal of Persianate Studies publishes articles on the culture and civilization of the geographical area where Persian has historically been the dominant language or a major cultural force, encompassing Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, as well as the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, and parts of the former Ottoman Empire.

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Volume 15, 2022 - Issue 2

“The Earth My Throne, The Heavens My Crown”: Siyāvash as Supranational Hero in Ferdowsi’s Shāh-nāma

This article explores the Shāh-nāma’s recounting of the tragic myth of Prince Siyāvash and analyzes the implications of Siyāvash’s supranational ethical sense in an epic often closely associated with proto-nationalism and a concrete sense of Iranian identity. It proposes that Ferdowsi’s depiction of Siyāvash’s evolving sense of identity—one that contains elements of what we would associate today with supranationalism (or cosmopolitanism) and hybridity—creates a subtext that promotes ideals running counter to the proto-nationalist tendencies outwardly espoused by the epic. This subtext helped facilitate the long-held view of Siyāvash as a figure of great spiritual import whose plight has larger resonance than that merely of nation and homeland. The supranational aspects of the story likewise make it highly relevant for today, when exile, refugees, and the question of nationalism versus supranationalism abound in both literary and political discourse.

The Safavids and “Candechar, King of the Indies”: Polish-Lithuanian Intelligence on Safavid-Mughal Relations

The relations between the Islamic empires of the early modern period—the Ottomans, the Safavids, and the Mughals—have long been the subject of research, as have been the links between each of them and Europe. The present paper adopts a different approach, addressing the relations between them and Central and Eastern Europe as part of a single geopolitical continuum. This is done by focusing on the events of the late 1630s—the Safavid-Mughal conflict over Kandahar and the Ottoman-Safavid Treaty of Zohāb (1639)—and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s interest in them, as well as how these issues are reflected in the sources, including Polish intelligence reports and Safavid and Mughal chronicles. Such an examination shows not only the scope of interest of various state actors in global affairs, but also offers us a glimpse into the intertwined political relations of early modern Eurasia.

A French Manuscript on Trade and Diplomacy in Iran during the Zand Era

A highly interesting memoir about Iran, written by Jean-François-Xavier Rousseau (1738–1808), an agent of the French East India Company (Compagnie des Indes orientales) in Basra, apparently unpublished and unknown until now, covers the political situation of the late Zand period of the 1770s in an effort to promote French trade in the Persian Gulf. This text, entitled Situation actuelle du royaume de Perse (The Current Situation of the Kingdom of Persia), is a valuable document that sheds light on the French commercial strategy towards Iran and testifies to the social contacts between European merchants, diplomats, local rulers, and the Zand court in the eighteenth century.

Full Access The Introduction to Mohammad-Taqi Bahār’s Sabkshenāsi: A Translation

Mohammad-Taqi Bahār’s 1942 textbook Sabkshenāsi (“Stylistics”) was a landmark text in modern Persian literary studies. It coined terms (like sabk-e Hendi or the “Indian style” of Persian poetry) and laid out a tripartite, geographical-temporal model for the history of Persian poetry which largely remain dominant today. Bahār’s articulation of a national canon of Iranian literature (comprising writings in various stages of the Persian language as well as Arabic) made Sabkshenāsi an important text not only for the nascent department of Persian literature at the University of Tehran for which it was written, but for twentieth-century Iranian nationalism in general. By combining traditional forms of knowledge with the methodologies pioneered by European Orientalists, it played an important role in modernizing Persian literary studies. The influential introduction to Sabkshenāsi is translated here into English in full for the first time, along with a preface explaining the work’s importance for Persian literary studies.

Franklin D. Lewis (1961-2022)

Volume 15, 2022

“The Earth My Throne, The Heavens My Crown”: Siyāvash as Supranational Hero in Ferdowsi’s Shāh-nāma

This article explores the Shāh-nāma’s recounting of the tragic myth of Prince Siyāvash and analyzes the implications of Siyāvash’s supranational ethical sense in an epic often closely associated with proto-nationalism and a concrete sense of Iranian identity. It proposes that Ferdowsi’s depiction of Siyāvash’s evolving sense of identity—one that contains elements of what we would associate today with supranationalism (or cosmopolitanism) and hybridity—creates a subtext that promotes ideals running counter to the proto-nationalist tendencies outwardly espoused by the epic. This subtext helped facilitate the long-held view of Siyāvash as a figure of great spiritual import whose plight has larger resonance than that merely of nation and homeland. The supranational aspects of the story likewise make it highly relevant for today, when exile, refugees, and the question of nationalism versus supranationalism abound in both literary and political discourse.

The Safavids and “Candechar, King of the Indies”: Polish-Lithuanian Intelligence on Safavid-Mughal Relations

The relations between the Islamic empires of the early modern period—the Ottomans, the Safavids, and the Mughals—have long been the subject of research, as have been the links between each of them and Europe. The present paper adopts a different approach, addressing the relations between them and Central and Eastern Europe as part of a single geopolitical continuum. This is done by focusing on the events of the late 1630s—the Safavid-Mughal conflict over Kandahar and the Ottoman-Safavid Treaty of Zohāb (1639)—and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s interest in them, as well as how these issues are reflected in the sources, including Polish intelligence reports and Safavid and Mughal chronicles. Such an examination shows not only the scope of interest of various state actors in global affairs, but also offers us a glimpse into the intertwined political relations of early modern Eurasia.

A French Manuscript on Trade and Diplomacy in Iran during the Zand Era

A highly interesting memoir about Iran, written by Jean-François-Xavier Rousseau (1738–1808), an agent of the French East India Company (Compagnie des Indes orientales) in Basra, apparently unpublished and unknown until now, covers the political situation of the late Zand period of the 1770s in an effort to promote French trade in the Persian Gulf. This text, entitled Situation actuelle du royaume de Perse (The Current Situation of the Kingdom of Persia), is a valuable document that sheds light on the French commercial strategy towards Iran and testifies to the social contacts between European merchants, diplomats, local rulers, and the Zand court in the eighteenth century.

Full Access The Introduction to Mohammad-Taqi Bahār’s Sabkshenāsi: A Translation

Mohammad-Taqi Bahār’s 1942 textbook Sabkshenāsi (“Stylistics”) was a landmark text in modern Persian literary studies. It coined terms (like sabk-e Hendi or the “Indian style” of Persian poetry) and laid out a tripartite, geographical-temporal model for the history of Persian poetry which largely remain dominant today. Bahār’s articulation of a national canon of Iranian literature (comprising writings in various stages of the Persian language as well as Arabic) made Sabkshenāsi an important text not only for the nascent department of Persian literature at the University of Tehran for which it was written, but for twentieth-century Iranian nationalism in general. By combining traditional forms of knowledge with the methodologies pioneered by European Orientalists, it played an important role in modernizing Persian literary studies. The influential introduction to Sabkshenāsi is translated here into English in full for the first time, along with a preface explaining the work’s importance for Persian literary studies.

Franklin D. Lewis (1961-2022)

The Sasanian Elephant Corps Revisited: Ammianus Marcellinus on the Tactics of Persian Elephantry

According to Ammianus Marcellinus, elephants substituted, to some extent, siege towers; he describes wooden towers on the backs of the animals, armed with Persian warriors who attacked the defenders of a fortress. Certainly, elephants may have served as an element of ancient psychological warfare. But, at the same time, it appears that the Sasanians employed elephants in their battle fighting, bearing warriors who attacked their enemies with various missiles. In open-field battles, elephants, as a rule, were introduced into the battle in an offensive situation. Ammianus Marcellinus does not offer any evidence as to elephants functioning as beasts of burden or draught animals; on the contrary, he always stresses the fact that they were military animals who posed a real danger to the Romans in battle.

Philosophical Poetry and Courtly Appeal: Fakhr al-Din Rāzi’s Didactic Panegyric for the Khvārazmian Prince Nāser al-Din Malekshāh

While Fakhr al-Din Rāzi’s (d. 1210/606) works of philosophical theology are well known, his poetry has been largely ignored by scholars to date. This article provides a translation and analysis of Rāzi’s previously untranslated Persian panegyric ode (qasidat al-madh) entitled “Fi al-manteq va-ʾl-tabiʿa va-ʾl-elāhi va-madh al-soltān (On Logic, Physics, and Metaphysics, and Praise of the Sultan).” Combining a historical and literary approach, I argue that Rāzi strategically employs both the didactic and the panegyric genres in his attempt to regain the favor of the Khvārazmian crown prince, Nāser al-Din Malekshāh (d. 1196–7/593). In addition to demonstrating Rāzi’s belief in the soteriological value of knowledge, the poem adds further evidence for elite support of Islamic philosophy after Ebn Sīnā—in this case, in the eastern lands of the Islamic empire.

ʿAli al-Aʿlā and the Early History of Horufism

This article examines the life and activities of ʿAli al-Aʿlā (d. 1419/822), the principal successor of the founder of Horufism, Fazlollāh Astarābādi (d. 1394/796), and early Horufi history. Widely known as “Khalifatollāh (Vice-gerent of God)” in Horufi literature, the prolific ʿAli al-Aʿlā compiled five Persian books in the first two decades of the fifteenth century, namely the Korsi-nāma, Towhid-nāma, Qeyāmat-nāma, Ferāq-nāma, and Mahshar-nāma. By principally working on ʿAli al-Aʿlā’s corpus, I construct his biography, as well as explore Fazlollāh’s life and his Horufi doctrine. By critically engaging with the modern scholarship on Horufism, I discuss the crisis among Horufis following the execution of Fazlollāh, their political positioning among different political entities in western Asia, e.g., the Timurids and Qara Qoyunlus, and Horufi missionary activities in Syria, Anatolia, and the Ottoman Balkans in the first decades of the fifteenth century. By doing so, I attempt to add another dimension to the existing Horufi literature.

Cultural Translation and Linguistic Equivalence: Persian–Marathi Bilingual Inscriptions

Bilingual inscriptions in Marathi and Persian are known through the period of the Deccan sultanates. This paper investigates whether the inscriptional programs, usually with Persian as the dominant language, can provide greater cultural context and meaning to processes such as translation and multilingualism in the period. Bi- and multi-lingual inscriptions are intended usually for public display and demonstrate the relative prestige and power of languages and cultures. The corpus of Persian and Marathi bilingual inscriptions will be analyzed to examine whether they are actually translations that achieve equivalence of content or whether localized texts were created to address the needs of the audiences in different languages, perhaps as “idiomatic bilinguals.”

The Persian Literary Tradition in Ottoman Bosnia and Its Environs

Numerous Bosnian intellectuals during the centuries of Ottoman rule were authors of works in the Persian language. Mostly, they produced poems and divāns (poetic anthologies) under the strong influence of the Persian literary canon. After a brief and introductory overview of the Persian literary canon, its origins, and its presence in the Ottoman realms, this article presents selections of verses (mostly translated into English for the first time) of selected poets, while contextualizing their work within Ottoman Bosnia. In addition, this study surveys Persian works in manuscript collections in the libraries of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It can clearly be seen that the Persian cultural ādāb (literature) of the past has continued to reverberate intellectually and culturally even today in Bosnia and its environs.

Retrieving Lost Texts: Early Persian Newspapers of Bombay

While the study of the history of print culture in India is still at an early stage, languages moribund in India, like Persian, have been all but ignored in this narrative. Persian newspapers of the nineteenth century, especially from its first half, played an important role in the development of the Indian public sphere. To a certain extent, they continued in the vein of the pre-British akhbārs, while on the other hand, they took on gradually the character of a modern newspaper. Bombay (Mumbai), for historical and geographical reasons, emerged as a center of Persian language activity during this period and its rapidly burgeoning printing infrastructure facilitated the development of Persian, as a language for books and newspapers. Using a range of contemporary government records and newspapers, an attempt is made here to reconstruct the history of these early Persian newspapers. Over a dozen Persian newspapers are identified, most of them for the first time; a preliminary attempt is made to understand the impact of these newspapers and the motivations of their Parsi, Hindu, and Muslim editors.

Bert G. Fragner (1941–2021)

Shaul Shaked (1933–2021)

Volume 14, 2021

Introduction: Religious Diversity in Late Antique and Early Medieval Iran

Restricted Access Apocalyptic Imagery and Royal Propaganda in Khosrow II’s Letter to the Byzantine Emperor Maurice

The Byzantine historian Theophylact Simocatta (fl. 620s) records an exchange of letters with the Sasanian Empire. The correspondence of March 590, from the Iranian shah Khosrow II Parviz (r. 591–628) and addressed to the Byzantine emperor Maurice (r. 582–602), exhibits a particular style, focused on the ideological oppositions of order and disorder and legitimacy and usurpation. This paper suggests that Khosrow’s claims to his kingdom made use of a discourse of catastrophic motifs that reflected common Sasanian apocalyptic beliefs. Thus, the chaotic situation provoked by the inversion of the rightful order elicited, from a Zoroastrian perspective, a response that stressed the dualistic nuance of demonic anarchy in order to stigmatize the risk of deposition. For these reasons, apocalyptic doctrines and royal propaganda share a common language: a political discourse based on the justification of kingship and the demonization of the enemy.

Manichæism as a World Religion of Salvation and Its Influence on Islam

Māni created a new religion of salvation out of the Mazdæan religion of ancient Iran and named himself as its final prophet. The decisive impact of Manichæism as a salvific faith on Islam is evident in the Qurʾan’s prophetology and Christology, its conceptions of wisdom and knowledge, and the idea of the salvation of the soul through light. Just like Māni, Mohammad in the Qurʾan is the “Seal of the Prophets (khātem al-nabiyyin),” though he is formally designated as the Messenger (rasul) of God. Moving beyond Mohammad and the Qurʾan, the subsequent independent influence of Manichæism on the emergence of Sufism in Iran is traced alongside the development of light symbolism in the Sufi conception of the journey of the soul in the realm of light as the final stage of mystical union with God and in the formulation of the Sufi doctrine of the Mohammadan Light (nur-e mohammadi).

The Agricultural Economics of the Allied Occupation of Iran in the Second World War

The occupation of Iran in 1941 by the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and the United States and the deposition of Rezā Shāh (r. 1925–41) by the Allied powers involuntarily drew Iran into the Second World War, affecting the country’s politics, economy, and society on multiple levels. In particular, the consequences of Allied involvement affected the agricultural sector. Using contemporary descriptions of events and archived documents, this study examines the occupation force’s quasi-colonization of Iran’s agricultural and pastoral resources, its consequences and, more generally, Allied policies regarding Iran. This paper suggests that, through the Tripartite Treaty of Alliance (29 January 1942), the Allied powers legitimized their presence and direct intervention in Iran’s policies, especially in the realm of agricultural economics. Moreover, support for the Soviet Union during the war appears to have been a higher priority for the United States and United Kingdom than concern for the native Iranian population, resulting in the disruption of the food transportation system, increased food prices, and decreased supplies of the chief crops, leading to food shortages and social unrest in Iran.

Ray and Pahlaw in the Context of Sasanian Iran

Ray—located near present-day Tehran—is among the most important historical areas in Iran and the plains to the south of Tehran have always been densely inhabited and intensely cultivated thanks to the waters coming from Mount Tochal and the Alborz Mountains. Historical records and archeological data for the early history of the city in the Median, Achæmenid, Seleucid, and even Parthian periods are not exhaustive. In the present study, an attempt is made to bring together primary and secondary sources to define better the role that the province of Ray played during the Sasanian period, during which it was host, among others, to a huge military camp crucial to manning the northern and eastern frontier. Combined archeological and historical evidence shows that Ray has played an important and pivotal role in the history of Iran from the first years of the formation of the Sasanian Empire to the very last years of the empire, leaving a lasting memory in the Islamic literary tradition.

A Clarification of the Terms Dakhma and Astodān on the Basis of Literary Records and Archeological Research in Fars Province

The terms dakhma (open-air tomb) and astodān (ossuary) are often used interchangeably despite the fact that they refer to two distinct structures with different meanings in pre-Islamic Iranian burial practices. The present study explores the differences between the two structures, along with burial-related terms used by ancient Persians, by examining ancient and medieval Iranian manuscripts and by conducting a field study of surviving artifacts from ancient times. The results show that dakhma (or dakhmagāh) was a general term referring to the entire burial site and its constituent elements—as opposed to the specific astodān. Both of these structures should be differentiated from small hollowed ledges on the edges or surfaces of mountains, which were engraved as late as the early Islamic period (seventh to ninth centuries), even though the terms dakhma and astodān appear in their inscriptions. Although the latter have led some scholars to conflate the terms, the present study finds that these small stone structures and hollows are neither dakhma nor astodān, but rather served as a symbolic memorial to the departed. Furthermore, other burial-related structures in the environs of the dakhma, including mortar-shaped hollowed stones (sang-ābs) and cascade-like stone grooves (called sor-sor-e hāy-e sangi), which have received scant attention, can be traced back to Zoroastrian rituals in Avestan texts and point to the presence of a dakhma. Finally, the present field study, which explored ancient burial sites in the Marvdasht plain in Fars Province, includes unique information and details that are presented here for the first time.

The Purpose and Practice of Divorce in Sasanian and Post-Sasanian Texts

Many scholarly works aim to identify and explain the continued survival of pre-Islamic social phenomena and institutions deep into the Islamic age. To understand the historical roots of Iranian social issues more profoundly and accurately, it seems necessary to examine the social structure and institutions of the Sasanian era. Such a study enables us to trace their subsequent development and identify the ways in which they transformed. This paper attempts to clarify the purpose and practice of divorce in late Antique Iran, by reconstructing the rationale for and procedure of divorce in Sasanian society based on extant legal cases using a socio-historical approach. It also tries to show the different types of divorce in Sasanian and post-Sasanian sources, emphasizing the controversy and contradictions among Zoroastrian jurisconsults and legal texts to identify different legally-sanctioned perspectives regarding divorce.

Ohrmazd’s Divine Mercy and the End of the World between Apocatastasis and Apocalypse

This article focuses on the central importance of the concept of apocatastasis (or apokatastasis)—the full regeneration of the world and the annihilation of hell—within the framework of the Zoroastrian doctrine of the end of the world, as well as its origin and development. This study insists strongly on a necessary distinction between this idea and the more frequently-encountered doctrine of apocalypse, which does not strictly concern the end of the millennial Mazdæan cycle, but marks only an historical phase of crisis. The idea of apocatastasis does not belong to the earliest Iranian tradition, but was the product of a slow process of adaptation of new theological ideas, partly of Christian origin, that emerged during a period of social crisis. The final synthesis represented a transformation of the theological and philosophical perception of the annihilation of hell in a new universally-optimistic cosmological perspective.

Some Observations on Ahriman and his Miscreation in the Bundahišn

The Bundahišn (Primal Creation) is one of the most important surviving Zoroastrian works in Pahlavi Middle Persian. In this book, the evil spirit Ahriman and his demons play a crucial role in the cosmogonic drama from creation until the end of times, according to the well-known Zoroastrian dualistic system. This article describes the forms and the effects of the onslaught of Ahriman and his evil creatures, and how Zoroastrians explained the nature and the presence of evil and its real influence on the good creation and creatures of Ohrmazd as found in the Bundahišn.

How to Develop a Fabula: The Case of Dēnkard VII

In his important 1963 study, Marijan Molé (1924–63) argued that Dēnkard VII does not provide an objective and complete biography of Zoroaster, but rather reflects a later Zoroastrian conception of him as a prophet at the time of its writing. Following his approach, the present article examines the text as a cultural product and a narrative fabrication of late Antique Zoroastrianism. This study attempts first to identify the main theme of Dēnkard VII, since, although it is generally considered the book of the “legend of Zoroaster,” the protagonist appears in only five out of eleven chapters—less than half of the material. Furthermore, this paper analyses also some of the main compositional techniques that form the internal structure of the narrative, with the aim of understanding the literary tricks that allow flow from one episode to another and from one chapter to another.

Linguistic and Religious Continuity in Outer Iran

Classical sources give evidence for the presence of Scythians, Sarmatians, and Alans at different times in the region north of the Black Sea. While not all scholars agree with Abaev’s idea of “strict continuity” in the languages of these peoples, none deny the existence of at least some form of linguistic continuity between them. The aim of this article is to investigate whether we can suppose another form of continuity relating to their religious systems. While we know that Zoroastrianism had not spread to these peoples, can we still find common elements in their religious systems? If so, we can imagine that they resembled one another not only in terms of language and way of life, but also in terms of religious belief.

Visitation and Awakening: Cross-Cultural and Functional Parallelisms between the Zoroastrian Srōš and Christian St. Sergius

Similarities between the two celestial entities, the Zoroastrian Srōš (or Sraoša) and the Christian St. Sergius, have occasionally been mentioned in studies on late-antique and medieval Iran. Comparing the Zoroastrian and Syriac Christian traditions, the study will deal with evidence describing a phenomenological complex that includes the manifestation of celestial entities through a revelatory dream or vision and the consequent awakening of the individual consciousness. The parallelisms will be viewed in the perspective of historical and cultural dynamics that characterized the socio-political horizon of the late Sasanian Empire, especially during the reign of Khosrow II Parviz (Husraw II Parvēz). The heterogeneous society of the frontier zone between Rome and Iran determined the development of trans-cultural elements fostering dialogue among different components of the population. This phenomenon, along with the increasing integration of the Christian community in late Sasanian society, favored processes of assimilation and hybridization of narrative motifs connected to the representation of salvific and protective figures extremely popular at that time.

Volume 13, 2020

An Iranian Shāh-nāma Writer at the Court of Bāyezid II: Malekzāda Āhi

Malekzāda Āhi was an Iranian-born Shāh-nāma writer (shāh-nāmaji, Ott. şehnameci) who served at the court of the Ottoman sultan Bāyezid II (r. 1481–1512) and composed the first Ottoman dynastic history to bear the title of “Shāh-nāma.” Accompanying the sultan since his years as a prince, Malekzāda wrote his Shāh-nāma after the tradition of Ferdowsi (d. 1019–20) and Nezāmi (d. 1209), in addition to many odes (qasidas) in praise of his patron. Despite his contemporary reputation as the “master of the verse (malek al-kalam)” in the sultan’s palace, a series of unfortunate accidents led to his relative obscurity in modern historiography. Malekzāda Āhi’s experience as a Shāh-nāma writer is representative of the position held by Iranian artists and scholars in the early sixteenth-century Ottoman palace. His Shāh-nāma also should be regarded as one of the earliest transmissions of the Shāh-nāma style of history-writing to the Ottoman realm. In this article, I attempt to uncover Malekzāda Āhi’s real identity and shed light on his activities in the palace circle, based on archival documents that are studied here for the first time.

Joseph and His Two Wives: Patterns of Cultural Accommodation in the Judæo-Persian Tale of Yusof and Zoleykhā

The Tale of Yusof and Zoleykhā appears as part of a religious epic poem, the Bereshit-nāma (Book of Genesis), by the fourteenth-century Judæo-Persian poet Shāhin. Composed in 1358–59, in classical Persian with an admixture of Hebraisms and written in Hebrew characters, this tale was enormously popular within Persian-speaking Jewish communities and was frequently copied on its own. The paper focuses on two episodes from this story: Yusof’s marriages to Zoleykhā and to Osnat (Asenath). Shāhin was active in the late Il-khanid and early post-Mongol periods, when new forms of patronage of literary and artistic production emerged seeking to blend different cultural worlds. The poet indeed fashioned unique amalgams of Jewish and Perso-Islamic traditions, both in form and content. The two episodes constitute small case studies for exploring Shāhin’s diverse array of sources and for determining the thematic and structural ramifications of this fusion. The paper pinpoints how Shāhin accommodated and adapted Jewish and Islamic materials and demonstrates that, though Jewish, the poet firmly ensconces himself in a Persianate cultural sphere.

An Analysis of the Rug-Washing Ceremony in Mashhad-e Ardehāl, Kāshān

The Iranian religious ceremony of rug-washing (qāli-shuyān), commemorating the martyrdom of Emāmzāda Soltān-ʿAli b. Mohammad Bāqer (d. 734/116), is held every year in the second week of autumn in Mashhad-e Ardehāl, a village of Kāshān, Esfahān Province. This ceremony is unique amongst Twelver Shiʿis for its observance in accordance with the solar calendar rather than the lunar. The objective of the present article is to analyze this ceremony and explain its features. The necessary data for this research have been collected from fieldwork on the historical geography of the region and related historical documents. In the analysis of this ceremony, attention is paid to its time, place, and mode of performance. This study suggests that the rug-washing ceremony is at least partly descended from an ancient Mithraic ritual, to which some Zoroastrian features were added in the pre-Islamic period, such as the limiting of its performance to priests; during the Islamic era, ritual Shiʿi elements were further added thereto. As currently performed, this ceremony, exclusive to Ardehāl and dating to the Qajar and possibly Safavid periods, thus bears certain similarities to rituals performed at Karbalāʾ.

Narratives of Home on the Fringe of Tehran: The Case of Shahriar County

This paper focuses on the notion of home as a narrative of one’s lived experience that clashes with planners’ understanding of housing and housing policies, using as a case study Shahriar County, located on the western fringe of the metropolitan area of Tehran. Following Heidegger, the feeling of home is a fundamental aspect of human existence. From this perspective, housing policies and spatial planning impact the sense of home in a geographical context. The empirical analysis is based on an overview of institutional changes since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and interviews with inhabitants of Shahriar. The results indicate that Iran has developed a particular form of neoliberal, speculative model of urban development, in which urban segregation and seclusion and uneven regional development are noteworthy. Consequently, the sense of home is structurally undermined on the metropolitan fringe, generating a feeling of living on the edge of the world.

The Emergence and Development of Persianate Sufism: Khorasan, Ninth to Twelfth Centuries

This paper examines the emergence of Sufism and its differentiation from other religious trends in early Islamic Khorasan and Transoxania and traces the influence of Buddhism and Manichæism on the development of Sufism. The corresponding professionalization of the Sufi sheikhs in this formative process went hand in hand with the elaboration of Sufi mystical theory. The theoretical elaboration of Sufism consisted in the development of a theory of divine love culminating in the masterpieces of Farid al-Din ʿAttār on the eve of the Mongol invasion. The paper highlights the strong connection between Sufism and fotovvat (urban brotherhoods) during the emergence of Sufism in Khorasan and its gradual weakening that resulted from the increasing professionalization of Sufism and the formation of a distinct Persianate Sufi identity. The appropriation and transformation of royal symbolism in the Sufi texts is then analyzed in the last section.

The Saffarid Yaʿqub b. Layth and the Revival of Persian Kingship

The sparse historical data suggest that Yaʿqub b. Layth was the first Iranian ruler following the Arab-Islamic conquests to make significant efforts to revive Persian kingship. This article seeks to clarify, as far as possible, Yaʿqub’s actions and goals, as well as the context for his efforts. This interpretation of the sources argues that the Saffarid ruler’s government faced a crisis of social legitimacy owing to the tense relations that developed between Yaʿqub and the caliph on the one hand, and the nobles of Khorasan on the other. In this context, only in the last four years of his rule was Yaʿqub, in an effort to legitimate his power, forced to turn away from dependence on caliphal investiture and to appeal instead to a revival of Persian kingship (without the official use of the title “king”).

“Neither Eastern nor Western, Iranian”: How the Quest for Self-Sufficiency Helped Shape Iran’s Modern Nationalism

This essay identifies an historically-enduring Iranian insistence on self-sufficiency—which can be summed up, in a superordinate manner, as the idea that the world needs Iran more than Iran needs the world. Economically, this insistence is reflected in a (rhetorical) quest for self-reliance in production; politically, it tends to be articulated in an instinctive anti-(neo)colonial, often defiant stance vis-à-vis the world; and culturally, it is often expressed as a claim to civilizational grandeur, indeed uniqueness. The origins of this conceit have to be sought in antecedents combining economic perceptions with cultural assumptions that long precede Western imperialism and modern nationalism. These, in turn, are grounded in patterns of thought that reflect specific pre-modern physical and geopolitical conditions which go back to pre-Islamic notions of paradisiacal abundance as much as to economic realities encapsulated by Aristotle’s idea(l) of the self-sufficient household. I also argue that the notion evolved over time even as it retained its moral core. What was an instinctive dismissal of the outside world as dispensable, after 1800 became a self-conscious stance against foreign encroachment, real or imagined. In the course of the twentieth century, a quest for material autarky coupled with an insistence on cultural exceptionalism became an integral part of modern Iranian nationalism.

Recent Scholarship on Early Modern Central Asia

Volume 12, 2019

Introduction: Kingship and Political Legitimacy in the Persianate World

The Hazaraspid Dynasty’s Legendary Kayanid Ancestry: the Flowering of Persian Literature under the Patronage of Local Rulers in the Late Il-khanid Period

This article discusses the flowering of Persian literature under the patronage of the Hazaraspid Nosrat al-Din, the local ruler of Lorestan in the late Il-khanid period. It is generally accepted that Persian literature evolved dramatically under the patronage of Mongol Il-khanid rulers. However, little research deals with the contribution of local rulers to this evolution. Persian literary works offered to Nosrat al-Din present him as a descendant of the legendary Kayanid kings and celebrate him as an ideal ruler who combined the characteristics of a Persian and an Islamic ruler. While accepting the suzerainty of the Il-khanids, Nosrat al-Din justified his power by emphasizing his identity as a Persian ruler by patronizing such cultural activities. This study presents a case where the growing awareness of a local ruler as a legitimate Persian ruler under Mongol domination contributed to the evolution of Persian literature at the time.

The Jalayirid Hidden King and the Unbelief of Shāh Mohammad Qara Qoyunlu

This article provides an account of the transfer of power from the Jalayirids to the Qara Qoyunlu in ʿErāq al-ʿArab (Iraq) and the religio-political history of the Qara Qoyunlu dynasty with a particular focus on the reign of Shāh Mohammad b. Qara Yusof, the Qara Qoyunlu ruler in Baghdad between 1411/814 and 1433/836. Contemporary historians accused Shāh Mohammad of unbelief and apostasy. The article argues that the reports on his conversion to Christianity might be an indication for the existence of a form of Islamic piety that involved the veneration of Jesus. Unlike the veneration of ʿAli b. Abi Tāleb and his descendants, the veneration of Jesus among the Turkmens of the fifteenth century is an understudied topic. This article is a contribution to the debate on the issue of the so-called “Turkmen religiosity,” which is often considered the wellspring of non-mainstream religious movements in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

In This Corner of the Entangled Cosmopolises: Political Legitimacies in the Multilingual Society of Sultanate and Early Mughal Kashmir

This essay explores the forms of political legitimacy claimed by Muslim sultans and received by their Muslim and non-Muslim subjects in sultanate and early Mughal Kashmir. The establishment of the Shahmirid sultanate in 1339 marked the beginning of a new multilingual situation where Sanskrit and Persian were both used as official languages. In such a situation, presentation of the Shahmirids’ political legitimacy took different forms depending on the language in which it was made. Shahmirid sultans declared their Indic legitimacy in Sanskrit and Islamic legitimacy in Persian. A polyglot chose the Indic legitimacy to praise the contemporary sultan in his Sanskrit writing with full knowledge of the Islamic legitimacy claimed by the same sultan. In such a situation, a ruler’s action that was deeply linked with his claim of legitimacy, e.g., Akbar’s sun-veneration could be interpreted differently by the observers depending on the language used to express their interpretations.

Full Access How to Found a New Dynasty: The Early Qajars’ Quest for Legitimacy

This paper focuses on how early Qajars established their rule and legitimacy. At first, Āqā Mohammad Khān, the first shah, imitated other rulers since Nāder Shāh, such as Mohammad-Hasan Khān Qājār, Āzād Khān Afghān, and Karim Khān Zand, in his coins and documents. Like his predecessors, he also tried to install a Safavid prince at Tehran as a puppet ruler. However, following his official coronation and his conquest of Iran, he changed the format of his royal edicts and issued extraordinarily heavy gold coins. Nevertheless, neither Āqā Mohammad Khān nor his successors created an official genealogy to legitimize their rule, instead modifying a genealogical tree of Ottoman origin to juxtapose their names alongside those of other royal families without connecting themselves directly to Biblical or Qurʾanic ancestors. The early Qajar case reveals new methods of establishing dynastic legitimacy which differed from the approach of earlier dynasties in the Persianate world.

Restricted Access Introduction: Advice Literature and Persianate Political Ethics

From Blessed Lips: the Textualization of Abu Saʿid’s Dicta and Deeds

This paper examines the formation and development of the Abu Saʿid Abuʾl-Kheyr hagiographic tradition. It shows how reports about the eleventh-century saint circulated within a shrine community of his descendants and disciples, both orally and in ad hoc notes, before being set down in writing. It argues that the Asrār al-towhid, the largest and best-known hagiography devoted to Abu Saʿid, is not a natural outgrowth of this oral material, but a reworking for a broad audience of outsiders in light of the shrine community’s destruction by the Ghuzz Turks in the 1150s. In the case of the Asrār, textualization involved substantial rhetorical and linguistic changes in order to open up the material to a literary public of non-initiates; it also implied a new understanding of how Abu Saʿid’s blessings would manifest themselves in the world.

Access Élite Folktales: Munes-nāma, Ketāb-e dāstān, and Their Audiences

Drawing on evidence from the texts, illustrations, and contexts of production of two Persian manuscripts, the present paper points to the role of female élites as both audiences and protagonists of the two works, and argues that both works functioned as advisory literature for the female élites of medieval Persian royal courts. It also draws attention to the strong connection of both works to the two realms of élite and folk literature and calls for a designation and defining criteria for a body of works that occupies the zone between the high and low ends of the wide spectrum of Persian literature.

“When a Lion is Chided by an Ant”: Everyday Saints and the Making of Sufi Kings in ʿAttār’s Elāhi-nāma

This paper addresses Farid al-Din ʿAttār’s views on social and kingly ethics as espoused in the Elāhi-nāma. It offers a holistic reading of its stories, which are suffused with the tenets of Sufism, to illustrate the myriad ways that the Elāhi-nāma adopts and adapts the characteristics and tropes of practical ethics and Sufi hagiographies to advance its views. Indeed, the Elāhi-nāma promotes the ideal Sufi king and society by encouraging its members—saints, kings, and common folk—to be responsible, as individuals, for nurturing their souls, each other, and a love for the divine. It accomplishes this through a number of tale types, such as the saint or ruler who stumbles his or her way into self-awareness, the Sufi master or ruler who falters and is in need of guidance, or the hagiographical portraits of kings-as-Sufi lovers. In order to provide the appropriate context for the arguments herein, the paper explores several prominent themes and tropes from practical ethics and hagiographies and discusses Ebn ʿArabi’s al-Tadbirāt al-elāhiyya fi eslāh al-mamlaka al-ensāniyya for current notions on the responsibility of individuals and kings.

“A Marvelous Painting”: the Erotic Dimension of Saʿdi’s Praise Poetry

This article approaches Saʿdi’s little-studied panegyric production. The contribution focuses on an encomiastic modality that is almost completely neglected when it comes to the study of the Persian qasida as a performative text that enacts the political, ethical, and aesthetic values of the court. This modality is primarily amatory, and combines the standard erotic discourse of the Ghaznavids and late Saljuq poems of praise with Saʿdi’s original theo-erotic lyricism, which is mostly known through his ghazals. This critical approach will unfold by unearthing its underlying functions in a broad variety of qasidas that relate to the courtly conversations between Saʿdi and two young rulers who patronized the majority of Saʿdi’s literary activities: the Salghurid prince Saʿd b. Abi Bakr (d. 1260), and the minister of finances (sāheb divān) of the Il-khanid empire, Shams al-Din Jovayni (d. 1284).

Review Essay: Persianate Political Thought and Islam

Volume 11, 2018

The Coronation of the Early Sasanians, Ctesiphon, and the Great Diadem of Paikuli

The article discusses the venue and the nature of the coronation ceremony of the Sasanian kings in the third century. It is argued that the coronation of the early Sasanians was a continuation of a Hellenistic ceremony, which was essentially the act of binding a diadem around one’s head. It seems that the common practice was for the king to bind the diadem himself in the presence of a select circle of courtiers or only in the presence of the gods. Furthermore, the article will demonstrate that Ctesiphon was neither the “capital” nor even the most important residence of the early Sasanians and no ceremony of coronation took place there in the third century.

How to Rule the World: Occult-Scientific Manuals of the Early Modern Persian Cosmopolis

Imperial grimoires—that is, manuals on various forms of magic and divination written for or commissioned by royal readers—proliferated across the early modern Persianate world, more than paralleling the (decidedly non-imperial) grimoire boom in Renaissance Europe; but only the latter has been studied to date. This programmatic essay diagnoses the colonialist-Orientalist causes for this wild imbalance in comparative early modern Western intellectual and imperial historiography and outlines a philological way forward. Far from being evidence for “the superstition of the Moslem natives,” such manuals are an indispensable aperture onto precisely those processes—common to Islamdom and Christendom alike—by which we define Western early modernity: textualization, canonization, standardization, confessionalization, centralization, imperialization, bureaucratization, democratization, and mathematization. Yet they also record the religio-cultural and institutional divergences that so distinguish the Islamicate and especially Persianate experience of early modernity from the Latin Christianate.

Some Critical Remarks on the Migration of Iranian Poets to India in the Safavid Era

Many scholars still firmly believe that the Safavid period was one of hostility towards poets and men of letters. Numerous learned men fled Iran to India, for both religious and ideological reasons, which in turn affected both the quality and quantity of Persian literature from this era. There is evidence that corroborates this line of argument, but there are other socio-political, religious and cultural factors that must also be addressed in relation to this historical phenomenon. Drawing on original sources, this paper aims to analyze this historical ambiguity.

Betrayed by Earth and Sky: Poetry of Disaster and Restoration in Eighteenth-Century Iran

In the winter of 1778, an earthquake shattered the city of Kashan. Three poets, Āẕar, Hātef, and Sabāhi, responded to the disaster in verse. Although all three are commonly associated with the Bāzgasht-e adabi (Literary Return) school that championed the style of an earlier era, their poems display an affinity with more contemporary Safavid poetry, particularly that of Mohtasham Kāshāni. In their responses to the earthquake, the poets acted as agents of social order, helping their audience to cope with their loss by putting the calamity into more familiar religious and cultural contexts (such as comparisons to the death of Emām Hoseyn at Karbalāʾ) and enabling them to move forward into the future.

Fayz Mohammad Kāteb and Gholām Mohammad Ghobār’s Divergent Allegories of an Afghan Rebellion

Recent scholarship on Afghan historiography has shed light on how Afghan historians, particularly from the early twentieth century onwards, have used events such as the First Anglo-Afghan War for the purpose of national narratives. This article deepens this analysis by paying particular attention to how two prominent Afghan historians, Fayz Mohammad Kāteb and Gholām Mohammad Ghobār, rendered the Afghan rebellion that ended the British occupation in the First Anglo-Afghan War. Although Kāteb and Ghobār agreed on the religious nature of the rebellion, they had opposite interpretations regarding its leadership. This study explores how these opposite interpretations reflect a common underlying attempt to use the First Anglo-Afghan War as an historical allegory. As a court historian, Kāteb’s account is a testimony to his patron dynasty’s ability to protect Afghanistan, while Ghobār’s account reflects the author’s conviction in Afghanistan’s readiness for democracy.

New Nation, New History: Promoting National History in Tajikistan

This essay looks at the national history of the Tajiks of Central Asia that was created in the twentieth century and has continued to develop into the twenty-first century. It traces the notion of Tajik nationalism, which arose in the 1920s under the Soviet Union, largely in response to Uzbek nationalism. Soviet intellectuals and scholars thereafter attempted to construct a new history for the Tajiks. The most important effort in that area was Bobojon Ghafurov’s study Tadzhiki (Tajiks, 1972), which gave them primacy among the Central Asian peoples. The essay examines the policies of independent Tajikistan’s government, such as its focus on the Samanid dynasty and the replacement Soviet monuments and names with nationalist ones. Finally, it looks at the challenges that contemporary Islamic movements in the country pose to the earlier secular interpretations.

Armenians, Diplomats, and Commercial Agents of Shah ʿAbbās: The European Journey of Khvāja Safar (c. 1609–14)

In the first quarter of the seventeenth century, Safavid–Spanish relations took a substantial leap forward when Shah ʿAbbās I, together with a plan of alliance against the Ottomans, proposed a trade agreement that would reroute the silk market from Ottoman territory. This scheme and other factors highlighted the need to send to Iran, for the first time, a Spanish ambassador who was not linked to a religious order. Recent studies of the circumstances of this embassy have appeared; however, there has been little discussion of the people involved in the events, save for the Spanish ambassador Don García de Silva y Figueroa. This paper reconstructs and analyzes the journey of the Armenian Khvāja Safar through Europe and the problems he faced in his mission as a commercial agent and emissary for Shah ʿAbbās. It tries to explain why there was such an unexpected change in Shah ʿAbbās’ attitude towards Spain.

Reading ʿAttār’s Elāhināma as Sufi Practical Ethics: Between Genre, Reception, and Muslim and Christian Audiences

This paper seeks to contribute to the field of reception and audience studies by analyzing ʿAttār’s Elāhināma. Little studied, the Elāhināma offers an opportunity to understand better ʿAttār’s attitudes towards socio-religious issues, as well as the types of audiences that the text seeks, how it addresses them, and what possible aims it has. The paper argues that the Elāhināma mobilizes the formal characteristics of practical ethics and mirrors while disrupting them at the level of meaning towards its own aims, namely, a just society grounded in the tenets of Sufism, for a broad, non-specialized audience, which also includes Christians and Muslims. The paper analyzes and discusses not only the structure of the overall text, but also the first story, the “Tale of the Virtuous Woman,” which sets the tone. This story is an interesting case since it resembles the way that lives of female Byzantine Christian saints are constructed. It thus offers an opportunity to comment on the itinerant nature of narratives across Eurasia and more specifically the types of tales circulating in medieval eastern Iran.

The Black Death in Iran, according to Iranian Historical Accounts from the Fourteenth through Fifteenth Centuries

The Black Death, as a unique historical event, has long attracted the attention of medieval and medical historians both in terms of the length of the pandemic and its geographical scope. Nevertheless, historical studies on the Black Death have often neglected the role it played in Iran. The present paper examines Iranian historical accounts of events pertaining to the pandemic in the late Middle Ages and its consequent outbreak in Iran. Its findings can open new frontiers for understanding the broad geographical area impacted by plague and, specifically, its spread in Iran. This paper attempts also to highlight the value of Iranian historical sources from the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries for understanding better the outbreak of the plague.

A Persian Origin of the Arabic Aristotle? The Debate on the Circumstantial Evidence of the Manteq Revisited

The oldest Arabic translation of any Greek text is an eighth-century paraphrase of the first half of Aristotle’s Organon, known as the Manteq. This text has been ascribed to Ebn al-Moqaffaʿ, the Persian administrator, author, and translator. Although the source text of the Manteq has not survived, the ascription to Ebn al-Moqaffaʿ—who knew neither Greek nor Syriac—implies that it was written in Middle Persian. Modern scholars have often called the ascription to Ebn al-Moqaffaʿ into question. This article reassesses that debate and demonstrates that it has been motivated by scholarly skepticism towards the late antique Persian intellectual tradition as a conduit of Aristotelianism. Furthermore, this article argues that none of the available circumstantial evidence contradicts an Aristotelian tradition in Persian, but rather supports it.

Ferdynand Goetel’s Iranian Experience: A Non-Colonial European Account of Mashhad

Ferdynand Goetel was a prisoner-of-war and a Polish refugee from Soviet Russia who, in 1920, spent a few months in Mashhad. The current study is an attempt to present Goetel’s unique view of the city and its inhabitants. Khorasan, at the beginning of the twentieth century, was frequently visited by foreigners who left numerous accounts of both the province and its capital Mashhad. Most of them were written by British and Russian citizens; representitive of the great powers striving to dominate the region through an extensive infrastructure of consulates, military posts, and commercial networks across the country. Goetel made his way to Iran after escaping six years of exile in Russian Turkestan, and he perceived his time in Iran as a liberation from captivity. During the few months he was forced to spend in Mashhad, waiting for evacuation, he explored the city and became acquainted with its inhabitants. His memoirs are not only a testimony of life in Iran at the beginning of the century, written from neither a colonial nor semi-colonial perspective, but also a source of information on the turbulent times of the late-Qajar decline.

Volume 10, 2017

The Politics of Poetics in Early Qajar Iran: Writing Royal-Commissioned Tazkeras at Fath-ʿAli Shāh’s Court

The middle of the eighteenth century reportedly witnessed the emergence of the new literary movement in Persian poetry, called the “bāzgasht-e adabi,” or literary return, which rejected the seventeenth-century mainstream Indian or tāza-guʾi style. This literary movement recently merits increased attention from many scholars who are interested in wider Persianate cultures. This article explores the reception of this movement in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Iran and the role played by the Qajar royal court in it, mainly by the analysis of a specific sub-genre of tazkeras, called “royal-commissioned tazkeras,” which were produced from the reign of the second Qajar monarch Fath-ʿAli Shāh onward. A main focus will be on the reciprocal relationship between the court poets/literati and the shah, which presumably somehow affected our understanding of Persian literature today.

Thou Shalt Not Enter the Bazaar on Rainy Days! Zemmi Merchants in Safavid Isfahan: Shiʿite Feqh Meeting Social Reality

Many Muslim and non-Muslim merchants from East and West were attracted to Safavid Isfahan, the new “center of the world,” a city that also played host to its own mercantile communities, among them many zemmi traders—Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians. As representatives of the newly-established Twelver Shiʿite theology, Safavid religious scholars felt the need to offer commentary on evolving issues on a theoretical level, sometimes writing not in Arabic but in New Persian. How did they regard the activities of zemmi merchants? Were zemmi traders subject to religiously-motivated restrictions? Or did they, on the other hand, enjoy exclusive rights? While my paper focusses on these questions, it will also compare the legal opinions of selected Safavid foqahāʾ on the social reality as reflected in travelogues and through historiography.

Constituting Love in Persianate Cinemas

Critics have long regarded the popular cinemas of India, Iran, and Turkey as nothing more than cheap Hollywood knock-offs. While scholars have recognized the geographic and economic ties between these film industries, few have noted their engagement with themes and images particularly associated with earlier Persianate courtly entertainments. Persianate cinemas have challenged modernist ideas of love, marriage, and family life exemplified in Hollywood features and instead taken up older aristocratic conceptions of the family in order to apply them to contemporary society.

The Accidentality of Existence in Avicenna and its Critique by Averroes

The accidentality of existence in Avicenna (Ebn Sinā, d. 1037) is related to his distinction between “existence (vojud)” and “quiddity (māhiyya).” Both these theories have been greatly criticized by Averroes (Ebn Roshd, d. 1198). The latter’s misunderstanding of Avicenna has been the cause of confusion for the comprehension of Aristotle (d. 322 bce) in Western Christian scholasticism. This misunderstanding has also extended to Western contemporary Aristotelian scholarship.

Ghazā and Ghazā Terminology in Chronicles from the Sixteenth-Century Safavid Courtly Sphere

In the later decades of the fifteenth century, adherents of the Safavid order started raiding the regions of the northern Caucasus and eastern Anatolia. As most of these raids involved Christian principalities, they have earned the Safavid shaikhs Joneyd and Haydar the reputation as ghāzis, as fighters for faith against the infidels. This paper explores how scribes from the sixteenth-century Safavid courtly sphere integrated the order’s early military activities into their narratives of the Safavid past. Further, it examines what sound information may be derived from the narratives on these poorly documented events. The paper concludes with the suggestions that a) those doing in history in Safavid times were much less concerned with Islamic “holy war” than modern historians are, and b) their narratives indicate that attempts to establish territorial rule may have outweighed the fight-for-faith motif.

King Artaxerxes’ Aegean Policy

Ernst Badian has argued that it would have been ideologically unacceptable for the great king of Persia to submit to negotiations with Athens and to bind himself by oath to the resulting Peace of Callias. This interpretation, however, is the result of the later Greek conception of the Peace of Callias as an Athenian victory over Persia, and the Peace of Antalcidas as a Persian humiliation of Greece. In this paper, I argue that the Achaemenid kings of Persia inherited notions of kinship, empire, and diplomacy from their Neo-Assyrian predecessors, and therefore saw treaties as an honorable and legitimate tool of empire.

Achaemenid Creation and Second Isaiah

For many years, scholars have entertained the idea that monotheism appeared in Second Isaiah as a result of Zoroastrian influence. Since the issue of monotheism is inappropriate for either the Persian or the Judaean contexts, this paper argues that a more fruitful angle to pursue the Persian context of Isaiah is through analysis of the concept of creation. This paper takes the Achaemenid creation prologues in the Old Persian inscriptions as a comparator for the use of creation in Second Isaiah, and places these two in a broader ancient Near Eastern context of creation mythology. It is argued that both share distinctive features in the way creation is presented and understood. Given the novel and similar concepts visible in both corpora, it is argued that the vision of creation and form of yhwh as creator are the earliest attested instance of “Iranian influence” on the Judaean tradition.

The Iranian Origin of the Word ‘Barid’

The origin of the Arabic word barid (“the post”) is problematic; various interpretations have been advanced, but are based solely on linguistic reasoning, which is an essential yet insufficient approach. Loan words like barid must be assessed in the global historic and anthropological context of the Middle East during the transition to Islam. In particular, the importance of oral culture during this period in Sasanian and Arab societies needs to be considered.

Persecutions against Ismaʿili Missionaries in Central Asia: The Case of Nāser Khosrow

Local governors in Central Asia persecuted Ismaʿili missionaries (dāʿis) since the early years of Ismaʿili activity there. The rise of the Fatimid State, from the tenth century onwards, encouraged the activity of those missionaries who were receiving support from the Fatimids, leading to increased persecutions of Ismaʿilis in Iraq and the eastern provinces of the Abbasid Caliphate. This study will deal with the activity of those missionaries and the difficulties and persecutions that they faced, with a focus on the case of the dāʿi Nāser Khosrow (1004–1088/394–481) in Central Asia. At the time, Nāser was considered as a model dāʿi representing the activity of Ismaʿili missionaries. Throughout his life, he suffered bitterly in his role as the main dāʿi of the Fatimids. Despite the hostile atmosphere and insecurity, Nāser Khosrow succeeded in becoming a highly significant philosopher and poet, but died in a sorrowful situation, isolated in the valley of Yomgān.

Communication and the Consolidation of the British Position in the Persian Gulf, 1860s–1914

The scale of Britain’s industrial expansion during the nineteenth century was vast and extraordinary. On the sea, Britain dominated the industrialized world both in tonnage and distance and established the largest shipping lines in the world. With the rapid increase in international trade, Britain led the world in the development of submarine telegraph cable and steamships. Although from the early decades of nineteenth century, Britain was expanding its ascendancy in the Persian Gulf, from 1860s onward, technological developments, mainly telegraph and steamship, led to a significant change in favor of British hegemony in the region. This technological progress had great impacts on the politics and economy of the area and neighboring centuries. The present article is an attempt to examine the process of communication system development in the Persian Gulf and its role in the consolidation of British position in the region.

The “Original” Kurdish Religion? Kurdish Nationalism and the False Conflation of the Yezidi and Zoroastrian Traditions

The religion of the Yezidi Kurds, which has often been inaccurately characterized as “devil-worship,” has been claimed by Kurdish nationalists since the 1930s as the “original” religion of the Kurdish people. It has likewise been asserted that the Yezidi faith is a form of Zoroastrianism, the official religion of Iran in pre-Islamic times. These notions have won official support from most Kurdish political organizations and have broadly penetrated Kurdish society. The identification of Yezidism with Zoroastrianism is historically inaccurate, however, and should be seen as a product of modern nation-building ideology. Sentimental attachment to Yezidism and/or Zoroastrianism among Kurds today is best understood in most cases as a political rejection of Islam and its perceived Arab connections, rather than in terms of genuine devotional commitment.

The Construction of Religious Identity in Contemporary Iran: A Sociological Perspective

This paper examines the connection between educational institutions and religious socialization in the construction of religious identity. It employs socialization theory, which recognizes educational institutions as the first agent and the most powerful engine of socialization. Applying this theory to the case study of Iran reveals the ubiquitous presence of religion in all educational texts, supporting the argument that these educational tools are used as a “strategy” of socialization to protect social unity and group superiority and providing further evidence that the educational system overwhelmingly reflects the ideologies of the dominant culture in the process of socialization.

Volume 9, 2016

Introduction: On Khvārazmian Connectivity: Two or Three Things that I Know about It

Enemies beyond the Red Sands: The Bukhara-Khiva Dynamic as Mediated by Textual Genre

The khanates of Bukhara and Khiva had much in common, but depictions of their relationship with one another vary dramatically between historical sources. Some accounts convey deep rivalries between them, while in other sources they appear as easily traversable sub-regions within a broader, socially and culturally integrated landscape. How might we explain these wildly divergent images? This essay considers a wide range of sources to forward one simple argument: our understanding of the relationship between Bukhara and Khiva is fundamentally shaped by textual genre. Some genres—such as chronicles and legal writing—were well equipped to articulate rivalry and difference. Others—such as Sufi hagiography or chancellery documents—contained the tools for transcending these two polities. Since all of these genres were predominantly written by a single social group (the ʿolemā), this contradictory imagery was not the product of discrete constituencies with different viewpoints, but rather a single milieu performing diverse genres.

The Bulghar Region as a “Land of Ignorance”: Anti-Colonial Discourse in Khvārazmian Connectivity

Hagiographic sources from nineteenth-century Inner Russia and Khvārazm indicate the existence of a cluster of Muslims opposed to the state-supported Islamic institutions of the Russian Empire. Many Muslim scholars of the period did not accord the Volga-Ural region the status of an ‘abode of Islam,’ as they considered it to be a ‘land of ignorance.’ This paper examines the significance attached by Muslims of Inner Russia to the pious rhetoric of resettlement from a ‘land of ignorance’ to the ‘abode of Islam’. I argue that the opposition to the already well-established imperial structures in the Volga-Urals resulted in the formation of a powerful migrant community near Urgench, Khvārazm, that used the Naqshbandiya-Mojaddediya Sufi networks as a stable bridge to home.

A Persian Captive’s Guide to Khiva: Esmāʿil Mir-Panja’s Satirical Recollections

Travel literature flourished in the Qajar period, as reports rich in political, geographical, and ethnographic detail were officially commissioned from Iranian diplomats and officers who went abroad. Many of these accounts concerned Central Asia and some historians have argued that they served to project Iranian dominance over the region. Others have argued quite the opposite: that these accounts served to articulate cultural and political borders between Central Asia and Iran. In this paper, I will introduce a new source and an alternative approach. Focusing on the little-known travelogue of Esmāʿil Mir-Panja, an Iranian officer who spent ten years as a captive in Khiva, I will show not only how this travelogue served the interests of the Qajar state, but also how it functioned as a subversive work of satire and an incisive critique of the shah to whom it was dedicated. In other words, I will emphasize the agency of the author as well as the aims of his patrons.

Seeing Like a Khanate: On Archives, Cultures of Documentation, and Nineteenth-Century Khvārazm

While students of imperial and colonial history began long ago to investigate the culture of documentation that informed the production, disposition and concealment of texts in archives, little has been done to understand how chancery practices and record-keeping activities in the modern Perso-Islamicate world relate to forms of governance. Material coming from the Khivan archives lends itself to provide for a corrective to this situation. By examining reports penned by leaders of mosque communities and reflecting on local archival practices, I address in this paper the following questions: Why did the Qongrats create and run an archive? What were the goals that the Qongrats wanted to achieve by developing and sustaining a project of documentation? I think these are pressing questions for anyone who sets out to make sense of trends of textualization in nineteenth-century Central Asia (and beyond) without succumbing to the somewhat facile narrative of modernization.

Unity of the Persianate World under Turko-Mongolian Domination and Divergent Development of Imperial Autocracies in the Sixteenth Century

The promotion of the Persianate normative model of imperial kingship was the major ecumenical contribution of the Persian bureaucrats who served the Saljuq and Mongol rulers of Iran and Anatolia in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries to state-building. The phenomenal growth of popular Sufism in Timurid Iran and early Ottoman Anatolia had a highly paradoxical impact on the legitimacy of kingship, making its conception increasingly autocratic. Both in the Ottoman and the Safavid successor empires, the disintegrative tendency of nomadic patrimonial empires was countered by variants of Persianate imperial monarchy. It is argued that the decisive event in sundering the ecumenical unity of the Persianate world was not the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, but the Mahdist revolution of the Safavid sheykhoghlu, Shah Esmāʿil, half a century later. The parting of ways stemmed from the variant of mystically enhanced autocracy adopted in the two cases—one with orthodox, Sunni, and the other with heterodox, Shiʿite inflection. The latter model became the Safavid model of autocracy under Shah Esmāʿil, and was quickly adopted by the Timurids after their conquest of India in 1526.

Wearing the Belt of Oppression: Khāqāni’s Christian Qasida and the Prison Poetry of Medieval Shirvān

This article examines how the Persian prison poem (habsiyāt) incorporated Islamic legal norms for governing non-Muslim peoples into its poetics. By tracing how Khāqāni of Shirvān (d. 1199) brought the aesthetics of incarceration to bear on Islamic legal regulations pertaining to non-Muslim communities (ahl al-zemma), I offer a new perspective on the politics of poetry in Persian culture. As I delineate the intertextual references to legal stipulations (shorut) pertaining to non-Muslims that suffuse Khāqāni’s Christian qasida, I demonstrate how the Persian poetics of incarceration coalesced into a powerful internal critique of Islamic law.

Mughal Horoscopes as Propaganda

Not only in Europe but also in India, kings and emperors used astrology as a ‘scientific proof’ for their claims to power. As it still was regarded as a science, it could provide useful justification for a king’s great destiny, even though horoscopes are so complex that almost every fact can be ‘found’ in them by a clever combination of their data. Though doubts about astrology existed, the Mughal emperors used astrology extensively. Two of them, Akbar (1556-1605) and his grandson Shāh Jahān (1628-1658), included horoscopes in the introductions of their official chronicles. Both wanted to prove that they were the renovator of Islam in the second Islamic millennium. Akbar had this done in defiance of religion, Shāh Jahān in compliance, but both with a definitive effort to twist the information from the heavens in a way that suited them. Both used horoscopes to explain the tenets of their reign as a requirement of the age. In the case of Shāh Jahān, we even find personal sentiments and changes over time, comparing an earlier and a slightly later horoscope.

Sabk-e Hendi and the Crisis of Authority in Eighteenth-Century Indo-Persian Poetics

Modern debates over the merits of the so-called Indian Style (Sabk-e Hendi) in Persian literature, which was dominant from the late sixteenth to early nineteenth centuries, have been based on problematic assumptions about how literary style is tied to place. Scholars have often therefore interpreted the Persian literary criticism of the first half of the eighteenth century as a contest between Indians who praised Persian texts written in India and Iranians who asserted their privilege as native speakers to denigrate them. A more nuanced reading suggests that the debates mainly addressed stylistic temporality, namely the value of the writing styles of the “Ancients” (motaqaddemin) versus the innovative style of the “Moderns” (motaʾakhkherin). In the thought of the Indian critic Serāj al-Din ʿAli Khān Ārzu (d. 1756), there is clear evidence of a perceived rupture in literary culture that we can call a “crisis of authority.” Ārzu was concerned because Persian poetry had been judged according to “sanad” or precedent, but poets—both Indian and Iranian—were composing in a relatively new style (tāza-guʾi, literally “fresh speech”) that routinely went beyond the available precedents. All poets who know Persian well, he argued, including Indians, are allowed to innovate. While there was obvious rivalry between Persian-knowing Indians and the many Central Asians and Iranians settled in India, the contemporary terms of the debate have little in common with the later nationalism-tinged framing familiar to us.

The Local Lives of a Transregional Poet: ʿAbd al-Qāder Bidel and the Writing of Persianate Literary History

This article focuses on the different ways in which the personality and poetry of the Indian-born poet ʿAbd al-Qāder Bidel (d. 1721) has been interpreted and deployed in a variety of contexts across the Persianate sphere of West, Central, and South Asia, particularly in the nineteenth century. By highlighting different interpretations of Bidel as an obscurantist poet, agent of change, progressive voice, unabashed innovator, and canonic master, I present a more complicated historiography of the poet than the way he is typically presented in Persian literary history. An exploration of the ways in which different peoples and places in the Persianate world have interpreted Bidel reveals a larger complex historiography, which identifies transregional similarities among West, Central, and South Asia and contributes towards a more integrative literary history of the Persianate world.

Minorities and Foreigners in a Provincial Iranian City: Bahāʾis in the Russian Consulate of Isfahan in 1903

This article is about the struggles of a persecuted confessional minority in Qajar Iran. It shows that the massacre of the Bahāʾis in Isfahan in 1903 was representative of the ongoing power struggles in the city. Previous scholarship that has briefly explored these events has relied primarily on a handful of British diplomatic sources. Drawing on unexplored documents in British and Iranian archives, this article provides crucial details about the social dynamics on the ground and stresses the role of key actors involved in this episode in Iranian history. In the process, the article puts together the socio-economic contexts of the events in Isfahan, explains why the Bahāʾis sought foreign protection, and analyzes the attitudes of powerful local actors such as Zell al-Soltān and Āqā Najafi.

Volume 8, 2015

Introduction: The Safavids in Global Perspective

In the Name of Hosayn’s Blood: The Memory of Karbala as Ideological Stimulus to the Safavid Revolution

Over the past century, one of the most heavily debated topics within Safavid historiography has been the ideological sources of the Qezelbash zeal that carried the Safavid dynasty to the throne of Persia. By now, a near-consensus has been formed about Shah Esmaʿil’s personality as an incarnation of the Godhead armed with a messianic mission of salvation. This article partly challenges this long-entrenched conceptualization by calling attention to a heretofore overlooked mission that the shaykhs of the revolutionary period set for themselves. This was their desire to avenge the spilling of Hosayn’s blood, a mission which was nothing but a reincarnation of the topos of sāheb al-khorūj or the “master of the uprising,” a heroic typology cultivated via a particular corpus of Karbala-oriented epic literature. Based on the idea that the religiosity of the Turkish-speaking milieu that constituted the Safavid movement’s grassroots was primarily shaped by this Karbala-oriented epic literature, this essay argues that Shaykh Jonayd, Shaykh Haydar, and especially Shah Esmāʿil successfully reformulated the Safavid Sufi program to address the codes of popular piety, which already existed, nurtured by Sufism and some Shiʿite elements, a particular mode of Islamic piety that I call “Shiʿite-inflected popular Sufism.”

Messianic Oeuvres in Interaction: Misattributed Poems by Shah Esmāʿil and Nesimi

This paper discusses the philological, literary and cultural-historical background of 23 poems that can be found in manuscript copies of the respective divān of both Nesimi (d. 1407), the most prominent poet of the Horufi tradition, and Shah Esmāʿil, the founder of the Safavid state (r. 1501-24) who was also known for his popular Turkic poetry with a heavily messianic veneer. One possible reason for this textually detectable confluence and intermixture might be the partially oral, ritual, homiletic context with fluid notions of authorship in which these poems were performed, but there was also a broader socio-religious context of interaction between various popular messianic traditions of the day, the Horufis, the Bektashis, the Safavids and others.

The Biography of Vahshi Bāfqi (d. 991/1583) and the Tazkera Tradition

This paper focuses on Vahshi Bāfqi (d. 991/1583), especially on the sources for the study of his biography and works. The various editions of his collected poems are assessed. Next, all of the known early sources on Vahshi’s biography are presented, including a very important one that has not been published or cited before. Laying out all of these sources allows us to construct a more authoritative biography of the poet than has appeared to date. On a broader level, we learn that the careers and works of poets of Vahshi’s era are best understood in connection to one another. The tremendous growth of the tazkera genre in the Safavid-Mughal period makes possible this kind of research, focused on interconnectivity and cosmopolitanism in literary culture. In fact, the sources not only permit such an approach; they demand it. The paper ends with a series of recommendations for future research on Vahshi, his contemporaries, and the tazkeras themselves.

On a Pachyderm’s Voyage from Tabriz to Aleppo: A Light Moment in Persianate “Elephant Diplomacy”

Modern scholars tend to view Ottoman-Safavid relations from a sectarian angle as well as through a military lens. Such a narrow focus often comes at the expense of broader strategic and political considerations. The subject of this paper, the capture of an Indian elephant by Ottoman troops, its handover to the French embassy, and the ensuing diplomatic developments, may not be central to the campaign that the Ottomans launched against Iran in 1548-49, yet it offers unique insight into the relations between these powers. What is more, it sheds light on Safavid-Mughal and Ottoman-Mughal relations as well as on wider rivalries between European powers that were tangentially involved in this struggle, the Habsburgs, France, and Venice.

Did Shah ʿAbbās I Have a Mediterranean Policy?

The past two decades have witnessed tremendous growth in research on Safavid history. Recent developments regarding Safavid international relations have led to the conclusion that during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Iran’s contacts and links with Europe, including the countries located along the northern shores of the Mediterranean, reached an unprecedented level. However, there has been little or no discussion about a deliberate Safavid policy towards the Mediterranean. This paper offers a review of Spanish documents to show that Shah ʿAbbās i may have operated with a clear Mediterranean policy in mind.

The Decline of Safavid Iran in Comparative Perspective

This essay analyzes the incontrovertible weakening of the Safavid state in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century by putting it in a larger context. It does so by comparing various manifestations of Iran’s “decline” at the time to conditions and developments in the adjacent Ottoman and Mughal states, where similar processes were playing out in the same period. In order to arrive at a measured and balanced view of similarities and differences between these three early modern Islamic empires, it singles out and focuses on four areas: geographical/environmental and economic conditions, political developments, the state of the army, and ideological characteristics.

A Decade of Persianate Studies

Perspectives from the Peripheries

Authors of local histories composed in Persia during the 10th-15th centuries deftly wove their lands and their communities into Islamic narratives rooted in the Islamic heartlands of Iraq, Syria, and Arabia. They positioned their communities to better fit into the scope of Islamic history and claimed privileged connections to Mohammad and divine or prophetic authority in various ways. City and regional histories from Persia challenge and reconfigure notions of what constitutes “central” or “peripheral” in the medieval Islamic world and articulate identities that are simultaneously deeply local yet enmeshed within the broader Muslim omma. Authors and compilers used several literary strategies that, amongst other things, “centered” their cities and regions by including narratives about the sayyeds and sharifs associated with the region; incorporating narratives of legitimating dreams and visions; associating sahāba with the land; highlighting sites of pious visitation (ziārat) and other sources of blessing or sacred power (baraka); and incorporating sacralizing etymologies.

Ferdowsi’s Presentation of Zoroastrianism in an Islamic Light

Composed in 10th and 11th century ce, the Shāhnāmeh (The Book of the Kings) contains Iranian ancient history since the first king, Gayumart/Kayumars, up to the end of Sasanian era. One reason behind its popularity is the poet’s method and art in describing and explaining ancient religious elements in such a way that it does not cause religious bias among Zoroastrians and Muslims. This article shows that Ferdowsi has employed various methods to read religious issues of ancient Iran in the light of the social, cultural, and religious spirit of his own time. In his epic narratives, Ferdowsi paid serious attention to contemporary beliefs and social conditions, and this can account for the popularity of the Shāhnāmeh and its lasting influence.

“Square Like a Bubble”

The career of the poet Kalim Kāshāni (d. 1061/1651) exemplifies two significant developments in the social and cultural life of the Persianate world of the seventeenth century. First is the oft-noted mobility of poets, scholars, and administrators between Safavid Iran and Mughal India. Second is the revival of the verbal description of architecture (ekphrasis) as a major mode of panegyric poetry. As the ruling elite invested heavily in constructing palaces and cities as a projection of their imperial power, poets increasingly integrated these projects into their celebrations of their patrons. Taking advantage of both of these trends, Kalim rose from being a minor regional poet to the highest rank in the cultural establishment of the court of Shāh Jahān. Close readings of two of Kalim’s architectural inscriptions, from the beginning and end of his career, reveal two different approaches to the verbal representation of architecture and to the expression of political power.

Religious Democracy

This paper reviews and evaluates three salient interpretations of religious democracy among contemporary Iranian political thinkers. Based on their theoretical frameworks, these interpretations have been: 1) Precedence of religion over democracy, 2) Precedence of democracy over religion; 3) Equal importance of religion and democracy. The description of each interpretation is firstly based on original texts and then their content has been evaluated using logical axioms and objective facts. The main finding of this paper clarifies that the third interpretation, despite some theoretical challenges, has more logical capacity and is more consistent in comparison with the two other competing interpretations.

Introducing Mahmoud Dawlatabadi

Words Etched in Stone

The Nativist Prophets of Early Islamic Iran: Rural Revolt and Local Zoroastrianism, written by Patricia Crone

Volume 7, 2014

On the Imperial Discourse of the Delhi Sultanate and Early Mughal India

Studies of the political culture of early Mughal India generally follow a genealogical method, positing two mutually exclusive traditions (Medieval Indo-Islamic or Turco-Mongol) as the source of Mughal Imperial discourse. The present articles will compare early Mughal texts with those of the Delhi Sultanate as well as Shibanid Central Asia in order to show that all three shared a common pattern that had to be modified based on particular historical exigencies.

Popular Resistance in the Persianate World: Subalterns, Outlaws, and Radicals in the Long Nineteenth Century

This introduction provides a general context for the papers collected in the following symposium. Focused broadly on social protest and resistance in the eastern Islamic lands during the nineteenth century, these articles provide a rare glimpse of grass roots activism and unrest that were so common throughout this world region in a very momentous period of transition. The acts of resistance explained and analyzed here targeted the structure and relations of power that emerged after the advent of new capital and modern state formation. They also shared other common or comparable features in their specific forms and nature, the diversity of groups that participated in them, the social networking that made them possible, the strategies and tactics employed by actors on the ground, and ultimately the language and ideology of dissent.

Mufti ‘Iwāz and the 1816 “Disturbances at Bareilli”:Inter-Communal Moral Economy and Religious Authority in Rohilkhand

In the Spring of 1816, the North Indian town of Bareilli witnessed a series of protests following the imposition of a House Tax by the East India Company government. Under the leadership of Mufti ‘Iwāz, a local ‘ālem associated with reformist Sufi traditions, various Muslim and Hindu communities of Bareilli engaged in collective action which culminated in a violent confrontation. Reading court records against the grain, this paper argues that the protests represented a complex form of negotiation framed within Islamo-Persianate paradigms—including symbols, language, and authority ­structures—which continued to define modes of popular political expression in the early colonial period. By focusing on Mufti ‘Iwāz, the incident provides rare insights into the practical relationship between Muslim orthodoxy, communal dynamics, and political authority. I argue that with the collapse of Mughal rule, the mufti assumed a role as an intermediary between the people of Bareilli and Company officials derived from precolonial conceptions of moral, popular, and spiritual authority shared by Hindu and Muslim communities.

Gravediggers of the Modern State: Highway Robbers on the Trabzon-Bayezid Road, 1850s-1910s

This article will explore the phenomenon of highway-robbery in the context of the Trabzon-Bayezid road during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Ottoman Empire initiated a broad-scale road reform in the 19th century. One of the major goals of this reform was to make provinces accessible to the imperial center and increase the state’s authority by unifying the imperial geography. This article will argue that the existence of better roads not only increased the Ottoman state’s ability to control its territories, but also that of the highway-robbers to challenge the state’s authority. In response, the central government experimented with a variety of ways in order to fight against highway-robbery: introducing an insurance policy for postal services, increasing the sedentary population in the region, building more khans and police stations along the road, extending the right to carry guns to the general populace, and employing watchmen and gendarmeries along the road. Ironically, these policies in particular, and a better road network in general, did not lead to increased levels of security in the region but to its further militarization.

The Tobacco Protest in Nineteenth-Century Iran: The View from a Provincial Town

This article adopts a microhistorical lens to study the social dynamics that accompanied the eruption of the 1891 protest in Qajar Iran. Utilizing spatial and temporal limits, and a historical narrative technique, it disentangles the often overlooked or confounding aspects of popular claim-making practices in what came to be known as the Tobacco Movement in Iranian and Middle Eastern historiography. In using a bottom-up approach, the article provides ample evidence for the historical agency of the local actors on the ground and several historiographical interventions in areas such as the key social groups that partook in the protest, the tactics and strategies used throughout the agitations, and the dynamics of the Iranian public sphere at this point in time. In showing how the southern city of Shiraz experienced the earliest popular unrest in the country, the paper makes use of new archival evidence to contend that it also articulated the Tobacco Movement’s principal strategy (that of collective strikes and embargoes). The protest leaders in Shiraz never operated in isolation. They were in regular contact with fellow agitators in other parts of the country and in the neighboring Ottoman Empire. In explaining these national and transnational connections, the article makes the case that the Tobacco Protest marks an important phase in the development and maturation of what eventually came to be known as activist or political Islam.

Bankers and Politics: The Network of Shi‘i Moneychangers in Eighth-Ninth Century Kufa and their Role in the Shi‘i Community

The article studies the network of moneychangers in the Shi‘i community of Kufa during the eighth-ninth centuries. It argues that apart from exchanging currencies, some of these moneychangers acted as financial agents for the imams, collecting funds from their following, receiving donations on their behalf, and with the collected money regulating the internal affairs of the Kufan Shi‘i community. By looking at the history of the Shi‘i community and, still broader, of the region as a whole, the article seeks to explain why the group of moneychangers became important among the Kufan Shi‘is, especially during Ja‘far al-Sadeq’s time and later, while being virtually insignificant at earlier periods. The article combines a quantitative study of biographical dictionaries with evidence found in literary accounts.

Illicit Acts and Sacred Space: Everyday Crime in the Shrine City of Mashhad, 1913-1914

This article explores the connection between individuals, spaces, and daily crime in the shrine city of Mashhad during 1913-4. It challenges the prevailing emphasis on the city’s sacred status by highlighting the frequency and nature of illicit activities often involving urban non-elites. Using the Mashhad police newspaper Ettelā‘āt-e Yawmiya, it reconstructs conflicts between masters and apprentices, soldiers and civilians, tribes and settled populations, artisans, and family members. The article pays attention to the spatial distribution of crime in public and private spaces throughout the city. Finally, it considers the spectrum of crimes falling within the purview of the police including theft, raids, violence, debauchery, drunkenness, public disorder, and gambling.

The Shajara-ye Turk as an Important Source on the History of Relations between Khiva and Its Neighbors

This article examines the relations between Khiva and its neighbors, specifically the Safavids and the Shaybanids, in the sixteenth and first half of the seventeenth century. It draws substantially on the Shajara-ye Turk, which has hitherto not been analysed in order to illustrate the relations between Khiva and other regional powers in its immediate reach. Using a comparative approach, we argue that, contrary to the prevailing notion of isolation found in the secondary literature, Khiva maintained manifold ties with its neighbors and was well embedded within the framework of regional states. Contrary to the arguments in the secondary literature, the article concludes that the Sunni-Shi‘i conflict had a more political rather than religious character, and did not create any impediment between dynasties of different religious backgrounds.

Translation, Authority and Exegesis in Modern Iranian Sufism: Two Iranian Sufi Masters in Dialogue

This paper is a reflection on the treatise, Qor’ān-e majid va se dāstān-e asrār-āmiz-e ‘erfāni (“The noble Koran and three arcane mystical stories”), composed by the Iranian Sufi master Hājj Soltān-Hoseyn Tābanda Gonābādi “Rezā-‘Ali Shāh” (d. 1992). The “three arcane mystical stories” in this treatise are the pericopes presented in the Surat al-Kahf (i.e., those of the seven sleepers, Moses and al-Khezr, and Zu’l-qarneyn), and the work itself is what I call an “augmented translation” into Persian of the relevant passages of Soltān-‘Ali Shāh’s (1835-1909) tafsir, the Bayān al-saāda fi maqāmāt al-‘ebāda.The augmented translation carried out by Rezā-‘Ali Shāh is interesting not only because of its doctrinal content (and, in this respect, probably only to a limited extent), but also because it provides an example of how religious authority is articulated in contemporary Iran. The way it was done, the language that was used, the conscious introduction of new material all show how a modern 20th-century Iranian spiritual master struggled to transform the language of tradition while respecting the very authority from which his religious status stemmed.

Paradoxical Influence of the Islamicized School Education in Iran since the 1980s on Performance

After the 1979 revolution, the education system in Iran was reformed. In order to create a “new individual integrated in the Islamic society” (Paivandi, 14), at the beginning of the 1980s, the Iranian regime put the issue of learning at the center of the construction of a new society with a strong Islamic identity. The implications of the reformed school in the aesthetic field, and in particular in actresses’ performances, created very tight meshes, linking together the active and the passive learning of the Iranian population. Nevertheless, it is possible to understand its complexity through the observation and analysis of actresses’ performances in the theater and cinema, considering it as a laboratory of life that gives us access to the realm of the senses.

The Waziri Chain Shift

The Waziri dialect of the Pashto language, spoken in Afghanistan and Pakistan, features a vowel shift with respect to other varieties of Pashto. Kieffer calls this process metaphony, but referring to it as a vowel shift facilitates comparison with similar phenomena in other languages. This shift involves three standard vowels, /ā/, /o/ and /u/, which in Waziri can shift to /o/, /e/ and /i/, respectively. We will discuss the phonetic processes involved, and find parallels in languages genetically near and far. In addition, we will discuss the status of the change, through the quantitative analysis of three geographically and chronologically separated glossaries (Lorimer, Hallberg, Septfonds).

Middle Persian abāz-handāxtan

the verb abāz-handāxtan is used in Dēnkard IV. Different definitions of the verb caused two divergent interpretations of the history of the Zoroastrians scriptures during Sasanian era. This article does not attempt to provide a third category of meaning, but tries to suggest a subtle modification to the traditionally accepted meaning of ‘to collate’. The new nuanced meaning is derived from New Persian texts, which include similar usage of the verb and were written not much later than Middle Persian ones. The suggested meaning is ‘to (re-)measure’.

The Onion and the Mandrake: Plants in Yezidi Folk Beliefs

The non-dogmatic character of the Yezidi religion presupposes the presence of a heavy layer of so-called “primitive” religious elements, including plant worship. This paper focuses on plants having obvious sacred connotations in Yezidi beliefs, both on the level of the cult and marginal folk beliefs. There is no explicit tree cult in the Yezidism, or dendrolatry, despite the existence of a cultic complex connected with the so-called Dārā mirāzā or “The trees of Desire”. Still, there are representatives of the flora world that bear obvious cultic attribution, the most important of which are the onion and the mandrake. The mandrake has mystical fame and reverence not only among the Yezidis, but also among many other peoples of the region. This panacea for all diseases, widely used in folk medicine, is also considered an important element of the materia magica, primarily due to its aphrodisiac qualities. This paper will provide a comparative analysis of plant worship among the Yezidis and several other traditions of the Caucaso-Iranian region.

Volume 6, 2013

Further Engaging the Paradigm of Late Antiquity

Early Persian Documents from Khorasan

The article reports on a find of manuscripts of the eleventh century CE in Early New Persian, Early Judeo-Persian, Arabic, Judeo-Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic, recently discovered in Afghanistan. Some of the contents of this group of manuscripts is described, as well as the possible origins of the Jewish community where these documents were produced and kept. An example of a piece of poetry in commemoration of a deceased member of the community is given in transcription into Standard Persian. Some notes on the significance of these documents for studying the history of the Persian language and the dialect of Khorasan are supplied.

An Investigation into the Kurdish Genre of the Shāhnāma and Its Religious Dimensions

This paper intends to introduce the Kurdish genre of the Shāhnāma and, using manuscripts available to the author, undertakes a preliminary investigation into the religious world-views apparent in the genre. The following is an introductory note on the author’s more extensive research, the main conclusions of which are discussed and presented: specifically that the Kurdish Shāhnāma contains an original and independent textual tradition, in the Gurāni literary style, a style which developed separately from classical Persian literature, and which draws upon the Zagros-Kurdish landscape, as well as other regional and sectarian-religious influences.

Old Garment from a New Tailor: The Reception and Reshaping of Epic Material in Early Medieval Iran

The corpus of epic material produced in the New Persian language, best known by Ferdowsi’s Shāhnāma, is preoccupied with narrating Iran’s past. In this article, the production milieu of the epic material during post-Conquest Iran is explored. This is undertaken by tracing the sources of the Sistani Cycle of Epics, a body of literature, which recounts the stories of Rostam, his ancestors and his progeny. The discussion of the sources of this body of epics reveals what seems to be an abundant interest in narrating multiple, diverse and contradictory events of Iran’s pre-Islamic past. The existence of a plethora of varying narrations raises several questions such as the impetus for transmission of these varying narratives, and the nature of Iranian historiography.

Some Passages on Turkic Peoples in Zoroastrian Pahlavi Literature

Following on similar contributions focusing on geographical chapters and subjects in Pahlavi literature, in this article the author briefly presents the main evidence on the presence of Turkic people and on place names relative to the vast area of Turkestân, as found in Middle Persian Zoroastrian texts.

Whence Came the Asvārān? An Inquiry into the Ambiguity of Sources

Narratives of the Arab Conquests that were compiled in book form only after the ninth century fall short of providing a consistent, let alone an accurate, view of Sasanian hierarchies of rank and status during the sixth and seventh centuries. Knowledge of provincial divisions and administrative practices under Sasanian rule was reflected more accurately, not least of all because it directly pertained to the collection of tax revenues for the conquerors. When it comes to information about Iranian society and culture before the conquests, Arabic sources, often based on veterans’ tales, offer but fragmentary and anecdotal information. While scholars have made great use of these sources, it is still difficult to fathom the composition and function of groups such as the Sasanian asvārān. Focusing on a few well-known conquest narratives, this article investigates the information they contain on the asvārān, and will underline some of the difficulties involved when drawing inferences from them with respect to Sasanian social hierarchy and military structure.

Historiography and the Shoʿubiya Movement

This article examines the ways in which Iranian mytho-history was woven into the narratives of Islamic history. It argues that the inclusion of narratives such as the ones that equate several of the earliest Iranian mytho-historical kings to the earliest Koranic prophets or claim that Persian was the language of the prophets from Ādam to Esmāʿil, reflects the concerns of the Shoʿubiya movement. The paper also analyzes the ways in which these Iranian kings are represented in the Avesta as paradigmatic rulers and how their essential function as good rulers is retained in the later mythos and, hence, texts so that they are equatable to the prophets. The paper argues that these narratives reflect not only a concern for equality among Iranians as Muslims, but also the ways in which intellectuals negotiated the interstitial spaces between culture and politics.

The Iranian Time Reckoning and the Periodization of Iranian History into the ‘Pre Islamic’ and ‘Islamic’ Periods

This paper, as part of a greater study, aims to shed light upon the failure of Western scholars to acknowledge the chronological schema adopted by Iranians themselves with respect to their own history. It also addresses the confusion, and negative consequences, resulting from when Iranian history was divided two centuries ago into “Pre-Islamic” and “Islamic” periods. This paper will argue for the validity of the time reckoning system developed by Iranians themselves, and by Biruni in particular, as a means to understand this history in the context of Iranian history and cultural traditions. An argument will be made for the fallacy of a chronological system that uses the development of an ideology, as opposed to a historical event, for the lens through which Iranian history is examined.

The Ethics and Praxis of Mehr and Mithras and the Social Institution of the ʿayyārs in the Epic Romance of Samak-e ʿayyār

Giving a very brief and introductory summary of the many avatars of the Iranian god, Mithra, throughout Eurasia, as well as the primordial functions of the god, this article proceeds to discuss the Iranian Mithraic world-view, as seen in the ethics and practices of the “chivalrous” brotherhoods and sisterhoods of the ʿayyārs. Through a preliminary examination of the Parthian epic romance of Samak-e ʿayyār, we shall argue here that this literary epic provides us with a fascinating template for decoding not only; 1) the ethics, “ideal” social mores and praxes and the ideological super-structures of the “chivalrous” brotherhood, or ‘ayyars, of Iran, but also; 2) what was in effect the ethics of Mithraic brotherhoods and sisterhoods of the Iranian world.

Banners, Spears, Black Raiders and Byzantines: Some Textual Notes on Late Sasanian and post-Sasanian Zoroastrian Apocalyptic Texts

This article is a philological study of literary motifs in the Middle Persian apocalyptic work of uncertain date, Zand ī Wahman Yašt. The author claims that the motifs under his consideration in the text of ZWY (=Zand ī Wahman ī Yašt) go back to Middle Persian version of several Avestan Yašts, especially, to the Middle Persian translation of the second part of Yašt 1 (known as Wahman Yašt), Yašt 11, and Yašt 8.

“Building a New Vision of the Past in the Sasanian Empire: The Sanctuaries of Kayānsīh and the Great Fires of Iran”

This article analyzes how Zoroastrian holy sites as celebrated in the Avesta or elaborated in later, related traditions, emerged as important architectural and ritual centers in late antiquity. Instead of ancient foundations whose details were lost in the depths of time, this paper argues that some of the holiest sanctuaries of the Zoroastrian religion, including Ādur Gušnasp, Ādur Farnbāg, Ādur Burzēn-Mihr, Ādur Karkōy and Lake Kayānsīh, emerged no earlier than the Arsacid era, and were actively manipulated and augmented by the Sasanian dynasty. These ‘Avestan’ sites of memory emerged at locales with no previous Achaemenid monumental construction, but did benefit from beautiful and dramatic natural features. In late antiquity these natural features, usually mountains or lakes, took on the names and significance of the sacred geography of as found in the Avesta. The Sasanian dynasty in particular built grand monumental complexes as its sovereigns sought to take control of these ancient Iranian traditions.

Marriage, Property and Conversion among the Zoroastrians: From Late Sasanian to Islamic Iran

This essay discusses the impact of xwēdōdah or consanguine marriages, sanctioned by the Zoroastrian tradition on the population during a time of religious dialogue, and proselytizing in Ērānšahr (600-800 CE). I believe that advocacy for such a type of marriage was intensified in particular periods in Iranian history, namely the third century, when the Manichaeans challenged Zoroastrianism; and more importantly in the 6th century when Christianity became a major threat; and finally in the eighth and the ninth centuries when state support for Zoroastrianism had collapsed and the Muslims were gaining numbers and becoming the new elite. It is asserted here that xwēdōdah had a practical purpose, which was to keep wealth within the family and the community at a time when conversion threatened the survival of Zoroastrianism.

Law in the Crisis of Empire: A Sasanian Example

Except for a century or so beginning with Alexander’s invasion, one or another Iranian dynasty ruled a vast empire for some 1200 years—and then vanished with disconcerting speed in only a few short years in the aftermath of the Arab invasion. The following remarks attempt an explanation for this rapid demise. In particular, I intend to isolate two important factors that contributed mightily to that process, factors which, in my opinion, are reflected in perhaps the most important document dating from that short period: the so-called Sasanian Lawbook, the Mādiyān ī Hazār Dādestān, the “Book of a Thousand Decisions.” This book reveals the attempts of Sasanian jurists to cope with 1.) a demographic crisis brought on by the constant wars of the sixth century and the Black Plague, and 2.) a crisis of liquidity.

Late Antique Iran and the Arabs: The Case of al-Hira

This article reevaluates our evidence for the interaction of Arab and Iranian elements in the Arab frontier-state of al-Hira, a state in late antiquity, which can be seen as a paradigmatic “third space” of special cultural dynamics. First, it sums up our evidence about the political and commercial ties connecting the Lakhmid principality and the Sasanian Empire; next, it focuses on the possible agents of cultural exchange between the two; finally, we direct our attention to the cultural spheres themselves and the issue of where and how Iranian-Arab transculturation as a process can be detected in the Hiran context. The article argues for a cautious reassessment of the material in light of current research in cultural studies. This is significant in its wider historical perspective, as such a process might have prepared the path for later developments in Islamic times, when the apogee of Arab-Iranian interaction is supposed to have taken place, i.e., in Abbasid Iraq.

Two Seal Impressions from Kāfer Qalʿa (Samarkand) and the Representations of Iranian Divinities

Among the seal impressions found at the late Sogdian/early Islamic site of Kāfer Qalʿa, a few kilometers south of Samarkand, certain ones deserve special attention due to the divinities which embellish them. Two of these seal impressions are studied in detail in the present paper, within the framework of Zoroastrian religion and iconography. Some hypotheses on the utility of Kāfer Qalʿa as an important Sogdian administrative center during Late Antiquity are presented as well.

R.R. Vasmer and His Hand-written Catalogue of Tabarestān drachms

The present article concerns the hand-written catalogue of Tabarestān drachms, composed by the famous Russian orientalist R.R. Vasmer (1888-1938), in the possession of the State Hermitage Museum. The catalogue constitutes an integral part of Vasmer’s hand-written legacy, preserved in the Numismatic Department of the State Hermitage Museum, including 8 volumes of the catalogue of pre-Mongol Islamic coins and 1 volume of the catalogue of Islamic glass weights and stamps The catalogue of Tabarestān drachms (Tabari dirhams) contains detailed descriptions of 129 coins: 23 specimens of which belong to the Dabuyid coinage, and 106 were struck by the ‘Abbasid Governors of Tabarestān. Despite the fact that the catalogue was compiled between 1910 and 1916 it is still unpublished and remains a very important reference for studying the history of Tabarestān’s numismatics, in particular, and early Islamic numismatics, in general.

Volume 5, 2012

Islam and Constitutionalism in the Persianate World

The Ethical Literature: Religion and Political Authority as Brothers

This essay discusses the contribution of the Muslim ethical literature of the middle ages to Islamic political thought. The ethical literature offers a perspective on the medieval Islamic constitution that differs markedly from the picture that derives from the juristic literature on the caliphate. Where the juristic literature largely portrays political authority as the servant of religion, the ethical literature presents religion and political authority as “brothers” arrayed in a relationship of mutual dependence. This view is decisively influenced by pre-Islamic Iranian thinking on the relationship between religion and politics, as contained in the “Letter of Tansar.”

Virtuous Governance from the Imams to Their Deputies: Some Themes in Pre-modern Imami Shiʿi Writings

This essay constitutes a brief survey of conceptions and representations of just governance among Shiʿi communities and in the writings of Shiʿi scholars, philosophers, and men of letters in pre-modern times. It covers the period from the lifetimes of the Imams to the early modern era, and traces the intellectual and literary responses among Shiʿi writers to changing historical circumstances, including the onset of the occultation, the growth and geographical spread of Shiʿi communities, the growing independence of the Shiʿi ulema, the rise of Shiʿi or pro-Shiʿi dynasties, and the establishment of Imami Shiʿism in Iran in the Safavid period. The essay’s principal purpose in this issue is to provide context and background for the more focused articles that follow. These articles consider the extent to which and ways in which themes treated in the pre-modern Imami literature contributed to specific instances of constitutionalism in Persianate societies.

The 1906-07 Iranian Constitution and the Constitutional Debate on Islam

After a brief sketch of the historical background, the mutual impact of Islam and constitutionalism is examined by looking closely at the process of constitution-making in the broad context of the constitutional politics of Iran between 1905 and 1911. The modification of modern constitutional concepts under the impact of Shiʿi Islam and through its custodians in the course of the reception of Western constitutionalism in this period is followed by an analysis of the impact of modern political ideas on Islam. The analysis is based on the texts of the Fundamental Law of 1906 and its 1907 Supplement, and on the contemporary tracts for and against constitutionalism from opposite Islamic viewpoints. Our detailed examination of these sources indicates no presumption that a constitution had to be based on Islam. Nor was there any notion of ‘the Islamic state,’ the slogan of the Islamic revolution of 1979. For the constitutionalists and anti-constitutionalist pamphleteers of the first decade of the twentieth century alike, the counterpart to the constitutional government was not the Islamic state but the autocratic monarchy of ‘the king of Islam.’

The Islamic Republic of Iran

Contemporary Iran plays a special role in the history of Islamic constitutionalism, as the constitution of 1979 was the first attempt since the debates over Pakistan’s Islamic Republic to derive the basic law of a modern state from Islamic principles. The Islamic Republic that came into being that year combines, as the name implies, Islamic and republican principles, which find institutional expression in a state that combines theocratic and republican organs. Iran was thus the first state in modern times in which sections of the ulema took direct control of the state. In this article we will first provide a historical context for the emergence of the idea of an Islamic state and its central principle, the dominion of the Shiʿi jurisprudent or velāyat-e faqih (from Arabic wilāyat al-faqih). This will be followed by a discussion of the process of constitution making, leading to a close examination of the constitution itself and the debates to which its various parts gave rise.

Islam and Constitutionalism in Afghanistan

A constitution is adopted to regulate the relationship between political authorities and the people in a society. Traditionally, this relationship was very loose in Afghanistan; over time, however, as amirs sought to consolidate political and social authority over their society, the establishment of a constitutional framework became a priority for each new leader. This article chronicles Afghanistan’s state formation and constitutional history, beginning with Amir Dust Mohammad Khan’s state consolidation efforts in 1838, and considering all of the constitutions of the country beginning in 1923 continuing to the present. It details the central role both Islam and Afghanistan’s ethno-sectarian diversity have played in constitutional efforts throughout Afghanistan’s history and emphasizes the need for both to ensure a representative, inclusive society in Afghanistan.

Token Constitutionalism and Islamic Opposition in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is a predominantly Muslim country where the concept of having a constitution is not controversial, but the content of that constitution is. Roughly seventy years of Soviet rule over the territory that became independent Tajikistan at the end of 1991 introduced constitutions as a norm, although the rights the constitutions appeared to accord did not jibe with political reality. The years of Soviet rule also created an environment hostile to Islam, as a result of which some of Tajikistan’s inhabitants ceased to be believers, while many who continued to practice their faith knew little about it other than the rituals of everyday life. In the last years of the Soviet era and the two decades after the breakup of the USSR, Islam was caught up in the political as well as religious controversies that developed in Tajikistan during this upheaval. There was an upsurge of attention to Islam, in a religious sense for some, a cultural and nationalist sense for others, and as a bogeyman for yet others. The Islamic Rebirth Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), the only legal Islamic political party in post-Soviet Central Asia, along with the head of the religious establishment in the republic, the qadi, joined with secular groups advocating reforms that would promote political and economic change. The power struggle between neo-Soviet ruling elites and the opposition led to a civil war (1992-97) in which the neo-Soviets prevailed. Tajikistan’s post-Soviet constitution reflects the emphatic secularism of the neo-Soviets, despite the objections of the IRPT. The post-civil-war government has also enacted legislation reestablishing Soviet-style constraints on Islamic institutions and personnel and has used its power to thwart genuinely pluralistic politics. The IRPT as well as secular opposition parties have felt the effects of the rigged elections and harassment by the regime.

The Conception of Revolution in Persianate Political Thought

The modern Persian term for “revolution,” enqelāb, often used in conjunction with dawlat as the divinely ordained turn in power, stretches way back to the medieval period, and was in fact even used shortly before the revival of literary Persian to describe the Khorasanian uprising against the Umayyads. We find two very different ideas of revolution in the Persianate literature. The first is a deterministic theory of revolution in earthly kingdoms as a natural phenomenon; this has received little or no attention in the secondary literature on the subject. The idea had Indian origins, was developed in the late Sasanian Iran and absorbed in the astronomical theories of the early ʿAbbasid period. The second conception is a normative one, and belongs to the literature on statecraft and political ethics. It explains revolution as a consequence of the moral decay of the ruler and his failure to uphold the principles of statecraft. According to this second theory, revolutionary upheaval and changes of dynasty result from the failure of the rulers to maintain the prosperity of the kingdom through justice. This conception, too, can be traced to the Khorasan uprising. The mutual articulation and reconciliation of the deterministic and the normative conceptions of revolution represents the Persianate understanding of human agency within the framework of cosmic laws.

An Early Doctrinal Controversy in the Iranian School of Ismaʿili Thought and Its Implications

The controversy stemmed from Nasafi’s Ketāb al-Mahsul, wherein he introduced a pre-Fārābian version of Neo-Platonism into Ismaʿili cosmology, adapting it to Shiʿi-Ismaʿili doctrines. It provoked a sharp reaction among the Ismaʿili missionaries of Khorasan. Rāzi, an accomplished theologian and Nasafi’s contemporary, wrote his Ketāb al-Eslāh mending Nasafi’s errors. This led Sejestāni to defend the views of his teacher Nasafi and rebut Rāzi’s arguments in his Ketāb al-Nosra. Kermāni tried to reconcile the debate from a vantage point of post-Fārābian philosophy in his Ketāb al-Riāz. The controversy demonstrates that even a difference of opinion concerning major doctrinal issues was tolerated and resolved by scholarly debate.

Persian Historical Documents of Georgia (Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries): Aspects of Linguistic Analysis

Iranian-Georgian interrelation in the 16th to 18th centuries is reflected in the rich collections of Persian historical documents preserved in Georgian depositories. Their language, lexis, semantics, style, and phraseology clearly reveal the literary language’s development in the common cultural area. This article examines a document issued by Shah ʿAbbās II in 1658 concerning a toyul for Papuna Tsitsishvili, a representative of the famous Kartli princely house.

The Concept of Honor and its Reflection in the Iranian Penal Code

Honor is an extremely complex social and symbolic concept and a sensitive issue that has generated considerable legal and intellectual discussion in the Islamic world up to the present. The so-called ‘honor killing’ violates the principle of human rights. In this article the focus is on sexual honor and the understanding of the concept of honor and honor killing in the Iranian Penal Code of 1997, according to which a husband can kill his wife and her lover if he finds them committing an adulterous sexual act (zenāʾ). The questions asked are: How are honor killings described or dealt with in the Iranian Penal Code (IPC)? Are honor killings rooted in the Shiʿi jurisprudence (feqh) or custom (ʿorf )?

Recent Work on the History of Afghanistan

Volume 4, 2011


Shrine Traditions of Wakhan Afghanistan

This study, based on field work from 2004 to 2010, describes the religious, social and historical context of shrines in Wakhan District of Badakhshan Province, Afghanistan. Scholarly analysis of the significance of the shrines is balanced with the perspective of the people of Wakhan for whom the shrine traditions are part of a living landscape. Translated excerpts from interviews conducted in the Wakhi language at the shrines bring the Wakhi voice to the study, which focuses on one shrine (the shrine of the miracle of Nāser Khosrow in Yimit village) as an exemplar of shrine traditions. The study draws comparisons between documented shrine traditions in adjacent Wakhan Tajikistan and in Hunza-Gojal of Pakistan, locates the traditions within Pamir Ismaʿilism, and suggests outlines of a broader Pamir interpretive community.

Ecology of Time: Calendar of the Human Body in the Pamir Mountains

Villagers in the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan and Tajikistan integrated the human body into the seasons and rhythms of their ecological relations to generate “calendars of the human body.” These calendars illustrate that culture does not exist outside of its ecological foundation (i.e. nature), but is firmly situated within it. Farmers undertook agro-pastoral and hunting activities using their own bodies not only for labor, but as a measure of the changing tempo of the seasons. Their bodies both interacted with life on the land and acted as organic clocks to mark the passage of time. While these calendars are no longer widely used, memory of their usage survives, and words from the calendars marking specific ecological events in local languages are still in use. This paper (1) investigates the historical presence and human ecological significance of a calendar of the human body; (2) illustrates the diversity of these calendars based on the specific context of their use from valley to valley in the region; (3) demonstrates the complex connectivity of the users (agro-pastoralists) within their habitat; and, (4) explores the efficacy of this calendar in developing anticipatory capacity among villagers in order to reduce anxiety associated with climate change. The calendar of the human body not only measures time, but gives it meaning.

Paving the Way: Ismaʿili Genealogy and Mobility along Tajikistan’s Pamir Highway

This article is an ethnographic study of Ismaʿili communities along the Pamir Highway. “The road,” as it is referred to locally, links Southern Kyrgyzstan with settlements in the eastern part of Tajikistan; its construction traces back to Soviet modernization policy. However, the highway’s construction in the course of the twentieth century led not only to a physical, but also a social transformation of the region. Labor migration of Ismaʿili Tajiks to various settlements along the road resulted in ethnically and confessionally mixed communities. Thus, the Pamir Highway as an ethnographic point of reference provides an entry to discussion of topics such as genealogy, identity, diaspora, and the notion of an Ismaʿili heartland.

Potentially an “Art Object”: Tajik Ismaʿilis’ Bāteni and Zāheri Engagement with Their Imam’s Image

This essay explores the way Ismaʿili Muslims living in the Tajik district of Ishkashim engage with images of their religious leader, the Imam (Aga Khan IV). I use Gell’s theory of art and agency to think through instances in which Ishkashimis imbue photographs of their Imam with the capacity to act. They do not treat these images as idols but abduct qualities of the Imam himself, such as his benevolent presence, from his icon. Ishkashimis do not imbue all images of their Imam with agency. Other images, such as newspaper photographs and films, provide information about the Imam as a politically engaged individual. They do not have the agency to act directly on Ishkashimis until and unless Ishkashimis reclaim their own agenda for the Imam’s image by abstracting it from contextualized information, and once more imbue it with agency. The article frames this discussion of images in the Ismaʿili concepts of zāher (visible, apparent, temporal, transient, exoteric) and bāten (interior, hidden, spiritual, eternal, esoteric), questioning the effect of the Imam’s post-Soviet zāheri presence on Ishkashimis’ engagement with his images.

The Genealogical History of the Last Royal Families of Chitral and Yasin: A Preliminary Study

This study examines the divergent genealogies of the last royal families of Chitral and Yasin, the Katur and Khushwakht respectively. We propose, based on published and unpublished sources of the nineteenth and twentieth century as well as traditions brought to light by field research, that the origin of the dynasties of the founding figures Mohtaram Shah Katur I and Shah Khushwakht is linked not with outsiders, as asserted by the former rulers of Chitral and Yasin, but rather with the ancient Katur rulers of the Hindu Kush mountains, referred to as Kator or Katur in the sources. It is hoped that this preliminary examination of the social, historical, and cultural status of the ancestors of the Katur and Khushwakht rulers will open new research possibilities for the study of the history and culture of present-day northern Pakistan.

“The qebla of Jāmi is None Other than Tabriz”: ʿAbd al-Rahmān Jāmi and Naqshbandi Sufism at the Aq Qoyunlu Royal Court

This article addresses the possibility that members of the Naqshbandi Sufi order exerted a greater influence at the royal court of Yaʿqub b. Uzun Hasan, leader of the Aq Qoyunlu dynasty, than previously acknowledged. In order to substantiate this claim, the article cites contemporary and near-contemporary Persian sources, notably the Tārikh-eʿālam-ārā-ye amini, the Rowzāt al-jenān va jannāt al-janān, and the Rashahāt-e ʿayn al-hayāt, each of which attests to the presence of Naqshbandis in the Aq Qoyunlu capital of Tabriz, and notes that the Naqshbandis most closely associated with Yaʿqub shared the distinction of being protégés of the classical Persian poet ʿAbd al-Rahmān Jāmi. In a related vein, the article suggests that it was Jāmi himself, in Salāmān o Absāl, and in a personal letter sent to Yaʿqub from his residence in Timurid Herat, who may have exerted the most significant Naqshbandi influence over the Aq Qoyunlu. The article therefore concludes that the existing historiography, which emphasizes the involvement of the Khalvati order in Aq Qoyunlu affairs, should be revised in order to recognize the probable influence of members of the Naqshbandi order, particularly Jāmi, at the Aq Qoyunlu court.

The Extinct Dialect of Tajrish: Caspian or Persian?

Once spoken in the Alborz foothills north of Tehran, the vernacular of Shemirān and its administrative center Tajrish was greatly influenced by the Caspian languages spoken northward across the Alborz range, in its valleys and in the Caspian littoral. This study of Tajrishi draws on the texts collected by Valentin Zhukovskii in the 1880s as well as two recent documentations of smaller size. It reveals that Tajrishi and the adjoining vernaculars constitute the southernmost part of the Caspian-Persian linguistic transition zone in Central Alborz.



May You Learn from Their Model: The Exemplary Father-Daughter Relationship of Mohammad and Fatima in South Asian Shiism

The special father-daughter relationship shared by Mohammad and Fatima (Fātema) is a source of inspiration and emulation for the Shia, who seek to cultivate idealized religious and ethical selves based upon their model. While Fatima and Mohammad are exceptional people who have been chosen by God to deliver and enact His message of creation, monotheism (tawhid), and the resurrection and Day of Judgment, they are also truly human beings, whose emotional and material needs resonate with everyday Shia. This essay focuses on three ways in which Mohammad and Fatima’s father-daughter relationship teaches the Shia of South Asia Islamic religious values, idealized socio-ethical norms, and proper filial relationships. First, Fatima’s earthly wedding to Ali and accounts of the minimal dowry that Mohammad provided for his daughter is frequently cast in a reformist light by South Asian Shia, who consider the adaptation of Hindu wedding practices and rituals to be contrary to the Sunna of the Prophet. Second, Fatima’s extreme poverty is a popular subject in Indo-Persian hagiographies, in which Fatima is narratively engaged to epitomize the socio-ethical ideals of charity (sadaqa), patience (sabr), and faith (imān). Third, Fatima’s impassioned speech claiming her right to inherit the orchards at Fadak is rooted in her status as Mohammad’s daughter and, more importantly, as a Muslim woman.

The Fatimid Caliph al-Aziz and His Daughter Sitt al-Mulk: A Case of Delayed but Eventual Succession to Rule by a Woman

In his youth the future al-Aziz, then merely the third son of the caliph al-Muizz, acquired a concubine, most likely a Greek-speaking captive, and produced with her a daughter who was to become the famous Sitt al-Mulk. Not only did her mother remain al-Aziz’s favorite long after he rose to the Fatimid throne in 975, she remained so until her death twenty years later, and the daughter continued throughout to hold a claim on his attention many considered unusually intense and extraordinary. This favor, combined with her own political acumen and sharp intelligence, enabled Sitt al-Mulk to exercise authority throughout her lifetime until she finally became the real ruler of the empire upon the disappearance of her eccentric half-brother, al-Hākim, in 1021. Drawing on chronicles written by both Fatimid and anti-Fatimid historians, this article considers the context for Sitt al-Mulk’s rise to power amid the unusual dynamics of the Fatimid royal family. It reveals the implausibility of accounts that attempt to discredit her and demonstrates that when at last she governed the empire, she did so quite competently through a difficult time of transition.

In Reality a Man: Sultan Iltutmish, His Daughter, Raziya, and Gender Ambiguity in Thirteenth Century Northern India

Ruler of the Delhi Sultanate in northern India from 1236 to 1240, Raziya is a striking example of a woman who rose to power in a pre-modern Islamic society. It was Raziya’s father’s recognition and cultivation of her wisdom and ruling capacities, as well as his apparent naming of her as his successor, that paved the way for her accession to the throne. This article offers an explanation of how Raziya was able to rule in an environment in which the birth of daughters normally gave rise to disappointment and women had few avenues for authority. It will argue that despite medieval Muslim India’s assigning to women a status separate from and inferior to that of men, a metaphorical space existed in which women could identify or be identified as men. As in many non-Muslim societies, such identification could become a means for a daughter to enter into male sociopolitical spheres.

Süleyman and Mihrimah: The Favorite’s Daughter

Due to the fact that an Ottoman princess never succeeded to the throne, princesses are usually dismissed as political ciphers lacking power or influence. Mihrimah (Mehr-o-māh), the only daughter of Süleyman (Solaymān) and his concubine (later wife) Hurrem (Khorram), wielded more power during her father’s reign than did her brothers. Together with her mother, and her grand vizier husband, Rüstem (Rostam) Pasha, she belonged to the most powerful faction of her father’s reign. Rare among Süleyman’s favorites, these three never lost his regard leading to loss of status and/or life. By examining Mihrimah’s architectural patronage, her correspondence with her father, her amassment of great wealth, and her involvement in administrative appointments and decisions regarding military expeditions, this article analyzes the particular quality and origin of Mihrimah’s influence and power. It argues that because Mihrimah was female and ineligible to succeed to the sultanate, she was able to develop a closer relationship with her father than could his sons who were candidates for the throne, and thus potentially could revolt against him. This closeness continued even after death, for Mihrimah was the only one of Süleyman’s children to be buried with him in his tomb.

Imperial Transgressions and Spiritual Investitures: A Begam’s “Ascension” in Seventeenth Century Mughal India

Islamic jurisprudence and social customs regarding laws of inheritance privilege Muslim males as legitimate successors to family legacies and wealth. Furthermore, these heads of households were and are expected to sustain and uphold family values while representing the noble “face” of their legacies. Though women in pre-modern Islamic societies were awarded property and income to support them, they were neither required nor encouraged like their male counterparts to use their agencies or largesse to make banner representations of their lineage or heritage. This essay challenges androcentric ideas and practices surrounding Islamic laws of inheritance through the example of the Mughal princess Jahānārā Begam (1614-81) and her articulations of ascension. This analysis demonstrates how the princess’s extraordinary relationship with her emperor father, Shah Jahān (r. 1628-59), facilitated her spiritual and imperial achievements and elevated her rank in imperial and Sufi hierarchies.

Volume 3, 2010

Through the Looking Glass: Kingly Virtues in Safavid and Mughal Historiography

During the reigns of the Safavid Shah ‘Abbās I and the Mughal Emperor Akbar, two chroniclers, one from each dynasty, included in their texts lists of “kingly virtues.” This paper explores the possible historiographical precedents for this section in the chronicles, and places particular emphasis on the “mirrors for princes” literature. The paper concludes with a suggestion that reading the narrative portions of the chronicles in light of the mirrors for princes literature helps us understand why chroniclers may have included certain information in those sections.

Samarqand’s Rigestān and its Architectural Meanings

The article focuses on the central plaza of the city of Samarqand, the seat of Transoxiana under the Sogdians and again under the Timurids. The earliest edifice on the Rigestān square is an early fifteenth-century madrasa named after the Timurid prince-scholar Ulugh Beg. Although the capital was transferred to Bukhara after the final conquest of Samarqand by the Uzbeks in 1500, the Shaibanids and their successors, the Ashtarkhanids, continued to embellish Samarqand with more imperial constructions. The Rigestān thus received its final form with two additional madrasas, the Shirdār and the Talākāri, by 1660. The article aims at describing and evaluating these structures and their architectural details, vis-à-vis the latest scholarship on art history.

A Picture Postcard View of the Persian Constitutional Revolution

A narrative of the Persian Constitutional Revolution of 1906-09 is provided as seen through about forty picture post cards privately printed in the immediate aftermath of that event. Privately printed post cards have only recently received attention by postal historians and included in postal history exhibits. Iranian postal history itself has been flourishing in the past twenty years with the publication of numerous books on the subject and the display of several award winning exhibits at major shows.

A Syntacto-Cognitive Study of the Diachrony, Synchrony, Etymology and Gloss of the New Persian Formant am/an

This paper presents a novel analysis of the Persian formant am-/an- in a broad context in order to clarify its diachrony, synchrony, etymology, and gloss. The formant is classified into two types: those derived from Old Iranian ham-/han- “together,” and those belonging to the cognitive process. These formants always convey four metaphoric cognitive percepts: collection/collocation, multiplicity, pluralism and infiltration. These percepts are manifested in three forms: receptacle; cluster, multiplicity, doubling; and, to a lesser degree, permeation. The study also explores the presence of some cross-language regularities in neighboring languages with the same cognitive concept of am-/an-, which conforms to the categories and classifications proposed by this paper.

The Fall of the Sasanian Empire to the Arab Muslims: From Two Centuries of Silence to Decline and Fall of the Sasanian Empire: the Partho-Sasanian Confederacy and the Arab Conquest of Iran

A Survey of Russian Works on Persianate History and Culture, 2006-2010

A Garden of Possibilities in Manuchehri’s Spring Panegyrics

The eleventh-century Persian poet Manuchehri Dāmghāni began his career in northern Iran and became established as a leading panegyric poet of the Ghaznavids. The panegyric qasida was a major literary articulation of Persianate cultural hegemony. Most of Manuchehri’s pane-gyric qasidas begin with a nasib about the natural world. The nature description as an introduction to panegyric is an integral part of the panegyric poem and its expression of cultural values, but it is also at odds with the praise section that follows it. This project explores how Manuchehri deploys elaborate rhetoric and imagery in the description of nature to offer a commentary on the possibilities of patronage relationships.

The History of Modernization of Law

Mohammad Ali Khan, Zokā’ al-Molk, later Forughi, became Minister of Justice in December 1911 (until June 1912 and again from August 1914 to April 1915), following Moshir al-Dawla Pirniā and continuing the legal reform the latter had initiated in 1911. Forughi also served as Prime Minister of Iran several times, lastly in 1941-42 (1320), when he arranged the abdication of Reza Shah and the succession of his son, Mohammad-Reza Pahlavi, shortly before his death in November 1942. This lecture was given at the Faculty of Law and Political Science at the new University of Tehran is an important historical document that throws considerable light on the early stage of the modernization of Iran’s legal system. We are therefore publishing it in a translation which preserves the lecture format with only slight abridgement. Forughi’s informed account of legal modernization is prefaced by acute observations on the intrusion of modernity into the culture of Iran in the early twentieth century. (The Editor)

Imagining Hāfez: Rabindranath Tagore in Iran, 1932

In April and May of 1932, Rabindranath Tagore traveled to Iran on an official visit. He had been invited to Iran as the official guest of Rezā Shah Pahlavi. Using an array of primary source material, this article examines the cultural, political, and ideological implications of this trip for the emerging discourse of nationalism in interwar Iran. The article argues that Tagore’s visit played an important part in promoting the new official nationalism of the Pahlavi state. The emerging interwar ideology of “Pahlavi nationalism” sought to dissociate Iran from the Abrahamic-Islamicate “civilizational ethos” that was now understood to have long dominated Iranian culture, and instead sought to associate Iranian nationalism’s claim of cultural authenticity to a newly emerging notion of “Indo-Iranian civilization” rooted in the pre-Islamic culture of Zoroastrianism and Aryanism. Tagore’s visit to Iran was seen as an opportunity for his Iranian hosts to present him to the Iranian public as a living personification of this newly conceived idea of national authenticity. The public ceremonies and pronouncements that accompanied Tagore during the four-week trip all reinforced this basic message. The paper therefore argues that the Tagore visit to Iran was closely tied to the Pahlavi state’s policy of cultural nationalism.

Iranian Language Reform in the Twentieth Century:Did the First Farhangestān (1935-40) Succeed?

In the period 1935-1940, the Iranian Language Academy (Farhangestān) proposed over 1,600 indigenous terms to replace words of Arabic or European origin. Seventy years later, an assessment of the effects or “success” of this activity may be attempted. The Farhangestān’s success cannot be measured easily, by counting the successful words. A study of it requires a strict definition of the term “success” and a detailed analysis of the origin, semantics, usage, stylistics, etc. of each word. The analysis proposed here, using sixty terms, yields a scale of increasing success along which the coined terms may be arranged. The article aims to show that any exact numbers indicating the Farhangestān’s word-replacing success are of limited value; and that it is more interesting to ask how the new terms have been established and how they have systematically changed, and often enriched, the vocabulary of Persian.

A Survey of the Discipline of Political Science in Iran

This survey examines the content and purpose of the political science discipline in respect to seven prominent universities in Iran and its significance for the Iranian society. It is based on quantitative and qualitative data including personal interviews and survey results, as well as theses conducted by political science students, academic articles written by scholars in the field, and university curricula. The survey suggests that Iranian political science after the 1979 revolution addresses contemporary political problems and challenges related to Iran only to a limited extent, and is predominantly theoretical and “borrowed” in nature, despite the goal during the Cultural Revolution to indigenize and Islamicize the social sciences.

Review Essay

Volume 2, 2009

Evolution of the Persianate Polity and its Transmission to India

The critical importance of the Samanid dynasty for the emergence of New Persian as a language destined to serve as the lingua franca of the Persianate world has long been recognized. Not so of the distinctive Persianate polity that first emerged under the Samanids in Central Asia in the tenth/fourth century and was later transplanted throughout the Persianate civilizational zone. As this paper was written as an address to the 4th ASPS convention in Lahore, it stresses the significance of that historic city in the transmission of the Persianate polity as a model of political and military organization and its political culture to India with the expansion of Muslim power and the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate in the early thirteenth/seventh century.

Restricted Access The Georgian Translation of Vis and Rāmin: An Old Specimen of Hermeneutics

Introduction Symposium on the Eighteenth-Century Fracturing of the Persianate World

From 'Ā'esha to Nur Jahān: The Shaping of a Classical Persian Poetic Canon of Women

The eighteenth century witnessed an interest in Persian women poets and attempts were made by writers of tazkeras to create a female canon of poets. The cultural shift in the Iranian-Indian interface at this time had a direct effect on the writing of Persian literary history that, on the one hand, resulted in the desire to maintain a universal vision regarding the Persianate literary past, exemplified by such writers as Vāleh Dāghestāni in Riāz al-sho' arā', and on the other hand, witnessed the increasingly popular move towards a more local and parochial version of the achievements of poets, as seen in Āzar Bēgdeli's Ātashkada and other writers of biographical dictionaries. The tri-furcation of the literary tradition (Iran, Turan [Transoxiana], India) complicated the way the memory of women poets would be accommodated and tazkera writers were often unencumbered by issues of nationalism and linguistic purity on this subject. However, ultimately the project of canonization of classical Persian women poets was a failure by becoming all inclusive.

Infantilizing Bābā Dārā: The Cultural Memory of Dārā Shekuh and the Mughal Public Sphere

The modernist image of the eclectic Mughal prince and patron, Dārā Shekuh (d. 1659 CE), has been almost universally positive, routinely singling him out as an exceptionally tolerant, but ultimately “ill-fated” figure. His defeat and execution by his younger, more conventionally pious brother, Awrangzib 'Alamgīr (r. 1658-1707), is in turn lamented as a civilizational tipping point away from the Mughals' cosmopolitan ethos of “peace with all” toward a more narrowly sectarian vision of empire—one which undermined not only the Mughals themselves, but also the entire Indo-Persian ecumene and, ultimately, the Indian nation. The early modern response to Dārā's character and cultural legacy was, however, far more complex than this caricature of “good Muslim” tolerance versus “bad Muslim” fanaticism would suggest. This article grapples with that complexity by examining the oblique critical discourse surrounding three of Dārā's most well-known interlocutors: Bābā Lāl Dayāl, Chandar Bhān “Brahman,” and Hakīm Sarmad.

Literary Connections: Bahār's Sabkshenāsi and the Bāzgasht-e Adabi

The bāzgasht-e adabi (literary return) school is generally portrayed in modern historical studies as a reaction to the so-called sabk-e Hendi (Indian style) of poetry, which is said to have dominated Persian letters during the reign of the Safavids. Much of the terminology we use to discuss this movement— sabk, for instance—as well as the qualitative arguments are taken directly from scholars of the early twentieth century, and from Malek al-Sho'arā' Mohammad Taqi Bahār (d. 1951), who coined the phrase bāzgasht-e adabi, in particular. Despite the pivotal role with which the bāzgasht poets are credited, their work is little studied and the influence of twentieth century nationalism on our conception of these poets and their place in literary history is not clearly understood. By exploring the complex social ties among the earliest representatives of the school, we gain a deeper understanding of the motivations and methods of transmission among the poets beyond the framework which a nationalistic approach provides.

Accounting for Difference: A Comparative Look at the Autobiographical Travel Narratives of Hazin Lāhiji and 'Abd-al-Karim Kashmiri

This paper examines the mid-eighteenth century historical memoir of Mohammad Ali Hazin Lāhiji and the auto-biographical travel narrative of 'Abd al-Karim Kashmiri as a way to understand a shared tradition of cultural conceptions and textual borrowing, even in the midst of different attributions of historical meaning and valuations within that culture. Hazin often serves as an iconic figure, representative of the changing relationship between Iran and Hindustan in the eighteenth century. Reading Hazin's memoir in relation to Kashmiri's travels with Nadir Shah's army from Delhi to Iran on his way to hajj problematizes this dominant reading. Underneath diverging and sometimes conflicting claims in these texts, history is represented in a way that evinces similar ideas of home, country, and ideal political rule in the context of travel and exile.

Report on the Fourth ASPS Biennial Convention in Lahore

Georgia and Iran: Three Millennia of Cultural Relations An Overview

When Georgia was incorporated into the Russian Empire, the rich background of interaction with Persian culture, the result of centuries of contact, was lost to the scholar whose interest in Georgian history came to depend on Russian historiography with its focus on the period under Russian rule and its misreading of anything prior to that. Western scholarship, often oblivious of the far reach of Persian culture, devoted too little attention to the subject or gave it short shrift. Owing largely to the recent work of Georgian scholars, a century of neglect is now being reversed, but an overall picture of the breadth and depth of Georgian-Iranian interaction is still lacking. This paper proposes to offer a general overview from the third millennium BCE to the Russian conquest of Georgia, when Persian influence began its decline.

Darius and the Bisotun Inscription: A New Interpretation of the Last Paragraph of Column IV

The last paragraph (lines 88-92) of Col. IV of the Old Persian version of the Bisotun inscription is one of the most difficult passages in this great inscription. In it, Darius points to the addition of an 'Aryan' (i.e. Old Persian) version to the two previous (i.e. the Elamite and Babylonian) versions of the inscription. There is no firm basis for the prevailing opinion that 'Aryan' refers to the Old Persian cuneiform script, and thus concluding that this script did not exist before the Bisotun inscription. Darius also announces that the text of the inscription was copied on clay tablets and on parchment and circulated throughout his empire, adding that two items were added to the copies of the inscription. Darius's tomb inscriptions (DNa and DNb) reveal his emphasis on his genealogy, and on his virtues, skills and abilities. These are the two items which were added to the copies of the Bisotun inscription and circulated to all the provinces of the Achaemenid Empire. The old Persian words used to refer to 'genealogy' and 'personality' in this part of the inscription should be read as nāmanāfa- and uvādā- respectively.

Median Succumbs to Persian after Three Millennia of Coexistence: Language Shift in the Central Iranian Plateau

The so-called Central Plateau Dialects or simply Central Dialects belong to the South Median group of Northwest Iranian languages and are spoken in central Iran, where the prevailing language is Persian. Currently, vestiges of these dialects are limited to several dozen remote villages as well as to the older generation of the Jewish and Zoroastrian communities living in the cities and in diaspora. The dominant influence of Persian for more than a millennium has resulted in the ousting of the vernaculars not only in major towns but also in a majority of villages. Historical evidence suggests that Central Dialects were native to the entire central Iranian Plateau, larger towns included, until the late medieval period. The big shift may have taken place during and after the Safavid dynastic rule, perhaps as a result of forceful propagation of Shi'ism, among other economic and socio-political vicissitudes of those days. Concrete evidence becomes available only in the later nineteenth century when European travelers and local geographers began to report on the language situation of the area. These documents enable us to speculate on the patterns and rates of language shift in various regions speaking Central Dialects. This trend has been accelerating parallel with the enormous socio-economic changes in the last half century. In many villages the local dialect is moribund and becoming increasingly limited to the elders, and the extinction will be the inevitable result of the forces of modernization and globalization in general and the rapid expansion of Persian education and mass media in particular. This paper attempts to show the dynamics of language shift among Central Dialects. The possible causes of the shift within village communities is discussed, while the urban Jewish and Zoroastrian speakers receive individual attention. Part of the data comes from the author's own fieldwork.

Persian Manuscripts: The Persianate Common Heritage of Iran with the Indian Subcontinent, Transoxiana and the Ottoman Empire

Survey of Russian Books on Iranian and Persianate Studies (2006-08)

Volume 1, 2008

Among the Chosen Cities: Tbilisi in the Shi'i Tradition

Joseph Rousseau on Georgia and the Planned Indian Expedition (1807)

Two 18th-Century Royal Palaces in Georgia and Armenia

From the Editor: Defining Persianate Studies

The Salience of Political Ethic in the Spread of Persianate Islam

Persianate Islam developed in close connection with the rise of independent monarchies and state formation in Iran from the last decades of the ninth century onward. Political ethic and norms of statecraft developed under the Sāmānids and Ghaznavids, and constituted a major component of Persianate Islam from the very beginning. When Islam spread to India under the Delhi Sultanate in the thirteenth century and to the Sultanates in Malaysia and Indonesia after the fifteenth, Persianate political ethic was one of its two salient components, Sufism being the other. The immigrating Persian bureaucratic class engaged in state formation for Indian rulers became the carriers of this political ethic, importing it in its entirety and together with symbols and institutions of royalty and justice. With the continued eastward expansion of Islam, Persianate political ethic and royal institutions spread beyond India into the sprawling Malay world.

To Forge a Book in the Medieval Ages: Nezām al-Molk's Siyar al-Moluk (Siyāsat-Nāma)

Statements by medieval authors notwithstanding, the issue of counterfeiting the texts during the Islamic Medieval Ages has not been seriously discussed by modern researchers. The latter prefer to pass in silence over the possibility that an unauthentic text could be intentionally forged by someone with selfish, ideological, and other purposes. This problem especially concerns the texts written in the genre of medieval advice literature and attributed to the prominent state figures or outstanding Muslim scholars. The article presents conclusive evidence that such is the case of the Siyar al-moluk (Siyāsat-nāma) forged by a Saljuq court poet, Mohammad Mo'ezzi, and ascribed by him to the famous Saljuq vizier Nezām al-Molk.

Central Organisation, Tabarrokāt and Succession among the Early Cheshtis in India

The paper seeks to re-examine the thesis advanced by some eminent scholars that there was a well established tradition among the early Cheshtis to nominate one of their disciples as chief successor and pass on major part of their spiritual authority to him through the means of transferring the tabarrokāt to him that they had received from their masters. But the evidence available on the subject does not support the thesis. Similarly, there is no evidence that a central organisation with pan-Indian character or a well integrated system presided over by the chief successor, ever existed during the early history of the order (selsela).

Flowers of Persian Song and Music: Davud Pirniā and the Genesis of the Golhā Programs

This article examines the 'Flowers of Persian Song and Music' (golhā) radio programs broadcast during the third quarter of the 20th century on the Iran National Radio. These programs—some 1,400 of which the author has collected and deposited in the British Library—constitute an unrivalled encyclopaedia of classical Persian music and poetry. The golhā programs introduced to the general public over 250 poets from the ancients to the moderns, and it preserved Persian classical music and fostered its future development. The seminal role played by Dāvud Pirniā in founding and producing these programs is examined and explored, while highlighting the various artists, poets, musicians, vocalists and scholars who performed in them.

Persian Rap: The Voice of Modern Iran's Youth

Persian Rap, or Rap-e Farsi, is the latest craze in contemporary underground Iranian music, both with Iran and its extensive Diaspora. In Iran, rap is met with strong opposition from the Islamic government, but continues to enjoy immense popularity amongst web-savvy Iranian youths who consume the songs online through internet chat forums, websites, blogs and radio. This article examines the development of Persian Rap from an imitation of Afro-American "Gangsta" Rap, to a unique style of fusion rap with a distinctly Iranian identity, grounded in cultural tradition and a powerful social conscience.


Saïd Amir Arjomand
State University of New York at Stony Brook

Associate Editor

D Gershon Lewental
University of Oklahoma and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Assistant Editor

Mohsen Zakeri
Ruhr-Universität Bochum

Editorial Board

Muzaffar Alam
The University of Chicago

Ali Ansari
University of St. Andrews

Garnik Asatrian
Russian-Armenian University

Grigol Beradze
The G. Tsereteli Institute of Oriental Studies

Carlo Cereti
Sapienza University of Rome

Houchang E. Chehabi
Boston University

Massumeh Farhad
Smithsonian Institution

Charles-Henri de Fouchecour
University of Paris III, Sorbonne Nouvelle

Jo-Ann Gross
The College of New Jersey

Paul Losensky
Indiana University

Beatrice Manz
Tufts University

Robert McChesney
New York University

Rudi Matthee
University of Delaware

Charles P. Melville
Cambridge University

Kazuo Morimoto
The University of Tokyo

Parvaneh Pourshariati
New York City College of Technology

Ali Ashraf Sadeghi
Iranian Academy of Language and Literature

A.A. Seyed-Gohrab
Utrecht University

Sunil Sharma
Boston University

John E. Woods
The University of Chicago

Ishtiyaq Ahmad Zilli
Aligarh Muslim University

Department of Sociology, State University of New York
Stony Brook, New York 11794-4356
Tel: (631) 632-7746
Fax: (631) 632-8203


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