Mysticism in Iran
181 pages

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181 pages

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An original study of the transformation of Safavid Persia from a majority Sunni country to a Twelver Shi'i realm

"Mysticism" in Iran is an in-depth analysis of significant transformations in the religious landscape of Safavid Iran that led to the marginalization of Sufism and the eventual emergence of 'irfan as an alternative Shi'i model of spirituality.

Ata Anzali draws on a treasure-trove of manuscripts from Iranian archives to offer an original study of the transformation of Safavid Persia from a majority Sunni country to a Twelver Shi'i realm. The work straddles social and intellectual history, beginning with an examination of late Safavid social and religious contexts in which Twelver religious scholars launched a successful campaign against Sufism with the tacit approval of the court. This led to the social, political, and economic marginalization of Sufism, which was stigmatized as an illegitimate mode of piety rooted in a Sunni past.

Anzali directs the reader's attention to creative and successful attempts by other members of the ulama to incorporate the Sufi tradition into the new Twelver milieu. He argues that the category of 'irfan, or "mysticism," was invented at the end of the Safavid period by mystically minded scholars such as Shah Muhammad Darabi and Qutb al-Din Nayrizi in reference to this domesticated form of Sufism. Key aspects of Sufi thought and practice were revisited in the new environment, which Anzali demonstrates by examining the evolving role of the spiritual master. This traditional Sufi function was reimagined by Shi'i intellectuals to incorporate the guidance of the infallible imams and their deputies, the ulama.

Anzali goes on to address the institutionalization of 'irfan in Shi'i madrasas and the role played by prominent religious scholars of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in this regard. The book closes with a chapter devoted to fascinating changes in the thought and practice of 'irfan in the twentieth century during the transformative processes of modernity. Focusing on the little-studied figure of Kayvan Qazvini and his writings, Anzali explains how 'irfan was embraced as a rational, science-friendly, nonsectarian, and anticlerical concept by secular Iranian intellectuals.



Publié par
Date de parution 28 septembre 2017
Nombre de lectures 4
EAN13 9781611178081
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 2 Mo

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Studies in Comparative Religion
Frederick M. Denny, Series Editor
The Safavid Roots of a Modern Concept

2017 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data can be found at .
ISBN 978-1-61117-807-4 (hardcover)
ISBN 978-1-61117-808-1 (ebook)
Front cover photograph: Imam Ali with Hasan and Husayn, nineteenth century, by unknown artist, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Alpheus Hyatt Purchasing Fund, 1958.137, photograph courtesy of Imaging Department President and Fellows of Harvard College
To Fahimeh, Narges, and Esra
Series Editor s Preface
Notes on Translation and Transliteration
Introduction: The Question of Irfan in Contemporary Iran
Chapter 1 . Irfan in the Pre-Safavid Period
Chapter 2 . The Safavid Opposition to Sufism
Chapter 3 . The Sufi Response
Chapter 4 . The Invention of Irfan
Chapter 5 . The Institutionalization of Irfan
Chapter 6 . Modernization of Irfan
Epilogue: Irfan as Mysticism?
This deeply researched book provides a detailed history and analysis of the ways in which Iranians have defined and understood Shi ite Muslim beliefs and practices from their origins in early Islamic history down to the present. Central to the study is how the broad modern concept of mysticism relates to the traditional Muslim concept of irfan , a term that is widely expressed in English as Islamic mysticism. The study explains the traditional term Sufism , also widely translated as Islamic mysticism, and the ways it is thought to relate to irfan as the two traditional terms have been understood.
The two terms are thoroughly compared by the author as he leads us on an enthralling tour of how Sufism can be understood with respect to the central beliefs, values, and practices that Muslims have universally embraced since the earliest history of Islam. We also learn of the serious differences Muslims have experienced between those who have deep mystical dimensions in their beliefs and practices and those who regard mysticism as essentially unIslamic. Ata Anzali has brought the contemporary understanding of Islamic mysticism and Muslim beliefs and practices generally to a rich new level that will be a true blessing for the study of Islam globally as well as in Iran.
Frederick Mathewson Denny
My adventure with irfan started long before the research for this book, beginning eighteen years ago, when I moved to Qum to follow a rigorous course of study in the traditional Islamic disciplines. I had the good fortune to find an erudite mentor there who graciously accepted me into his circle of students. He was a generous and kind human being and an undisputed master of Islamic philosophy and irfan. With his help, I immersed myself for four years in the writings of Suhravardi, Ibn Turka, Ibn Arabi, Mulla Sadra, Tabataba i, and other great masters. My education took a sharp turn when I moved to the United States to begin graduate studies in religion at Rice University, but my fascination with irfan did not subside. In fact, the strong emphasis on the study of mysticism in the religion department at Rice broadened my scope significantly and allowed me to view irfan from a comparative perspective. I am very grateful to the people who taught me there. I was as encouraged by their continuous support as I was educated by their breadth of knowledge. They introduced me to a new way of looking at religion, one that I found troubling and at the same time profoundly liberating. For that liberation, I am indebted most of all to Jeffrey Kripal, my adviser and mentor. He is among the most generous and insightful human beings I have ever known. The support that I received from Rice University s Humanities Research Center was also instrumental at the initial stages of the research project that culminated in the publication of this book. The HRC provided funding that helped me spend two years in full-time research and writing at Harvard University s Widener Library.
I am also grateful to Professor Carl Ernst for his continuous support and encouragement over the course of my research. Special thanks go to Professor Bruce Lawrence, who, without having met me in person, kindly provided immensely helpful feedback. I am also profoundly grateful for the help of Professor Alireza Doostdar and Professor Matthew Melvin-Koushki. Both were extremely generous with their time, carefully reading the entire manuscript at different stages and giving invaluable feedback. I extend my gratitude to my fellow Iranian academics as well, first and foremost to Professor Shahram Pazouki. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to discuss my ideas with him in the early stages of formulating my questions about irfan, and he provided much-needed guidance. I would also like to thank the peerless scholar Rasul Ja fariyan, whom I have never had the pleasure of meeting in person. His vast, unrivaled scholarship and his leadership at the Majlis Library facilitated and guided my research agenda in important ways. The library s amazingly rich manuscript collection was put online through his initiative, making it possible for me to browse a treasure trove of archival material from half a world away, in the OL section on the sixth floor of Widener Library. This material was critical for my research, and the world of Iranian studies has few better friends than Professor Ja fariyan.
The generous support of my new institutional home, Middlebury College, has been instrumental in ensuring that the present book is the best possible scholarly work that I can offer my audience. I am grateful for that support and, more important, for the friendship, support, and collegiality of my religion department colleagues, who have been nothing short of exceptional.
Special thanks go to Laurie Pierce, who generously agreed to help smooth out the rough edges of my English prose. I am fortunate to have had her beside me as an editor on the long road to publishing a work that I hope readers will find clear and coherent. I have also been very fortunate to have enjoyed a close friendship with the Pierce family, especially Matthew, who has been a constant source of support. I would also like to thank Jim Denton, the acquisitions editor for the University of South Carolina Press, who has patiently worked with me to ensure the proper publication of this work. I am, of course, solely responsible for the content of this book.
Although this project was carried out at a great distance from my family, their support and love have been crucial. I am thankful for my dear brother Amin, always the first person to whom I turn with my problems, technical and beyond. Mom and Dad, thank you for your endless support, for your unconditional love, and for forgiving me for taking your sweet grandchildren to the other side of the world, where you can t experience the joy of holding their hands and telling them the stories you told me.
Finally, the most important thank you, the attempt to express an ineffable gratitude. I feel obliged by convention to say these final words, even though saying them does not feel right. Acknowledgments in a book are usually accompanied by the assumption that the written work belongs to the person whose name is on the cover. But another person is behind every sentence of this book as much as I am, despite not having written the words herself. I have had the great blessing of spending the past nineteen years of my life with this person. She and I began our journey together in a humble basement in Qum, with little money and much love. Nothing looked impossible or even difficult in the face of our passion for learning and our deep love for each other. When we decided to embark on a new adventure and come here to the United States, she became a sang-e sabour not only for me but for our two wonderful daughters, Narges and Esra. All the while, she graciously put up with a perfectionist graduate student turned novice teacher who was a less than perfect husband. I thank you, Fahimeh, for all of this and so much more.
The term irfan has been translated into English by scholars variously and often inconsistently as Islamic mysticism, mystical knowledge, Islamic theosophy, gnosis, and gnosticism. The semantic field of the term irfan can overlap, sometimes significantly, with all of these, depending on the context in which it is used. Given, however, that the subject of this book is the history of the use of the term irfan and the formation of irfan as a concept, I have kept the word untranslated throughout the work for clarity and to help the reader better understand the rationale of scholars who choose to translate it using the English terms listed. With the same rationale and for the sake of consistency, I have left arif (pl. urafa or arifin ) and other cognates of the root -r-f untranslated throughout the book as well.
Because of the overwhelming Persianate context of the subject of this book, I have followed a simplified form of IJMES Persian transliteration scheme throughout, even with Arabic terms, with the following important adjustments:
I have italicized non-English terms only in their first appearance in the book. All non-English phrases, however, have been italicized throughout. Only the first words of phrases in Persian and Arabic, such as book titles, have been capitalized.

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