Sovereignty and Sainthood: The Politics of Saint Shrines in the Mughal, Safavid, and Ottoman Empires

11/08/20164:00 pm-5:30 pm
Arif Habib Classroom, Habib University


About the talk:

The political culture of the Mughal, Safavid, and Ottoman empires cannot be understood without taking into account the significance of saint shrines. In this aspect, these empires provide a sharp historical contrast to the Umayyad and ‘Abbasid polities of the “classical” era, when the cults of Muslim saints had yet to take root. In between, there appears a transitional stage. From the tenth-century to the thirteenth, there was a gradual development of popular shrine cults, which began to receive greater acceptance and patronage by Muslim rulers, but it was only after the Mongol-dominated thirteenth century that the enshrined saint transformed into an iconic source of sovereignty, replacing the symbol of the caliph. This paper compares the significance of this development for post-Mongol Muslim empires.

About the speaker:

Azfar Moin is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies. He received a Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and taught South Asian history at Southern Methodist University prior to joining UT-Austin. Prof. Moin studies the history of the pre-modern Islamic world from comparative perspectives with a focus on concepts and practices of sovereignty. His book The Millennial Sovereign: Sacred Kingship and Sainthood in Islam won the Best First Book in the History of Religions Award from the American Academy of Religion, John F. Richards Prize in South Asian History from the American Historical Association, and Honorable Mention for the Bernard S. Cohn Book Prize (South Asia) from the Association for Asian Studies. His research has also been published in Comparative Studies in Society and History, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Fragments: Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Ancient and Medieval Pasts, Indian Economic & Social History Review, and in a number of edited volumes. His current project, for which he received a Postdoctoral Fellowship for Transregional Research from the Social Science Research Council and a Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, focuses on ritual violence and kingship in late medieval and early modern world. Prof. Moin teaches courses on religious transformations in the early modern Islamic world, rituals and practice of sovereignty in Islam, and theory and method in the study of religion.

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