Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Contemporary South Asia

Shahzad Bashir ─ India as a Sufi Timespace in the work of Jamali of Delhi

Friday, February 9, 2018

2:00pm – 4:00pm

Joukowsky Forum, Watson Institute 

Ali Asani, Harvard University 

Shahzad Bashir specializes in Islamic Studies with a particular interest in the intellectual and social histories of Iran and Central and South Asia circa fourteenth century CE to the present. His published work is concerned with the study of Sufism and Shi’ism, messianic movements originating in Islamic contexts, representation of corporeality in hagiographic texts and Persian miniature paintings, religious developments during the Timurid and Safavid periods, and modern transformations of Islamic societies.

Bashir is currently working on two major projects. The first is a book entitled Islamic Pasts and Futures: Conceptual Explorations. This is a wide-ranging treatment that critiques the way Islamic history has been conceptualized in modern scholarship and suggests alternatives, with emphasis on the multiplicity of temporal configurations found in Islamic materials. The second project is tentatively entitled Building the Past: Memory, Metaphor, and Reality in Persianate Islamic Societies. This is a cultural history of an Islamic cosmopolitan arena based on assessing materials produced circa 1400-1600 CE that claim to represent the past. Both these projects engage contemporary academic debates regarding religion, language, historiography, and history on the basis of materials of Islamic provenance. 

Abstract: Hamid b. Fazlallah Jamali (d. 1535) is among the earliest authors in Persian to describe India as a place inscribed by the lives of Sufis. Jamali’s work contains a vision of India as a Sufi timespace at a crucial juncture in the development of distinctly Indian Sufi-Muslim identities. I present the details of his work and compare it to that of his contemporaries such as Babur, the first ruler of the Mughal dynasty. Spatiotemporal projections embedded in Jamali’s work help us understand Sufis’ complex place in cultural history, a matter that remains subject to live debate in contemporary South Asia. 

South Asia Seminar