Sufi Bodies by Shahzad Bashir

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Between 1300 and 1500 A.D, a new form of Sufi Islam took hold among central Islamic peoples, joining individuals through widespread networks that resemble today's prominent paths and orders. Understanding contemporary Sufism requires a sophisticated analysis of these formative years. Moving beyond a straight account of leaders and movements, Shahzad Bashir weaves a rich history around the depiction of bodily actions by Sufi masters and disciples, primarily in Sufi literature and Persian miniature paintings of the period.

Focusing on the Persianate societies of Iran and Central Asia, Bashir explores medieval Sufis' conception of the human body as the primary shuttle between interior (batin) and exterior (zahir) realities. Drawing on various literary, historical, and anthropological approaches to corporeality, Bashir studies representations of Sufi bodies in three arenas of personal and communal action: religious activity in the form of rituals, asceticism, rules of etiquette, and the notion of a universal hierarchy of saints; the deep imprint of Persian poetic paradigms on the articulation of love, desire, and gender; and the reputation of Sufi masters for working miracles, which empowered them in all domains of social activity. This novel perspective illuminates the complex relationships between body and soul, body and gender, body and society, and body and cosmos within a sociohistorical context. It highlights love as an overarching, powerful emotion in the making of Sufi communities and shows the body to be a critical concern in Sufi thought and practice. Bashir ultimately offers a new methodology for deriving historical information from religious narratives, especially those containing extraordinary and miraculous events.

About Shahzad Bashir

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Shahzad Bashir is professor of religious studies at Stanford University. He is the author of Messianic Hopes and Mystical Visions: The Nurbakhshiya Between Medieval and Modern Islam and Fazlallah Astarabadi and the Hurufis.
Published August 9, 2011 by Columbia University Press. 296 pages
Genres: History, Religion & Spirituality. Non-fiction

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