Between Greater Khurāsān and the Khurāsān Province: The Continuity of Greater Khurāsān in the Social Identity of Iranian Sunnīs in Khurāsān Province

In: Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, Volume 33
Hessam Habibi Doroh
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The Persian-speaking Iranian Sunnīs of the Khurāsān province feel a deep collective resonance with the historical roots of Greater Khurāsān in their social identity. Even today, they continue to praise and illustrate the glorious Islamic past through their narratives. This is in contrast to most Iranian Sunnīs with a non-Persian-speaking ethnic identity. Khurāsān has long been recognized as the center of Sunnī education. However, the central status of this eastern region of the Islamic world was diminished following the fifteenth century – in particular, due to the early sixteenth century expansion of Shīʿī Islam under the Ṣafavīds. Yet the sense or idea of centrality has continued like a thread weaving through the social identity of the Iranian Sunnīs in Khurāsān and remains reflected in their religious and historical narratives. This paper aims to characterize the continuity of Greater Khurāsān, and show how the historical roots of Khurāsān shaped the social identity of Sunnīs in the province. Applying the concept of identity in social theory, I investigate transnational identity within the local social identity. To this goal, I will utilize a variety of materials on under-researched primary topics, both recent and historical, in addition to numerous interviews with Sunnī the communities.

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