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Water for the Saints of Baghdad: The Hydrology of a Sacred Ottoman Geography

In: Journal of Early Modern History
Author:
Faisal H. Husain Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA USA

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Abstract

Following the conquest of Baghdad in 1534, the Ottoman Empire pursued a wide range of policies to maintain the shrines of Muslim saints buried in the province, many of whom were revered by both the Sunni Ottomans and the Shiʿi Safavids. Ottoman endeavors entailed active management of the Tigris and Euphrates waters to provision inland shrines with water and guard those on the riverbanks from damaging floods. With a hydraulic infrastructure, the Ottomans appropriated the memories of the saints of Baghdad and reinforced their territorial claims to the province in the face of a rising Shiʿi power in Persia. The story highlights the political and religious dimensions of water control in a sacred geography as imperial conflicts within Islamdom and Christendom redrew the map of Eurasia.

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