Formation of a Religious Landscape: Shi‘i Higher Learning in Safavid Iran


Author: Maryam Moazzen
In Formation of a Religious Landscape: Shi‘i Higher Learning in Safavid Iran, Maryam Moazzen offers the first systematic examination of Shi‘i educational institution and practices by exploring the ways in which religious knowledge was produced, authenticated, and transmitted in the second half of Safavid rule (1588-1722). By analyzing the deeds of endowment of the Madrasa-yi Sulṭānī and other mosque-madrasas built by the Safavid elite, this study sheds light on the organizing mechanisms and structures utilized by such educational foundations. Based on the large number of ijazās and other primary sources including waqfiyyas, biographical dictionaries and autobiographies, this study also reconstructs the Safavid madrasas’ curriculum and describes the pedagogical methods used to transmit religious knowledge as well as issues that faced Shi‘i higher learning in early modern times.

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Maryam Moazzen, Ph.D. (2011), University of Toronto and Ph.D. University of Tehran (1999), is Assistant Professor in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Louisville. She has published several book chapters and articles in Iranian Studies and Studia Iranica.
"This is a work of considerable scholarship. It is based on many primary sources, for instance, "biographical dictionaries, autobiographies, ijāzas, deeds of endowment ( waqfiyyas), chronicles and historical sources, European travelers’ accounts, anthologies and polemics written by Safavid ʿulamā, administrative accounts and chancery literature, and works written by Safavid ʿulamaʾ” (p. 24). All are supported by a notable command of the secondary literature in the field. The outcome is a book that, for the first time, tells us how Safavid madrasas worked, and what and how they taught. It is a considerable achievement." - Francis Robinson, Royal Holloway, University of London, in: Journal of the American Oriental Society 139/3 (2019)
Note on Transliteration and Style

 Imperializing Twelver Shiʿism and Its Impact on Shiʿi Higher Learning
 The Reaction of the Sunni ʿUlamāʾ
 Madrasas and the Consolidation of Shiʿism in Persia
 The Permissibility of Collaborating with Temporal Power
 Shiʿi Higher Learning in Safavid Iran

1 Mosque-Madrasas of Safavid Isfahan
 Pre-Safavid Mosque-Madrasas
 Safavid Mosques and Madrasas
 After ʿAbbās the Great
 The Largest Shiʿi Madrasa

2 The Madrasa-yi Sulṭānī: Waqfs, Administrative Structure, and Academic Life
 Shāh Sulṭān Ḥusayn’s Objectives in Establishing the Madrasa-yi Sulṭānī
 The Deeds of Endowment of the Madrasa-yi Sulṭānī
 Analysis of the Endowed Properties
 The Administrative Structure of the Madrasa-yi Sulṭānī

3 Reshaping Shiʿa Cultural Memory: Commemorative Rituals and Constructing Identity
 Contextualizing Cultural Memory
 Safavid Madrasas and Commemorating Cultural Memory
 The Instructional Values of Commemorative Rituals
 Madrasas and Social Coherence
 Reconfiguring Cultural Memory

4 The Safavid Curriculum: Conflicting Visions, Contested Triumphs
 Safavid Scholars and the Concept of Knowledge (ʿilm)
 Towards Reconstructing the Curriculum of the Safavid Madrasas
 The Uṣūlīs and the Curriculum
 The Curriculum of the Madrasas of Safavid Isfahan
 Akhbarism and Its Impact on the Safavid Curriculum
 The Curriculum of Safavid Madrasas during the Reign of Shāh Sulṭān Ḥusayn

5 Engagement with Religious Knowledge: Dialogical and Hermeneutical Modes of Transmission
 Safavid Pedagogy: Legal Rationalization or Authentic Knowledge
 Teaching and Learning Methods
 The Place of Texts in Learning and Etiquette Pertinent to Writing and Shelving Books
 Teachers and Learning
 The Language of Instruction
 Travel in Pursuit of Knowledge
 Studying and Marriage

6 Safavid Pedagogical Approaches: Theories, Application, and Practices
 Mullā Ṣadrā and the Problem of Conventional (rasmī) Learning
 Muḥsin Fayḍ Kāshānī and Epistemic Certitude
 Muḥaqqiq Sabzawārī’s Review of Safavid Higher Learning
 Muḥammad Zamān Tabrīzī’s Observations


Index of Places
Index of Subjects and Terms
Index of Persons
All interested in Islamic intellectual history, Twelver Shi‘ism, Islamic higher learning, the politics of Safavid Iran, and more general questions pertaining to the historical role of religious and cultural traditions and institutions.