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Abstract

This paper examines the changing roles and status of marṡiyah poets within hierarchies of political and religious authority during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A direct link between the marṡiyah tradition and these institutions was a system of patronage that bound poets to the brokers of power. Although in the early 1700s marṡiyah poets were often dismissed as “inept poets,” in subsequent generations marṡiyah poets were nurtured by the patronage of political rulers and counted among the masters of Urdu literature. The Navābs of Avadh in particular, with their promotion of Shīʿī ritual in their capital Lucknow, helped to widen the audience for the marṡiyah. Such temporal rulers appropriated the marṡiyah’s wide appeal as a strategy for fostering social and cultural cohesion among an otherwise diverse population. The Urdu marṡiyah gave expression to the localized concerns and novel self-understanding of the Navābs as they broke politically and ideologically from Mughal rule. These changes in the systems of patronage for the marṡiyah and the genre’s unique association with Avadh’s political and religious project resulted in marṡiyah poets’ growing status in both literary and religious circles. As marṡiyah poets began to feature prominently in the religious life of Avadh, their authority and pious personas came to strain relations with marṡiyah poets’ more worldly patrons. By the mid-1800s, the growing power and influence of the British had undermined the traditional systems of literary patronage for the marṡiyah. But as marṡiyah poets sought out new sources of patronage, they helped extend Urdu’s popularity to distant regional centers. Across India, marṡiyah poets were instrumental in establishing networks of patronage and creating models of language and performance that were influential in Urdu literary circles well beyond the marṡiyah genre, placing such poets as Mīr Anīs and Mirzā Dabīr at the vanguard of crafting the cosmopolitan orientation of Urdu literary culture.

In: Journal of Urdu Studies
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This volume describes the social and practical aspects of Islamic mysticism (Sufism) across centuries and geographical regions. Its authors seek to transcend ethereal, essentialist and “spiritualizing” approaches to Sufism, on the one hand, and purely pragmatic and materialistic explanations of its origins and history, on the other. Covering five topics (Sufism’s economy, social role of Sufis, Sufi spaces, politics, and organization), the volume shows that mystics have been active socio-religious agents who could skillfully adjust to the conditions of their time and place, while also managing to forge an alternative way of living, worshiping and thinking.

Basing themselves on the most recent research on Sufi institutions, the contributors to this volume substantially expand our understanding of the vicissitudes of Sufism by paying special attention to its organizational and economic dimensions, as well as complex and often ambivalent relations between Sufis and the societies in which they played a wide variety of important and sometimes critical roles.

Contributors are Mehran Afshari, Ismail Fajrie Alatas, Semih Ceyhan, Rachida Chih, Nathalie Clayer, David Cook, Stéphane A. Dudoignon, Daphna Ephrat, Peyvand Firouzeh, Nathan Hofer, Hussain Ahmad Khan, Catherine Mayeur-Jaouen, Richard McGregor, Ahmet Yaşar Ocak, Alexandre Papas, Luca Patrizi, Paulo G. Pinto, Adam Sabra, Mark Sedgwick, Jean-Jacques Thibon, Knut S. Vikør and Neguin Yavari
In: Sufi Institutions
In: Sufi Institutions
In: Sufi Institutions
In: Sufi Institutions
In: Sufi Institutions
In: Sufi Institutions
In: Sufi Institutions