Unity in Diversity

Mysticism, Messianism and the Construction of Religious Authority in Islam


What are the mechanisms of change and adaptation in Islam, regarded as a living organism, and how do they work? How did these mechanisms preserve the integrity of Muslim civilization through the innumerable hazards, divisions and devastations of time? From the perspective of history and intellectual history, this book focuses on a significant, though still largely under studied, aspect of this immense issue, namely, the role of mystical and messianic ferment in the construction and re-construction of religious authority in Islam. Sixteen scholars address this topic with a variety of approaches, providing a fresh outlook on the trends underlying the evolution of Muslim societies and, in particular, the emergence and consolidation of the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal Empires.

Contributors include: Abbas Amanat, Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi, Paul Ballanfat, Shahzad Bashir, Ilker Evrim Binbaş, Daniel De Smet, Devin DeWeese, Armin Eschraghi, Omid Ghaemmaghami, Ahmet T. Karamustafa, Todd Lawson, Pierre Lory, Matthew Melvin-Koushki, Orkhan Mir-Kasimov, A. Azfar Moin, William F. Tucker.
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Biographical Note

Orkhan Mir-Kasimov, Ph.D. (2007), École Pratique des Hautes Études (Paris, France), is a Research Associate at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London. His publications include several articles and book chapters. His forthcoming monograph deals with the early Ḥurūfī doctrine and its role in the intellectual and socio-political evolution of the post-Mongol Muslim East.

Table of contents

List of Contributors
Préface, Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi
Introduction: Conflicting Synergy of Patterns of Religious Authority in Islam, Orkhan Mir-Kasimov

Part One - Languages, Concepts and Symbols
La transgression des normes du discours religieux : Remarques sur les shaṭaḥāt de Abū Bakr al-Shiblī, Pierre Lory
Religious Authority & Apocalypse: Tafsīr as Experience in an Early Work by the Bāb, Todd Lawson
La transmigration des âmes. Une notion problématique dans l’ismaélisme d’époque fatimide, Daniel De Smet
Promised One ( mawʿūd) or Imaginary One ( mawhūm)? Some Notes on Twelver Shīʿī Mahdī Doctrine and its Discussion in Writings of Bahāʾ Allāh, Armin Eschraghi
The Green Isle in Shīʿī, Early Shaykhī, and Bābī-Bahāʾī Topography, Omid Ghaemmaghami

Part Two - Post-Mongol Tendencies: Mysticism, Messianism and Universalism
The Kūfan Ghulāt and Millenarian (Mahdist) Movements in Mongol-Türkmen Iran, William F. Tucker
Intercessory Claims of Ṣūfī Communities during the 14th and 15th Centuries: “Messianic” Legitimizing Strategies on the Spectrum of Normativity, Devin DeWeese
Ummīs versus Imāms in the Ḥurūfī Prophetology: an Attempt at a Sunnī/Shīʿī Synthesis?, Orkhan Mir-Kasimov
The Occult Challenge to Philosophy and Messianism in Early Timurid Iran: Ibn Turka’s Lettrism as a New Metaphysics, Matthew Melvin-Koushki
Timurid Experimentation with Eschatological Absolutism: Mīrzā Iskandar, Shāh Niʿmatullāh Walī, and Sayyid Sharīf Jurjānī in 815/1412, Ilker Evrim Binbaş

Part Three - From Mysticism and Messianism to Charismatic Kingship: Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals
L’idéologie d’État concurrencée par son interprétation : les Melāmī-Hamzevī dans l’empire ottoman, Paul Ballanfat
Kaygusuz Abdal: A Medieval Turkish Saint and the Formation of Vernacular Islam in Anatolia, Ahmet T. Karamustafa
The World as a Hat: Symbolism and Materiality in Safavid Iran, Shahzad Bashir
Persian Nuqṭawīs and the Shaping of the Doctrine of “Universal Conciliation” ( ṣulḥ-i kull) in Mughal India, Abbas Amanat
Messianism, Heresy and Historical Narrative in Mughal India, A. Azfar Moin



All interested in the intellectual and socio-political history of Islam and, more particularly, in the role of the mystical and messianic currents in the construction and evolution of religious and political authority in Muslim societies.