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badakhshan

Ismaili gathering, Badakhshan (source: BBC)

The next meeting of the History Reading Circle will take place on

28 February 2017, 1pm

We will be discussing a draft paper by Dr Daniel Beben, titled:

The Kalām-i pīr and Its Place in the Central Asian Ismāʿīlī Tradition.

If you are interested, please contact Dr Daniel Beben himself.

In lieu of an abstract, here is the first introductory paragraph of the paper:

This paper offers a study of the Kalām-i pīr, a fundamental text on Ismāʿīlī philosophy and doctrine preserved among the Ismāʿīlīs of the Badakhshān region of Central Asia, which is attributed to the renowned eleventh-century Ismāʿīlī philosopher and missionary Nāṣir-i Khusraw. I present here an argument for revising the prevailing interpretation of the text’s origins, first presented by the Russian émigré orientalist Wladimir Ivanow, who judged the Kalām-i pīr to be a “forgery” committed by the sixteenth-century Ismāʿīlī author Khayrkhwāh Harātī, who plagiarized the work of an earlier author and in turn falsely ascribed his work to Nāṣir-i Khusraw. Ivanow concluded that while the text has value as a specimen of Ismāʿīlī doctrinal and philosophical writing, the attribution to Nāṣir-i Khusraw is merely fanciful and unrelated to the work, and hence may be disregarded for the purpose of scholarly analysis. In recent years, however, multiple new manuscripts of the work, as well as a range of related materials have come to light, suggesting the need for a thorough re-evaluation of the authorship and dating of the text, as well as a better appreciation of its reception history and significance within the Ismāʿīlī tradition of Badakhshān.

In this paper I will demonstrate that Khayrkhwāh Harātī almost certainly had no role in the development or transmission of the Kalām-i pīr, and that the production of the text should be dated not to the sixteenth century, but rather to the eighteenth century. Furthermore, I argue that the pseudo-attribution of the work to Nāṣir-i Khusraw is not merely incidental to the text, but rather is central to understanding the interpretation and significance of the book among the Ismāʿīlīs of Central Asia. Its development and attribution must be considered within the context of the social and religious history of Badakhshān in the eighteenth century, an era that saw an energetic expansion of the Ismāʿīlī mission (daʿwa) in the region and the elaboration of a competitive hagiographical and pseudepigraphical tradition connected with Nāṣir-i Khusraw. More broadly, the re-evaluation of the Kalām-i pīr presented in this paper points to the need for a revision of the broader conceptual framework by which we understand both the legacy of Nāṣir-i Khusraw and the historical development of the Ismāʿīlī daʿwa in Central Asia.

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