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The Kingdom of Imagination: Re-Imagining Iranian Islam in the Twentieth Century at the Intersection of Mysticism, Philosophy, and Politics of Identity

dc.contributor.advisorMcGregor, Richard J
dc.creatorMeerzaei, Mohammad 2023
dc.description.abstractThis dissertation sheds critical light on a particular narrative of the religious historiography of Iran. This narrative was designed to entrench a sense of continuity in imagining Iranian identity before and after the arrival of Islam to Iran and, at the same time, establish a distinction between Iranians’ way of being Muslim and that of other Muslim-majority nations, especially Arabs, in the twentieth century. The dissertation comprises two sections. Section One takes a look at the formation of the question of disruption or continuity of Iranian identity that was raised by the twentieth-century Iranian intellectuals in their encounter with the modern historiography of Iran through the work of European Orientalists. Chapter one argues that Iranian intellectuals and policymakers gradually came to a consensus to use the category of ‘religion’ as a bridge beyond particular religions of Islam and Zoroastrianism which links pre-Islamic and Islamic Iranian identities. Chapter Two focuses on the particular case of the French Islamicist and philosopher Henry Corbin (1903-1978) and his teacher, Louis Massignon (1883-1962), in establishing the concept of ‘Iranian Islam’ as a distinct mystical-philosophical tradition distinguishing Iranian’s way of being Muslim from that of other Muslim communities. This chapter and Section One ends with a focus on how the 6th/12th-century philosopher and mystic, Shihāb al-Dīn Yaḥyā ibn Ḥabash al-Suhrawardī (549/1155-587/1191), was chosen by these two scholars as the utmost ‘reviver’ of pre-Islamic Iranian religious thought in the Islamic era in the form of his ḥikmat-i khusrawānī (kingly wisdom). Section Two, in three chapters, pursues a genealogy of the concept of an ‘Iranian religion’ from the early Sasanian era, through the conquest of Iran by Muslims, into the 6th/12th century. Chapter Three argues that during the Sassanian era, a concept of religion (dēn) was invented by the caretakers of ‘Zoroastrian orthodoxy.’ This concept of religion, the argument continues, was a strictly disciplined political theology suppressing religious difference in Sasanian Iran. Chapter Four illustrates how early Muslim historiographers and heresiographers recovered this same Sasanian concept of religion based on an eisegesis of the Qur’anic concept of dīn. Finally, Chapter Five shows the traces of the political function of Suhrawardī’s ḥikmat-i khusrawānī covered in the garb of the mystical teachings of this mystic philosopher.
dc.subjectIslam, Iran
dc.titleThe Kingdom of Imagination: Re-Imagining Iranian Islam in the Twentieth Century at the Intersection of Mysticism, Philosophy, and Politics of Identity
dc.type.materialtext University Graduate School
dc.contributor.committeeChairMcGregor, Richard J

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