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Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

Publication Type  Journal Article
Year of Publication  2020
Authors  Daniel Beben
Publisher  Nazarbayev University, Astana, Kazakhstan
Key Words  Central Asia – Yasaviyya – Ismāʿīlīs – Badakhshān – Khoqand – Sufism – Turkistān

This article examines how a text attributed to the renowned Central Asian Sufi figure
Aḥmad Yasavī came to be found within a manuscript produced within the Ismāʿīlī
Shīʿī community of the Shughnān district of the Badakhshān region of Central Asia.
The adoption of this text into an Ismāʿīlī codex suggests an exchange between two
disparate Islamic religious traditions in Central Asia between which there has hitherto
been little evidence of contact. Previous scholarship on Ismāʿīlī-Sufi relations has
focused predominately on the literary and intellectual engagement between these
traditions, while the history of persecution experienced by the Ismāʿīlīs at the hands
of Sunnī Muslims has largely overshadowed discussions of the social relationship
between the Ismāʿīlīs and other Muslim communities in Central Asia. I demonstrate
that this textual exchange provides evidence for a previously unstudied social engagement
between Ismāʿīlī and Sunnī communities in Central Asia that was facilitated by
the rise of the Khanate of Khoqand in the 18th century. The mountainous territory
of Shughnān, where the manuscript under consideration originated, has been typically
represented in scholarship as isolated prior to the onset of colonial interest in the
region in the late 19th century. Building upon recent research on the impact of early
modern globalization on Central Asia, I demonstrate that even this remote region was
significantly affected by the intensification of globalizing processes in the century preceding
the Russian conquest. Accordingly, I take this textual exchange as a starting
point for a broader re-evaluation of the Ismāʿīlī-Sufi relationship in Central Asia and
of the social ‘connectivity’ of the Ismāʿīlīs and the Badakhshān region within early
modern Eurasia.

Amad_Yasavi_and_the_Ismailis_of_Badakh.pdf637.19 KB

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