[P4887] Fashioning Philosopher-Kings in the Post-Mongol Persian Cosmopolis, 13th-19th Centuries (II)

Created by Jonathan Brack
Monday, 11/20/17 1:00pm


The strongly neoplatonic tenor of Islamic political philosophy, from Farabi (d. 950) onward, entailed an enduring focus on philosopher-kingship as the ideal form of governance; and philosopher-kings may transcend even Islam itself. To the messianic imperial rulers of the early caliphal era, such a model was of obvious attraction, and Abbasid and Fatimid caliphs strove vigorously to embody it. But their pretensions to absolutist philosopher-kingship were challenged with equal vigorousness by the rising class of ulama, who successfully disallowed such transcendence, becoming the primary political counterweight to caliph and sultan alike.
With the growing divergence between Sunni and Shi‘i political theories, the Helleno-Irano-Semitic ideal of the philosopher-king migrated from the political mainstream of Islam to its Shi‘i-sufi periphery—and there it remained until the epochal Mongol conquest of the mid-13th century, the pivot of Islamic history. The destruction of the reigning, but brittle, caliphal-sultanic-jurisprudential model inaugurated a long era of religiopolitical experimentation and imperial ascendancy, whereby Islamic, Chinggisid and Iranian categories were synthesized with (occult) science, sufism and Alidism to create new platforms for universalist absolutism. The age of the transcendent philosopher-king had returned with a Turko-Mongol vengeance.
This double panel presents an array of new research on the evolution of the theory and practice of philosopher-kingship in the post-Mongol Persian cosmopolis, from the eastern Mediterranean and southeastern Europe to Central Asia and India, and from the mid-13th century to the end of the 19th. Its eight papers examine the eclectic strategies whereby supremely ambitious Muslim sovereigns and world conquerors fashioned themselves, and were fashioned or refashioned by the scholars that served or resisted them, as sacral, even divine, philosopher-kings.
The second panel, comprising four papers, extends the scope of the first to address later receptions and reformulations of—as well as scholarly opposition to—these Ilkhanid, Mamluk, Timurid and Safavid models throughout the Persian cosmopolis. In 15th-16th-century Anatolia, the Sunni Ottoman sovereigns Bayezid II and Süleyman asserted their religiopolitical transcendence by philosophical-scientific means expressly neoplatonic in tenor and often astral and/or occultist; thereby the latter was even fashioned a Solomonic prophet-king. In the 17th-century Deccan, Shi‘i Qutbshahi sovereigns pursued a complementary project, adapting neighboring Safavid and Mughal formulations, and especially sufi discourse, to make universalist political claims. But scholarly resistance to the very category of philosopher-kingship never ceased, for all that scholars had been fashioning their Turko-Mongol Perso-Islamic sultans such for centuries; and the ulama of 18th-19th-century Bukhara resisted.





A. Azfar Moin

(University of Texas at austin)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Discussant;

Fatma Sinem Eryilmaz

Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

A. Tunç Sen

(Columbia University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Jonathan Brack

(Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer;

James Pickett

(University of Pittsburgh)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Hunter Bandy

(Duke University)
Islamic Studies PhD Candidate in the Graduate Program in Religion, Duke University
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;