Workshop with Dr. Hunter Bandy on Monday, October 7, 2019

The Persianate Studies Workshop at the University of Michigan will be hosting a writing workshop with Dr. Hunter Bandy on Monday, October 7, 2019.  The event will be held in 4000 South Thayer Building from 5:30-7:30 PM.  A chapter of Dr. Bandy’s book on the religious worldview of “Ḥakīm al-Mulk” Niẓām al-Dīn Aḥmad Gīlānī, will be workshopped.  A copy of the chapter can be requested from Shahla Farghadani (sfarghad@umich.edu) and Brittany Puller (pullerb@umich.edu).

Hunter Casparian Bandy is a Postdoctoral Teaching Scholar in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at North Carolina State University where he teaches classical and modern Islamic history. He received his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from the Graduate Program in Religion at Duke University in 2019. As a cultural and intellectual historian, his scholarship draws on the manuscript cultures of the Middle East and South Asia, the history and philosophy of science, and critical theory. His dissertation examined the religious worldview of “Ḥakīm al-Mulk” Niẓām al-Dīn Aḥmad Gīlānī (1585-1662?), a Shi’i Muslim philosopher, physician, and occultist whose intellectual career unites the religious landscapes of Kārkiyā’ī Gilan, Safavid Iran, Mughal India, and the Quṭbshāhī Deccan. He also holds an M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University and a B.A. in Political Science from Swarthmore College. His research has been supported by grants and scholarships from Fulbright-Hays, the Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Foundation, the Evan Frankel Foundation, the Foreign Language and Area Studies program, and many other sources.

Re-covering the Qutbshahi Origin Myth 

The founding myth of the Quṭbshāhī Sultanate (1518-1687) of Golkonda-Hyderabad attributed its political success to their dynastic founder’s devotion to the Twelve Shiʿi Imams and the blessing of a living Niʿmatullāhī Sufi saint in Iran. For the past half-century, religious and social historians have presumed this myth arrived within a ‘lost’ historical work, which survives only in later retellings. However, literary analysis of new manuscript evidence demonstrates that the original version of this myth survives to this day. Not found in a formal work of history per se, the myth was instead an exemplum, or ethical lesson, contained in a work of political theology dedicated to the third Quṭbshāhī ruler, Ibrahim (r. 1550-1580). Using chancery documents to elucidate the courtly context of its production, this chapter re-situates the original myth and argues that the Imāmī Shiʿi -Niʿmatullāhī Sufi devotion of the author and his broader community of Muslim courtiers captures one dimension of the fluid Muslim culture embracing the wider religious landscape of early-modern South Asia that should not be depicted in hyper-sectarian terms as modern nationalist histories have done. This revisionist reading refutes the widely held opinion about the categorical early-modern Shīʿī Muslim antipathy towards Sufism, which has also been promoted by many historians of Safavid Iran and reflected in the work of major historians of Muslim South Asia. This research also refutes the widely-held presumption that Sufi networks ceased meaningful operation between Safavid Iran and its regional partners by the middle of the 16th century. Throughout their early history, courtiers of the Quṭbshāhī Sultanate who arrived from Iran not only maintained but refined the genealogical claims of their rulers in order to corroborate their identity as the preeminent Shiʿi Muslim power of the Deccan Plateau of southern India, all while forging new ties to the hereditary leadership of the Niʿmatullāhī Sufi order in Iran and its remnants found more locally within the Deccan and even Mughal north India. In summary, these new manuscript findings when read within their proper historical context help to upend longstanding historiographic narratives about enduring religious separatism and exceptionalism by offering a much-needed corrective reading in favor of religious fluidity and pluralism.