October 1, 2004
Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, Mass.-"Majalis ul-ushaq: Portrait, Poetry and Biography in the Iranian World," a symposium exploring the role of Sufism in the pre-modern greater Persian world in pre-modern times, will take place on Friday, Oct. 15, at 1 p.m. in Room 101 in Chapin Hall at Amherst College. Sponsored by the Religion Department, the Willis Wood Fund, and the Hamilton Fund at Amherst College, all sessions are free and open to the public.

Taking its name from the a 15th century Persian literary masterpiece called the Majalis ul-ushaq- literally "conferences of lovers"- the symposium will not focus on the Majalis ul-ushaq itself but on the role of Sufism in Iran, Central Asia, pre-modern northern India, central Asia, Iran and Anatolia. Combining biographies of prophets, saints and poets with those of some prominent members of the ruling Timurid dynasty, the Majalis ul-ushaq became popular in courtly circles of the Persian-speaking world in the 16th century; lavishly produced manuscripts from that period featured outstanding Persian miniatures. The symposium will explore questions of what purposes were met by such popular biographical works.

At 1 p.m., the first session will address "Admonishing Words and Exemplary Bodies: Toward a 'Fair and Balanced' Approach to the History of Sufism," with Shahzad Bashir (Carleton College); "On Seeing: Relationships of Resemblance in Pre-modern Islamic Thought" with Jamal J. Elias (Amherst College); and "Divine Devotion and Filial Failure: The Pattern of Ignoring Parental Concerns in Some Sufi Hagiographie" with Farooq Hamid (Whittier College).

The second session, from 2:45 p.m. until 4 p.m., will address "Spiritual Practice and Corporate Identity in Medieval Sufi Communities: The Khalvati-'Ishqi-Shattari Continuum" with Devin Deweese (Indiana University); "Portraiture and Biography: Sufi Images in Sixteenth Century Manuscripts," with E. Sara Wolper (University of New Hampshire); and "Defining Kingship and Authority in Early Safavid Painting: Lessons from the 1604 Shahnama of Firdawsi," with Kishwar Rizvi (Barnard College).

Michael Cooperson (University of California at Los Angeles) will lead a discussion at 4:10 p.m., followed by a reception in Chapin Lounge.