Middle East Medievalists

Middle East Medievalists is an international professional association of scholars interested in the study of the medieval Islamic world’. The association’s website and online journal, Al-`Usur al-Wusta, are hosted by the Islamic History Commons.

MEM also have a page on Facebook.

Review: The millennial sovereign

Truschke, Audrey. 2014. Review of Afzar Moin: The millennial sovereign: Sacred kingship and sainthood in Islam. New York: Columbia University Press. International Journal of Middle East Studies 46. 809–842.

The Millennial Sovereign recovers a shared world of sacred kingship that pervaded India, Iran, and Central Asia in early modernity. A. Azfar Moin argues that a Timurid-based social dispensation produced a particular type of sovereignty in which a ruler promoted his political claims largely through embodied spiritual practices.

Read the review here.

A Sasanian taxation list or an early Islamic booty?

Sárközy, Miklós. 2014. A Sasanian taxation list or an early Islamic booty? A Medieval Persian source and the Sasanian taxation system. In Zoltán Csabai (ed.), Studies in economic and social history of the Ancient Near East in memory of Péter Vargyas, 701–714. Budapest: L’Harmattan.

 The present paper aims at throwing light on a less known Islamic source, containing important materials on the taxation of the Sasanian Empire. This brief but hitherto lesser known source belongs to the Tārīkh-i Ṭabaristān  of Ibn Isfandyār, an important  medieval source of Ṭabaristān.

Read the article here.

Review: Remembering and forgetting the Persian past

Elizabeth Urban has reviewed Sarah Bowen Savant’s very important The New Muslims of Post-Conquest Iran: Tradition, Memory, and Conversion for Marginalia:

However, The New Muslims of Post-Conquest Iran will prove fascinating to anyone interested in identity narratives and how authors shape the past in the service of the present. Savant builds a bridge between the history of Persia and the memory of Persia, and atop this bridge we can clearly witness the inherent tension in any identity between the old and the new.

Read the full review here.

The new Muslims of post-conquest Iran

Savant, Sarah Bowen. 2013. The new Muslims of post-conquest Iran: tradition, memory and conversion (Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


How do converts to a religion come to feel an attachment to it? The New Muslims of Post-Conquest Iran answers this important question for Iran by focusing on the role of memory and its revision and erasure in the ninth to eleventh centuries. During this period, the descendants of the Persian imperial, religious and historiographical traditions not only wrote themselves into starkly different early Arabic and Islamic accounts of the past but also systematically suppressed much knowledge about pre-Islamic history. The result was both a new ‘Persian’ ethnic identity and the pairing of Islam with other loyalties and affiliations, including family, locale and sect. This pioneering study examines revisions to memory in a wide range of cases, from Iran’s imperial and administrative heritage to the Prophet Muhammad’s stalwart Persian companion, Salman al-Farisi, and to memory of Iranian scholars, soldiers and rulers in the mid-seventh century.

Patterns of argumentation in late antique and early Islamic interreligious debates

A workshop taking place on 21–22 February 2014 at King’s College London.

Visit the workshop website. The programme is available here.

The workshop ‘Patterns of Argumentation in Late Antique and Early Islamic Interreligious Debates’ brings together a group of experts on late antique and early Islamic religious texts to reflect on this type of literature. We will discuss how religious ideas in the Eastern Mediterranean world (6th-8th c. CE) were shaped by the challenges of rival religious groups, and especially what patterns of argumentation were employed within the genre of religious disputation in order to formulate answers to critical questions from inside and outside the community.

The use of Tafsir in translating the Koran

A conference taking place on 28 February 2014 at the Warburg Institute.

Visit the conference website.

The purpose of the conference is to assess the significance of tafsir (Muslim interpretations of the Qur’an) in western translations of the Qur’an from the Middle Ages to the late nineteenth century. The speakers will discuss which tafsir were used, how they were treated, and how they affected western knowledge of Islam.

Review: Die Schiiten

Vor etwa zehn Tagen habe ich beim Stöbern in der VUB “Die Schiiten” von Professor Heinz Halm entdeckt. Das Buch ist im Jahre 2005 in der Reihe WISSEN bei C. H. Beck erschienen. Bereits beim ersten Durchblättern fiel mir die klare Gliederung des Buches auf. Und das Inhaltsverzeichnis lockte mit Kapitelüberschriften wie: “Die Basis der Macht der Mollas” oder “Monarchie und Klerus als Rivalen”. Obwohl die Zeit nicht günstig war, konnte ich der Versuchung nicht widerstehen und musste es kaufen.

Das Buch hält, was das Inhaltsverzeichnis indirekt verspricht. Das Thema wird sehr klar und wissenschaftlich angegangen. Die wichtigsten Themenbereiche werden angesprochen, und der Autor vermittelt eine sehr klare Übersicht über die geschichtliche Entwicklung der Schia. Neben der religionsgeschichtlichen Darstellung werden die Beziehungen zwischen den ethnisch verschiedenen Schiiten der Region dargestellt. Dabei wird die Bedeutung des Schiitentums für die iranische Revolution von 1979 und umgekehrt sehr deutlich. “Theologische” Grundsätze der Schia werden klar und verständlich beschrieben. Der Stil ist ansprechend und macht die Lektüre des Buches zum reinen wissenschaftlichen Genuss.