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The World as a Hat: Symbolism and Materiality in Safavid Iran

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Chapter Summary

This chapter argues that the question of symbols and their interpretation by religious actors holds a particularly important place while considering ideas and practices pertaining to Persianate societies during the approximate period 1400-1700 C.E. The centerpiece of the chapter is a Persian work. Entitled a very generic Ṭarīq al-irshād, the work indicates its author to be a certain Hāshim b. Aḥmad b.Muḥammad al-Ḥusaynī al-Najafī, The work is concerned with an object, the twelve-gore red hat called the tāj or crown, worn by soldiers and Ṣūfī devotees professing allegiance to the Safavid kings of Iran in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries C.E. The chapter provides a description for the work, along with possibilities for placing it in historical settings. It presents the comparison between representations found in this work and the way modern scholars understand religious symbols. The Ṭarīq al-irshād is an unusual and distinctive work.

Keywords: Ṭarīq al-irshād; Iran; Persianate societies; Safavid kings; twelve-gore red hat



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