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The Emergence of the Ẕahabiyya in Safavid Iran

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AbstractThis article revisits some aspects of the commonly accepted scholarly narrative about the early historical development of the Barzishābādi offshoot of the Kubrawi order in Safavid Iran, a Sufi community better known in later sources as the Ẕahabiyya.1 My research focuses primarily on eleventh/seventeenth-century developments, and my examination of published and unpublished primary sources, some of which have not previously been taken into account, inclines me to suggest two major revisions to the standard scholarly narrative. First, the term Ẕahabiyya was not adopted as a proper designation for this Sufi order until the late eleventh/seventeenth century. Second, the official spiritual lineage of the order (the mashīkha), is likewise a late eleventh/seventeenth-century construction, a product of the joint efforts of the Ẕahabi master Muʾaẕẕin Khurāsānī (d. 1078/1668) and his disciple, Najīb al-Dīn Zargar Iṣfahānī (d. ca. 1108/1696–7). I examine the adoption of the designation Ẕahabiyya and the construction of a spiritual lineage and show how they intersect with a fascinating process of identity formation undergone by this Sufi order as it adapted to transformations in the religious landscape of Safavid Iran.

Affiliations: 1: Middlebury CollegeUSA


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