• Shi‘Ism and Kingship in Safavid Court Poetry

      Noorani, Yaseen; Khoshkhoosani, Seyede Pouye; Betteridge, Anne; O`Malley, Austin; Sharma, Sunil; Quinn, Sholeh (The University of Arizona., 2018)
      My research concerns intertwined issues of religio-political legitimacy and panegyric poetry during the Safavid dynasty (r. 1501 – 1722). I explore ways that ideology and dominance were enacted and reproduced through the Safavid panegyrics in qaṣīdeh and masnavī form. This research specifically examines how court poets responded to Safavid ideology for legitimizing kingship. Panegyric poetry has been one of the chief forms of political propaganda in praise of rulers and other holders of political authority from pre-Islamic times until modern days. Panegyric poems, especially qaṣīdeh and masnavī, were the production of a court system and they were dominantly produced when a king was in power. By considering the nature of panegyric, as written for receiving a reward, the poets’ portrayal of kings is traditionally “assumed” to be the closest to the kings’ self-image. The Safavid Persian panegyric, especially the qaṣīdeh form, has heretofore received little scholarly attention. Scholars have usually investigated the literary value of this poetic genre and dismissed the role it could play in the promotion of Muslim rulers. This dissertation explores the ways in which religio-political legitimacy was produced and transmitted through the qaṣīdeh and masnavī forms during the Safavid period and emphasizes the significance of investigating the panegyric genre of poetry not only from a literary perspective, but through a historical lens. While other cultural materials of the time emphasized the role of Safavid kings in the propagation of Twelver Shi‘ism and portrayed the kings in a subservient position to the Shi‘i Imams, I demonstrate that the Safavid court poetry highlighted the idea of “sacred” in Sufi discourses and in notions that invoke pre-Islamic forms of Persian kingship to legitimize the Safavid rulership. From the time of Shah ‘Abbās I (r. 1588 – d. 1629), these two forms of representation were established more profoundly in Safavid panegyrics and stood in contrast to traditional notions of Shi‘ism that were predominant in other cultural materials that issued in the name of the Safavid rulers. This dissertation, on the one hand, serves historians of the Safavid period, who investigate the Safavid courts and ideology in kingship. It demonstrates how the poets worked differently from the other sources through which the legitimization of the Safavid kingship was established. On the other hand, my study serves scholars of religion, who study Safavid religious treatises in order to shed light on the development of Shi’ism, Sufism, and other religious traditions of the time. By demonstrating the differences between the representation of a Shi‘i Safavid king in cultural materials of the time and panegyrics, my research invites these scholars to examine non-religious sources more extensively to investigate Safavid ideology because these sources give a sense of how the religio-political ideology of the kings was perceived among the public and how it developed through time.