Sacred Kingship and Sainthood in Islam
At the end of the sixteenth century and the turn of the first Islamic millennium, the powerful Mughal emperor Akbar declared himself the most sacred being on earth. The holiest of all saints and above the distinctions of religion, he styled himself as the messiah reborn. Yet the Mughal emperor was not alone in doing so. In this field-changing study, A. Azfar Moin explores why Muslim sovereigns in this period began to imitate the exalted nature of Sufi saints. Uncovering a startling yet widespread phenomenon, he shows how the charismatic pull of sainthood (wilayat)--rather than the draw of religious law (sharia) or holy war (jihad)--inspired a new style of sovereignty in Islam.
A work of history richly informed by the anthropology of religion and art, The Millennial Sovereign traces how royal dynastic cults and shrine-centered Sufism came together in the imperial cultures of Timurid Central Asia, Safavid Iran, and Mughal India. By juxtaposing imperial chronicles, paintings, and architecture with theories of sainthood, apocalyptic treatises, and manuals on astrology and magic, Moin uncovers a pattern of Islamic politics shaped by Sufi and millennial motifs. He shows how alchemical symbols and astrological rituals enveloped the body of the monarch, casting him as both spiritual guide and material lord. Ultimately, Moin offers a striking new perspective on the history of Islam and the religious and political developments linking South Asia and Iran in early-modern times.
This is a brilliant book. It is the most innovative contribution to our understanding of Mughal history in my time. As a work of the first importance, and a step change in our knowledge of sixteenth-century India, it must be read by anyone interested in the fields of Islamic kingship, millenarianism, and astrology in the Muslim world and the early-modern world in general.
Francis Robinson, Royal Holloway, University of London
Moin deserves the highest praise for venturing into this contested terrain and writing a most interesting book about it.
he has thrown an entirely new light on how early monarchs of India's greatest dynastic house asserted their claims to royal authority. His book should be read not just by historians of South Asia but equally by those of Central Asia and Iran, as well as by specialists in Islamic studies.
Richard M. Eaton
In this unusually well written and elegantly carpentered book--he has a rare gift for building argument through narrative--Moin has delivered a major contribution to both Islamic history and the scholarship of sacred kingship.
Moin outlines a formidable challenge to the conventional narratives of Mughal and, to a lesser extent, Safavid history that is likely to surprise even specialists... A valuable contribution to the field that ought to compel scholars to reevaluate key assumptions regarding kingship and sainthood in Mughal India.
List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Note on Transliteration
1. Introduction: Islam and the Millennium
2. The Lord of Conjunction: Sacrality and Sovereignty in the Age of Timur
3. The Crown of Dreams: Sufis and Princes in Sixteenth-Century Iran
4. The Alchemical Court: The Beginnings of the Mughal Imperial Cult
5. The Millennial Sovereign: The Troubled Unveiling of the Savior Monarch
6. The Throne of Time: The Painted Miracles of the Saint Emperor
7. Conclusion: The Graffiti Under the Throne
Read an excerpt from the introduction to The Millennial Sovereign (to view in full screen, click on icon in bottom right-hand corner):
2013 Best First Book in the History of Religions from the American Academy of Religion
2013 John F. Richards Prize in South Asian History, American Historical Association
HONORABLE MENTION - 2014 Bernard S. Cohn Book Prize, South Asia Council, Association for Asian Studies