This panel was compiled by the Conference Program Team from independently submitted paper proposals.
The multifarious contribution of Baha’ al-Din ʻAmili (1547-1621 CE) to the intellectual revitalization of Persia during the Safavid period might equally well be considered as a catalyst of modern Islamic thought in Iran as well as an adjustment of traditional wisdom, or hikmat, to institutionalized Twelver Shi’a. His literary output forms part of the Iranian canon of mysticism, and some of his works, such as the Nan va Halva and Kashkul, remain popular to this day.
Far less well researched is the tradition which, based on his prowess in mathematics and engineering, imparted to him the quasi-legendary attributes of a builder. On account of their coincidence with the physical and spiritual redevelopment of the new Safavid capital Isfahan, his activities as a mathematician earned him an aura of demiurgic creativity, yet the origins and development of the latter in popular imagination have received little attention in scholarship.
In the first part of the paper, an attempt will be made to clear away fictive sediments from the factual core of Baha’i’s architectural and engineering output. The second part is intended to explore an even less-known aspect of the Shaykh’s influence on art, namely his iconography in the visual arts as well as illustrated copies of his work and objects inscribed with texts from it. This preliminary survey of Baha’ al-Din ʻAmili’s iconography and its hagiographic significance will discuss partially unpublished material – including manuscripts, ceramics and metalwork – from international collections, both public and private.