The scholar, poet, preacher, teacher, prisoner, mother and martyr known as Qurratu’l-‘Ayn Tahirih (c. 1818-1852) is widely considered one of the most remarkable women in Iranian history. Yet more than a century and a half after her death, more questions than answers remain about this prodigy of the Qajar era. Seated at the intersection of literature, history, and religious studies, this panel will feature four papers that seek to advance scholarly understanding and beckon to new horizons on the life and work of the Babi heroine. The first presentation will be historical in nature and examine the impact Tahirih exerted on women in her hometown of Qazvin. The second paper will cast new light on Tahirih’s poesy by considering her use of a classical convention of Persian poetry. The third paper will introduce some of the most prominent themes encountered in her prodigious prose output. The final paper will explore perceptions of Tahirih in the works of European Orientalists and scholars and reformers from the Muslim world.
Nineteenth Century Qazvin was a maelstrom of religious controversy and conflict. Usulis, Akhbaris, Shaykhis, Babis, and Baha'is all interacted in conflict with each other and sometimes even in violence. The central figure for much of this conflict was Qurrat al-`Ayn Tahirih, the daughter of an Usuli scholar, who became a Shaykhi and then a Babi. This paper will look at the circle of women around her and how she interacted with them. Although she herself was killed in 1852, the impact that she had on the women of the city had a lasting direct effect to the end of the nineteenth century and an indirect one up the present time.