Mysticism and Text I

This panel was compiled by the Conference Program Team from independently submitted paper proposals


Laila Rahimi Bahmany


Room 26
Wed, 2016-08-03 08:45 - 10:15


by Farzad Sharifian / Monash University

This paper explores conceptualizations that are reflected in the use of Persian expressions that include the body-part term del ‘heart-stomach’, from the perspective of Cultural Linguistics. This body-part term provides a conceptual base for profiling a relatively large number of conceptualizations in Persian. By examining a number of expressions from Modern Persian the paper shows how del is conceptualized as being either equal to, or the container of, emotions, desires, patience, courage, compassion, and also thoughts and memories. A set of expressions in Persian also reflects conceptualizations of del as the centre of personality traits, character, and mood. Overall, it appears that the body part del provides a conceptual foundation for speakers of Persian to represent their cognitive, emotional, socio-cultural, and linguistic experiences. The observed conceptualizations of del are very likely to have originated in cultural models derived from Iranian Traditional Medicine and Persian spiritual belief systems such as the Sufi worldview, which has influenced Persian cultural cognition through Sufi literature. The linguistic expressions discussed in this paper provide a clear example of how language can serve as a ‘memory bank’ for cultural conceptualizations that have prevailed at different stages in the history of a speech community.

by Abolfazl Moshiri / University of Toronto

The conventional narrative have painted a larger than life picture of the tremendous influence that Shams-i Tabrizi had on Rumi. This narratives has been fueled by fantastical hagiographical tales of Aflaki and Mevleviya commentators and many modern scholars such as Forouzanfar and Schimmel also reaffirmed it. After all Rumi's Divan is filled with extraordinary adulation and adorations of Shams in which he is raised to a divine status. Yet within the Divan one also comes across verses such as "Shams-i Tabriz is only an excuse" and few similar lines which depict an alternative image about the fantastic tale of love and passion between Rumi and Shams. Furthermore what almost all of the commentators and scholars fail to address is the fact that while the name of Shams is mentioned more than a thousand time in the Divan, his name almost entirely disappeared from the Masnavi. There are only three instances in the Masnavi in which Shams's name is mentioned and in all those instances the language that Rumi employs in describing his relationship with Shams is tremendously ambiguous. The most enigmatic of all three instances is in the first tale of the Masnavi which is the subject of my investigation in this paper.
I am proposing that by the time Rumi had started to compose the Masnavi he was in a vigorous struggle to free himself from the spiritual influence of the Shams and therefore the lack of remembrance of Shams in the Masnavi was a conscious and deliberate attempt to demonstrate his spiritual libration. This argument is based on concrete examples from Masnavi and the Divan as well as some of the anecdotes from hagiographical works of Aflaki, Sipahsalar and Sultan Valad. Most important evidence of this struggle however is in the first tale of the Masnavi and through an esoteric interpretation of it I am going to demonstrate that, contrary to all previous commentaries, the entire theme of the fist tale is about how Rumi through the metamorphosis of characters of the tale attempts to declares himself librated of the empowering grip of the Shams, some twenty years after his departure from Konya. This esoteric interpretation is significant not only in reexamining the hermeneutics of the first tale but more importantly in reassessing the true influence of Shams on Rumi specially in the last two decades of his life.

by Leila Rahimi Bahmany / Freie Universität Berlin

Veil provides us with contradictory modes of intuition, perception or cognition. On the one hand, it functions as a threshold, an opening, a window or a passageway, bridging the phenomenal world to the noumenal, the visible to the invisible, and the virtual to the real. On the other hand, it functions either as a wall, totally intercepting one’s passage to the other levels of consciousness or reality or it partially reduces one’s perception as through a transparent veil. It provides us with an unlimited space of imagination. While seeing a naked object gives it a frame and curbs the imagination, veiling grants the imagination a free rein, readily blurring the boundary between reality and illusion. The reality lying behind the veil is often either sexual or divine. While the veil interposes a physical distance, it also holds promise of a tempting intimacy. A glimpse of the object which should remain veiled can destroy or at least distract the beholder, as the phrase “to go within the veil” in Persian figuratively means to die. On the other hand, the look can also destroy, unchaste or desecrate the object which is unveiled. Furthermore, due to its function as a form of representation, providing a space of imagination, the veil has often been regarded as a metaphor for text, bridging the erotic or mystical experience to the aesthetic one. For instance, Rūmi explicitly draws upon the metaphor of textual veil to convey his divine-aesthetic meaning. Rather than functioning as merely descriptive or figurative topoi—as ornaments employed for stylistic effect—metaphors of the veil are indeed constitutive of meaning, participating in the configuration of a Weltanschauung or a whole system of thought. The veil is among the recurrent key metaphors in Persian Sufi literature which was adopted for conceptualization of the divine reality and for conveying the ineffability of esoteric experience. The present study attempts to analyses some of the meanings and functions of the veil in Persian Sufi literature.

by Salour Evaz Malayeri / University of St Andrews

The purpose of this paper is to use the critical approach known as the critique of ideology to explore the ideological world of Naser-e Khosrow’s writing. The critique of ideology in literary texts aspires towards offering a concrete understanding of the text by identifying its socio–political functions. Locating literature in the dynamic interaction between the dominant political order and social discourse practices, the typical practitioner of this approach seeks to find those aspects of the text which reveal and reproduce the limits of dominant political structure.
The issue of ideology in Persian classical literature has been one of the least researched and most distorted areas of study on Iran because the terms ‘ideology’ and ‘political structure’ have been treated with vulgar and biased interpretations. In Naser-e Khosrow’s case, ideology usually refers to his Ismaili doctrines or his philosophical ideas. From this common viewpoint, ideology is a set of specific beliefs without any political or critical references. My intention, therefore, is to offer a new socio-political perspective from which classical Persian literature in general, and Naser-e Khosrow’s works, in particular, can be studied. To this end I will use the theory of ideology in cultural materialism, which highlights ideology as a negative force, to analyse the socio-political function of Naser-e Khosrow’s qasā'id. I will explore, in particular, how ethical and epistemological statements in Naser-e Khosrow’s poetry produced under the cultural dominance of Ghaznavid rule function at a contradictory level in which they challenge the dominant political power, while, at the end, remaining within the domain of the ideological givens and implicitly promoting the ‘arbitrary’ and ‘despotic’ structure of his society. To analyse the reasons for such an operation, the paper also explores the oppositional doctrine of early Ismailia to demonstrate how his poetry challenges the Qaznavids’ rule and their political coalition with the Caliphs of Baghdad. My key subjects to investigate such functions include (1) the necessity of ‘SOKHAN’ (utterance) and DAANESH (poetry as ‘knowledge’), (2) KONESH (practice), (3) FALAK (unkind firmament and passing universe) and (4) BAATEN (hidden meaning).Analysing the social and political functions of these concepts in Naser-e Khosrow poetry, I conclude that discursive resistance in the poems of Naser-e Khosrow is articulated within the realm of ideology but it is not powerful enough epistemologically and socially to break away from the ideological elements which legitimise the arbitrary political power.