In the late medieval and early modern period, Persianate historiography witnessed a large scale reevaluation and reorganization of earlier Islamicate historiographical models and genres. In this process, while the old forms were revised and refashioned, new genres were invented to reflect new views of the past. These new forms reflected a wider horizon, both genealogically and spatially, combining the Islamic, Turco-Mongol, and Iranian political and cultural contexts. Universal historiography acquired a refreshed prominence at the hands of such renowned historians as Rashid al-Din (d. 1318) and Hafiz-i Abru (d. 1430), and for the first time in Islamicate historiography, rulers became the subject of individual chronicles thanks to the creativity of such historians as ‘Ata’-Malik Juvayni (d. 1283) and Nizam al-Din Shami (d. ca. 1409). Furthermore, this period was also a time when the historical depth of communal self-perceptions was reflected in hagiographies and genealogies. It is indeed no coincidence that the Muslim intellectuals seriously reflected upon the vocation that is called history writing in a very serious manner for the first time in the late medieval period. The earliest works on historiography were composed in this period. Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406) and Muhammad Kafiyaji (d. 1474) are the most prominent names to be mentioned in this regard. The papers in our panel aim at discussing these transformations in the forms of historical writing under the backdrop of the overall political and intellectual developments in the late medieval and early modern periods. The panel suggests that the idea of patronage, which has dominated the study of historiography in the secondary scholarship in the 20th century, needs to be balanced with the studies emphasizing the intellectual autonomy and creativity of individual historians. Individual papers in the panel study the transformation of historical thought and the ways in which it was expressed and articulated in connection to the overall cultural, political, and intellectual developments, and trace the emergence of a new sense of individuality and intellectual personality in the late medieval and early modern periods.
Almost twenty-five years ago, Stephen Dale hailed Zahir al-Din Muhammad Babur’s Baburnama as a singular example of the rise of humanism in the early modern Islamic world. In his autobiography, Dale observed, Babur not only provided an intimate account of his own life, achievements, and in some cases failures, he also gave life, individuality, and character to his contemporaries. In this paper, I will discuss the autobiographical writings of a much earlier figure, Ibn al-Jazari, whose eminence and fame as a scholar of the Qur’an recitation continued until today. A native of Damascus, Ibn al-Jazari achieved prominence and attained high office in the Mamluk sultanate, but eventually, sometime in 1396, he escaped to the Ottoman lands after he was accused of embezzling the revenues of a waqf that he was involved in administering. After serving the Ottoman sultan Bayezid I for some six years, he entered Timurid service after the Battle of Ankara in 1402 and went to Transoxiana. After Timur’s death, he moved to Shiraz and continued his life there as the qadi of the city until his death in 1429. Ibn al-Jazari’s autobiography allows us to observe how an intellectual with a tainted reputation sailed so easily through three Muslim empires of the fifteenth century. While the intimate, yet often self-absorbed style that Ibn al-Jazari uses in describing himself highlights his own self-perception, his depictions in the three empires populate the fifteenth century intellectual life by giving them life beyond chronicles, biographical dictionaries, and hagiographies. Ibn al-Jazari’s use of historical references in his autobiography gives historical depth to his self-perception, and identity to his intellectual network.