Cyclical Sanctity and Ismaili Identity: A Framework for Rethinking Conversion to Shi’i Islam in the Iranian World

A presentation by Dr. Daniel Beben

BebenIn this presentation I address the question of how minority religious communities are able to successfully endure and proselytize under adverse conditions of persecution. I examine this through the example of the Ismaili Shiʿi community of Central Asia which, despite many centuries of violent repression, has retained its status as one of the largest religious minorities of the Iranian world. I investigate the inter-related practices of shrine patronage and the elaboration of religious conversion narratives connected with Ismaili saints, and demonstrate how these practices intersect within a cyclical process of appropriation and re-appropriation of the sanctity of these saints among both Ismaili and non-Ismaili communities. This process provides a critical source of symbolic capital for Ismailis and a tool for communal survival and proselytization. Finally, I demonstrate how this framework can address the seeming paradox of why Ismailism, which is often depicted in scholarship as a quintessentially intellectual and literary tradition, has found its deepest roots in “peripheral” regions beyond the political and cultural centers of the Islamic world.

Date: February 25, 2019

Time: 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Venue: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill



Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

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