Exercises in peace: Azar Kayvani universalism and comparison in the School of Doctrines

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Abstract

In 1650, an encyclopedia of comparative religion known as Dabistan-i Mazahib (the School of Doctrines) was completed near the city of Hyderabad. Asserting that the religions of the world are reflections of a single inner truth, its author Mirza Zu l-fiqar Azarsasani, known by the poetic penname Mubad , travelled widely across India to record encounters with diverse religious figures. This article re-examines the composition and legacy of the Dabistan in light of new manuscript evidence relating to its author and the world he inhabited. It argues that the Dabistan s universalist project reflects a widely held theory of the interrelatedness of the macrocosm, in which sociality with diverse populations was understood to be a spiritual exercise leading to saintly perfection in the same way that venerating the cosmos and ascetic bodily practices were. The article provides a close reading of the Dabistan s shortest chapter on the religion of the Tibetans, the earliest such description in Persian. Situating the Dabistan within the diverse expressions of Universal Peace (sulh-i kull) during the Safavid and Mughal periods, it argues that the Dabistan s project of recovering a universal theology that was attributed to ancient Iran and India led to expressions of dual religious belonging-To particular religions of revelation as well as to the universal religion of the philosophers-parallel to and connected with what Jan Assmann has termed the religio duplex phenomenon in early modern Europe. Finally, the article briefly traces the legacy of the Dabistan into the modern period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)959-992
Number of pages34
JournalModern Asian Studies
Volume56
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 25 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science

Keywords

  • Comparative religion
  • Mughal India
  • Safavid Iran
  • Tibet
  • Zoroastrianism

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