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Books

Iran’s Conversion to Islam

Pohl, Walter, and Daniel Mahoney, editors. Historiography and Identity IV: Writing History across Medieval Eurasia. Brepols, 2021.

Explores the social function of historical writing from across various world regions from Europe through the Islamic world to China, around the turn of the millennium, and how they construct and shape identities, as well as communicate ‘visions of community’ and legitimate political claims.

Historical writing has shaped identities in various ways and to different extents. This volume explores this multiplicity by looking at case studies from Europe, Byzantium, the Islamic World, and China around the turn of the first millennium. The chapters in this volume address official histories and polemical critique, traditional genres and experimental forms, ancient traditions and emerging territories, empires and barbarians. The authors do not take the identities highlighted in the texts for granted, but examine the complex strategies of identification that they employ. This volume thus explores how historiographical works in diverse contexts construct and shape identities, as well as legitimate political claims and communicate ‘visions of community’.

Two chapter of this volume are of special interests for Iranian studies:

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Books

Biruni

Malagaris, George. 2020. Biruni. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

This book places Biruni in his historical and cultural context within the long-term history of medieval Eurasia. It outlines the course of Biruni’s life, clarifying key questions about his associations, travels, and patrons. Following an overview of Biruni’s chief interests, it details his major works to illustrate the breadth of Biruni’s output and his intellectual approach, especially his attention to language, esteem for knowledge, and commitment to objective truth. An account of his institutional context and relationships elucidates his friendships and rivalries, notably with Avicenna. The book also shows how varied paths of transmission affected the legacy of Biruni and its reception in global scientific and literary traditions. Finally, a timeline, list of key works, and detailed bibliographic essay will guide readers into further study of Biruni and his thought. This comprehensive overview of Biruni is based on the Arabic and Persian primary sources in the original languages using the best editions. The author has consulted scholarship in French, German, and Russian to draw conclusions and present up-to-date bibliographic references in a manner accessible to specialists and the general reader alike.

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Books

Qurʾānic allusions to Zoroastrian texts

Bitsch, Sebastian. 2020. Sengende Hitze, Eiseskälte oder Mond? Zum Echo zoroastrischer eschatologischer Vorstellungen am Beispiel des koranischen zamharīr. Der Islam 97(2). 313–366.

This article discusses eventual Qurʾānic allusions to Zoroastrian texts by using the example of zamharīr (Q 76:13). In the early tafsīr and ḥadīth-literature the term is most commonly understood as a piercing cold, which has frequently been interpreted as a punishment in hell. This idea, it is argued, has significant parallels to the concept of cold as a punishment in hell or to the absence of cold as a characteristic of paradise in the Avestan and Middle-Persian literature. In addition, Christian and Jewish texts that emphasize a similar idea and have not been discussed in research so far are brought into consideration. The article thus aims to contribute to the inclusion of Zoroastrian texts in locating the genesis of the Qurʾān – or early Islamic exegesis – in the “epistemic space ” of late antiquity.

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Books

Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran und Turan (AMIT): Vol. 48

Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran und Turan (AMIT): Vol. 48, 2016 [2019], ed. by German Archaeological Institute (DAI), Tehran Branch of the Eurasia Department

The AMIT is the only German journal for archaeology and history of the Iranian-Middle Asian region; prehistory and early history, archaeology, history and art history of the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sasanian empires as well as the Islamic Middle Ages in Iran and Turan and neighbouring regions. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag.

See here the Table of Content of vol. 48.

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Books

Sasanian Elements in Byzantine, Caucasian and Islamic Art and Culture

Asutay-Effenberger, Neslihan & Falko Daim (eds.). 2019. Sasanidische Spuren in der byzantinischen, kaukasischen und islamischen Kunst und Kultur | Sasanian Elements in Byzantine, Caucasian and Islamic Art and Culture (Römisch Germanisches Zentralmuseum 15). Bonn: Verlag Schnell & Steiner.

The Sasanian Empire (224-651 AD) spreads over areas of today’s Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Caucasus regions were also under its political influence. Many elements of Sasanian art and culture can be found in neighboring countries and cultures, such as Byzantium or the Christian Caucasus, and continued to live after the Sasanian fall in the Islamic dominions that developed on their former territory. To examine the continuing role and the survival of Sasanian art after the fall of the last Persian Empire, an international conference was held in September 2017 at the Roman-Germanic Central Museum in Mainz. The contributions of scholars from different disciplines are published in this volume.

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Books

Arab-Sasanian Numismatics and History during the Early Islamic Period in Iran and Iraq

Malek, Hodge Mehdi. 2019. Arab-Sasanian Numismatics and History during the Early Islamic Period in Iran and Iraq: The Johnson Collection of Arab-Sasanian Coins (Royal Numismatic Society Special Publication 55). 2 vols. London: Royal Numismatic Society.

This is the first major work to attempt a comprehensive survey of the Arab-Sasanian silver coinage since Walker’s 1941 Catalogue of the British Museum collection. It includes the latest research on the subject, both historical (chapters 1 to 4) and numismatic (chapter 5 to 15). All the coins (over 1,600), both silver drachms and copperfulus, in the Johnson collection are illustrated on the excellent plates. Where thJohnson collection does not have a specimen of an important coin an example is illustrated from another source, making this a truly important work

The extensive chapters on the persons named on the coins, the mints, and the Pahlavi, Arabic and Sogdian legends, make this an invaluable historical source. Other chapters discuss the copper issues with theirvaried designs, the eras and dates used, metrology, coins struck in the east in Sīstān and further north by the Hephthalites, and counter marks, as well as the designs found on the silver drachms. All Pahlavi and Arabic legends (mints, persons named, religious and other marginal legends, dates) are written out as theyappear on the coins in extensive tables. This makes it possible for a beginner in the series to read thesesometimes difficult legends.

See here the Table of Contents of the two volumes.

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Books

Cosmology, Law, and Elites in Late Antiquity

Scheunchen, Tobias. 2019. Cosmology, law, and elites in late antiquity: Marriage and slavery in Zoroastrianism, Eastern Christianity, and Islam (Arbeitsmaterialien zum Orient 32). Baden-Baden: Ergon Verlag.

Can elites use cosmological imagery to sanction marital and slavery practices for their political aspirations? Can interactions between Late Antique legal systems be thought beyond “borrowings?” This work studies legal writings from the Zoroastrian, East Syrian, and Islamic traditions arguing that Late Antique matrimonial and slavery practices were significantly informed by cosmological imagery and repeatedly brought in line with the elites’ political aspirations. It suggests that these legal traditions should be thought in a shared epistemic framework to account for the changes and meaningfulness of legal concepts and institutions and cannot simply be reduced to a narrative of borrowings. Instead, this book shows that interactions between Late Antique legal systems were more complex and characterized by patterns of negotiation and competition mirroring the various entanglements of the Late Antique citizen’s life.

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Articles

Anti-christological Zoroastrian polemics. Mechanisms of deconstruction (ŠGW 15)

Timuş, Mihaela. 2018. Polémique mazdéenne anti-christologique: Mécanismes de déconstruction (ŠGW 15). Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Religions- und Kulturgeschichte 112. 105–122.

The present article proposes the analysis of some of the anti-christological arguments to be found at the beginning of the 15th chapter (namely the paragraphs 18–30) of the Zoroastrian polemical treatise Škand Gumānīg Wizār (The Doubt-dispelling Explanation, E. W. West 1887). This treatise was originally written in Middle Persian, but its first version was lost. Nowadays, one works mainly with the reconstruction after the Pāzand (Middle Persian in Avestan characters) version of the text. The article has two parts. On the one hand, the article upholds the hypothesis which states that Zoroastrian anti-christological polemics was done case by case, referring to three groups of Oriental Christians: the Melkites, the Jacobites and the Nestorians respectively. Three main arguments are brought forward. On the other hand, the article provides a description of the logical structure of this polemical attack. It appears that the reasoning follows a syllogism-likpattern, which betrays the influence of Greek logic. It is still a matter of debate whether such influence dates from the Sasanian period and was then passed on to the later Mazdeic exegesis during the first centuries of the Islamic period, or whether it took place after the Arab conquest by the transmission of Muslim theologies and philosophies (eg. the mu’tazilites).

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Books

Two Centuries of Silence

“Two Centuries of Silence” is an English translation of “Do Qarn Sokut,” Dr. Zarrinkub’s celebrated work on the history of Iran in the lead-up to and after the Arab conquest in the mid 7th century. The author begins with a question that puzzles many: How was a world civilization with all of its achievements in art and architecture, religion and law, agriculture and engineering, and civil and military organization, overthrown by a nomadic people with limited literacy and few accomplishments? The title refers to the two-hundred-year period when Persian virtually went mute, when almost all traces of Iran’s rich literary heritage were erased, and when Zoroastrianism gave way to Islam. Zarrinkub’s history is not an unmitigated tale of draconian cultural change, however. He speaks of how Iranian identity went underground, occasionally surfacing in open rebellion against Arab and Muslim supremacy. Drawing on a variety of original sources, Zarrinkub looks into the “savage darkness” of nearly two hundred years and detects glimmers of Persian resurgence in various parts of Iran and Muslim Central Asia. In fits and starts forms of the indigenous language broke their long silence, and Iranians began to speak about and for themselves.

Although written almost sixty years ago, “Two Centuries of Silence” is oddly topical. In delving into the long history of Arab domination it contextualizes attitudes commonly held today. Readers will understand, for example, why being called “Arab” can infuriate many Iranians. The book traces the deep roots of the current fashion of proclaiming Persian nationality with Zoroastrian imagery. Zarrinkub’s study tells the ways Iranians of the 8th and 9th centuries resisted the imposition of a “pure” Islam on every aspect of their lives. The parallels between the defiance of the sweeping cultural change and the imposed religious conformity of that era and the reactions to the return to Islam demanded by the Iranian Revolutionaries of today are striking. At the same time, Zarrinkub’s secular treatment of the sanctities of Islam—the belief in the oneness of God, the sacrosanct nature of Muhammad and the divine origin of his message, etc.—makes the book controversial today. Although “Do Qarn Sokut” gained a certificate of publication in 1999, the Iranian publisher (Sokhan) found it necessary to include in a preface excerpts from a book that refutes Zarrinkub (Khadamat-e Motaqabel-e Iran va Islam, “The Reciprocal Services of Islam and Iran”). The author of the refutation, the noted religious scholar Morteza Motahhari, asks: How could Zarrinkub call the period silent? After all, hadn’t the Persians had gained a new language, full of poetry, the medium of the clear and simple message God gave His Prophet? Rather than an age of silence it was a time of awakening to the sound of God’s very voice. Thus did Do Qarn-e Sokut become embroiled in the on-going dispute between those wishing to restore Islam in Iran and secularists who want to lessen the authority and power of the clergy.

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Books

History of the Kings of the Persians’ in Three Arabic Chronicles

Hoyland, Robert G. 2018. History of the kings of the Persians’ in three Arabic chronicles: The transmission of the Iranian past from late antiquity to early Islam. (Translated Texts for Historians 69). Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.
This book translates the sections on pre-Islamic Persia in three Muslim Arabic chronicles, those of Ahmad al-Ya‘qubi (d. ca. 910), ‘Ali al-Mas‘udi (d. ca. 960) and Hamza al-Isfahani (d. ca. 960s). Their accounts, like those of many other Muslim historians on this topic, draw on texts that were composed in the period 750-850 bearing the title ‘The History of the Kings of the Persians’. These works served a growing audience of well-to-do Muslim bureaucrats and scholars of Persian ancestry, who were interested in their heritage and wished to make it part of the historical outlook of the new civilization that was emerging in the Middle East, namely Islamic civilization. This book explores the question of how knowledge about ancient Iran was transmitted to Muslim historians, in what forms it circulated and how it was shaped and refashioned for the new Perso-Muslim elite that served the early Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad, a city that was built only a short distance away from the old Persian capital of Seleucia-Ctesiphon.
About the Author:
Robert G. Hoyland is Professor of Late Antique and Early Islamic Middle East History at the Institute for Study of the Ancient World of New York University. Previous publications include ‘Theophilus of Edessa’s Chronicle and the Circulation of Historical Knowledge in Late Antiquity and Early Islam’ (LUP, 2011).