Mountains and messiahs : the Roshaniyya, revelation, and Afghan becoming

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This dissertation analyzes a sixteenth-century Sufi messianic movement known as the Roshaniyya ("the illuminated ones") popular among the Afghan communities of the northwestern regions of the Mughal Empire. While the Roshaniyya under the leadership of Bayazid Ansari and his family clashed with Mughal armies, there was a more profound contest over the nature of language and divine revelation. How does a "vernacular" language become the language of God? By telling a history of the "practice of revelation" amid the Afghan highlands, this project rejects the over-reliance upon tribe and ethnicity as explanatory categories that isolate the Roshaniyya movement. Rather, through an immanent reading of Roshani texts and the text of their critics, this project traces rival ideologies of language and temporality, demonstrating the significance of these contests in the emergence of new imaginings of Afghan identity and the role of Pashto. The Roshaniyya experimentation with language reveals a community that engaged the Qur'an and the concept of revelation as an open, continuous phenomenon that could be grasped through dhikr practice, narratives of dreams and saints, and literary techniques such as repetition, imitation, and rhyme. The Roshaniyya thus offer both a demonstration of the participation of Afghans in larger, Persianate religio-cultural trends as well as a striking example of the diverse ways premodern Muslims engaged the Qur'an and prophetic history. This dissertation also analyzes sources from a wide range of contexts that engage, critique, and remember the Roshaniyya in diverse ways for multiple ideological purposes. Among the sources considered are Mughal courtly chronicles, Persian biographical dictionaries, the reports of nineteenth-century British scholars and soldiers, and various works by a popular seventeeth-century heresiographer and Sunni scholar by the name of Akhund Darweza.


Type of resource text
Form electronic; electronic resource; remote
Extent 1 online resource.
Publication date 2017
Issuance monographic
Language English


Associated with Sherman, William Edward Brown
Associated with Stanford University, Department of Religious Studies.
Primary advisor Bashir, Shahzad, 1968-
Thesis advisor Bashir, Shahzad, 1968-
Thesis advisor Crews, Robert D, 1970-
Thesis advisor Fonrobert, Charlotte Elisheva
Thesis advisor Gin Lum, Kathryn
Advisor Crews, Robert D, 1970-
Advisor Fonrobert, Charlotte Elisheva
Advisor Gin Lum, Kathryn


Genre Theses

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility William Edward Brown Sherman.
Note Submitted to the Department of Religious Studies.
Thesis Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2017.
Location electronic resource

Access conditions

© 2017 by William Edward Brown Sherman
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).

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