Citadel of the Heart: Sufi Islam in Indo-Persian Literary Culture and History

Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Programs for Teachers
Newberry Teachers' Consortium

This seminar will introduce participants to some of the historical background and key concepts that have informed Indo-Persian Sufism (tasawwuf) since medieval times.  Described succinctly by one modern scholar as the “mystical dimensions of Islam,” Sufi idioms of gnostic love, spiritual intoxication, and antinomian dissent from socio-religious orthodoxies have exerted a tremendous influence on literary culture, political ideals, and everyday life in South, Central, and West Asia over the centuries.  By exposing participants to a varied selection of Indo-Persian lyric poetry, modern scholarship, classical music, and even Bollywood film songs, the goal of this seminar is to give some sense of this tradition’s lasting influence, and the challenge that it has always presented to the guardians of religious dogma.  Indeed, as the great Urdu poet Mirza Muhammad Rafi’ Sauda (d. 1781) asked, in the couplet from which the title of this seminar is taken: “So what if the Ka’ba [in Mecca] is destroyed, O preacher? / It’s not like the citadel of the heart, which can’t be rebuilt.”

Seminar led by Rajeev Kinra, Northwestern University