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A Tale of Two Cities, or Three: Kamāl al-Dīn Ḥusayn Khvārazmī (d. 839/1435-36) and the Varieties of Timurid Political Thought between Herat, Samarkand, and Khvārazm

Lecture by Evrim Binbas, University of Bonn

Monday, March 4, 2019
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Bunche 6275

In recent years, there has been an increasing tendency to narrate the history of fifteenth century Central Asia in the context of a dichotomy between two cities: Herat and Samarkand. In this framework, Herat represent a more shariʿa-minded intellectual center as opposed to Samarkand’s open-mindedness and orientation towards the “positive sciences.” Needless to say, the famous observatory founded by Timur’s grandson Ulugh Beg represents one of the pillars of this understanding. This view argues that the so-called Herat and Samarkand schools constituted two distinct paradigms, which sometimes stood in contradiction to each other and at other times could be reconciled during the early modern period. In my presentation, I will revisit this idea, and suggest that without the inclusion of Khvārazm we cannot draw a full picture of the fifteenth century intellectual movements in Central Asia. I will argue my case by discussing the works of Kamāl al-Dīn Ḥusayn Khvārazmī, who was a prominent Mathnavī commentator and Sufi from Khvārazm. In my presentation I will particularly emphasize Khvārazmī’s political writings, including Yanbūʿ al-asrār fī naṣāyiḥ al-abrār.

Sponsor(s): Program on Central Asia