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Hidden Caliphate: Sufi Saints beyond the Oxus and the Indus (Lunch Talk-Hybrid)


CISA Speaker Series

Hidden Caliphate: Sufi Saints beyond the Oxus and the Indus (Lunch Talk-Hybrid)

Waleed Ziad, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


Tuesday, October 11, 2022
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM (Pacific Time)
10383 Bunche Hall
Click here to register


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In a pathbreaking work combining social history, religious studies, and anthropology, Waleed Ziad examines the development across Asia of Muslim revivalist networks from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. At the center of the story are the Naqshbandi-Mujaddidi Sufis, who inspired major reformist movements and articulated effective social responses to the fracturing of Muslim political power amid European colonialism. In a time of political upheaval, the Mujaddidis fused Persian, Arabic, Turkic, and Indic literary traditions, mystical virtuosity, popular religious practices, and urban scholasticism in a unified yet flexible expression of Islam. The Mujaddidi “Hidden Caliphate,” as it was known, brought cohesion to diverse Muslim communities from Delhi through Peshawar to the steppes of Central Asia. And the legacy of Mujaddidi Sufis continues to shape the Muslim world, as their institutional structures, pedagogies, and critiques have worked their way into leading social movements from Turkey to Indonesia, and among the Muslims of China. By shifting attention away from court politics, colonial actors, and the standard narrative of the “Great Game,” Ziad offers a new vision of Islamic sovereignty. At the same time, he demonstrates the pivotal place of the Afghan Empire in sustaining this vast inter-Asian web of scholastic and economic exchange. Based on extensive fieldwork across Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan at madrasas, Sufi monasteries, private libraries, and archives, Hidden Caliphate reveals the long-term influence of Mujaddidi reform and revival in the eastern Muslim world, bringing together seemingly disparate social, political, and intellectual currents from the Indian Ocean to Siberia.

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Waleed Ziad is Assistant Professor and Ali Jarrahi Fellow in Persian Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to this, he was an Islamic Law and Civilization Research Fellow at Yale Law School. He completed his PhD in History at Yale University, where his dissertation won the university-wide Theron Rockwell Field Prize. In the last decade, Ziad has conducted fieldwork on historical and contemporary religious revivalism and reform as well as material culture in over 140 towns across Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan.
His books include Hidden Caliphate: Sufi Saints beyond the Oxus and Indus (Harvard, 2021) In the Treasure Room of the Sakra King: Votive Coinage from Gandharan Shrines (American Numismatic Society, 2022), Sufi Masters of the Afghan Empire: Bibi Sahiba and Her Spiritual Network (Harvard, exp. 2024), and Beyond the Khutba and Sikka: Sovereignty and Coinage in Sindh (in progress). His articles on historical and ideological trends in the Muslim world have appeared in the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, Christian Science Monitor, The Hill and major dailies internationally.


Sponsor(s): Center for India and South Asia, Program on Central Asia