Shivan MahendrarajahJul 8, 2022
The Sufi Saint of Jam
History, Religion and Politics of a Sunni Shrine in Shi'i Iran
Cambridge University Press 2021
Shivan Mahendrarajah’s book, The Sufi Saint of Jam: History, Religion, and Politics of a Sunni Shrine in Shi‘i Iran (Cambridge UP, 2021), which explores the history and politics of Ahmad-i-Jam’s shrine, which is located in Iran. The shrine is of particular interest and importance today given that Ahmad of Jam (d. 1141 C.E.) was a Sunni-Sufi, while contemporary Iran is majority Shia, and the shrine has lasted and even thrived for 900 years; the renaissance of the shrine in Iran is also of particular relevance given prevailing assumptions about Iran’s alleged sectarian and intolerant Shi‘i theocracy.
Complete with photographs, this exciting book would appeal to academics, researchers, and others interested in Central Asia, Afghanistan, Sufism, medieval Islam, and Iran. It will also be of use to anyone interested in Islamic art and architecture.
In our conversation today, Mahendrarajah discusses the origins of this book, explains why and how Ahmad-i-Jam, whose shrine is the focus of the book, became known as the patron saint of kings, why the shrine has lasted for 900 years including in a contemporary Shia majority, the sorts of services the shrine has provided historically, its funding sources, and the ways the shrine operates today. We also talk about the architecture of the shrine, and the author explains how the book might also appeal to scholars interested in Islamic art and architecture.
Shehnaz Haqqani is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Mercer University. She earned her PhD in Islamic Studies with a focus on gender from the University of Texas at Austin in 2018. Her dissertation research explored questions of change and tradition, specifically in the context of gender and sexuality, in Islam. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.