Shahzad Bashir

Lysbeth Warren Anderson Professor in Islamic Studies

Department of Religious Studies

Stanford University

About  |

Ph.D., Yale University (1998)

A.B., Amherst College (1991)



I specialize in Islamic Studies with a particular interest in the intellectual and social histories of Persianate societies of Iran and Central and South Asia circa fourteenth century CE to the present. My published work is concerned with the study of Sufism and Shi’ism, messianic movements originating in Islamic contexts, representation of corporeality in hagiographic texts and Persian miniature paintings, religious developments during the Timurid and Safavid periods, and modern transformations of Islamic societies.


I am currently working on two major projects. The first is a book entitled Islamic Pasts and Futures: Conceptual Explorations. This is to be a wide-ranging treatment that critiques the way Islamic history has been conceptualized in modern scholarship and suggests alternatives, with emphasis on the multiplicity of temporal configurations found in Islamic materials. The second project is tentatively entitled Building the Past: Memory, Metaphor, and Reality in Persianate Islamic Societies. This is to be a cultural history based on assessing materials produced circa 1400-1600 CE that claim to represent the past. I seek to understand constructions of time and human experience in these texts, leading eventually to the narrative description of an Islamic cosmopolitan arena that derived its identity from Persian language and literary forms. Both these projects engage contemporary academic debates regarding language, historiography, and history on the basis of materials of Islamic provenance.


My work has been supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Research Institute in Turkey, the Stanford Humanities Center, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Most recently, I was named an inaugural Andrew F. Carnegie Fellow for the academic year 2015-16.

Contact information:


       Department of Religious Studies

       Room 72F, Building 70, Main Quad

       Stanford University

       Stanford, California 94305, USA


        t: 650.736.8488

        f: 650.725.1476



Books  |

Sufi Bodies: Religion and Society in Medieval Islam.

New York: Columbia University Press, 2011 (paperback, 2013).


Fazlallah Astarabadi and the Hurufis.

Oxford: Oneworld, 2005.



Turkish translation:

Fazlullah Esterabâdî Ve Hurufilik.

Translated by Ahmet Tunç Şen.

Istanbul: Kitap Yayınevi, 2013.



publisher's website


Messianic Hopes and Mystical Visions: The Nurbakhshiya Between Medieval and Modern Islam.

Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2003.


Co-edited with Robert Crews:

Under the Drones: Modern Lives in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Borderlands.

Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012.


Book Series Editor:

Islamicate Intellectual History.

Leiden: E. J. Brill.


Series Editors: Judith Pfeiffer , Shahzad Bashir, Heidrun Eichner.


Book Series Editor:

Sanctity in Global Perspective.



Series Editors: Shahzad Bashir, Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski, John Stratton Hawley.


Articles  |

{ forthcoming}

“Islamic Heritage: A Perspective from Narrative Sources.”

“Is Non-Sectarian Islamic History Possible?”

“Everlasting Doubt: Uncertainty in Islamic Representations of the Past.”

Journeys Among the Living Dead of Tabriz.

  “From Manuscript to Genre: A Heuristic for Utilizing Sufi Hagiographies as Historical Sources.”

  “Timely Disguises: Fantasizing Civility on the Indo-European Frontier.”

  “The Many Spirits of the Islamic Past.”


{ published}

  “Islam and the Politics of Temporality: The Case of ISIS.” In Time, Temporality and Global Politics, edited by Andrew Hom, Christopher McIntosh, Alasdair McKay and Liam Stockdale. Bristol, UK: E-International Relations, 2016: 134-149.

  “On Islamic Time: Rethinking Chronology in the Historiography of Muslim Societies.” History and Theory 53, no. 4 (December 2014), 519-544.

  “A Perso-Islamic Universal Chronicle in its Historical Context: Ghiyas al-Din Khwandamir’s Habib al-siyar.” In Historiography and Religion, edited by Jörg Rüpke, Susanne Rau, and Bernd-Christian Otto. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2015: 207-223.

  “The Origins and Rhetorical Evolution of the term Qizilbash in Persianate Literature.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 57/3 (2014): 364-391.

  “The World as a Hat: Symbolism and Materiality in Safavid Iran.” In Unity in Diversity: Mysticism, Messianism and the Construction of Religious Authority in Islam, edited by Orkhan Mir-Kasimov. Leiden: Brill, 2013: 343-365.

  “Movement and Stillness: The Practice of Sufi Dhikr in Fourteenth-Century Central Asia.” In Meditation in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, edited by Halvor Eifring. New York: Continuum Press, 2013: 201-211.

  “Narrating Sight: Dreaming as Visual Training in Persianate Sufi Hagiography.” In Dreams and Visions in Islamic Societies, edited by Alexander Knysh and Özgen Felek. Albany: SUNY Press, 2012: 233-247.

  “Resisting Assimilation: Encounters with a Small Islamic Sect in Contemporary Pakistan.” In Engaging South Asian Religions:  Boundaries, Appropriations and Resistances, edited by Peter Gottschalk and Mathew Schmalz. Albany: SUNY Press, 2011: 173-190.

  “Muhammad in Sufi Eyes: Prophetic Legitimacy in Medieval Iran and Central Asia.” In Cambridge Companion to Muhammad, edited by Jonathan Brockopp. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010: 201-225.

  “Body.” In Key Themes for the Study of Islam, edited by Jamal Elias. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2010: 72-92, 388-390.

  “Muslims in the History of Kashmir, Ladakh, and Baltistan: A Critical View on Persian and Urdu Sources,” Rivista degli Studi Orientali, Supplemento 2 (2009), 133-144.

  “Islamic Tradition and Celibacy.” In Celibacy and Religious Traditions, edited by Carl Olson. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007: 133-150.

  “The Alphabetical Body: Horufi Reflections on Language, Script, and the Human Form.” In Proceedings of the Symposium Religious Texts in Iranian Languages, edited by Fereydoun Vahman and Claus Pederson. Copenhagen: Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab, 2007: 279-292.

  “Shah Ismaʿil and the Qizilbash: Cannibalism in the Religious History of Early Safavid Iran,” History of Religions 45, no. 3 (February 2006): 234-56.

  “After the Messiah: The Nurbakhshiyya in Late Timurid and Early Safavid Times.” In Society and Culture in the Early Modern Middle East: Studies on Iran in the Safavid Period, edited by Andrew Newman. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2003: 295-313.

  “Deciphering the Cosmos from Creation to Apocalypse: The Hurufiyya Movement and Medieval Islamic Esotericism.” In Imagining the End: Visions of Apocalypse from the Ancient Middle East to Contemporary America, edited by Abbas Amanat and Magnus Bernhardsson. London: I. B. Tauris, 2002: 168-184.

  “The Imam’s Return: Messianic Leadership in Late Medieval Shiʿism.” In The Most Learned of the Shiʿa, edited by Linda Walbridge. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001: 21-33.

  “The Risalat al-huda of Muhammad Nurbaks: Critical Edition with Introduction,” Rivista degli Studi Orientali 75, nos. 1-4 (2001): 87-137.

  “Enshrining Divinity: The Death and Memorialization of Fazlallah Astarabadi in Hurufi Thought,” Muslim World 90, nos. 3 & 4 (Fall 2000): 289-308.


{encyclopedia entries}

  “Messianism” in Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013).

  “Anarkali,” “Bakhsh, Data Ganj,” “Multan,” “Nurbakhshiya,” and “Muslim Saints” in Encyclopedia of Modern Asia (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002).

  “Anger,” “Consolation,” and “Eternity” in Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾan (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2001-2).

Teaching  |



Autumn 2016

Religious Studies 306: Love and Death in Islamic Narratives


Winter 2017

Religious Studies 1: Religion around the Globe

Religious Studies 283: Religion and Literature