The Art and Material Culture of Iranian Shi'ism: Iconography and Religious Devotion in Shi'i Islam

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The Art and Material Culture of Iranian Shi'ism: Iconography and Religious Devotion in Shi'i Islam
The Art and Material Culture of Iranian Shi'ism Iconography and Religious Devotion in Shi'i Islam.jpg
AuthorPedram Khosronejad

The book The Art and Material Culture of Iranian Shi'ism: Iconography and Religious Devotion in Shi'i Islam is about pious artefacts – things that Shi’ism somehow had direct influence over in their creation, function and circulation and seeks to sharpen scholarly awareness of the nature of materiality and its implications for Shi’i cultural, social and historical knowledge.

About the author[edit | edit source]

Prof. Pedram Khosronejad obtained his PhD at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris and currently is an Adjunct Professor in the Religion and Society Research Cluster at Western Sydney University, a Fellow of the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University, and Curator of Persian Art and Material Culture at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. He worked as the Associate Director of Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies at Oklahoma State University in the United States (2015-2019) and as the Goli Rais Larizadeh Chair of the Iran Heritage Foundation for the Anthropology of Iran in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland (2007-2015). Khosronejad is well-known internationally for his innovative visual anthropology research project on Photography of African Slavery in Qajar-era Iran (1850-1925).

About the book[edit | edit source]

This book published in I.B.Tauris (December 15, 2011), has 288 pages and best sellers rank of 6,603,344 in Books.

Pedram Khosronejad in this book brings together highly distinguished scholars in the field to trace the ways in which Shi'i rule and theology have interacted with the architecture, art and material culture of Iran since the sixteenth century. He tries to show that different people will use Shi’i artefacts or experience environment in different ways: meaning is culturally contingent.

Abstract of chapters[edit | edit source]

Part 1, Shi’i devotional iconography and symbolism[edit | edit source]

Chapter 1: Icon and Meditation: Between Popular Art and Sufism in Imami Shi’ism

Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezziin in this chapter, examines the role of material culture – popular religious art objects – in Sufi practices. He discusses how a devotional object, could carry sanction and protection to its proprietor and creates a strong linkage between religious pictorial art and the mystical brotherhood. Pious images and devotional objects help people contemplate the divine and teach the true faith because not everyone can approach God through the intellect.

Chapter 2: When Nubuvvat Encounters Valāyat: Safavid Paintings of the Prophet Mohammad’s Mi‘rāj, c. 1500–50

Christiane Gruber analyses the image as a mode of symbolic communication. She reflects on how the Safavids, in order to secure their religiopolitical legitimacy, patronized paintings and manuscript illustrations with religious themes. Gruber argues that these visual materials served as bridges between the earliest Shi’i illustrated manuscripts and later Safavid exegetes. Gruber believes that we should heed historical evidence and data as a means of understanding Shi’i artefacts as cultural products.

Chapter 3: The Pictorial Representation of Shi’i Themes in Lithographed Books of the Qajar Period

Ulrich Marzolph reflects illustrations as visual representations of religious themes. He presents and analyses different types of religious illustrations in lithographed books of Qajar periods in Iran and reflects on the ability of such lithographed books and their images to contribute to the popularization of quintessential religious concepts while drawing on popular imagery and furthering the stereotypical representation of themes lying at the core of Shi’i self-definition.

Chapter 4: The Lion of Ali in Anatolia: History, Symbolism and Iconology

Thierry Zarcone follows the iconography and symbol of the lion in poetry and sacred texts (calligraphic lions) attached to the rituals of Bektashi and Alevi Sufi orders in Turkey.  

Chapter 5: Calligraphic Lions Symbolizing the Esoteric Dimension of Ali’s Nature

Raya Shani deals only with calligraphic lions, whose bodies are shaped by sacred formulas related to Imam Ali with a hidden message.

Zarcone and Shani present iconography and calligraphy as two modes of religious symbolism. They observe in their chapters the image of the lion, another Shi’i zoomorphic symbol, as a representation of Imam Ali. While, these two scholars argue that these religious images and sacred calligraphies, founded by Shi’i Sufi ideologies, show us a world but not the world itself.

Part 2, Shi’i Rituals, Pious Artefacts and Material Culture[edit | edit source]

Chapter 6: The Votive Image in Iranian Shi’ism

Ingvild Flaskerud discusses votive images as ritual objects, Flaskerud presents how in Shiraz votive images are employed and why these are regarded as effective and adequate vehicles for invoking favor and giving thanks.

Chapter 7: The Horse of Imam Hossein: Notes on the Iconography of Shi’i Devotional Posters from Pakistan and India

Jürgen Wasim Frembgen focuses on religious posters as devotional iconography. He examines how devotion to the white horse of the seyyed ol-shohada is reflected in modern twentieth and twenty first century posters from Pakistan and India. The horse of Imam Hossain is an essential part of the Shi’i symbolic language. Referring to the martyrdom of the beloved Third Imam, it plays a central role in the ritual processions of Muharram.

Chapter 8, Lions’ Representation in Bakhtiari Oral Tradition and Funerary Material Culture

Pedram Khosronejad in his chapter uses the lion as a zoomorphic symbol for illustrating historical and religious meanings and social functions of this symbol in oral tradition, funeral ceremonies and the material culture of death and dying among Bakhtiari nomads in southwest Iran.

Chapter 9. The Iconography of Ali as the Lion of God in Shi’i Art and Material Culture

Fahmida Suleman’s study explores how Shi’i religious performances in Pakistan and India open a ritual space for a collective liminal experience. In Suleman’s essay, by investigating the iconography of the lion through different art objects and material manifestations of Shi’ism in different periods, she demonstrates the relationship among this zoomorphic symbol, Imam Ali and Shi’i devotional beliefs. Her comparative studies can show us the way in which this symbol was created, functioned and circulated in the Islamic world.

Chapter 10, Prayer and Prostration: Imami Shi’i Discussions of al-sujūd Ýalā al-turba al Ḥussainiyya

Robert Gleave examines the formal description of a belief system through religious texts and attempts to draw conclusions relating to the object without its (the object’s) direct examination. His attention is focused precisely on religio-legal regulations related to the paraphernalia of devotion.

Chapter 11, Talismans from the Iranian World: A Millenary Tradition

Ziva Vesel’s essay explores one of the most interesting material objects of religion: talismans. The purpose of her observation is limited to the description of figurative representations – humans, animals, plants – with talismans. She tries to show why, where and how some of these objects show Shi’i or Iranian characters.

Source[edit | edit source]