Becoming a King of Islam: The Imperial Project of Qadi Burhan Al-Din of Sivas (1345-1398 CE)

Ali Karjoo-Ravary, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation analyzes the conjunction of Islamic (especially Sufi) cosmology, metaphysics, political ideology, aesthetic production, and religious law in the life of of Burhan al-Din of Sivas (1345-1398), a Sufi, scholar, poet, and warrior king in late medieval Anatolia. I argue that Burhan al-Din intended for the production and circulation of specific texts in order to establish himself as a “King of Islam,” a king who succeeds Muhammad by embodying the opposite but complementary attributes of beauty and majesty through feasting and fighting (bazm va razm). By uncovering the framework of his religious and imperial project, I show how he and his court used complex processes to articulate their power in multiple languages and ideological frameworks. Despite their diverse means of expression, these processes were considered thoroughly Islamic. Through a close study of the Persian, Arabic, and Turkish sources produced at his court, I engage with intellectual and material histories in order to recover his legitimizing and image-building exercises, arguing that these practices were already widespread earlier than is commonly accepted by scholars of Islamic thought and history. The dissertation is split into two parts. The first half of the dissertation presents a history of Burhan al-Din’s life as presented in Astarabadi’s Bazm va Razm. Chapter 1 examines his childhood, youth, and road to power, and Chapter 2 investigates his actions as a scholar-king. The second half of the dissertation is concerned with the ideological underpinnings of Burhan al-Din’s kingship and the material production of the court. Chapter 3 demonstrates how kingship was viewed as directly linked to Muhammad. Chapter 4 delves into the balancing act of feasting and fighting in establishing legitimate rule. By developing a framework for the role of Islam in premodern Persianate and Turkic monarchy, this dissertation contributes to scholarship on Islamic political thought by highlighting the discursive and dynamic nature of Islam’s political history.

Subject Area

Religion|Islamic Studies|Medieval history

Recommended Citation

Karjoo-Ravary, Ali, "Becoming a King of Islam: The Imperial Project of Qadi Burhan Al-Din of Sivas (1345-1398 CE)" (2018). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI10837404.