Indiana University Bloomington
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The Yasavi Sufis and Central Asian Islam



This course carries Culture Studies & COLL A & H distribution credit

This course will survey the history and legacy of the Yasav* Sufi tradition in Central Asia. This tradition has represented one of the most important religious currents in Central Asia over the past eight centuries, and provides a convenient vantage point from which to explore more general tendencies and problems in the religious history of Islamic Central Asia. The Yasav* tradition is generally regarded as the major mystical tradition among the Turks of Central Asia, and is best known in connection with the magnificent shrine complex built by Timur, at the end of the 14th century, in honor of its "founder," Khoja A²mad Yasav*, and with the D*v*n-i ²ikmat, the collection of Turkic poetry ascribed to A²mad Yasav*; there is much more to the Yasav* tradition, however, and exploring its history provides an unparalleled window on the religious history of Islamic Central Asia. Following introductory lectures on the state of Yasav* studies and on the background to the emergence of the Yasav* tradition, we will look more closely at the body of sources at our disposal for Yasav* history; we will then turn to the "founder" himself, Khoja A²mad Yasav*, exploring his chronology, traditions about his life and Sufi training, and issues surrounding his followers and literary legacy. Special attention will be devoted to tracing the development of natural and spiritual descent lines linked to Yasav* from the 13th to the 15th centuries, the pivotal era for the formation of Sufi orders in Central Asia. Next we will follow the major Yasav* transmission lineages (silsilahs) from the 16th century on, with an emphasis upon the emergence of a Yasav* hagiographical tradition. Following a brief look at evocations of the Yasav* tradition outside Central Asia -- especially Anatolia -- we will evaluate the impact of the Yasav* tradition in Central Asian literature, in political and economic affairs, in social organization, and especially in popular religious lore and practice; and finally, we will consider the contemporary revival of A²mad Yasav*'s image, as a cultural and religious hero, in post-Soviet Central Asia.

Regions Covered

Historical Central Eurasia


Department of Central Eurasian Studies