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Graduate Student Brown Bag: Leila El Murr

Fri, Feb 5, 12:00 pm
GISB 3015

Seeing God: The Use of Theories of Vision in Jami’s Yusuf va Zulaykha

Leila El-Murr

Indiana University – Bloomington

      Friday, February 5

GISB 3015

“In this presentation, I will discuss the difference between profane love and sacred love, as examined in Jāmī's masnavī Yūsuf va Zulaykhā. It can be conceptualized through metaphors of vision as well as narrative planning. Jami's tale centers on Zulaykhā's love for Yusuf and her subsequent conversion to monotheism. The text makes extensive use of the sense of sight, especially through the trope of jelvah-i maḥbūb, the blinding hierophany of the beloved, to create meaning and to illustrate the transformation of Zulaykhā's profane love into sacred love. This transformation occurs in several stages, each of which is layered with philosophical and mystical doctrines, in particular from Ibn 'Arabī. Zulaykha’s inability to perceive meaning behind form leads to her profane love and this in turn leads to her attempt at physical gratification as in the seduction scene of the 7th room of the palace. The resolution of this conflict occurs when Zulaykha upon shattering her idol converts to monotheism and become the ideal lover by living her love as an act of devotion to God whose self-disclosure she recognizes in Yusuf.  She finally ‘sees’ the meaning and Truth lying behind the form of Yusuf. Thus Zulaykha is able to use her ‘imagination,’ defined as one of the faculties of the soul by Ibn ‘Arabi, to resolve the discrepancy between sensory form and meaning. The originality of this study lies in examining the assumed encyclopedic knowledge of the reader with regard to medieval theories of vision.”

About the IAUNRC Brown Bag:

The Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center’s Graduate Student Brown Bag Talks are an excellent opportunity to converse with fellow students, receive feedback in an informal environment, and learn from their peers.

If you are interested in giving a talk this or the following semester, please contact us at

All are invited to hear a presentation from graduate students and former graduate students who study the region to discuss their methods, recent work, goals, and experiences.