The Global Mediterranean Workshop: Prophets, History and Literature in the Islamicate World


The Global Mediterranean at ILCAA, TUFS will hold international workshop “Prophets, History and Literature in the Islamicate World,” featuring Professor Colin Mitchell from Dalhousie University, Canada. We are looking forward to your participation.

Date / Time Sat 20 April 2024 13:30–17:00
Venue Room 401, Hongo-Satellite Office, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
2-14-10 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo →Access
+ Online meeting room
* Pre-registration is required.Registration (deadline: 18 Apr 2024, 22:00 JST)
The Zoom information will be sent by 23:59 (JST), 18 April.
Admission Free
Language English
Organized by NIHU Global Area Studies Program: The Global Mediterranean at ILCAA
Contact gmed.ilcaa★ (Secretariat of the Global Mediterranean Project at ILCAA) Please change ★ to @.


13:30–13:40 Introduction
13:40–14:30 Osamu Otsuka (The University of Tokyo):
The Development of ‘History of the Prophets’ in Islamic Universal History Works
14:40–15:30 Colin Mitchell (Dalhousie University):
Problematizing the Prophet-King David and His Reception in Medieval Persianate Culture
15:40–16:30 Nobuaki Kondo (ILCAA, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies):
The Hamza-nama, the Safavids and the Pre-Islamic Past
16:30–17:00 General Discussions


The Development of ‘History of the Prophets’ in Islamic Universal History Works
Osamu Otsuka

In this presentation, I focus on the development of the ‘History of Prophets’ in early Islamic universal history works (human history from the creation of the world until the time of the author) compiled from the 9th to the 14th century. Specifically, I present a comprehensive overview of how the contents of the Old Testament were received and developed in Islamic universal history works. It is commonly believed that the Islamic historical view on the history of the creation of the world and humanity from Adam, the first human created by God, does not differ from that of Judaism and Christianity (which are, likewise, Semitic religions). However, it is important to note that Islamic narratives on this subject are different depending on their authors and developed over time. While there are several previous studies analyzing Islamic universal history works such as Ṭabarī’s Ta’rīkh al-Rusul wa al-Mulūk, Rashīd al-Dīn’s Jāmi‘ al-Tawārīkh, and others, they have primarily focused on the contemporary history of their authors, rather than the epic history of humanity from Adam. Through this research, we will gain a better understanding of the nature of Islamic historiography.

Problematizing the Prophet-King David and His Reception in Medieval Persianate Culture
Colin Mitchell

This talk is dedicated to exploring the extent to which the early Safavids of the 15th and early 16th century – Shaikhs Junaid, Haidar, `Ali, and Isma`il – were inspired and influenced by the Islamic epic tradition of prophetography (qisas al-anbiya). As the Safavid tariqah changed from an orthodox orientation in the 14th century, other epic traditions (e.g. Shah nama, Abu Muslim nama) which celebrated both pre-Islamic and Sufi-Shi`ite cosmologies became increasingly popular among the Safavid Turkmen. In particular, this talk is concerned with addressing the prophet-king exemplar David and his reception history in medieval Perso-Islamic thought with a focus on his appeal (or lack of) during this early period of the Safavids. In the historical imagination of the Safavids, where did certain prophetic figures like David and Solomon, who were both understood as isra’iliyya kings and prophets, sit with regard to the ambitions of Haidar and his descendants to usher in a millenarian era of redemption and retribution while waging war against Christian communities in nearby regions like Georgia and Circassia? Moreover, as the Safavid tariqah sought out converts and supporters among the populations in Anatolia and northern Syria to further their chiliastic aims, figures like David were positioned in direct competition with a set of epic personalities (e.g. `Ali, Husain, Abu Muslim) who arguably better served the Safavid agenda during this critical juncture. As Shah Isma`il and his successor Shah Tahmasp began to distance themselves from the unruly Qizilbash, were such exemplars re-evaluated as the Safavid historical imagination itself began to shift?

The Hamza-nama, the Safavids and the Pre-Islamic Past
Nobuaki Kondo

Recent studies on Persian historiography also concern discourses such as religious stories and legends in Islamic universal histories and chronicles. These discourses could reflect the authors’ worldviews and affect readers’ views on history. However, if one does not need to discern fiction from facts about these discourses, one should examine historical fiction, which could also influence readers’ and listeners’ minds.

      The Hamza-nama was probably the most read or listened-to romance in the pre-modern Muslim world. It described the fantasy adventures of Hamza (d.625), uncle of Prophet Muhammad, who prevailed from Syria to Java and was translated from Persian into various languages, such as Turkic, Urdu, Malay, and Javanese. Not only the Mughals, whose commission to produce the gorgeous manuscripts was well known, but also the Safavid rulers liked the work so much that they even named the princes after the characters of the romance. First, this presentation examines how much the Safavid committed to the Hamza romance.

      Secondly, this presentation argues how the romance represents the pre-Islamic past. Since Hamza’s conversion to Islam by Prophet Muhammad is located almost at the end of the romance, most of the story is related to the pre-Islamic past. Sassanian historical figures such as Anushirvan (Khosrow I, d.579) and Bozorgmehr had significant roles in the story. Also, the romance often refers to biblical figures, such as Abraham and Solomon. However, their characters are not the same as those in the authentic histories or the mirrors for princes.

      The presentation will indicate alternative discourses on the pre-Islamic past in Safavid Iran and other Persianate societies and point out that the Hamza-nama could popularize such alternative views of history through popular literature and storytelling.