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Dr. Cyril Uy: “Improvised Forms: Body, Text, and Diagram in Saʿd al-Dīn Ḥamūya's (d. 1252) Sajanjal al-arwāḥ”
Though ignored by contemporary scholarship, the 13th-century Sufi Saʿd al-Dīn Ḥamūya (d. 1252) both inspired and bewildered generations of occultists, mystics, and messiahs across the medieval and early-modern Persianate world. This talk will illustrate the deconstructive ethos and radical openness of Ḥamuya's work through attention to a manuscript of his Mirror of Spirits (Sajanjal al-arwāḥ), dated to AH 656/1258 CE and held in Istanbul's Süleymaniye Library (Fatih 2645). On first glance, the manuscript reflects the countless collections of Sufi prayers housed in archives across the world. The Mirror soon takes an abrupt turn, however, unfurling a host of Qurʾānic pericopes, warped letters, and arcane diagrams whose rhizomatic forms permeate the manuscript's folia. Reading Ḥamūya's text against the prayer manuals, theoretical treatises, and talismanic images of his colleagues, I explore how the shaykh's playful deconstruction of textual and visual languages may have provoked readers to experiment with new ways of imagining Reality. Once activated by the embodied and affective practices of Sufi prayer, Ḥamūya's diagrams are not static representations, but generative tools for improvisation
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