This lecture will focus on the mystical and messianic movement that came to be known under the name of Hurufiyya, meaning ‘letterists’, which was founded in Iran in the second half of the 8th AH/14th CE century by Fadl Allah Astarabadi (d. 796 AH/1394 CE). Although the Hurufis exerted a wide and lasting influence upon the formation of the political, religious and literary cultures of the late medieval Islamic world from Anatolia to South Asia, the origins and doctrines of the movement have remained obscure until recent years.
Upon what kind of experience did Fadl Allah establish his claim to religious authority? Why did he choose to compose his magnum opus, the Jawidan-nama-yi kabir (the Great Book of Eternity) in such an enigmatic way? What are the contents of Fadl Allah’s doctrines and how do they compare to the known intellectual and spiritual currents of Islam? How can Fadl Allah’s approach to Qurʾanic exegesis and his interpretation of Jewish and Christian material be characterised? Answers to these and other questions might give us an insight into the factors underlying the ideology that contributed to the emergence and consolidation of the Ottoman, Safawid and Mughal empires, as well as the continuing influence of Hurufi literature to the present day.