Sarah Bowen SavantThe New Muslims of Post-Conquest Iran: Tradition, Memory, and Conversion

Cambridge University Press, 2013

by Matthew Long on October 16, 2014

Sarah Bowen Savant

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Sarah Bowen Savant, Associate Professor at the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations at the Aga Khan University in London, addresses important questions about conversion among Persian peoples from the ninth to eleventh century CE in her work The New Muslims of Post-Conquest Iran: Tradition, Memory, and Conversion (Cambridge University Press, 2013). Memory is the centerpiece of her study. In the first half of her work, Savant’s analysis of memory, known as mnemohistory, coalesces around certain “sites of memory” which can include people, such as Salmān al-Fārisī, places, and events, with particular attention paid to conquest (futūḥ) narratives. These cases demonstrate how Persian identity was woven into the framework of pre-Islamic history and early Islam. However, remembering is not the only aspect that helped shape Persian, Muslim identity; forgetting is an equally important element according to Savant. Forgetting allowed irreconcilable features of Persian identity and history to be limited. The second half of her work highlights important strategies of forgetting, such as the replacing one past with an alternative account or the use of unfavorable elements of pre-Islamic Persia. Savant’s exploration of memory and its impact upon Persian, Muslim identify helps to answer important questions about conversion in early Islam. Readers, both scholars of Islam and historians in general, will find Savant’s work illuminating.

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