William E. B. Sherman
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
Articles and Reviews
Please e-mail me if you do not have access to the links below,
and I'd be happy to share PDFs of my work.
"Apocalypse, Again: Language, Temporality, and Repetition in an Afghan Apocalypse" CrossCurrents vol. 68, no. 2 (June 2018): 260-282.
Can language bend our sense of time? This article explores the connections between temporality and rhetoric in the literature of the Roshaniyya.
1899 Photo of Gilgit Valley by Algernon Durand , available via the British Library
"The Lost Tribes of the Afghans: Religious Mobility and Entanglement in Narratives of Afghan Origins.” In American and Muslims Worlds before 1900, edited by John Ghazvinian and A. Mitchell Fraas. London: Bloomsbury, 2020.
How has the story of Afghan descent from King Saul been told and retold by Afghan princes, British Christian missionaries, and Ahmadi reformers? This chapter tracks genealogies of the Afghans across religious debates from the 17th to the 20th centuries.
Image of an American apocalyptic diagram featuring an image of an "Afghaun." This image is found in Timothy Marr's The Cultural Roots of American Islamicism.
“Romance on the Afghan Frontier: Desire in the Literature of the Church Missionary Society in Peshawar.” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History. Published online: 10 August 2021: 1-26. https://doi.org/10.1080/03086534.2021.1950325.
In the 1880s, a missionary in Peshawar by the name of Thomas Patrick Hughes wrote a pseudonymous romance novel about an Afghan woman and a British soldier. What does this novel tell us about the Anglican mission in Peshawar? And how can literature serve as a model for our approach to the massive collection of letters, documents, and reports generated by the missionaries of British India?
Reviews and Review Essays
"Finding Fīlmfārsī: Reevaluations of Pre-Revolutionary Iranian Cinema," Journal of Religion & Film: Vol. 23: Iss. 2 , Article 12.
(A review of Pedram Partovi's Popular Iranian Cinema before the Revolution, and Golbar Rekabtalaei's Iranian Cosmopolitanism.)
"Race, Religion, and Reinscription: The Paradoxes and Potentials of the Study of Islam in America," Mashriq & Mahjar, Vol. 5 No. 2 (2018). (A review of Erik Love's Islamophobia and Racism in America, John O'Brien's Keeping it Halal, and Su'ad Abdul Khabeer's Muslim Cool).
Review of Claudia Yaghoobi's Subjectivity in 'Attar, Persian Sufism, and European Mysticism for the AAR's Reading Religion forum.
Review of Christian Lee Novetzke, The Quotidian Revolution in Marginalia, online edition, March 2018.
Review of Jamel A. Velji, An Apocalyptic History of the Early Fatimid Empire (Edinburgh University Press 2016) in Religion, vol. 48 #2, 2018, pp. 307-310.
Review of Francis R. Bradley, Forging Islamic Power and Place: The Legacy of Shaykh Da’ud bin ‘Abd Allah al-Fatani in Mecca and Southeast Asia (University of Hawai’i Press 2016) in Religion, vol. 47 #2, 2017, pp. 301-304.
"Qur’anic Imaginations in the Making: New Religious Movements in Mughal-era Islam." Religion Compass. Vol. 15. Issue 1. January 2021.
In the study of premodern Islam, is it possible to draw
fruitfully upon the theories and methods that characterize
the study of new religious movements? This article examines three approaches to the Qur’an in the sixteenth-century Mughal Empire: the Qur’anic imitation of Bayazid Ansari, the lipogramatic exegesis of Fayżi, and the moral commentary of Bada’uni. These works reveal the innovation, contingency, and “newness” of Islamic Qur’anic traditions in the Mughal domain. Though they disagreed vehemently, Bayazid, Fayżi, and Bada’uni all approached the Qur’an as a revelation that is emergent and ongoing rather than ﬁxed in the historical past. This article argues that the study of premodern Mughal religion – and the history of Islam more generally – beneﬁts from heuristically understanding Islamic texts as part of ever-emergent “new religious movements” rather than as examples of a single transhistorical religion.
Image found in 1996 Shiraz edition of Fayzi's Sawati' al-Ilham.
"In the Garden of Language: Religion, Vernacularization, and the Pashto Poetry of Arzānī in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries" Afghanistan 5.1 (2022): 122-147. DOI: 10.3366/afg.2022.008
This article presents translations and analyses of some of the earliest known Pashto literature: the poems of a figure known as Mullā Arzani. The Pashto ghazals of Arzani reflect a Sufi and messianic religio-cultural milieu in which Pashto is understood to be a divine language. As this article contends, an exploration of Arzani's poetry and Arzani's understanding of his own language use provides a strong challenge to the overly deterministic role that notions of “Pashtun identity” have played in Euro-American understandings of Pashto literature. Arzani's use of Pashto aimed not to express Pashtun ethnic identity nor to provide Pashto poems for Pashtun audiences. Rather, Arzani's ghazals position Pashto as an elite language that accords with the messianic and mystical logics of early modern Persianate cultures.
The image is a folio from the Divan-i Arzani held at the British Library.