William E. B. Sherman
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
Nabila Horakhsh, "Moon's Yell" (instagram.com/nabilahorakhsh)
When does human language become the language of God? And is it possible that God's words can inaugurate a new type of literature, a new type of Sufi community, and even a new people?
This project explores a Sufi movement active in the Afghan highlands in the 16th and 17th centuries known as the Roshaniyya ("the illuminated ones"). They followed a leader who claimed to be the messiah and were likely the first group to use Pashto as a written language. As I argue, it is only be paying attention to their ideas on the apocalypse, the nature of language, and Sufi ritual that we can understand the imagined worlds of 16th century South and Central Asia.
This book project is based upon my dissertation which was awarded the Pirzada Prize from the Institute for South Asia Studies at UC-Berkeley.