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IBA student publishes an article about a Ismāʿīlī religious site
Ali Jan Damani has published an article ‘The King has arrived from the West: A Preliminary Study on the Historical Origin and Structural Evolution of Shāh Jā Qadam’ in the journal of South Asian History, Culture and Archaeology.
This paper deals with the historical origin of a sacred space called Shāh Jā Qadam (literally, Lord’s foot). It is located at Amīr Pīr, Sindh, Pakistan, and attracts thousands of Ismāʿīlīs throughout the year. Without even actually knowing the history of Shāh Jā Qadam, many Ismāʿīlīs still continue to visit this sacred space as a part of their family tradition. Owing to the paucity of reliable historical sources, hitherto not even a single systematic attempt has been made in the academia to study this site. Over time, the history of Shāh Jā Qadam has shrouded under a thick layer of myths and legends, creating a serious challenge for the scholars of Ismāʿīlī and Sindhi studies. Therefore, it is with the intention to fill this research gap that this paper has been developed. The research aspect of this paper is informed by both the field work and the examination of relevant archives undertaken by the author. Hence, this paper sheds light on the historical origin and structural evolution of Shāh Jā Qadam—a place which still holds immense historical, cultural, social, political and religious significance for many Ismāʿīlīs.
The article can be accessed here:
IBA student presents a paper at the Animals and South Asian History International Symposium'2021
Ali Jan Damani presented a paper titled, 'Gnostic Animals: Animal symbolism in the Nizārī Ismāʿīlī Satpanth Ginān tradition' at the Animals and South Asian History International Symposium'2021. The Symposium was an online event, organized by the Department of History, Ashoka University, India.
This paper explores the complex animal symbolism present in the Satpanth literary tradition of the Gināns-a tradition that comprises compositions in as many as 36 languages. Ismāʿīlī Pīrs and Sayyids used this symbolism in their verses not only to convey their esoteric messages, but also to attract their audience. This paper explores the animal symbolism in the gināns as an important historical source (of literary nature) on the Satpanth tradition-a hitherto unexploited source bearing high potential to reveal new complexities about the nature and history of the Ismāʿīlī Da'wa in the South Asian regions. To draw all its major arguments and inferences, this paper utilizes the centuries-old lyrics of the gināns recorded in the Khojkī (a script) manuscripts, lithographs, and printed volumes.
IBA student reviews a book on Sufism in Sindh
Ali Jan Damani recently penned a book review titled, Sufism in Sindh: A critical review of "Historical Dictionary of the Sufi Culture of Sindh in Pakistan and India", published in the Journal of the Society of South Asian Archeology.
Authored by a published writer and editor, Michel Boivin, the book "Historical Dictionary of the Sufi Culture of Sindh in Pakistan and India", was first published in 2015 by Oxford University Press in Karachi, Pakistan. It is a publication of 'Centre of Social Studies in Karachi series', developed by the 'Centre of Social Sciences in Karachi (CSSK)'. The book explores the complex social, religious, political and cultural contexts in which Ṣūfīsm thrived in Sindh.
The book review can be accessed here.
IBA student secures a research grant for studying the works of the last Ismaili Ginan composer
Ali Jan Damani has been awarded a research grant worth PKR 100,000 by the Evershine Ismailia Co-operative Society Ltd. for his undergraduate research project. His research project focuses on the life and works of the last Ismaili Ginan composer, Sayyida Imam Begum. The research is titled, "My Pīr is Ḥassan Shāh" (Merā Pīr Ḥassan Shāh): Life and Works of the last Ismāʿīlī Ginān Composer-Preacher in India, Saiyyida Imām Begum". This research project will be an important contribution to the studies on Ismailism in South Asian regions. Damani is also working to publish a book on Imam Begum.
IBA student to present a paper at the 3rd International Ismāʿīlī studies conference as the youngest scholar
Ali Jan Damani was recognized as the youngest scholar to present a paper at the second international Ismāʿīlī studies conference in 2017. Once again, Damani has been invited to present his paper "My Pir is Ḥassan Shāh” (Merā Pīr Ḥassan Shāh): Life and Works of the last Ismāʿīlī Ginān Composer-Preacher in India, Saiyyida Imām Begum” at the 3rd International Ismāʿīlī studies conference hosted by Leiden University Shiʼi Studies Initiative.
This paper, seeks to present a preliminary study on the life and works of Saiyyida Imām Begum (d. 1866?), who, according to the Indian Ismāʿīlī traditions, was the last Ginān composer in the line of the Ismāʿīlī Pirs and Saiyyids, and an important figure in propagating the Satpanth Nīzārī Ismāʿīlī teachings in the Indian subcontinent.
Damani will once again be the youngest scholar presenting his research at this international conference. More details can be read at following link:
The conference will take place between August 6-10, 2021. To attend the conference, register on the following link:
IBA student reviews a book on Sufi saint Shahbaz Qalandar
Ali Jan Damani’s latest publication is a book review titled, Remembering Shahbaz: A critical review of “Artefacts of Devotion: A Sufi Repertoire of the Qalandariyya in Sehwan Sharif, Sindh, Pakistan”, published by the Ancient Asia Journal.
A renowned Sufi, Shahbaz Qalandar, whose shrine is in Sehwan Sharif has attracted numerous orientalists. Paying tribute to the Sufi saint, French scholar, Michel Boivin penned a book titled, "Artefacts of Devotion: A Sufi Repertoire of the Qalandariyya in Sehwan Sharif, Sindh, Pakistan". The book emphasizes the link between the Qalandariyya doctrine and the local and regional culture. It highlights how the flexibility of local discourse permits the Qalandariyya to mold local society, while also allowing it to reinterpret it in a regional context. Damani has critically reviewed Boivin's work, evaluating its academic strengths and weaknesses. The book review can be viewed at: http://doi.org/10.5334/aa.221
IBA student transliterates poetic work of Pīr Shams
Ali Jan Damani, has recently transliterated an unpublished poetic work composed in śloka style attributed to an Ismāʿīlī-Ṣūfī dignitary, Pīr Shams (d. 1356), who is enshrined in present-day Multan, Pakistan.
Etymologically speaking, the word Saloko comes from the Sanskrit root, śloka, roughly meaning hymn or prayer. Thought of as a poetic form used predominantly in Sanskrit, śloka is considered as the Indian verse par excellence. Even for those Ṣūfīs who composed mainly in the vernaculars of South Asia, śloka was not a preferred poetic mode of expression. This composition by Pīr Shams is entitled Satgur Jo Saloko (Hymns of the true guide) and is 700 verses long, making it the largest known composition in the śloka style by any Muslim saintly figure. The original manuscript from which the transliteration has been made is housed at Harvard. The significance of Damani’s contribution is that it will aid scholars from diverse fields including, Ṣūfī, Ismāʿīlī, Gujarati and Islamic studies to understand the complexity of the Indo-Muslim traditions. The transliteration can be found at: https://ginans.usask.ca/commons/contents.php?id=20603
IBA student to present his paper at upcoming international conference
The IBA Karachi is pleased to announce that Ali Jan Damani, Social Sciences and Liberal Arts, Class of 2022, has been invited to present a paper at an international conference on 'Scripts in Asia: c. 1500–2000' being organized by the Asian Centre, University of Philippines.
The two-day conference will take place from April 27 to 28, 2021. He will present his paper titled, 'Whose decline? Not Khojkī's. Rethinking Khojkī's Decline: Evidence of Continued Use of Khojkī Script in Sindh, Pakistan'. The abstract of his paper can be viewed here.
Click here to know the details of the conference.
IBA student translates unpublished Fateh Ali Shah Ginān text into English
Ali Jan S. Damani, through his tireless efforts of transliterating an unpublished Ginān text into English, has made a pioneering contribution to the field of scholarly attention given to Ismāʿīlī Gināns.
In his most recent achievement, Damani has worked on an unpublished ginān, which appears in a Khojkī manuscript housed at Houston library, Harvard University. The manuscript dates back to 18th and 19th centuries. The significance of Ali Jan's contribution is unique because it is the transliteration of a Ginān attributed to Sayyid Fatḥ ʿAlī Shāh, who was quite active in propagating Ismāʿīlī form of Islam in Sindh. Thus, a critical reading of this Ginān will add to the broader understanding of the scholars about the teachings that the Ismāʿīlī Pīrs conveyed to their audiences during their daʿwa in the South Asian regions.
For more information: https://ginans.usask.ca/commons/506960
IBA student publishes English transliteration of an Ismaili Ginanic text
Preparing a critical edition of a polyglottic religious text is a complex scholarly task. Ali Jan S. Damani has prepared a critical edition of such a text, named, Manhar, attributed to Syed Ghulam Ali Shah (d. 1792), a well-known ginān composer and Ismaili missionary who was active in the regions of Sindh, Kuttch, Kathiawar during the 18th century. What makes this project unique is the fact that Manhar has not yet been approached by any scholar in any manner. In fact, hardly a few lithographed copies of the text have survived up to date. Therefore, the fundamental challenge was to produce an English transliteration from the khojkī version, which is now available at: (http://ginans.usask.ca/commons/520540), that could be used to prepare a critical edition.
Scarcely a few ginānic compositions have been critically edited using manuscript sources. Alijan S. Damani's work thus contributes to the emerging field of ginānic studies. The final volume containing the history, English transliteration and translation, critically edited text of Manhar will be published in near future. The gist of this 56-verse long mystical text can be found in the closing lines of the opening verse which read:
[Allah!] Only you are my true [Lord]!
Those who chant Allah! Allah!
And remember [Prophet] Muhammad's name [in the heart]
Those who cast their vision upon Manhar
[All such believers shall] attain the eternal abode.
IBA student reviews book on Ismā'īlī traditions across South Asian regions.
Ali Jan S. Damani latest publication is a review of a book entitled "The Ismaili Movement in Sindh, Multan and Gujrat". The book is written by Dr. Ghulam Ali Allana, an undisputed authority on Sindhi language and literature.
Ali Jan is currently working to produce the Khojkī script tutorials which are expected to be completed before the end of this year. His other projects include but are not limited to: A critical edition of a unique Ismāʿīlī Ginān, named Manhar; translation of Man Samjāṇī (a ginān) of Pir Shams; life, history and works of Saiyyada Imām Begum; cataloguing of khojkī manuscripts; and, unearthing unpublished ginānic texts from manuscript sources.
The book review has been published by Ancient Asia (https://www.ancient-asia-journal.com/) and can be viewed at: http://doi.org/10.5334/aa.199
Ali Jan S. Damani
Department of Social Sciences and Liberal Arts
Class of 2022
Ali Jan S. Damani is interested in the spread of Islam in the South Asian regions. The 'Ginān' literature and the 'Khojkī' script are of special interest to him. He is currently working with Juan Bruce to produce an open source font, which has been commissioned by Google. He is also working on professional tutorials of the 'Khojkī' script. His first academic publication is expected to appear next year.
Speaking about Ali Jan, Juan Bruce writes:
"When designing a Khojki font for Google's Noto Project, I sought the advice of respected scholars to help me with my research. I was re-directed by one of them to Ali Jan Damani who happened to know quite a lot about the issues I have been trying to solve. In order to make a responsible font in terms of history and functionality, one needs to dig into the past of the script and Ali Jan was extremely helpful in clearing some very difficult inconsistencies. He provided manuscripts and faithful sources of information that allowed me to take much more informed decisions on the operational aspects of this extinct script and he did this voluntarily in a very generous manner."
Ali Jan gives credit of all his achievements to his professors, parents and well-wishers. He is inspired by the teaching and academic works of Dr. Ali G. Siddiqui. His passion is Islamic studies with a focus on Ismāʿīlī studies, for which he has ascertained to dedicate his entire life.