The Mughals and their ʿulama

Messianism, rationalism and inter-Asian connections

A lecture by Dr. Corinne Lefevre

On Monday Nov 7, Dr. Corinne Lefevre, scholar of Mughal history and co-director of Centre D’Etude Indi-Asie du Sud, Paris, gave a lecture focusing on a text known as the Majalis-e-jahangiri. Dr. Lefevre introduced the audience to this Mughal text which records the night-time debates held between the Mughal emperor Jahangir and religious scholars of Sunni, Shia, Jesuit and other persuasions. Dr. Lefevre chose interesting snippets from the Majalis, illustrating the variety of discussion held at the Mughal court at this time specifically between religious scholars or ‘ulama and the emperor. These included a story of how Jahangir proposed annulling certain verses from the Quran which he believed to be ‘anachronistic.’ The story was meant to illustrate the seriousness of the Mughal emperor’s messianic claims. Other stories illustrated the tense dynamic between the Iranian and the Indian at the court, showing how eager the locals would be to prove the ‘inferiority’ of the Iranian and so establish their own legitimacy.
A 15-minute Q&A session followed the lecture. Corinne Lefevre is co-director of Centre D’Etude Indi-Asie du Sud, and is the author of (with Ines Županov G. and J. Flores) cosmopolitanisms in South Asia. Sources, routes, languages (xvi e -XVIII th century) , Paris, Éditions de l’EHESS, purusartha 33, 2015, 367p., and (with Ines G. Županov) Cultural Dialogue in South Asia and Beyond: Narratives, Images and Community (sixteenth-nineteenth centuries) , Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient , 55 / 2-3, 2012 421p.