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Sasson Chahanovich

“Ottoman Eschatological Enthusiasm: Ps.-Ibn al-ʿArabī and Predicting the End of the World”

Sasson Chahanovich

Harvard University, Byzantine Studies Tyler Fellow

Sasson Chahanovich’s research explores the early modern phenomenon of eschatological enthusiasm, Sufi revelatory practices, and esotericism in the Ottoman Empire. He studies the confluence of these trends in several Ottoman apocalyptic-esoteric texts, the most important of which is the Tree of Nu’man. This text is a prophecy written by an anonymous Sufi hierophant who adopted the name of Ibn al-ʿArabī, one of the most (in)famous Sufis in Islamic history. Crucially, Ps.-Ibn al-ʿArabī draws from a mélange of esoteric and eschatologically charged sources that are in origin Islamic as well as non-Islamic. From the Islamic-mystical tradition, he identifies the Ottoman sultans as the necessary precursors to the mahdi, the Muslim warrior-king who prepares the world for the End of Time. Out of the Turkic tradition, Ps.-Ibn al-ʿArabī identifies the Ottoman sultan as the “Lord of the Conjunction” (sahib al-qiran), a locution that invokes astral power and cosmic election. Thus, through his work on the Tree of Nu’man, the Cry of the Owl, the Orderly Pearl and other esoteric-apocalyptic texts written and/or circulated in the Ottoman Empire, Chahanovich furthers our understanding of Ottoman eschatological enthusiasm in the early modern eastern Mediterranean.

W. Sasson Chahanovich is a PhD candidate in the Islamic intellectual history program at Harvard University’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. He holds an MA from Harvard in Islamic religion and culture and an MLitt from St Andrews (UK) in modern Middle Eastern history and culture. As an undergraduate he attended Georgetown University, where he received a BA in Arabic language and literature. Chahanovich worked as a freelance translator and cultural journalist in Egypt, Oman, and Qatar before beginning his academic career. His current academic interests cover early modern Ottoman intellectual history, Islamic esotericism, classical Arabic poetry, and Qurʾānic studies.