International Ibnu Batuta Conference on Travel, Trade, Tradition and Trajectories
Emori University, USA
Scott Kugle is a Professor of Islamic and South Asian Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, USA. His research focuses on Sufism, Islamic devotional literature and music, and on gender studies. He has lived and taught for many years in Hyderabad, India. His research languages are Arabic, Persian and Urdu, and he has published seven books and many articles.
Narrating Community: the Qiṣṣat Shakarwatī Farmāḍ and Accounts of Origin in Kerala.
The story of an Indian king’s conversion to Islam by the Prophet Muhammad and of the subsequent foundation by Arab Muslims of communities and mosques across the sovereign’s former dominion in Kerala appears in various Arabic and Malayalam literary iterations, the most remarkable among which are the Qiṣṣat Shakarwatī Farmāḍ. The author has translated this legend of community origins from the Arabic in full for the first time. Historians have dealt with such origin stories by transmitting them at face value, rejecting their historicity, or sifting them for kernels of historical truth. The comparative approach adopted here instead juxtaposes the Qiṣṣa with a Malayalam folksong and other Indian Ocean narratives of conversion as related in medieval Arabic travel literature to reveal underlying archetypes of just or enlightened kings as sponsors of community. The legend emerges as a crucial primary source for the constitution and self-definition of Islam in Kerala and for the discursive claims of this community vis-à-vis others. This talk is based on an article that the presented co-authored with his colleague, Roxani Margariti, a scholar of Arabic sources on Indian ocean sea trade.