RELIGIOUS STUDIES 681, spring 2008
(ASIA 681)

Readings in Islamicate Literatures

Topic: Texts on Calligraphy

Wednesdays, 10:00 a.m.- 12:50 p.m.
FedEx Global Education Center 3033

Instructor: Carl W. Ernst
UNC-Chapel Hill








This course involves close and careful study of an important Persian text on the art of calligraphy, with attention to the vocabulary and grammar of Persian with a high proportion of passages in Arabic, both in poetry and prose. Each week students prepare selected passages, read them aloud with correct vocalization, and translate orally into English.
This is designed to be advanced training in reading Persian and Arabic literary texts, with considerable emphasis on Sufi themes and terminology, along with an introduction to the art of Arabic calligraphy.

Wednesdays, 10 a.m.-12:45 p.m., 3033 FedEx Global Education Center
       --no class on Feb. 20


Advanced knowledge of Persian and Arabic, and permission of instructor.


The basic goals of the course are:

Gaining linguistic skill in reading and translating classical Persian literary and religious texts.

Understanding problems related to the study of Islamic culture, and methods of the study of classical Persian and Arabic texts.

Developing analytical skills through a research paper on a subject of one's choice related to Arabic calligraphy and Islamic culture.

Developing translation skills, including English translation of significant Persian and/or Arabic passages relating to one's research.


A research paper on some aspect of Islamic culture related to the major text we are reading (15 pages plus bibliography), accompanied by translations of Persian or Arabic texts that provide the basis for the paper (4-5 pages of original language text). 70% of grade.

Participation in weekly seminars with preparation. 30% of grade.



The principal reading this year will be
Ya`qub ibn Hasan Siraj Shirazi,Tuhfat al-Muhibbin (dar a'in-i khushnivisi va lata'if-i ma`navi-i an), ed. Muhamad Taqi Danish-Puzhuh, Karamat Ra`na Husayni, and Iraj Afshar. Daftar-i Nashr-i Miras-i Maktub, `Ulum o Funun, 8. Tehran: Nuqta, 1374/1997.

This used to be available for purchase from the online Persian bookseller Iran Farhang (; normally one would use Internet Explorer, and employ the search function جستجو with the name of the book in the appropriate space. The bookseller's listing is as follows:

سراج شيرازي ، يعقوب بن حسن : تحفه المحبين
تصحيح : كرامت رعنا حسيني ، ايرج افشار
تهران : انتشارات ميراث مكتوب ، 1997 - چاپ اول‌
9-34-5548-964  (ISBN) :

One could also go directly to this link to add the book to the online shopping basket, and then proceed with a secure credit card purchase.

Unfortunately, it now appears to be out of print. Reading selections are accordingly provided below in PDF form:

 Bibliography on Calligraphy and Islamic Art

Ernst, Carl W. "The Spirit of Islamic Calligraphy: Baba Shah Isfahani's Adab al-Mashq." Journal of the American Oriental Society 112 (1992), pp. 279-86. Alternate site.

Genealogy of Ruzbihan Baqli's descendants (from Carl W. Ernst, Ruzbihan Baqli: Mysticism and the Rhetoric of Sainthood in Persian Sufism [Curzon Press, 1996], p. xxi).

O’Donnell, Patrick S. Review of Islamic Aesthetics: An Introduction, by Oliver Leaman (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. 2004). [Philosophy East and West, Vol. 57: 2 (April 2007), pp. 271-5]

al-Qalqashandi, Ahmad ibn `Ali. Subh al-a`sha fi sina`at al-insha'. 14 vols., Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-`Ilmiyya, n.d. The classic manual of Mamluk epistolography.

Schimmel, Annemarie. Calligraphy in Islamic Culture (New York University Press, 1990).

Sourdel-Thomine, Janine. "Khatt," in Encyclopaedia of Islam (new ed.). With extensive bibliography.

Yūsofī, Ḡolām-Ḥosayn, "Calligraphy," Encyclopaedia Iranica

General Reference:

Dihkhoda, `Ali Akbar, ed. Lughat-nama. Online searchable version here.

Steingass, Francis Joseph. A Comprehensive Persian-English dictionary, including the Arabic words and phrases to be met with in Persian literature. London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1892 (frequently reprinted). Online version available here.