The mediation of hair: Ṣūfī, Ḥurūfī, and poetic usages in persian texts

Document Type



Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations, London


This essay takes hair’s cultural salience for granted and uses this to explore the interconnectedness of various spheres of social and intellectual life in the Iranian world during the fourteenth century CE. I show that hair’s connotations are varied and often contradictory, and its physical and metaphorical potency rests in the plenitude of what it can be made to say. As an ever-present part that can be manipulated and removed with ease, hair is highly amenable to symbolic multiplicity. Materials I survey contain particular concern to compare physical hair and lines of hair on the face to written text. This is a distinctive aspect of the cultural treatment of hair that allows correlation between varying perspectives. Hair is especially meaningful for understanding the formation and severing of social bonds among human beings. Focusing on it as a transformable entity provides access to Islamic contexts in motion.


This work was published before Shahzad joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Al-Masaq: Journal of the Medieval Mediterranean