Liew, Han Hsien

Harvard University

Research Topic: The Caliphate in the Religious Works of Abü Hafş ‘Umar al-Suhrawardi

Mr. Liew is a PhD candidate in History and Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. This project forms part of his dissertation research on Sunni Muslim political discourses on the caliphate from the eleventh to thirteenth century. This turbulent period witnessed the rise of the Seljuq Turks as a dominant military force in the Middle East and also a revival of caliphal authority in Baghdad and its surrounding regions after a two-century long decline. In light of these developments, his dissertation examines how Muslim religious scholars wrote about the caliphate across different genres of writing in the Islamic scholastic tradition.
Throughout his career as a prominent Sufi master in Baghdad, Abū Ḥafṣ ʿUmar al-Suhrawardī served as the Abbasid caliph’s ambassador and public preacher on numerous occasions. Given his prominent role in the caliph’s network of intellectuals, Liew examines how Suhrawardī wrote about the caliphate in his writings and how he conceived of politics and government in an Islamic context. This project aims for a more nuanced understanding of how Sufism and Abbasid imperial politics interacted in the medieval Islamic period and will show how the Sunni caliphate discourse operated within the discursive context of Sufism.