The Future of Iran’s Past is a critical study of the life and afterlife of Nizam al-Mulk (1018-92), celebrated Persian vizier and stalwart figure of power and authority in medieval Islamic society. He became the de facto ruler of a vast empire, with a final apotheosis as Islamic history’s archetypal good vizier. Such was his standing among the glitterati of his era that he was considered an ideal replacement for the Abbasid caliph himself.
As well as the outstanding figure in a long run of great viziers and administrators who dominated premodern Islamic politics, al-Mulk is remembered as the most prominent politician of the period to perceive new beginnings and radical departures. Neguin Yavari offers a close reading of al-Mulk’s many legacies, revealing a complex imbrication of political and religious authority, as well as pre-Islamic and Islamic influences that have together shaped modern Iran. She shows that the new Iran of al-Mulk’s singular vision, rather than a tale of uninterrupted Iranisation, is imbued with an extensive interplay of residual and emergent tendencies.
Neguin Yavari is a senior fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Central European University. She studied medieval history at Columbia University, and has written on medieval Islamic history, political thought and international history. Her books include Advice for the Sultan: Prophetic Voices and Secular Politics in Medieval Islam (2014) and the co-edited Global Medieval: Mirrors for Princes Reconsidered (2015).