In the Folds of Time: Rashīd Al-Dīn on Theories of Historicity

By focusing on Rashīd al-Dīn's (d. 718/1318) historiographical oeuvre and here in particular his “History of the World,” this article challenges the usual approach to his Jāmiʿ al-tawārīkh (Compendium of Chronicles) and argues that his was a deeply pluralistic enterprise in a world with many centers, tremendous demographic change, high social mobility, and constantly shifting truth-claims in an ever expanding cosmos, to which Rashīd al-Dīn's method, language, and the shape of his history were perfectly adaptable. This article introduces the notion of “parallel pasts” to account for Rashīd al-Dīn's method. By placing the Jāmiʿ al-tawārīkh and its author in their historical and intellectual context, this article also argues that this method is not restricted to Rashīd al-Dīn's historiography: His historiographical work ought to be seen as part of his larger theological and philosophical oeuvre into which the author placed it consciously and explicitly, an oeuvre that is, like Rashīd al-Dīn's historiography, pluralist at heart, and that could be as easily classified as “theology” or “philosophy” as “historiography.”