Why Study Religion? with Ph.D Candidate Zari Mahmoudi

Why Study Religion? is a video series in which the CSR asks its faculty, students, staff, and guests what is important to them about the academic study of religion and why more folks should consider pursuing it. Find out more about the Center and its initiatives HERE. To learn more about OSU’s Religious Studies Major, visit our website at THIS LINK.

Why does Zari Mahmoud, a Ph.D student in Near Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures, think it’s important to study religion? Shurouq Ibrahim, CSR’s Graduate Research Associate, sat down with Zari to find out! Watch the video below for Zari’s response!


Shurouq: Zari, why did you choose to study religion? And why should others study religion?


Zari: That is a really interesting question. Thank you for asking. For me, it was because I was always interested in…reading mystical literature, mystical texts, mostly Sufism, because I studied Persian language and literature. And for me, it was important to know…what is the cosmology — what is the reason to get to know the universe rather than just the mundane life that we have.  How can a human being be connected to God and be unified [with God] as those Sufis going through those journeys and ’ahwāl and maqāmāt? It started off with my mother reading Mawlānā poetry for me. Later on, I did so many other studies like reading Mathnawi myself, Shams’ lyrics, Attār’s works and Jāmi’s works and so many other Sufis. And right now, I’m really interested in working on women and female mystics in other religions like Christianity, Kabbalism, and also Islam. So, I think it’s important to study religion as a human being to know other reasons — rather than just biological reasons — why we [humans] are here [on earth], and [ask] what is the origin of the universe, or what is one of the reasons for the origin of the universe? It just always soothes me to study about it and learn more about it. This is my reason for why I study religion.*

*Note on terms:

  • Ahwāl pl. Hāāl: a temporary state of consciousness, generally as a product of spiritual practice that a Sufi reaches.
  • Maqāmāt pl. Maqām: literally meaning “spiritual station” that a Sufi must pass through to reach one of two outcomes: annihilation or unity with God.
  • Mawlānā (Rumi/ Balkhi) was a 13th century Sufi, poet, and Islamic scholar who is famous for his Mathnawi, which is an extensive poem written in Persian and one of the most influential works in Sufism scholarship.
  • Jāmi was a 15th century poet and Sufi scholar known for his great works in Sufi literature.

Zari Mahmoudi is a Ph.D candidate from the NESA department at OSU. She is currently researching female mystics and Chivalric spirituality in 13th century and 15th century Persian literature.