Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Hidden Stories/Human Lives: Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 17th Biennial Symposium, October 15-17, 2020. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/

doi: 10.32873/unl.dc.tsasp.0098


Copyright © 2020 Nader Sayadi


Similar to most pre-modern guilds and crafts around the world, the silk craft had origin-stories and patron saints to provide its practitioners with “historical” background and institutional heredity. In the early modern Safavid era— as discussed in a rare silk-weaving treatise in Persian titled The Treatise of Silk-Weaving and Grasping the Grip of the Shuttle (Resāleh-e yeh Shaʿrbāfi va Gereftan-e Qabzeh-e yeh Māku) dated October 18, 1606—the origin-story of sericulture and silk-weaving has been woven into the Biblical/Qur’anic narrative of Job (Ayyoub). The contemporary Ottoman futuwwatnama literature gives similar narratives; however, the story of Job in the Bible and Qur’an, as well as the qisas al-anbiya’ literature (stories of the prophets) prior to the sixteenth century do not reflect any associations with silk and sericulture.

This paper discusses a divergence in the Biblical/Qur’anic story of Job in the context of the early modern global silk trade. It argues that a section discussing the origin of sericulture was added to the original story of Job in the Islamic context during the sixteenth century to raise the silk craft’s socio-religious status by embedding the mystical origin-story of the craft. This quest for socio-religious recognition stemmed from the robust silk industry and trade boosted by the eastward flow of New World silver to Europe during the sixteenth century. As a result, the introduction of American silver into global currency circulation contributed to an evolution of the Biblical/Qur’anic story of Job in the early modern Islamic world.

This study provides an alternative perspective to the socio-economic and political interconnectivity of the Islamic world and the global economy of early modern textiles. It sheds light on the socio-economic structure of the sericulture and textile industry of the Islamic world as a key actor in the network of the early modern world-system.