Zach Winters is a PhD candidate specializing in the study of the occult sciences in the Persianate world in the 14th-15th centuries. Specifically, his dissertation is focused on the life and times of Shaykh Āẕarī Isfarāyinī, a poet, Ṣūfī, and occultist who served at courts from Tabrīz to Bīdar. Zach’s research analyzes the contents of the wide-ranging esoteric compendia of Āẕarī, the Miftāḥ al-Asrār (The Key of the Mysteries) and the Javāhir al-Asrār (The Jewels of the Mysteries). The project will build from the case of Āẕarī to explore the broader intellectual networks of which he was connected, including the radical, messianic Ḥurūfiyya movement.
Zach has received a Fulbright fellowship to Hyderabad, India, scheduled to begin in September 2021, where he will conduct archival research related to the Bahmanid Sultanate at the time of Āẕarī in the early 15th century. His doctoral research has also been supported by a Foreign Language Area Studies grant to study Mughal Persian in Lucknow, India, and the Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago, which funded archival research into Islamic occult manuscripts stored at the National Library of Israel.
Other major areas of interest include the Ḥurūfiyya movement of Fażl Allāh Astarābādī and its spread throughout the Islamic world in the late 14th and early 15th centuries; the occult sciences in the Timurid period; the history of the Muslim sultanates of the Deccan; theories of empire in the 15th-century Islamic world; and other messianic movements of the Persianate world in the post-Mongol period, such as the Musha‘sha‘id movement. Zach wrote his MA thesis on the early period of the Musha‘sha‘id movement and the teachings of its founder, Sayyid Muḥammad ibn Falāḥ al-Musha‘sha‘.