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Islamic Studies Sufism
by
Marcia Hermansen

Introduction

“Sufism” is the English term used to refer to mystical interpretations and practices of the Islamic religion. This mystical strand is designated in Arabic by the term tasawwuf, while in Persian the term irfan (gnosis) is also used. Proponents of Sufism see it as inextricably arising from the Qurʾanic teachings of an immanent divinity who is “closer than the jugular vein,” and whose “signs are on the horizons and in your selves” (41:53). For Sufis, the religious and mystical experiences of the Prophet Muhammad, such as his Night Journey (Miraj), establish a precedent for his followers to pursue mystical practice. Opponents contend that the term “Sufism” (tasawwuf) was not used in the Qurʾan or by the Prophet, and that Sufism excessively incorporated pre- and non-Islamic elements.

General Overviews

Helpful discussions of the earliest Western contacts and studies of Sufism are surveyed by Schimmel 1975 and Ernst 1997. Colonial engagement with regions of the Muslim world led to some of the early writings on Sufism by Europeans. Late-19th-century and early-20th-century scholarship on Sufism emerged concurrently with the new field of the “science” of religious studies, and both were occupied with questions such as the search for origins. Contemporary currents in the study of religion, such as Carl Jung’s psychology, and other attempts to retrieve universal elements of human religiosity characterized much of the mid-20th-century scholarship on Sufism. An influential interpretive school known as perennialism, or traditionalism, was inspired by figures such as Rene Guenon (1886–1951) and Frithjof Schuon (1907–1998), Sufi convert intellectuals who remained outside of the academy. Such interpretations of religion, Islam, and, in particular, Sufism continue to find academic exponents in figures such as the Iranian émigré Seyyed Hossein Nasr (b. 1933), whose students often specialize in the study of Sufi doctrines, particularly the thought of Ibn al-˓Arabi (see Nasr 1999, Nasr 2007). Academic studies of Sufism are at present either primarily doctrinal/philosophical, involving philological expertise and interpretive exegesis of classical Sufi texts; or ethnographic, especially following the rise of area studies and foreign language training that emerged during the Cold War period.

Textbooks

The first survey of Sufism in English was Nicholson 1914. Some sixty years later, Annemarie Schimmel published Mystical Dimensions of Islam (see General Overviews). This demonstrates how far the field had come by that point in having translations, critical editions, and studies of individual mystics and regional mystical subcultures available so that a much more detailed presentation of Sufism’s history could be made. Knysh 2000 and Sedgwick 2000 take historical approaches to presenting Sufism, while Ernst 1997 (listed under General Overviews) stresses themes and religious and cultural theory. Chittick and Sachiko 1994 and Chittick 2000 take a more philosophical approach and attempt to offer an insider’s perspective.

Bibliographies

Among the most convenient bibliographic sources are those available online. For example, Oxford Islamic Studies Online, available through library subscription, includes bibliographic search accessible by author, title, subject, country, region, and era. The websites listed below offer useful citations and links for teaching and basic research. The Hermansen 2007 and Knysh 2005 articles review scholarly trends in the study of Sufism and offer some bibliographical guidance.

Anthologies

The anthologies listed below offer excerpts and selections ideal for introductory reading or classroom use. Sells 1996 and Renard 2004 focus on early classical Sufism. Ernst 1999 is more broadly accessible while Fadiman and Frager 1997 presents Sufism as a source of personal transformation.

  • Ernst, Carl W., ed. and trans. Teachings of Sufism. Boston and London: Shambhala, 1999.

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    A set of original translations of Sufi texts from the 10th century to the contemporary period, topically arranged on mystical Qurʾan interpretation, the Prophet, spiritual practice, music, the master-disciple relationship, and so on. Designed to accompany Ernst’s Shambhala Guide.

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  • Fadiman, James, and Robert Frager, eds. Essential Sufism. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997.

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    Features brief excerpts from Sufi hagiography and teaching stories organized thematically for a popular audience. The compilers are both psychologists—this is reflected in the way they highlight the “transformational” aspect of Sufi practice.

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  • Renard, John, ed. and trans. Knowledge of God in Classical Sufism: Foundations of Islamic Mystical Theology. New York: Paulist Press, 2004.

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    A selective anthology of fundamental texts adapted from previous translations of works from the 9th– to the 13th century. Includes as-Sarraj, al-Kalabadhi, al-Makki, al-Hujwiri, al-Ghazali, and more.

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  • Sells, Michael Anthony, ed. and trans. Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Qurʾan, Miraj, Poetic and Theological Writings. New York: Paulist Press, 1996.

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    Contains annotated selections from classical Sufi writings, with interpretive critical introductions that trace continuing literary themes from pre-Islamic poetry through the Qurʾan as sources for the mystical concepts and metaphors developed by classical Sufis.

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Prominent Sufis

The growth of academic literature on Sufism in recent decades has made available a range of studies of prominent individual Sufis, in particular al-Ghazali, Ibn al-˓Arabi, and Rumi.

Al-Ghazali

Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058–1111) is a major figure in Islamic thought generally, as well as a noted Sufi.

Works in Translation

Al-Ghazali’s most famous work, Revival of the Religious Sciences (Ihya ʿUlum al-Din) attempts to explain the inner dimensions of Islamic ritual practices and teachings. The two most accessible of al-Ghazali’s mystical works are The Niche of Lights (al-Ghazali 1998) and Al-Ghazali’s Path to Sufism (al-Ghazali 2000). There are dozens of fine translations of al-Ghazali’s work, but space limitations demand leaving out many titles, including his books on marriage, brotherhood, the Ninety-nine Names of God, and refutations of Greco-Islamic philosophy. The only complete translation al-Ghazali’s masterwork, the Ihya (Karim 1999) is inadequate. New scholarly renderings of portions of this work continue to appear. See T. J. Winter’s bibliography in On Disciplining the Soul (al-Ghazali 1995), p. 255 ff., or a more recent list in Ormsby 2008 (pp. 145–146).

  • al-Ghazali. Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship. Leicester, UK: Islamic Foundation, 1983.

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    A translation of one section of the Ihya, which demonstrates the work’s goal of providing the spiritual logic behind the outer forms of religion.

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  • al-Ghazali. On Disciplining the Soul. Translated by T. J. Winter. Cambridge, UK: Islamic Texts Society, 1997.

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    In addition to translating one section of the classic Ihya ʿUlum al-Din (Revival of the religious sciences) this work contains an extensive bibliography on al- Ghazali, including previous English translations of the Ihya.

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  • al-Ghazali. The Niche of Lights. Translated by David Buchman. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1998.

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    A scholarly, annotated translation of al-Ghazali’s mystical commentary on the Light Verse of the Qurʾan, featuring the Arabic original on facing pages.

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  • al-Ghazali. Imam Ghazzali’s Ihya Ulum-Id-Din. 4 vols. Translated by Fazlul Karim. Lahore, Pakistan: Islamic Publications Bureau, 1999.

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    An inadequate translation that does provide the entirety of al-Ghazali’s classic work in abridged form derived from a Bengali translation, rather than the original Arabic.

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  • al-Ghazali. Al-Ghazali’s Path to Sufism: His Deliverance from Error (al-Munqidh min al-Dalal) and Five Key Texts. Translated by R. J. McCarthy. 2d ed. Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 2000.

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    Based on the earliest manuscripts available, this translation of al-Ghazali’s autobiography is often used in place of W. M. Watt’s 1953 classic, The Faith and Practice of al-Ghazali.

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  • al-Ghazali. Letter to a Disciple. Translated by Tobias Mayer. Cambridge, UK: Islamic Texts Society, 2005.

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    A bilingual edition of this treatise, with notes and introduction by the translator.

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Studies of al-Ghazali

Overviews of al-Ghazali’s life and work are provided by Watt 1963 and, more recently, Ormsby 2008. Gianotti 2001 is a traditional study of major doctrines of al-Ghazali, while Moosa 2005 applies recent critical theory to bring al-Ghazali’s ideas and role into broader conversation with contemporary concerns.

Ibn ˓Arabi

Ibn ˓Arabi (or Ibn al-˓Arabi, b. 1165–d. 1240) is also known as the “Greatest Shaykh” (al-shaykh al-akbar). He was a master of Sufi philosophical doctrine and metaphysical speculation, and he is revered as a saint by pilgrims to his tomb in Damascus. Issues in Ibn ˓Arabi studies include his mystical cosmology of emanation from the One, and whether he originated a monistic philosophical doctrine known as the “unity of existence” (wahdat al-wujud). He inspired a pervasive school of mystical thought that was widely popularized and disseminated across the Muslim world through poetic imagery.

Resources and Journals

Works in Translation

While remaining a major influence on Sufi thought, Ibn ˓Arabi’s works were strongly critiqued in other circles and at times banned as heretical. For those who are beginning the study of Ibn˓Arabi, it would be best to combine readings from his metaphysical works, such as The Bezels of Wisdom (Ibn al-˓Arabi 1980) and The Meccan Revelations (Ibn al-˓Arabi 2002–2004), with his autobiography (Ibn al-˓Arabi 1981) and his gentle advice to a novice on the path (Ibn al-˓Arabi 1997).

  • Elmore, Gerald T. Islamic Sainthood in the Fullness of Time: Ibn al-˓Arabī’s Book of the Fabulous Gryphon. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1999.

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    A heavily annotated translation and study of a mystical treatise.

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  • Ibn al-˓Arabi. The Bezels of Wisdom. Translated by R. W. J. Austin. New York: Paulist Press, 1980.

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    A translation of Fusus al-Hikam, Ibn al-˓Arabi’s important mystical interpretation of the essential qualities as embodied by various prophets. The first chapter, on Adam, contains Ibn al˓rabi’s teachings on the oneness of Being and the meaning of multiplicity.

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  • Ibn al-˓Arabi. Sufis of Andalusia, The Ruh al-Quds and Al-Durrat al-Fakhirah. Translated by R. W. J. Austin. Sherborne, UK: Beshara Publishers, 1988.

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    A lively autobiography of Ibn al-˓Arabi’s early years, especially interesting for portraits of his female Sufi teachers. First published in 1971 (Berkeley: University of California Press).

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  • Ibn al-˓Arabi. Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom (At-Tadbirat al-ilahiyyah fi islah al-mamlakat al-insaniyyah). Translated by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Helveti al-Jerrahi. Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1997.

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    A translation of this treatise on the levels of the divine names, as well as two others (What the Seeker Needs and The One Alone).

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  • Ibn al-˓Arabi. The Meccan Revelations. 2 vols. Edited by Michel Chodkiewicz, Translated by Cyrille Chodkiewicz and Denis Gril. New York: Pir Press, 2002–2004.

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    Translated excerpts from what is possibly the most important, and also challenging, of Ibn al-˓Arabi’s works, a dense series of abstract mystical reflections now considered to be an extended Qurʾan commentary.

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  • Ibn al-˓Arabi, and ˓Abd al-Karim Jili (commentator). Journey to the Lord of Power: A Sufi Manual on Retreat. Translated by Rabia Terri Harris. New York: Inner Traditions International, 1981.

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    A translation of a text and classical commentary geared to those who want to follow the path of Ibn al-˓Arabi.

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Studies of Ibn ˓Arabi

Addas 1993, thick with historical details and translations from his works, may be regarded as one of the best introductions to the life and thought of Ibn al-˓Arabi. Chittick 1989 provides the closest reading of specific texts that are translated and interpreted in this important work on Ibn ˓Arabi’s Futuhat. Chodkiewicz 1993a and Chittick 1998 discuss the legacy of Ibn al-˓Arabi in specific regions.

  • Addas, Claude. Ibn ˓Arabi: the Voyage of No Return. Cambridge, UK: Islamic Texts Society, 2000.

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    An introduction to the life and thought of Ibn al-˓Arabi, including his major works, his doctrines, and his influence on later thinkers.

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  • Addas, Claude. Quest for the Red Sulphur: The Life of Ibn ˓Arabi. Cambridge, UK: Islamic Texts Society, 1993.

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    A biography of Ibn al-˓Arabi based on the master’s own writings and on extensive research in other sources. Addas attempts to reconstruct a “historical” portrait free from the accretions of legend.

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  • Chittick, William C. The Sufi Path of Knowledge: Ibn Al-‘Arabi’s Metaphysics of Imagination. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989.

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    A thematic philosophical analysis of major doctrines of Ibn al-˓Arabi, based on the accompanying translations of extensive passages from the voluminous work, al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya (The Meccan Revelations).

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  • Chittick, William C. The Self-Disclosure of God: Principles of Ibn al-˓Arabi’s Cosmology. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998.

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    Continues the study of major themes in Ibn al-˓Arabi based on extensive translations from his student, al-Qunawi, topically arranged and philosophically oriented. In this volume the focus is on cosmology and doctrines, arranged in three sections: cosmos, order of the worlds, and structure of the microcosm.

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  • Chodkiewicz, Michel. An Ocean Without Shore: Ibn ˓Arabī, the Book, and the Law. Albany: State University of New York, 1993a.

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    Focuses on the legacy of Ibn al-˓Arabi with a focus on the Maghreb and Africa.

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  • Chodkiewicz, Michel. Seal of the Saints: Prophethood and Sainthood in the Doctrine of Ibn ˓Arabi. Cambridge, UK: Islamic Texts Society, 1993b.

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    A study of one of the most important doctrines of Ibn al-˓Arabi, the idea of the seal of the saints.

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  • Corbin, Henry. Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sūfism of Ibn ˓Arabī. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.

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    A classic study in which Corbin draws on his affinity with Jungian ideas of creative imagination to discuss Ibn al-˓Arabi’s concept of the world of images (˓alam al-mithal).

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  • Hirtenstein, Stephen, ed. The Unlimited Mercifier: The Spiritual Life and Thought of Ibn ˓Arabi. Ashland, OR: White Cloud Press, 1999.

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    A compilation of articles and translations by associates of the Ibn ˓Arabi Society.

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  • Nettler, Ronald L. Sufi Metaphysics and Qurānic Prophets: Ibn ˓Arabī’s Thought and Method in the Fusus Al-Hikam. Cambridge, UK: Islamic Texts Society, 2003.

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    A discussion of the sources and implications of Ibn al-˓Arabi’s ordering and discussion of the lineage of prophets in this seminal text. Some elements of Nettler’s interpretation are disputed by G. Elmore in an extensive review in the Journal of Qurʾanic Studies 7.1 (2005): 81–97.

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Rumi

Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207–1273) the Persian mystic and poet has received extensive scholarly and popular attention. His major work is considered to be the Mathnawi (or Mathnavi) originally translated into English by R. Nicholson (Rumi 1925). Translations of various portions and of other works of Rumi have been updated, with the most popularly successful being renditions of Rumi’s verses by the American poet Coleman Barks. The comprehensive work of Lewis 2000 has become the critical standard in studies of Rumi. Schimmel 1980 and Chittick 1983 approach Rumi though isolating themes running throughout his work. Scholarly literature debates the accuracy of textual transmission and the fidelity of translations to the original, as well as discussing Rumi’s thought and style.

Other Individual Sufis

This section lists some of the most prominent studies of other important Sufis, such as al-Junayd (Abdel-Kader 1962), Shah Wali Allah (Baljon 1986), Abu Madyan (Cornell 1996), ˓Alaʾ ad-Dawla as-Simnani (Elias 1995), Ibn al-Farid (Homerin 1994), Mahmud Shabistari (Lewisohn 1995), Attar (Lewisohn and Shackle 2007), al-Hallaj (Massignon 1982), and al-Tirmidhi (al-Tirmidhi 1996).

Sufi Qurʾan Commentary (Tafsir)

That Sufism is in essence derived from the interpretation of Qurʾanic themes features in the seminal study of Massignon 1982. Habil 1987 and Godlas’s article on “Sufi Tafsir” provide overviews of the genre. While early anthologies of Qurʾan commentary in translation may have treated Sufi elements briefly, studies of the genre and of individual Sufi Qurʾan commentaries emerged with Bowering’s important study of the early portions of al-Tustari (Bowering 1980). The Qurʾanic roots of a number of Sufi doctrines may be explored through the anthology of Sells 1995. Sands 2006 is a detailed review and analysis of Sufi hermeneutical principles.

  • Böwering, Gerhard. The Mystical Vision of Existence in Classical Islam: The Qurʾānic Hermeneutics of the Sūfī Sahl At-Tustarī (d.283/896). Berlin: de Gruyter, 1980.

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    A phenomenological and historical study of the contents and terminology of the earliest extent complete Sufi Qurʾan commentary.

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  • Godlas, Alan. “Sufi Qurʾan Commentary: Sufi Tafsir.”

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    An overview of Sufi Qurʾan commentary, based on an article from the Encyclopedia Iranica.

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  • Habil, Abdurrahman. “Traditional Esoteric Commentaries on the Quran.” In Islamic Spirituality: Foundations. Edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, 24–47. New York: Crossroads, 1987.

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    A basic and clear survey of Sufi Qurʾan commentaries, organized chronologically.

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  • Keeler, Annabel. Sufi Hermeneutics: The Qurʾan Commentary of Rashid al-Din Maybudi. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    Analyzes this important Persian commentary by a Sufi of the 12th century who is associated with Abdullah Ansari of Herat. The commentary includes both exoteric and esoteric elements. Keeler applies a theory of mystical understanding and the way of love to Maybudi’s analysis of the Qurʾanic stories of Abraham, Moses, and Joseph.

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  • Massignon, Louis. Essay on the Origins of the Technical Language of Islamic Mysticism. Translated by Benjamin Clark. South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1997.

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    Primarily draws on the texts of al-Hallaj to trace his use of technical terms mostly derived from the Qurʾan. French original was published in 1954.

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  • Sands, Kristin Zahra. Ṣūfī Commentaries on the Qurʾān in Classical Islam. London: Routledge, 2006.

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    A detailed review of Sufi tafsir, including hermeneutical principles, the methods of numerous early commentators, and examples of treatments of the Moses and Khidr story, the account of Mary, and the Light Verse.

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  • Sells, Michael. Early Islamic Mysticism. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1995.

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    In addition to selections from the writings of important Sufis of the 9th–11th centuries, Sells offers a lengthy treatment of passages from the Qurʾan that have been central to Sufi thought, such as the verses on Muhammad’s Ascension into heaven (the Miʾraj) and the Light Verse.

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Sufi Biography and Hagiography

Biographical compendia form an important genre of Islamic historical and religious literature because of its role in establishing authenticity of tradition. In the case of Sufis, hagiographies preserve early Sufi sayings and terminology. They also establish tropes of the saintly in terms of miracles and activities of Sufis. Attar 1990 is a prime example of the classical genre of biographical compendium, Renard 2008 is an anthology of saintly biographies from various regions and epochs, while Hermansen 1997 and Mojaddedi 2001 discuss the form and function of hagiography.

  • Attar, Farid al-Din. Muslim Saints and Mystics: Episodes from the Tadhkirat al-Auliya’. Translated by A. J. Arberry. New York: Penguin, 1990.

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    Excerpts from one of the most important Sufi biographical compendia.

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  • Hermansen, Marcia. “Religion and Literature in Muslim South Asia.” Muslim World 87.3–4 (1997): 315–329.

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    A study of the tazkira genre in South Asia and how it is associated with the memorialization of cities and saints.

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  • Kugle, Scott. Sufis and Saints Bodies: Mysticism, Corporeality, and Sacred Power in Islam. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2007.

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    A study informed by critical theories of embodiment, explored in Muslim contexts through the identification of specific Sufi saints with particular body parts and elements. Also addresses feminism, queer theory, and sexuality through this material.

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  • Mojaddedi, Jawed A. The Biographical Tradition in Sufism: The Ṭ abaqāt Genre from al-Sulamī to Jāmī. London: Routledge/Curzon, 2001.

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    A literary analysis of the Sufi tabaqat (biographical compendium) genre, from al-Sulami’s (d. 1021) foundational Arabic work to the Persian collection by Jami (d. 1492). Exposes the functions of this genre in defining the identity of the Sufi community.

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  • Renard, John. Friends of God: Islamic Images of Piety, Commitment, and Servanthood. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.

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    An overview of Islamic hagiography based on a broad survey of texts. Looks at life story narratives, miracle stories, social context, and literary and theological aspects.

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History Of Sufism

Some of the major questions in Sufi studies concern the origins of Sufism; historical stages in its development; the nature of its doctrines and practices; the development of Sufi institutions, especially the Sufi Orders; and how Sufism has adjusted to elements of modernity. For long a neglected area of study, scholars are increasingly focusing on the relationships between Sufism and the state and between Sufism and society in particular historical contexts, rather than on internal teachings and the extraordinary figures of Sufism.

Early Sufism and Sufi Origins

The first Sufis were ascetic and pious Muslims who individually pursued the mystical life. Although early European scholarship located the origins of Sufism outside of Islam, later scholars have focused on the Qurʾan as a source of Sufi doctrine. Scholars and the public often sought the source of Sufism outside of Islam in Christianity (Smith 1978, Andrae 1987); in Greek philosophy, especially Neoplatonism; and in Indian religious thought, such as Vedanta or Buddhism (Zaehner 1960). Persianists, such as Henri Corbin (see Corbin 1977) and Seyyed Hossein Nasr, emphasized Iranian elements within Sufi thought. Seminal translations of classic works by al-Hujwiri (al-Hujwiri 1936), al-Qushayri (al-Qushayri 1995), and al-Kalabadhi (al-Kalabadhi 1935) represent the development of Sufi doctrine and practice. Karamustafa 2007 is the best overview of early developments in Sufism.

Medieval (Middle Period) Sufism

This period is characterized by more interest in metaphysics, and a shift from the “training sheikh” to the “teaching sheikh,” according to a typology developed by the Sufi Ibn ˓Abbad of Ronda (1332–1390). Sufi residential and social institutions such as ribats, khanqahs, and zawiyas appeared after the 14th century. Razi 1982 is the best work for understanding the master-disciple relationship, Sufi community life, and esoteric teachings of this period.

  • Awn, Peter. Satan’s Tragedy and Redemption: Iblīs in Sufi Pyschology. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1983.

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    Traces an important motif in classical Sufi thought: the status of evil and the possibility of transformation in a cosmos where God is the sole power.

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  • Karamustafa, Ahmet T. God’s Unruly Friends: Dervish Groups in the Later Middle Period: 1200–1550. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah Press, 1994.

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    A study of the antinomian and renunciant piety of socially marginal and deviant dervish groups such as the Qalandars in the Later Middle Period of Islamic history. Theoretical considerations include the validity of viewing such groups as typifying a distinct manifestation of “popular” religion. Karamustafa is able comparatively to ascertain the distinct nature of groups such as the Abdalis, Bektashis, Jamis, and Shams-i Tabrizis in the Ottoman sphere. One observation is that such groups primarily flourished in non-Arab cultural spheres, another that they have a relationship to Sufis; however, tariqa (or tariqah) Sufism was much more able to sustain and integrate this-worldly piety in broader Muslim society.

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  • Razi, Najm ud-Din. The Path of God’s Bondsmen from Origin to Return. Translated by Hamid Algar. Delmar, NY: Caravan, 1982.

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    Translation of an important 13th-century work on theoretical Sufism. Especially useful for describing the master-disciple relationship in Sufi orders.

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  • Winter, Michael. Society and Religion in Early Ottoman Egypt: Studies in the Writings of ˓Abd al-Wahhāb al-Shaʾrānī. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1982.

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    A detailed study by a historian of a polymath and prolific Sufi scholar and compiler whose work on law was probably the source of later reformist Sufi ideas on ijtihad.

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The Sufi Orders in Social and Historical Context

Tariqa Sufism, or the proliferation of mystical orders with specific allegiances and rituals, developed in the mid-12th century. Sufi orders are characterized by distinctive litanies (awrad), rituals (dhikr, hadra), lineage (shajara), and writings. Trimingham 1971 put forth an influential model of the historical evolution of Sufi institutions that formulated three developmental stages, beginning with the khanqah stage of the 10th century that is characterized as individualistic and aristocratic in orientation. The second, tariqa stage, of the period 1100–1400, witnessed the transmission of Sufi doctrine, rules, and method as well as collective practices for inducing ecstasy, which Trimingham associated with the bourgeois classes. The third stage was that of the taifa, a sect whose inception Trimingham dates to the 15th century. This phase was marked by the founding of saint cults, defined by the transmission of allegiance and a popularization of participation and rituals. Abun-Nasr 2007 focuses on the role and sociology of orders following the 18th century, while Wolper 2003 examines their role in Anatolian material culture. McGregor 2004 examines a specific Egyptian family order in medieval times.

  • Abun-Nasr, Jamil M. Muslim Communities of Grace: The Sufi Brotherhoods in Islamic Religious Life. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

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    Looks at the style and social context of Sufi communalism as well as the nature of religious authority in Islam. The later chapters deal with the continued role of Sufism in contemporary societies organized around what Abun Nasr terms an 18th-century shift from tariqa to “brotherhood” and its carry over into various types of reform movements led by Sufi sheikhs. The work is most detailed concerning the African sphere of Sufism.

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  • McGregor, Richard J. A. Sanctity and Mysticism in Medieval Egypt: The Wafā Sufi Order and the Legacy of Ibn ˓Abd al-Wahhāb al-Shaʾrānī Arabī. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004.

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    A local order loosely connected with Shadhili tradition, the Wafaʾ family provides a good example of what emerges with the combination of personal charisma and the right social circumstances. Shows the enduring influence of Ibn al-˓Arabi in organized Sufism after his time.

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  • Trimingham, J. Spencer. The Sufi Orders in Islam. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971.

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    A groundbreaking sociohistorical and doctrinal study that attempted to trace the development of Sufism through three stages: khanaqah (lodge), tariqa (order), and taifa (sect). It should be noted that the latter term applies to Sufism as a whole and thus has been rejected in this context by specialists in Sufism. Includes helpful charts of the major Sufi lineages. Reprinted in 1998.

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  • Wolper, Ethel Sara. Cities and Saints: Sufism and the Transformation of Urban Space in Medieval Anatolia. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003.

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    A study of dervish lodges, patronage, and the urban geographical context of Sufism in various Turkish cities, such as Sivas, Tokat, and Amasya.

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Neo-Sufism

One scholarly debate in Sufi studies concerns whether there was an 18th-century “neo-Sufi” revival that emphasized hadith studies and devotion to the Prophet Muhammad and moved away from or critiqued previous philosophical monist tendencies (wahdat al-wujud). A second discussion concerns whether a “decline” of Sufism has occurred in recent centuries and, if so, what the characteristics of and causes for this decline are. Both Western scholars and the Sufis themselves have accepted that, along with a broadening of the outreach of Sufism to the popular level, a qualitative “decline” in Sufi standards occurred. While many Western scholars had defined the “golden age” of Sufism as the period of ascetic, wandering Sufis, many of whom challenged the normative “routinized” Islamic practices of the jurists, it is clear that in later periods many Sufis were very involved in the process and theory of Islamic law. Despite modernizing trends and literalist criticisms in much of the Muslim world, Sufi orders retain vitality and continue to influence other social movements. Rahman 1979 introduced the term and discussion of “neo-Sufism,” which is analytically used by Voll 1980. Hoffman 1992 and Radtke and O’Fahey 1993 argue against the neo-Sufi hypothesis.

  • Hoffman, Valerie. “Devotion to the Prophet and His Family in Egyptian Sufism.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 24 (1992): 615–637.

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    Contests the neo-Sufism thesis by tracing the persistence of devotion to the Prophet’s descendants in Egypt.

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  • O’Fahey, R. S. Enigmatic Saint: Ahmad ibn Idris and the Idrisi Tradition. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1990.

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    Reviews the debate about neo-Sufism (pp. 1–9) as part of a study on this influential 18th-century Moroccan leader of a Shadhili sub-brotherhood.

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  • Radke, Berndt, and R. S. O’Fahey. “Neo-Sufism Reconsidered.” Der Islam: Zeitschrift fur Geschichte und Kultur des Orients 70.1 (1993): 52–87.

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    Attempts to disprove major tenets of the neo-Sufi hypothesis.

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  • Rahman, Fazlur. Islam. 2d ed. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1979.

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    Includes the first use of the term “neo-Sufism” (p. 206), as well as a definition of what sort of changes it entailed in Sufi doctrine.

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  • Voll, John O. “Hadith Scholars and Tariqahs: An Ulama Group in the 18th Century Haramayn and their Impact in the Asian World.” Journal of Asian and African Studies 15. 3–4 (July–October 1980): 262–267.

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    An influential article on the circulation of Sufi reformist ideas to the wider world in the 18th century through scholarly networks based in Mecca and Medina.

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Reformist and Early “Modern” Sufism 18th–20th

Trimingham 1998 concludes with the 19th-century revival of Sufism. In a new preface to Trimingham’s book, first published in 1971, John O. Voll expands on the concept of Sufi revival movements as a fourth developmental stage. Another way of understanding historical changes in the style and concerns of Sufism draws on changing styles of authority. Buehler 1998, the best overview and application of this argument, argues that the classical period of Sufism featured educator sheikhs who trained their disciples in spiritual exercises, allowing followers to experience intimacy with God. This model persisted into the 18th century, the time of the rise of a number of Sufi movements taking the name “Muhammadan path” when veneration of the Prophet came into ascendancy. It seems that this veneration enhanced the sheikhs’ own authority as charismatic mediators. Knysh 1995 and Nafi 2002 are important articles on the Sufi reformist circle surrounding the 18th-century figure al-Kurani. Lapidus 1988 and Trimingham 1998 are broader in scope.

  • Buehler, Arthur. Sufi Heirs of the Prophet: The Indian Naqshbandiyya and the Rise of the Mediating Sufi Shaykh. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1998.

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    A neo-Weberian look at a Naqshbandi branch of Jamaat Ali Shah in 19th-century South Asia that integrates religious studies with historical and sociological perspectives on the shifts in Sufi authority in modernizing contexts.

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  • Knysh, Alexander. “Ibrāhīm al-Kūrānī (d. 1101/1690), an Apologist for waḥdat al-wujūd.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, ser. 3, 5.1 (1995): 39–47.

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    A study of the important Mecca-based Sufi whose ideas influenced Sufi reformist thought in other regions.

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  • Lapidus, Ira. A History of Muslim Societies. 2d ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

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    An influential synthesis and interpretation that discusses the historical position and social role of Sufism at various points in the broader context of Muslim societies. Lapidus replicates the thesis that Sufism declined from the era of charismatic individual mystics to later static tomb cults.

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  • Meier, Fritz. Essays on Islamic Piety and Mysticism. Translated by John O’Kane with Bernd Radtke. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1999.

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    A collection of seminal articles on Sufism by a major German scholar, together with a bibliography of his published works.

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  • Nafi, Basheer M. “Tasawwuf and Reform in Pre-Modern Islamic Culture: In Search of Ibrahim al-Kurani.” Die Welt des Islams 42.3 (2002): 307–355.

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    An important article on Sufism and reform during this period.

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  • Trimingham, J. Spencer. The Sufi Orders in Islam. With a new foreword by John O. Voll. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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    The preface by Voll is particularly germane to this section’s topic of reformist Sufism.

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Contemporary Sufism and Sufi-Inspired Modern Movements

Sufism’s adaptations, especially to modern, urban settings, are receiving more scholarly attention, as are the Sufi origins and methods adopted by some contemporary reformist movements in Muslim societies. Among these movements are the Barelvi, Deobandi, and Tablighi Jama˓at interpretations of Islam originating in the Indian subcontinent. In the case of Turkey, the Nur movement and its branches exemplify Sufi-inspired pietistic reform groups. Sufi elements are also found, although less directly, in certain aspects of Islamist piety and social organization. In the case of Turkey, Mardin 1989 is the pioneering study of socioreligious aspects of the Nur movement. Yavuz and Esposito 2003 is the primary source on Gulen and contemporary offshoots of the Nur movement. Metcalf 1982, a study of Deoband, is the definitive work and the best source for understanding South Asian reformist Sufism, while Sanyal 1996 is the definitive study of the founder of the Barelvi interpretation of Islam in Muslim South Asia. Johansen 1996 treats Sufism and modern issues in Egypt, while van Bruinessen and Howell 2007 assembles articles considering Sufism and modernity in multiple regions and contexts.

  • Johansen, Julian. Sufism and Islamic Reform in Egypt: The Battle for Islamic Tradition. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996.

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    Treats recent attempts to reform Sufism from within in the face of secular and Islamist critiques.

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  • Mardin, Serif. Religion and Social Change in Modern Turkey: The Case of Bediüzzaman Said Nursi. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989.

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    An important sociological and historical look at Said Nursi, a 20th-century Turkish scholar whose pietistic movement and Sufi-inspired interpretation of Islam has inspired mass devotion and mobilization among the new generation of Turks.

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  • Masud, Khalid Muhammad, ed. Travellers in Faith: Studies of the Tablīghī Jama˓ at as a Transnational Islamic Movement for Faith. Boston: E. J. Brill, 2000.

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    A volume of articles on the Tablighi movement that originated in India in the 1920s and took much influence and inspiration from Sufism while being a “post-tariqa” form.

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  • Metcalf, Barbara Daly. Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860–1900. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982.

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    A historian’s study of the Deoband madrasa in India that exemplified elements of reformist Sufism and continues to be increasingly influential among South Asian movements, including some elements of the Taliban.

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  • Sanyal, Usha. Devotional Islam and politics in British India: Ahmad Riza Khan Barelwi and his movement, 1870–1920. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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    A historian’s look at the widespread Barelvi interpretation of Islam in South Asia, which features a Sufi devotional orientation.

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  • van Bruinessen, Martin, and Julia Day Howell. Sufism and the “Modern” in Islam. London: I. B. Tauris, 2007.

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    An edited volume considering the adjustments within Sufism as a response to modernity in various regions.

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  • Yavuz, M. Hakan, and John L. Esposito, eds. Turkish Islam and the Secular State: The Gülen Movement. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2003.

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    An edited volume of papers studying this Sufi-inspired Turkish movement with global activities in education and interfaith dialogue.

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  • Zaman, Muhammad Qasim. Ashraf Ali Thanawi: Islam in Modern South Asia. Oxford: Oneworld, 2008.

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    A study of an important Deobandi scholar of the early 20th century who developed a legalistic and Sufi-inspired reformist piety that continues to influence South Asian interpretations and practice of Islam.

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Anti-Sufi Polemic

Even early in its history, Sufism was not without its detractors. Legal scholars argued that there was no basis for some Sufi doctrines and practices, for example, and ecstatic utterances of Sufis could be considered heretical. In the modern period, Sufis have also been accused of inculcating passivity and collaborating with colonial powers. The best overviews of anti-Sufi polemic are de Jong and Radtke 1999 and Sirriyeh 1999. Ernst 1985 offers the primary discussion of the genre of controversial ecstatic utterances of Sufis.

Works On Specific Sufi Orders

Sufis are organized according to various initiatic teaching traditions known as tariqa/turuq). While Trimingham considered the later dominance of Sufi orders to represent a deterioration into conformity and decay, more recent studies of Sufism see tariqas as historical and institutional organizations with social and cultural importance, in addition to political and philosophical significance. See the Journal of the History of Sufism.

Chishtis

This order, which is primarily found in the South Asian cultural sphere, is noted for its embrace of ritual audition of Qawwali music and its influence on the Hindu-Muslim synthesis that emerged under certain of the Mughal rulers. Ernst and Lawrence 2002 is the best overview of the Chishti Order. Lawrence 1992, a translation of Morals for the Heart, makes available the most important record of the teachings of a major saint of the order.

Naqshbandis

This Sufi order with global reach and persistent vitality takes its name from the Central Asian master, Baha al-Din Naqshband (d. 1389). The order was revived in South Asia, inspired by the doctrines of Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi (d. 1625), also known as the “renewer” (Mujaddid) of the 2nd millennium. Subsequent Naqshbandi-Mujaaddidi branches spread through the Ottoman Empire, including Turkey and the Arab Middle East. Algar 1976 and Algar 1990 provide thorough historical introductions. Weismann 2007 is a comprehensive overview of the Naqshbandi order and its saints and teachings. Friedman 1971 remains the definitive work on Sirhindi. Le Gall 2005 is an important work on Naqshbandis in the premodern Ottoman context.

  • Algar, Hamid. “The Naqshbandi Order: A Preliminary Survey of Its History and Significance.” Studia Islamica 44 (1976): 123–152.

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    Reviews the history and major figures of this widely influential order.

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  • Algar, Hamid. “Political Aspects of Naqshbandi History.” In Naqshbandis: Cheminements et situation actuelle d’un ordre mystique musulman. Edited by M. Gaborieau, A. Popovic, and Th. Zarcone, 123–152. Istanbul and Paris: Editions Isis, 1990.

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    From the beginning, Algar argues, the Naqshbandi order has been active in political life wherever it is practiced. In addition to engagement with or against the state, many Naqshbandis have participated in military action in defense of Islam.

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  • Friedman, Yohanan. Shaykh Aḥmad Sirhindī: An Outline of his Thought and a Study of his Image in the Eyes of Posterity. Montreal: McGill University, Institute of Islamic Studies, 1971.

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    A thorough and definitive study of Sirhindi (c. 1564–1624), his doctrines, and their reception in Islamic thought, especially in the Indian subcontinent.

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  • Garborieau, Marc, Alexandre Popovic, and Thierry Zarcone, eds. Naqshbandis: Cheminements et situation actuaelle d’un ordre mystique musulmane. Istanbul and Paris: Editions Isis, 1990.

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    A collection of diverse scholarly articles, many of them in English, on aspects of this tariqa.

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  • Le Gall, Dina. A Culture of Sufism: Naqshbandis in the Ottoman World, 1450–1700. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005.

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    A historian’s study of post-Mongol tariqa Sufism and the early dissemination of the Naqshbandiyah into the Ottoman world.

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  • Ter Haar, J. G. G. Follower and Heir of the Prophet: Shaykh Aḥmad Sirhindī as Mystic. Leiden, The Netherlands: Het Oosters Instituut, 1992.

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    A study of Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi’s thought based on his collected letters, the Maktubat.

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  • Rahman, Fazlur. Selected Letters of Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi. Karachi: Pakistan Historical Society, 1968.

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    Important and philosophically informed translations from some of the letters found in Sirhindi’s influential collection, Maktubat. Contextualizes their content in light of philosophical and Sufi doctrines.

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  • Yavuz, Hakan. “Matrix of Modern Turkish Islamic Movements: The Naqshbandi Sufi Order.” In The Naqshbandis in Western and Central Asia: Change and Continuity. Edited by Elisabeth Ozdalga. London: Curzon Press, 1999.

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    An article considering the important influence of offshoots of the Naqshbandiyya in contemporary Turkey.

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  • Weismann, Itzchak. The Naqshbandiyya: Orthodoxy and Activism in a Worldwide Sufi Tradition. New York: Routledge, 2007.

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    A complete and detailed overview of the Naqshbandi tariqa in various periods and regions that draws on the wealth of existing scholarship. The author is particularly interested in modern developments in various regions.

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Shadhiliyah

This Order is primarily known in North Africa and the Levant. It has experienced a revival in the 20th century drawing in large part from followers of Sheikh al-˓Alawi (1869–1934), an Algerian master who founded a branch of the Shadhiliyah (or Shadhiliyya) named al-Darqawiyah-al-˓Alawiyah. Modern-day branches are found in Algeria, Syria, Jordan, South Africa, and the United States. Danner 1978 captures the flavor of one of the most famous works of the Order. Read along with Lings 1961, it can provide background for a section on Sufism for students in an undergraduate Introduction to Islam course, if the perennialist perspective is to be projected.

  • Danner, Victor. Ibn ˓Ata Allah: The Book of Wisdom. New York: Paulist Press, 1978.

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    A translation of the important aphorisms of Ibn ˓Ataʾ Allah (d. 1309), the major early literary figure of the order, that are a source of Shadhili teachings. This volume also contains the Manajat of Khwaja Abdullah Ansari, itself an important work in Sufi spirituality.

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  • Danner, Victor. “The Shadhiliyya and North African Sufism.” In Islamic Spirituality: Manifestations. Edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, 26–48. New York: Crossroad, 1997.

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    A historical and doctrinal overview of the order.

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  • al-Darqawi, Muhammad al-˓Arabi. Letters of a Sufi Master. Translated by Titus Burckhardt. Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1998.

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    An important example of the direct guidance of a Sufi master, who died in Morocco in 1823, to his disciples, in the main on prescriptions for dhikr. The author formed the Shadhili suborder al-Darqawiyah, which was regarded as a threat by the French administration. First published in 1969 (London: Perennial).

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  • Douglas, Elmer H., trans. The Mystical Teachings of al-Shadhili: Including His Life, Prayers, Letters, and Followers. Albany: State University of New York, 1993.

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    Translates a biography of al-Shadhili and summary of his teachings by the later Sufi, Ibn al-Sabbagh.

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  • Geoffroy, Eric, ed. Une voie soufie dans le monde: La Shâdhiliyya. Edited by Eric Geoffroy. Paris: Maisonneuve & Larose, 2005.

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    A trilingual collection of articles on the thought, major figures, and activities of this Order from the classical founders until the present.

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  • Ibn ˓Ajiba, Ahmad. The Autobiography of a Moroccan Sufi. Translated by Jean-Louis Michon and David Streight. Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1999.

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    Unusually detailed account of 18th-century Tetuan, Morocco, and the author’s life as the Shadhili-Darqawi sheikh there.

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  • Ibn ˓Ataʾ Allah. The Key to Salvation and the Lamp of Souls. Translated by Mary Ann Koury Danner. Cambridge, UK: Islamic Texts Society, 1996.

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    Translations of a 13th-century text on invocations and spiritual retreat.

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  • Lings, Martin. A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century: Shaikh Ahmad al-˓Alawi, His Spiritual Heritage and Legacy. London: Allen & Unwin, 1961.

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    A study of the 20th-century Algerian Sufi whose ideas and charisma inspired a Shadhili revival in the Arab world and spread to the West through his connection to Guenon and Schuon. Includes translations of al-˓Alawi’s poetry.

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Sufism in Specific Countries and Regions

Whereas certain Sufi orders have a transregional reach, such as the Qadiriyah and Naqshbandiyah, others are more local in scope. In addition, in each region Sufism has specific manifestations and history. Across most regions, shared general themes have been influenced by pre-Islamic traditions and customs on Sufism and its adaptations to local environments, the effect of colonial rule on Sufi institutions and leadership, and the results of nationalism and state structures on modern articulations of mystical practice and institutions.

North Africa

Colonial administrators in early studies were concerned with potential resistance from the Sufi orders and also viewed their practices as exotic. This region in particular attracted interest from great anthropologists (Gellner 1969, Geertz 1971, and Evans-Pritchard 1949 in an earlier epoch). Cornell 1998 work is an important historical and doctrinal work on Moroccan Sufism.

  • Cornell, Vincent J. Realm of the Saint: Power and Authority in Moroccan Sufism. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998.

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    Presents a systematic history of Moroccan Sufism, especially of the Jazuliyah order through the 15th and 16th centuries, and a comprehensive study of Moroccan Sufi doctrine. Discusses the implications for Sufi political involvement by considering the relationship of the doctrine of sainthood as closeness to the Divine presence (walaya) to the exercise of worldly authority (wilaya).

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  • Evans-Pritchard, E. E. The Sanusi of Cyrenaica. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1949.

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    A historical and anthropological study of Libyan Bedouin members of the Sanusiyah order, a movement founded in the 1840s by a Sufi teacher, and their relations with the Italian colonizers

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  • Geertz, Clifford. Islam Observed: Religious Development in Morocco and Indonesia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971.

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    Geertz’s influential work compares Moroccan and Indonesian styles of Islam based on the models of early local Sufis, exploring how each society has increasingly embraced a “scripturalist” paradigm of Muslim identity with modernity.

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  • Gellner, Ernest. Saints of the Atlas. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1969.

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    An anthropological study focusing on authority structures and social segmentation.

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  • Kugle, Scott Alan. Rebel between Spirit and Law: Ahmad Zarruq, Sainthood, and Authority in Islam. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006.

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    A study of an influential 15th-century North African Sufi (b. 1442–d. 1493) that situates him in an intellectual, social, and political context. As an exemplar of “juridical sainthood” Zarruq’s activism and stance against interpretations that could lead to religious violence is related to present-day debates about scholarly authority in Islam, demonstrating the continuing influence of the author on Traditionalist Muslims in the modern West.

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Africa, Sudan, and Sub-Saharan

A major issue in African Sufism is the question of how much influence indigenous Sufis had in spreading Islam south of the Sahara. The belief was that Sufis from Egypt, the Hijaz, and North Africa were the vectors for spreading Islam in the region. However, another question confronting scholars of Sufism in Africa is how sheikhs can remake an order with little reference to what has transpired in the past. Martin 1976 provides the most comprehensive view of African Sufi orders. Abun-Nasr 1965 is an authoritative work on the Tijaniyah, Lewis 1998 is the primary source on Somalia, McHugh 1994 on Sudan, Nimtz 1980 on East Africa, and Soares 2005 on Mali.

Central Asia

While literature on the former Soviet republics focuses on the tussle between Wahhabi and Sufi movements in Central Asia, earlier periods are marked by Islamic transregional trends as well as specific local practices. De Weese 1994 and Olcott 2007 are the best works to consult on Central Asia.

  • De Weese, Devin. Islamization and Native Religion in the Golden Horde: Baba Tükles and Conversion to Islam in Historical and Epic Tradition. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.

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    Explores the rule of Turkish charismatic Sufis in converting Central Asian tribal peoples to Islam. Rich in analysis and historical detail.

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  • Olcott, Martha Brill. Sufism in Central Asia: A Force for Moderation or a Cause of Politicization? Carnegie Paper. New York: Carnegie Endowment, 2007.

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    Overview with a focus on the strategic policy implications of developments in Central Asian Sufism since the Soviet collapse. Available online.

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China

Studies of Sufism in China consider the incorporation of indigenous Chinese elements in Sufi thought. Sufism represents a diverse and vibrant practice among Chinese Muslims, who mainly follow the Naqshbandi or Qadari orders. Izutsu 1984 and Murata 2000 focus on comparative philosophical and doctrinal dimensions rather than history.

Egypt

Hoffman 1995 exhibits a deep awareness of contemporary popular Sufism at practical and doctrinal levels. De Jong 1978 offers an overview of the 19th century, while Gilsenan 1973 is a pioneering sociological look at developments in the mid-20th century.

  • Gilsenan, Michael. Saint and Sufi in Modern Egypt: An Essay in the Sociology of Religion. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973.

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    An influential study on an urban Cairene order and its adaptations to contemporary pressures and developments.

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  • Hoffman, Valerie. Sufism, Mystics, and Saints in Modern Egypt. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.

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    Based on extensive fieldwork, this book combines religious textual and anthropological perspectives on the practice of popular Sufism and its concepts in contemporary Egypt.

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  • Jong, F. de. Ṭuruq and Ṭuruq-Linked Institutions in Nineteenth Century Egypt: A Historical Study in Organizational Dimensions of Islamic Mysticism. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1978.

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    A meticulous study featuring a historian’s approach to the Sufi orders in 19th-century Egypt.

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Iran

In earlier periods of academic study, scholars such as Henry Corbin saw Iranian forms of Sufism as the most central and normative (see Corbin 1978). Although such studies emphasize esoteric and philosophical dimension of Iranian Sufism, later scholarly work, such as the masterful studies of Babayan 2002 and Bos 2002, have considered social, cultural, and political aspects of Iranian Sufism in practice. The volumes of conference papers edited by Lewisohn (Lewisohn 1992, Lewisohn 1999) treat aspects of Iranian and Persianate Sufism from multiple perspectives.

Russia

Bennigson 1985 is important but now dated. Bukharaev 2004 is a treatment of Sufism in the post-Soviet era.

South Asia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh

In the case of South Asian Sufism, studies have considered the relationship to Hinduism, distinctive South Asia forms and practices, and the genre of malfuzat (Sufi diaries, see Lawrence 1978). Engagement with the modern has been analyzed in terms of modified Sufi concepts of authority, practice, and response to state control. Rizvi 1978–1983 features detailed documentation of individuals and texts, but little analysis. Eaton 1978, Ernst 2004, Buehler 1998, and Green 2006 offer studies of Sufi lineages and types in specific epochs and regions of South Asia. For contemporary South Asian Sufism, Ewing 1997, Werbner 1998, and Rozehnal 2007 are recommended, each taking an anthropological rather than historical approach to the material.

  • Buehler, Arthur F. Sufi Heirs of the Prophet: The Indian Naqshbandiyya and the Rise of the Mediating Sufi Shaykh. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1998.

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    Takes a neo-Weberian approach to examine styles of Sufi leadership in the 19th and 20th centuries, including the shift toward the role of the sheikh as a mediator. Examines a wealth of primary sources.

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  • Eaton, Richard Maxwell. Sufis of Bijapur, 1300–1700: Social Roles of Sufis in Medieval India. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978.

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    Mines extensive hagiographic sources and popular poetry and songs in vernacular languages to develop a typology of Sufis and their activities in the Deccan region of India as warriors, literati, landowners, ascetics, reformers, and so on.

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  • Ernst, Carl W. Eternal Garden: Mysticism, History, and Politics at a South Asian Sufi Center. 2d ed. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    A study of the Chishti Sufi complex at Khuldabad. The introductory chapters discuss the academic study of Sufi in South Asia.

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  • Ewing, Katherine. Arguing Sainthood:Modernity, Psychoanalysis, and Islam. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997.

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    A study informed by psychoanalytic and postmodern approaches to the interpretation of Sufism in South Asia. Heavily theoretical.

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  • Green, Nile. Indian Sufism since the Seventeenth Century: Saints, Books, and Empires in the Muslim Deccan. London: Routledge, 2006.

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    A detailed study of the Sufis of late Mughal Aurangabad, drawing on literary works such as biographical dictionaries as well as Sufi poetry. A strong emphasis is placed on the role of the saints in embodying a culture of place and drawing together high and popular tradition, as well as royal and folk elements, while undergoing adaptations through the colonial to the Indian nationalist period.

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  • Lawrence, Bruce B. Notes from a Distant Flute: The Extant Literature of Pre-Mughal Indian Sufism. Tehran: Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy, 1978.

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    An important study of the genre of early Sufi malfuzat literature, purported diaries of audiences of the great Chishti Sufi saints in India. Examines themes and historical questions of provenance and authenticity.

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  • Rizvi, Saiyid Athar Abbas. A History of Sufism in India. 2 vols. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1978–1983.

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    Detailed historical overview based on detailed and extensive perusal and summary of primary sources, often in manuscripts in private collections.

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  • Rozehnal, Robert. Islamic Sufism Unbound: Politics and Piety in Twenty-first Century Pakistan. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

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    A study of the Chishti Sabri order in Karachi against the background of currents in modern Pakistani Islam.

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  • Werbner, Pnina, and Helena Basu. Embodying Charisma: Modernity, Locality, and Performance of Emotion in Sufi Cults. London: Routledge, 1998.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203278550Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A collection of articles, primarily authored by dynamic anthropological researchers, that explore current themes such as emotion, charisma, and locality through aspects of South Asian Sufi practice.

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Southeast Asia

Many earlier studies of Islam in this region focused on syncretic dimensions, especially facilitated by the pervasive influence of Sufism that perceived local Islam as somehow nonnormative. Subsequently, the idea of a Javanese Islamic practice that mirrors the same tensions between legalistic practice and mystical sensibility that exists in most areas of the Muslim world was articulated by Woodward 1989. Al-Attas 1970 focuses on classical Sufi philosophy in the works of a 16th-century figure. Riddell 2001 and Woodward 1989 are excellent overviews of Islam in the region, much of which is directly related to Sufism.

Turkey and the Balkans

Sufism has played a major role in Turkish life and culture and continues to be relevant and active in both traditional tariqa forms and among the 20th-century post-tariqa movements (Nur and Gulen) discussed under Contemporary Sufism and Sufi-Inspired Modern Movements. Sufism was officially banned during the early republic period in 20th-century Turkey. The selections below are historical and doctrinal: Birge 1937 on Bektashis, Norris 2006 on Balkan Sufi orders, and Lifchez 1992 on the tekke, or dervish lodge, as an institution.

Syria and Palestine

Although Damascus and, to a lesser degree, Jerusalem were great centers for Sufi activity, there have been few serious studies of the two cities, and even less on the so-called “popular Sufism” that was part of daily life for Muslims in Greater Syria. Ephrat 2008 is an excellent introduction to Sufism in Palestine. Weismann 2000 portrays the complexities of Sufi, Sufi-tinged, and anti-Sufi forces in the lead-up to the modern era in Syria.

  • Ephrat, Daphna. Spiritual Wayfarers, Leaders in Piety: Sufis and the Dissemination of Islam in Palestine. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008.

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    From the Muslim Arab conquest to Ottoman rule, the author credits Sufism with Islamicizing Palestine.

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  • Pinto, Paulo. “Sufism and the Political Economy of Morality in Syria.” In Sufism and Politics: The Power of Spirituality. Edited by Paul L. Heck, 103–136. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 2007.

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    A consideration of how Sufism is enmeshed in politics as the state seeks Islamic legitimacy among Sunni Muslims in Syria.

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  • Sirriyeh, Elisabeth. Sufi Visionary of Ottoman Damascus: ˓Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulusi, 1641–1731. London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon: 2005.

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    A biography of the greatest Syrian Sufi in the early modern period, with fine sections on dream interpretation and mystical travel writing.

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  • Weismann, Itzchak. Taste of Modernity: Sufism, Salafiyya, and Arabism in Late Ottoman Damascus. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 2000.

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    Argues that modern Islamic movements such as the Salafis have their roots in Damascene ulema and Sufi reformists. Weismann shows how they responded to the challenges of modernity and helped shape nationalism in the region.

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  • Weismann, Itzchak. “Sufi brotherhoods in Syria and Israel: A Contemporary Overview.” In History of Religions 43.4 (2004): 303–318.

    DOI: 10.1086/426738Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contains some of the most up-to-date observations of contemporary Sufi leadership and activity in this region.

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  • Winter, Michael. “Sheikh ˓Ali Ibn Maymun and Syrian Sufism in the Sixteenth Century.” Israel Oriental Studies 7 (1977): 281–308.

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    A fascinating study of a Moroccan traveler’s observations of holy shrines and life in Damascus.

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Sufi Ritual

In addition to regular Islamic practices and their mystical interpretations, Sufi ritual incorporates specific practices and their justification. Many of these rituals involve visitation (ziyara) of the tombs of prominent Sufis of the past, and there has been a strong debate both for and against such practices. Sufi practices include contemplation, repetition of pious litanies, and Sufi healing. For actual Sufi texts on ritual, see Suhrawardi 1975, Valiuddin 1980, and Padwick 1996. Biegman 1990 and Hoda 2003 are primarily historical treatments of Sufi ritual. Anthropological and religious considerations of elements of Sufi healing ritual are undertaken by Fleuckiger 2006. Rituals and other elements of Sufi shrine cultures are treated by Pinto 1995 and in the papers in Troll and Gaborieau 2003.

Female Sufis

As in other areas of women and gender studies, attempts to recover classical voices of Sufi women and to document and analyze their ongoing participation are ongoing. Because of Sufism’s popular appeal and incorporation of local traditions and practices, such as shrine visitation, the scope for female participation and, in some cases, religious leadership is enhanced. This view is articulated by Elias 1988. Smith 2001, first published in 1928, is an early study of female mystics in Islam, including the famous Rabiʾa. A philosophical approach to Sufi views of gender complementarity is taken by Murata 1992. For South Asian women mystics see Abbas 2002. Cornell’s translation of as-Sulami provides an early example of hagiography of female Sufis (as-Sulami 1999).

Sufi Music

Treatises in favor of or condemning the use of music in Sufi ritual circulated from an early period. Regional differences as well as distinctive perspectives across Sufi orders resulted in diverse attitudes and implementation of music genres and instruments. Ernst 1997 is a clear and interesting introduction for teaching about Sufi music. Ethnomusicological approaches are taken by Qureishi 1995 and Feldman 1992. Waugh is a historian of religion who interprets contemporary Sufi music in social and ritual context in Egypt (Waugh 1989) and Morocco (Waugh 2005).

  • During, Jean. “What Is Sufi Music?” In The Heritage of Sufism, Vol. 2, The Legacy of Medieval Persian Sufism (1150-1500). Edited by Leonard Lewisohn, 277–287. Oxford: Oneworld, 1999.

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    An accessible introduction to Sufi music by a French expert in the field.

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  • Ernst, Carl. “Sufi Music and Dance.” In The Shambhala Guide to Sufism. By Carl W. Ernst, 179–198. Boston: Shambhala, 1997.

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    Provides a concise overview of Sufi use of and discourses on music. Also incorporates material on the popularity of Sufi musical forms and performance in new international contexts and in modernizing Muslim societies.

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  • Feldman, Walter. “Musical Genres and Zikr of the Sunni Tarikats of Istanbul.” In The Dervish Lodge. Edited by R. Lifchez, 187–202. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

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    An ethnomusicological study of the context and music of Turkish tariqa Sufism.

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  • Michon, Jean Louis. “Sacred Music and Dance in Islam.” In Islamic Spirituality: Manifestations. Edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, 469–505. New York: Crossroads, 1991.

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    A broad overview of theories about music and dance in Islam, including regional expressions.

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  • Qureishi, Regula. Sufi Music of India and Pakistan: Sound, Context, and Meaning in Qawwali. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

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    An ethnomusicologist studies Qawwali performance in social and religious context. Later editions include a compact disc of this music.

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  • Waugh, Earle H. Memory, Music, and Religion: Morocco’s Mystical Chanters. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2005.

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    A work on Sufism in contemporary Moroccan culture, using both textual analysis and interviews with local Sufism, Waugh explores dhikr as a form and practice of collective memory.

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  • Waugh, Earle H. The Munshidīn of Egypt: Their World and Their Song. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1989.

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    A study of the Sufi singers, primarily in Cairo, that discusses the complexity and meaning of performance that is aimed to induce ecstasy. Also considers the position of music in Islam generally, as well as Sufi ritual. Based on fieldwork as well as textual analysis.

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Films

Films dealing directly or indirectly with Sufism may take religious studies or anthropological perspectives on the subject material. A few feature films also incorporate Sufi themes. The Inner Life (Keeler 1976), while dated, is useful in presenting an overview of Sufi concepts and practices. I Am a Sufi: I Am a Muslim (Dumon 1996) would need contextualization and some anthropological sophistication to show in a classroom setting, but for illustrating popular Sufi practices in South Asia it is the best choice. Sufi Soul (Broughton 2008) and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (Asaro 2001) are oriented to Sufi music.

  • Allione, Costanzo, dir. Habiba: A Sufi Saint from Uzbekistan. 30 mins. New York: Mystic Fire Video, 1996.

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    A film about a Central Asian female Sufi shaman.

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  • Asaro, Giuseppe, dir. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: A Voice from Heaven. 75 mins. New York: Fox Lorber Centrestage, 2001.

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    A documentary film about the famous Pakistani Qawwal and world-beat musician.

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  • Broughton, Simon, dir. Sufi Soul: The Mystic Music of Islam. 48 mins. Songlines/MWTV (UK), 2008.

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    William Dalrymple wrote the script for this survey of various regional forms of Sufi music.

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  • Dumon, Dirk, dir. I am a Sufi, I am a Muslim. 52 mins. Princeton, NJ: Films for the Humanities & Sciences, 1996.

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    Filmed by a Belgian TV crew in Pakistan, Turkey, and the Balkans, this film illustrates Sufi practices in cultural contexts including dhikr sessions, graphic Rifaʾi piercings, Qawwali by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and shrine visitation.

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  • Farshad, Aryana, dir. Mystic Iran: The Unseen World. 52 mins. Hollywood, CA: Aryana F Productions, 2002.

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    Within a Persian nationalist and feminist perspective, the film incorporates footage of Kurdish dhikr rituals among males and females.

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  • Hartley, Elda. Islamic Mysticism: The Sufi Way. Commentary by Huston Smith. 30 mins. Westport, CT: Hartley Film Foundation, 1979.

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    An outline of Sufism as a spiritual path that emphasizes philosophical and universalist aspects.

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  • Keeler, Paul, dir. The Inner Life. Part VI of Traditional World of Islam. Produced by Stephen Cross. 25 mins. Saugerties, NY: Institutional Cinema, 1976.

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    Treats Sufism reverentially as the inner core of Islam and presents scenes of Sufi ritual from Morocco, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and India.

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  • Kiziltan, Ozer, dir. Takva. Written by Onder Cakar. 96 mins. Hamburg, Germany: Corazón International, 2006.

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    This portrayal of one man’s struggle within a contemporary Sufi community order in Turkey is complex and critical of some aspects of contemporary tariqas. The film includes some dhikr scenes.

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  • Llewelyn-Davies, Melissa, dir. Saints and Spirits. Produced by Elizabeth Fernea. 26 mins. Brooklyn, NY: Icarus Films, 1979.

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    Now rather dated, this ethnographic film explores popular practices among Moroccan women.

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LAST MODIFIED: 12/27/2010

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195390155-0081

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