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SUFISM. [This entry comprises three articles: Sufi Thought and Practice Sufi Orders

Sufi Shrine Culture

The first provides an overview of the traditional themes, practices, literatures, and institutions of Sufism; the second surveys the development and spread of Sufi orders throughout the Muslim world; and the third treats the spiritual, social, and political significance of Sufi shrines. See also Sufism and Politics.]

Sufi Thought and Practice

In a broad sense, Sufism can be described as the interiorization and intensification of Islamic faith and practice. The Arabic term sufi, however, has been used in a wide variety of meanings over the centuries, both by proponents and opponents, and this is reflected in the primary and secondary sources, which offer diverse interpretations of what Sufism entails. Western observers have not helped to clarify the matter by referring to Sufism as “Islamic mysticism” or sometimes “Islamic esotericism.” Such terms are vague and often imply a negative value judgment, as well as encouraging people to consider as non-Sflfi anything that does not fit into preconceived notions.

The original sense of sufi seems to have been “one who wears wool.” By the eighth century the word was sometimes applied to Muslims whose ascetic inclinations led them to wear coarse and uncomfortable woolen garments. Gradually it came to designate a group who differentiated themselves from others by emphasis on certain specific teachings and practices of the Qur’an and the sunnah. By the ninth century the gerund form tasawwuf, literally “being a Sufi” or “Sufism,” was adopted by representatives of this group as their appropriate designation.

In general, the Sufis have looked upon themselves as Muslims who take seriously God’s call to perceive his presence both in the world and in the self. They tend to stress inwardness over outwardness, contemplation over action, spiritual development over legalism, and cultivation of the soul over social interaction. On the theological level, Sufis speak of God’s mercy, gentleness, and beauty far more than they discuss the wrath, severity, and majesty that play important roles in both fiqh (jurisprudence) and kalam (dogmatic theology). Sufism has been associated not only with specific institutions and individuals but also with an enormously rich literature, especially poetry. [See Fiqh; Theology.]

Given the difficulty of providing an exact definition of Sufism, it is not easy to discern which Muslims have been Sufis and which have not. Being a Sufi certainly has nothing to do with the Sunni/Shi’i split nor with the schools of jurisprudence. It has no special connection with geography, though it has played a greater role in some locations than in others. There is no necessary correlation with family, and it is common to find individuals who profess a Sufi affiliation despite the hostility of family members, or people who have been born into a family of Sfifis yet consider it an unacceptable form of Islam. Both men and (less commonly) women become Sufis, and even children participate in Sfifi ritual activities, though they are seldom accepted as fullfledged members before puberty. Sufism has nothing to do with social class, although some Sfifi organizations may be more or less class specific. Sufism is closely associated with popular religion, but it has also produced the most elite expressions of Islamic teachings. It is often seen as opposed to the state-supported jurists, yet jurists have always been counted among its devotees, and Sufism has frequently been supported by the state along with jurisprudence. The characteristic Sfifi institutions-the “orders” (tariqahs)-do not begin to play a major role in Islamic history until about the twelfth century, but even after that time being a Sfifi has not necessarily entailed membership in an order.

Working Description. Specialists in the study of Sufism have reached no consensus as to what they are studying. Those who take seriously the self-understanding of the Sfifi authorities usually picture Sufism as an essential component of Islam. Those who are hostile toward Sufism, or hostile toward Islam but sympathetic toward Sufism, or skeptical of any self-understanding by the objects of their study, typically describe Sufism as a movement that was added to Islam after the prophetic period. The diverse theories of Sufism’s nature and ori

gins proposed by modern and premodern scholars cannot be summarized here. The best one can do is to suggest that most of Sufism’s own theoreticians have understood it to be the living spirit of the Islamic tradition. One of the greatest Sfifi teachers, Abfi Hamid alGhazali (d. 1111), gives a nutshell description of Sufism’s role within Islam in the very title of his magnum opus, Ihya’ `ulum al-din (Giving Life to the Sciences of the Religion).

Understood as Islam’s life-giving core, Sufism is coextensive with Islam. Wherever there have been Muslims, there have been Sufis. If there was no phenomenon called “Sufism” at the time of the Prophet, neither was there anything called “fiqh” or kalam in the later senses of these terms. All these are names that came to be applied to various dimensions of Islam after the tradition became diversified and elaborated. If one wants to call the Sufi dimension “mysticism,” then one needs an exceedingly broad description of the role that mysticism plays in religion, such as that provided by Louis Dupre, who writes that religions “retain their vitality only as long as their members continue to believe in a transcendent reality with which they can in some way communicate by direct experience” (“Mysticism,” Encyclopedia of Religion, edited by Mircea Eliade, New York, 1987, vol. 10, p. 247).

In historical terms, it is helpful to think of Sufism on two levels. On the first level-which is the primary focus of the Sufi authorities themselves-Sufism has no history, because it is the invisible, animating life of the Muslim community. On the second level, which concerns both Muslim authors and modern historians, Sufism’s presence is made known through certain observable characteristics of people and society or certain specific institutional forms. Sufi authors who looked at Sufism on the second level wanted to describe how the great Muslims achieved the goal of human life, nearness to God. Hence their typical genre was hagiography, which aims at bringing out the extraordinary human qualities of those who achieve divine nearness. In contrast, Muslim opponents of Sufism have been anxious to show that Sufism is a distortion of Islam, and they have happily seized on any opportunity to associate Sufism with unbelief and moral laxity (see Carl Ernst, Words of Ecstasy in Sufism, Albany, 1985, pp. 117ff.).

The attacks on Sufism frequent in Islamic history have many causes. Not least of these has been the social and political influence of $fife teachers, which often threatened the power and privileges of jurists and even rulers. Although the great Sufi authorities set down many guidelines for keeping Sufism squarely at the heart of the Islamic tradition, popular religious movements that aimed at intensifying religious experience and had little concern for Islamic norms were also associated with Sufism. Whether or not the members of these movements considered themselves Su fis, opponents of Sufism were happy to claim that their excesses represented Sufism’s true nature. The Sufi authorities themselves frequently criticized false Sfifis, and the dangers connected with loss of contact with the ahistorical core of Sufism could only increase when much of Sufism became institutionalized through the Sfifi orders (see, for example, the criticisms by the sixteenth century Sufi `Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha’rani in Michael Winter, Society and Religion in Early Ottoman Egypt: Studies in the Writings of `Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha’rani, New Brunswick, N.J., 1982, pp. 102ff.). If Sufism is essentially invisible and ahistorical, the problem faced by those who study specific historical phenomena is how to judge the degree to which these deserve the name Sufism. The Sufi authorities typically answer that the criteria of authentic Sufism are found in correct activity and correct understanding, and these pertain to the very definition of Islam.

In looking for a Qur’anic name for the phenomenon that later generations came to call Sufism, some authors settled on the term ihsan, “doing what is beautiful,” a divine and human quality about which the Qur’an says a good deal, mentioning in particular that God loves those who possess it. In the famous hadith of Gabriel, the Prophet describes ihsan as the innermost dimension of Islam, after Islam (“submission” or correct activity) and iman (“faith” or correct understanding). Ihsan is a deepened understanding and experience that, in the words of this hadith, allows one “to worship God as if you see him.” This means that Sufis strive always to be aware of God’s presence in both the world and themselves and to act appropriately. Historically, islam became manifest through the shad ‘ah and jurisprudence, whereas iman became institutionalized through kalam and other forms of doctrinal teachings. In the same way, ihsan revealed its presence mainly through Sufi teachings and practices (see W. C. Chittick, Faith and Practice of Islam: Three Thirteenth Century Sufi Texts, Albany, 1992, parts i and 4). [See !man.]

By codifying the shari`ah jurisprudence delineates the exact manner in which people should submit their activities to God. Kalam defines the contents of Islamic faith while providing a rational defense for the Qur’an and the hadith. For its part, Sufism focuses on giving both submission and faith their full due. Hence it functions on two levels, theory (corresponding to iman) and practice (corresponding to islam). On the theoretical level, Sufism explains the rationale for both faith and submission. Its explanations of faith differ from those of kalam both in perspective and in focus, but they are no less carefully rooted in the sources of the tradition. On the practical level, Sufism explains the means whereby Muslims can strengthen their understanding and observance of Islam with a view toward finding God’s presence in themselves and the world. It intensifies Islamic ritual life through careful attention to the details of the sunnah and by focusing on the remembrance of God’s name (dhikr), which is commanded by the Qur’an and the hadith and is taken by the Sufi authorities as the raison d’etre of all Islamic ritual. Dhikr typically takes the form of the methodical repetition of certain names of God or Qur’anic formulas, such as the first Shahadah. In communal gatherings, Sufis usually perform dhikr aloud, often with musical accompaniment. In some Sufi groups these communal sessions became the basic ritual, with corresponding neglect of various aspects of the sunnah. At this point Sufi practice became suspect not only in the eyes of the jurists, but also in the eyes of most Sufi authorities.

Like other branches of Islamic learning, Sufism is passed down from master (typically called a shaykh) to disciple. The master’s oral teachings give life to the articles of faith, and without his transmission, dhikr is considered invalid if not dangerous. As with hadith, transmission is traced back through a chain of authorities (called silsilah) to the Prophet. The typical initiation rite is modeled on the handclasp known as bay’at al-ridwan (the oathtaking of God’s good pleasure) that the Prophet exacted from his companions at Hudaybiyah, referred to in the Qur’an, surah 48.1o and 48.18. The rite is understood to transmit an invisible spiritual force or blessing (barakah) that makes possible the transformation of the disciple’s soul. The master’s fundamental concern-as in other forms of Islamic learning-is to shape the character (khuluq) of the disciple so that it conforms to the prophetic model. [See Dhikr; Shaykh; Barakah.]

If molding the character of students and disciples was a universal concern of Islamic teaching, the Sufis developed a science of human character traits that had no parallels in jurisprudence or theology, though the philosophers knew something similar. Ibn al `Arab! (d. 1240), Sufism’s greatest theoretician, described Sufism as “assuming the character traits of God” (Chittick, Sufi Path of Knowledge, Albany, 1989, P. 283). Since God created human beings in his own image, it is their duty to actualize the divine character traits that are latent in their own souls. This helps explain the great attention that Sufi authorities devote to the “stations” (maqdmdt) of spiritual ascent on the path to God and the “states” (ahwal) or psychological transformations that spiritual travelers undergo in their attempt to pass through the stations.

Sufi theory offered a theological perspective that was far more attractive to the vast majority of Muslims than kalam, which was an academic exercise with little practical impact on most people. From the beginning, the kaldm experts attempted to understand Qur’anic teachings in rational terms with the help of methods drawn from Greek thought. In keeping with the inherent tendency of reason to discern and differentiate, kalam fastened on all those Qur’anic verses that assert the transcendence and otherness of God. When faced with verses that assert God’s immanence and presence, kaldm explained them away through forced interpretations (ta’wil). As H. A. R. Gibb has pointed out, “The more developed theological systems were largely negative and substituted for the vivid personal relation between God and man presented by the Koran an abstract and depersonalized discussion of logical concepts” (Mohammedanism, London, 1961, p. 127). Ibn al `Arabs made a similar point when he said that if Muslims had been left only with theological proofs, none of them would ever have loved God (Chittick, Sufi Path, p. 180). [See the biography of Ibn al-`Arab!.]

The Qur’an speaks of God with a wide variety of terminology that can conveniently be summarized as God’s “most beautiful names” (al-asmd’ al-husnd). For the most part, kalam stresses those names that assert God’s severity, grandeur, distance, and aloofness. Although many early expressions of Sufism went along with the dominant attitudes in kaldm, another strand of Sufi thinking gradually gained strength and became predominant by the eleventh or twelfth century. This perspective focused on divine names that speak of nearness, sameness, similarity, concern, compassion, and love. The Sufi teachers emphasized the personal dimensions of the divine-human relationship, agreeing with the kalam authorities that God was distant, but holding that his simultaneous nearness was the more important consideration. The grand theological theme of the Sufi authors is epitomized in the hadith qudsi in which God says, “My mercy takes precedence over my wrath,” which is to say that God’s nearness is more real than his distance.

If kalam and jurisprudence depended on reason to establish categories and distinctions, the Sufi authorities depended on another faculty of the soul to bridge gaps and make connections. Many of them referred to this faculty as imagination (khayal) and considered it the power of the soul that can perceive the presence of God in all things. They read literally the Qur’anic verse, “Wherever you turn, there is the face of God” (2:115), and they find a reference to imagination’s power to perceive this face in the Prophet’s definition of ihsan: “It is to worship God as if you see him.” Through methodical concentration on the face of God as revealed in the Qur’an, the Sufis gradually remove the “as if’ so that they are left with “unveiling” (kashf), the generic term for suprarational vision of God’s presence in the world and the soul. Ibn al-‘Arabi asserts that unveiling is a mode of knowledge superior to reason, but he also insists that reason provides the indispensable checks and balances without which it is impossible to differentiate among divine, angelic, psychic, and satanic inrushes of imaginal knowledge.

Spectrums of Sufi Theory and Practice. One way to classify the great variety of phenomena that have been called Sufism in Islamic history is to look at the types of responses they have made to basic Islamic theological teachings. Tawhid, the fundamental assertion of Islam, declares that God is one, but it also implies that the world is many. The connection between God’s oneness and the world’s manyness can be found in God’s eternal knowledge of all things, on the basis of which he creates an infinitely diverse universe and reveals scriptures that differentiate between true and false, right and wrong, absolute and relative, and all other qualities that have a bearing on human salvation. Oneness and manyness represent two poles not only of reality but also of thought. Imaginal thinking tends to see the oneness and identity of things, while rational thinking focuses on manyness, diversity, and difference. A creative tension has existed between these two basic ways of looking at God and the world throughout Islamic history. By and large, the kalam authorities and jurists have emphasized the rational perception of God’s distance, while the Sufi authorities have countered with the imaginal perception of God’s nearness. On occasion the balance between these two perspectives has been broken by a stern and exclusivist legalism on one hand or an excessively emotional religiosity on the other. In the first case, the understanding of the inner domains of Islamic experience is lost, and nothing is left but legal nit-picking and theological bickering. In the second case, the necessity for the divine guidance provided by the shad `ah is forgotten, and the resulting sectarian movements break off from Islam’s mainstream. In modern times these two extremes are represented by certain forms of fundamentalism on one side and deracinated Sufism on the other (for an interesting case study, see Mark Woodward, Islam in Java, Tucson, 1989, especially pp. 234ff.).

Within the theory and practice of Sufism itself, a parallel differentiation of perspectives can be found. Many expressions of Sufism vigorously assert the reality of God’s omnipresent oneness and the possibility of union with him, while others emphasize the duties of servanthood that arise out of discerning among the many things and discriminating between Creator and creature, absolute and relative, or right and wrong. In order to describe the psychological accompaniments of these two emphases, the Sfifis offer various sets of terms, such as “intoxication” (sukr) and “sobriety” (sahw) or “annihilation” (fand’) and “subsistence” (baqa’). Intoxication follows upon being overcome by the presence of God: the Sfifi sees God in all things and loses the ability to discriminate among creatures. Intoxication is associated with intimacy (uns), the sense of God’s loving nearness, and this in turn is associated with the divine names that assert that God is close and caring. Sobriety is connected with awe (haybah), the sense that God is majestic, mighty, wrathful, and distant, far beyond the petty concerns of human beings. God’s distance and aloofness allow for a clear view of the difference between servant and Lord, but his nearness blinds the discerning powers of reason. Perfect vision of the nature of things necessitates a balance between reason and imaginal unveiling.

The contrast between sober and drunk, or the vision of oneness and the vision of manyness, reverberates throughout Sfifi writing and is reflected in the hagiographical accounts of the Sfifi masters. Those who experience intimacy are boldly confident of God’s mercy, while those who experience awe remain wary of God’s wrath. By and large, drunken Sufis tend to deemphasize the shari`ah and declare union with God openly, whereas sober Sufis observe the courtesy (adab) that relationships with the Lord demand. The sober fault the drunk for disregarding the sunnah, and the drunk fault the sober for forgetting the overriding reality of God’s mercy and depending on reason instead of God. Those who, in Ibn al-`Arabi’s terms, “see with both eyes” keep reason and unveiling in perfect balance while acknowledging the rights of both sober and drunk.

Expressions of sobriety and intoxication often have rhetorical purposes. An author who disregards rational norms has not necessarily been overcome by the divine wine-if he had, he would hardly have put pen to paper. So also, sober expressions of Sufism do not mean that the authors know nothing of intoxication; typically, sobriety is described as a station that follows intoxication, since the sobriety that precedes intoxication is in fact the intoxication of forgetfulness. Sfifis always wrote for the purpose of edification, and different teachers attempted to inculcate psychological attitudes reflecting the needs they perceived in their listeners.

Drunken expressions of Sufism predominate in Sufi poetry, which is ideally suited to describe the imaginal realm of unveiled knowledge, the vision of union and oneness. In contrast, reason is locked into theological abstractions that keep the servant distant from the Lord; it is perfectly adapted to the expression of system, order, and rules. If Sfifi poetry constantly reminds us of God’s presence, Sfifi prose tends toward a rational discourse that is ideal for manuals of doctrine and practice-works that always keep one eye on the opinions of the jurists and the kaldm experts. Poetic licence allowed the Sfifi poets to say things that could not be expressed openly in prose. In the best examples, such as Ibn alFarid in Arabic, `Attar, Rumi, and Hafiz in Persian, and Yunus Emre in Turkish, the poetry gives rise to a marvellous joy and intoxication in the listener and conveys the experience of God’s presence in creation. Since this experience flies in the face of juridical and theological discourse, it is sometimes expressed in ways that shock the pious (for a good study of the role of poetry and music in contemporary Sufism, see Earl H. Waugh, The Munshidin of Egypt: Their World and Their Song, Columbia, S.C., 1989). [See Devotional Music; Devotional Poetry.]

For many Western observers, whether scholars or would-be practitioners, “real” Sufism has been identified with the drunken manifestations that denigrate the external and practical concerns of “orthodox” Islam. It is seldom noted that many of those who express themselves in the daring poetry of union also employ the respectful prose of separation and servanthood. Drunken Sufism rarely demonstrates interest in juridical issues or theological debates, whereas sober Sufism offers methodical discussions of these topics that can quickly prove tiring to any but those trained in the Islamic sciences. The poets address the highest concerns of the soul and employ the most delicious and enticing imagery; the theoreticians discuss details of practice, behavior, moral development, Qur’anic exegesis, and the nature of God and the world. Drunken Sufism has always been popular among Muslims of all classes and persuasions, and even the most literal-minded jurists are likely to enjoy the poetry while condemning the ideas. Sober Sufism has attacted the more educated Sufi practitioners who were willing to devote long hours to studying texts that were no easier than works on jurisprudence, kalam, or philosophy.

For Sufism to remain whole, it needs to keep a balance between sobriety and drunkenness, reason and unveiling-that is, between concern for the shari` `ah and Islamic doctrine on one hand and for the experience of God’s presence on the other. If sobriety is lost, so also is rationality, and along with it the strictures of isldm and imdn; if drunkenness is lost, so also is religious experience, along with love, compassion, and ihsdn. Within Sufism’s diverse forms, a wide range of perspectives is observable, depending on whether the stress falls on oneness or manyness, love or knowledge, intoxication or sobriety. Too much stress on either side means that Sufism becomes distorted and ceases to be itself, but where the line must be drawn is impossible to say with any precision.

The classic example of the contrast between drunken and sober Sufism is found in the pictures drawn of Hallaj (d. 922) and Junayd (d. 91o). The first became Sufism’s great martyr because of his open avowal of the mysteries of divine union and his disregard for the niceties of shariatic propriety. The second, known as the “master of all the Sufis” (shaykh al-td’ifah), kept coolly sober despite achieving the highest degree of union with God. Another example can be found in the contrast between the two high points of the whole Sufi tradition, Ibn al-`Arabi (d. 1240) and Jalal al-Din Rumi (d. 1273). The former wrote voluminously in Arabic prose and addressed every theoretical and practical issue that arises within the context of Islamic thought and practice. His works are enormously erudite and exceedingly difficult, and only the most learned of Muslims who were already trained in jurisprudence, kalam, and other Islamic sciences could hope to read and understand them. In contrast, Rumi wrote more than seventy thousand verses of intoxicating poetry in a language that every Persianspeaking Muslim could understand. He sings constantly of the trials of separation from the Beloved and the joys of union with him. But the contrast between the two authors should not suggest that Rum! was irrational or unlearned, or that Ibn al-`Arabi was not a lover of God and a poet; it is rather a case of rhetorical means and emphasis. Among Western scholars, Henry Corbin argues forcefully that Rumi and Ibn al-`Arabi belong to the same group of fideles d’amour (Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn `Arabi, Princeton, 1969, pp. 70-71).

In the classical Sufi texts there are two basic and complementary ways of describing Sufism. If the drunken side of Sufism is stressed, it is contrasted with jurisprudence and kalam; if sobriety is stressed, it is viewed as the perfection (ihsan) of right practice (isldm) and right faith (iman). The great theoreticians of Sufism, who speak from the viewpoint of sobriety, strive to establish a balance among all dimensions of Islamic thought and practice, with Sufism as the animating spirit of the whole. These thinkers include Sarraj (d. 988), Kalabadhi (d. 99o), Sulami (d. 1021), Qushayri (d. 1072), Hujwiri (d. 1072), Ghazali, Shihab al-Din `Umar Suhrawardi (d. 1234), Ibn al-`Arabi, Najm al-Din Razi (d. 1256), and `Izz al-Din Kashani (d. 1334/35) In contrast, the actual everyday practice of Sufism, especially in its popular dimensions, tends to appear antagonistic toward legalistic Islam, even though this is by no means always the case (see, for example, Jonathan Berkey, The Transmission of Knowledge in Medieval Cairo, Princeton, 1992, especially chapter 3, which makes clear that Sufis and jurists have sometimes been indistinguishable).

Sufism in the Modern World. In the modern period many Muslims have sought a revival of authentically Islamic teachings and practices, not least in order to fend off Western hegemony. Some have responded largely in political terms, while others have tried to revive Islam’s inner life. Among most of the politically minded, Sufism became the scapegoat through which Islam’s “backwardness” could be explained. In this view, Sufism is the religion of the common people and embodies superstition and un-Islamic elements adopted from local cultures; in order for Islam to reclaim its birthright, which includes modern science and technology, Sufism must be eradicated. Until recently most Western observers have considered the modernist reformers to be “Islam’s hope to enter the modern age.” Nowadays, the dissolution of Western cultural identity and an awareness of the ideological roots of ideas such as progress and development have left the modernists looking naive and sterile. In the meantime, various Sufi teachers have been busy reviving the Islamic heritage by focusing on what they consider the root cause of every disorderforgetfulness of God. Especially interesting here is the case of the famous Algerian freedom fighter `Abd alQadir Jaza’1ri (d. 1883), who devoted his exile in Syria to reviving the heritage of Ibn al-‘Arabi (see Emir Abd el-Kader, Ecrits spirituels, translated by M. Chodkiewicz, Paris, 1982). [See the biography of `Abd al-Qadir.] Today grassroots Islam is far more likely to be inspired by Sufi teachers than by modernist intellectuals, who are cut off from the masses because of their Westernstyle academic training. The presence of demagogues who have no qualms about manipulating religious sentiment for their own ends complicates the picture immensely.

Parallel to the resurgence of Sufism in the Islamic world has been the spread of Sflfi teachings to the West. In America, drunken Sufism was introduced in the early part of this century by the Chisti shaykh and musician Inayat Khan (The Complete Works, Tucson, 1988); his teachings have been continued by his son, Pir Vilayet Inayat Khan, a frequent lecturer on the New Age circuit. In Europe, sober Sufism gained a wide audience among intellectuals through the writings of the French metaphysician Rene Guenon, who died in Cairo in 1951 (The Symbolism of the Cross, London, 1958). More recently hundreds of volumes have been published in Western languages that are addressed to Sufi seekers and reflect the range of perspectives found in the original texts, from sobriety to intoxication. Many of these works are written by authentic representatives of Sflfi silsilahs, but many more are written by people who have adopted Sufism to justify teachings of questionable origin, or who have left the safeguards of right practice and right thought-!slam and !man-and hence have no access to the ihsan that is built upon the two.

Contemporary representatives of sober Sufism emphasize knowledge, discernment, and differentiation and usually stress the importance of the shari’ah. Best known in this group is Frithjof Schuon (Islam and the Perennial Philosophy, London, 1976), who makes no explicit claims in his books to Sufi affiliations but, as reviewers have often remarked, writes with an air of spiritual authority. He is said to be a member of the Shadhiliyah-`Alawiyah order of North Africa (G. C. Anawati and L. Gardet, Mystique musulmane, Paris, 1968, p. 72). He takes an extreme position on the importance of discernment and offers a rigorous criticism of the roots of modern antireligion. The main thrust of his writings seems to be to offer a theory of world religions based on the idea of a universal esoterism, the Islamic form of which is Sufism. He frequently asserts the necessity for esoterists of all religions to observe the exoteric teachings of their traditions, this being the shari `ah in the case of Islam. Titus Burckhardt (Fez: City of Islam, Cambridge, England, 1992) represents a similar perspective, but his works are more explicitly grounded in traditional Sufi teachings. Martin Lings (What is Sufism?, Berkeley, 1975), who has also published under the name Abu Bakr Siraj ed-Din (The Book of Certainty, London, 1952), presents a picture of Sufism that is intellectually rigorous but firmly grounded in explicit Islamic teachings. The noted Iranian scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr (Sufi Essays, London, 1972) also stresses intellectual discernment more than love, and he repeatedly insists that there is no Sufism without the shari`ah. The books of the Turkish Cerrahi leader Muzaffer Ozak (The Unveiling of Love, New York, 1982) present shari’ah-oriented Sufism that is much more focused on love than on intellectual discernment. The Naqshbandi master Nazim al-Qubrusi (Mercy Ocean’s Divine Sources, London, 1983) offers a warm presentation of desirable human qualities, again rooted in a perspective that stresses love and often discusses the shariatic basis of Sufism. The Iranian Ni’matullahi leader Javad Nur-bakhsh (Sufi Symbolism, vols. 1-5, London, 1984-1991) has published several anthologies of classic Sflfi texts; his own perspective falls on the side of intoxication, with emphasis on oneness of being and union with God. He pays little attention to the shari`ah, but he discusses the importance of Sufi communal activities such as sessions of dhikr. Even more to the side of love and intoxication are the works of Guru Bawa Muhaiyaddeen (Golden Words of A Sufi Sheikh, Philadelphia, 1982), who presents a synthesis of Sufism and Hindu teachings that is recognizably Islamic only in its terminology.


Addas, Claude. Quest for the Red Sulphur: The Life of Ibn `Arab!. Cambridge, 1993. Fascinating study of the inner life and historical context of Sulism’s greatest theoretician.

Andrae, Tor. In the Garden of Myrtles: Studies in Early Islamic Mysticism. Albany, N.Y., 1987. Sympathetic account of trends in early Sufism, with frequent comparisons to Christianity.

Ansari al-Harawi, `Abd Allah ibn Muhammad. Les etapes des itinerants vers dieu. Translated by Serge de Laugier de Beaurecueil. Cairo, 1962. French translation of a classic text on the stations of the Sufi path, Manazil al-sa’irin.

Awn, Peter J. Satan’s Tragedy and Redemption: Iblis in Sufi Psychology. Leiden, 1983. Illustrates how Sufis could offer unusual insight into the human condition by reversing the normal theological perception of things.

Baldick, Julian. Mystical Islam. New York and London, 1989. Study of the origins and development of Sufism by perhaps the last specialist to believe that the key to understanding Sufism lies in tracing lines of historical influence.

Bowering, Gerhard. The Mystical Vision of Existence in Classical Islam: The Quranic Hermeneutics of the Suft Sahl At-Tustari (d. 283/896). New York, 198o. Erudite study of an important early Sufi.

Chittick, William C. The Sufi Path to Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi. Albany, N.Y., 1983. Anthology of Rami’s poetry, arranged to illustrate the theoretical underpinnings of his worldview. Chodkiewicz, Michel. An Ocean without Shore: Ibn ‘Arabi, the Book, and the Law. Albany, N.Y., 1993. Fine exposition of Ibn al’Arab-i’s grounding in the Qur’an.

Corbin, Henry. The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism. Boulder, 1978. Fascinating study of the role of light and imagination in Sufi theoretical teachings.

Farid al-Din `Attar. Muslim Saints and Mystics. Translated by A. J. Arberry. Chicago, 1966. One of the classics of Sufi hagiography, partially translated by a prolific translator of Sufi texts.

Farid al-Din `Attar. The Conference of the Birds. Translated by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis. New York, 1984. Successful poetic version of a symbolic tale by the Persian poet `Attar.

Ghazali, Abu Hamid al-. Freedom and Fulfillment: An Annotated Translation of al-Ghazali’s al-Munqidh min al-Daldl and Other Relevant Works of al-Ghazali. Translated by Richard J. McCarthy. Boston, 1980. The best study of al-Ghazali’s Sufism.

Hujwiri, ‘Ali ibn `Uthman al-. The Kashf al-Mahjub: The Oldest Persian Treatise on Sufism. Translated by Reynold A. Nicholson. Reprint, London, 1970. One of several still useful translations and studies by a great scholar of Sufism.

Lings, Martin. A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century. 2d ed. London, 1971. Sympathetic account of a contemporary Sufi master of North Africa.

Massignon, Louis. The Passion of al-Hallaj: Mystic and Martyr of Islam. 4 vols. Princeton, 1982. Monumental study of al-Hallaj’s historical context and importance in Sufism.

Murata, Sachiko. The Tao of Islam: A Sourcebook on Gender Relationships in Islamic Thought. Albany, N.Y., 1992. Broad survey of Sufi and philosophical views on God, the cosmos, and the human soul, with special attention to the Islamic views of male and female.

Najm al-Din Razi, `Abd Allah ibn Muhammad. The Path of God’s Bondsmen. Translated by Hamid Algar. Delmar, N.Y., 1982. Readable translation of a classic Persian text that provides one version of Sufi cosmology and psychology and their relevance to a life of devotion to God.

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. Islamic Spirituality, vol. 1, Foundations; vol. 2, Manifestations. New York, 1987-iggo. The best overview of the whole range of Sufism’s teachings and historical manifestations. Schimmel, Annemarie. Mystical Dimensions of Islam. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1975. The best overview of the Sufi tradition.

Trimingham, J. Spencer. The Sufi Orders in Islam. Oxford, 1971. Good historical survey of the orders, along with descriptions of basic Sufi teachings and practices.


Sufi Orders

Sufi Shrine Culture

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/sufism/

  • writerPosted On: August 17, 2017
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