Scholar, mystic and visionary, Ahmad Ibn ‘Alwân lived through the transition from Ayyubid to Rasulid rule in thirteenth-century Yemen. He was well known in his time for his critique of the ruling elites and their governance, and left behind a substantial body of writings on Islamic mysticism, theology, law and exegesis of the Qur’an. Here Muhammad Aziz presents a comprehensive portrait of the life and works of Ibn ‘Alwân, arguably the greatest religious and mystical thinker of medieval Yemen. By placing Ibn ‘Alwân in the context of the religious and political background in Yemen, Aziz delineates the development of Sufi orders, the interplay between Sufi, Shi'i and Sunni traditions, and the impact of Ibn ‘Alwân on the history of Sufism and Islam. He discusses Ibn ‘Alwân’s religious and social convictions and their impact on the religious and intellectual life of Yemen in subsequent centuries. Ibn ‘Alwân’s legacy lives on, not least in an annual pilgrimage to his tomb. Aziz demonstrates the ways in which Ibn ‘Alwân’s quasi-legendary image has been appropriated, imagined and used by representatives of various political, religious and intellectual trends in modern Yemeni society, from Islamists to secular nationalists. The first study of Ibn ‘Alwân and the first comprehensive study of medieval Yemeni mysticism in Western scholarship, ‘Religion and Mysticism in Early Islam’ is essential reading for all those interested in mysticism, early Islam, Sufism, Yemen, and religion and history more generally.
This volume makes available and accessible the writings of the crucial early period of Islamic mysticism during which Sufism developed as one of the world's major mystical traditions. The texts are accompanied by commentary on their historical, literary and philosophical context.
A pathbreaking history of Sufism, from the earliest centuries of Islam to the present After centuries as the most important ascetic-mystical strand of Islam, Sufism saw a sharp decline in the twentieth century, only to experience a stunning revival in recent decades. In this comprehensive new history of Sufism from the earliest centuries of Islam to today, Alexander Knysh, a leading expert on the subject, reveals the tradition in all its richness. Knysh explores how Sufism has been viewed by both insiders and outsiders since its inception. He examines the key aspects of Sufism, from definitions and discourses to leadership, institutions, and practices. He devotes special attention to Sufi approaches to the Qur’an, drawing parallels with similar uses of scripture in Judaism and Christianity. He traces how Sufism grew from a set of simple moral-ethical precepts into a sophisticated tradition with professional Sufi masters (shaykhs) who became powerful players in Muslim public life but whose authority was challenged by those advocating the equality of all Muslims before God. Knysh also examines the roots of the ongoing conflict between the Sufis and their fundamentalist critics, the Salafis—a major fact of Muslim life today. Based on a wealth of primary and secondary sources, Sufism is an indispensable account of a vital aspect of Islam.
This monograph explores the original literary produce of Muslim mystics during the eighth–tenth centuries, with special attention to nineteenth-century mystics, such as al-Tustarī, al-Muḥāsibī, al-Kharrāz, al-Junayd and, in particular, al-Ḥakīm al-Tirmidhī. Unlike other studies dealing with the so-called ‘Formative Period’, this book focuses on the extant writings of early mystics rather than on the later Ṣūfī compilations. These early mystics articulated what would become a hallmark of Islamic mysticism: a system built around the psychological tension between the self (nafs) and the heart (qalb) and how to overcome it. Through their writings, already at this early phase, the versatility, fluidity and maturity of Islamic mysticism become apparent. This exploration thus reveals that mysticism in Islam emerged earlier than customarily acknowledged, long before Islamic mysticism became generically known as Ṣūfism. The central figure of this book is al-Ḥakīm al-Tirmidhī, whose teaching and inner world focus on themes such as polarity, the training of the self, the opening of the heart, the Friends of God (al-awliyāʾ), dreams and visions, divine language, mystical exegesis and more. This book thus offers a fuller picture than hitherto presented of the versatility of themes, processes, images, practices, terminology and thought models during this early period. The volume will be a key resource for scholars and students interested in the study of religion, Ṣūfī studies, Late Antiquity and Medieval Islam.
This examination of the mythification of al-?asan al-Ba?r? shows how the transformation of his historical person into a complete myth was accomplished, along with the groups responsible for making him say and do what legitimizes their own views and practices.
The edited volume Unity in Diversity: Mysticism, Messianism and the Construction of Religious Authority in Islam explores the role of mystical and messianic groups and movements in the construction and re-construction of religious authority in Muslim societies.
This is a general survey of the rise and development of Islamic mysticism (Sufism) up to the modern period, which takes into account the latest achievements of scholarship on the subject. Sufism is examined from a variety of perspectives: as a vibrant social institution, a specific form of artistic expression, an ascetic and contemplative practice, and a distinctive intellectual tradition. Islamic Mysticism by Knysh is a comprehensive survey of the interesting and fascinating world of Islamic Mysticism.
The Sufis are as diverse as the countries in which they've flourished—from Morocco to India to China—and as varied as their distinctive forms of art, music, poetry, and dance. They are said to represent the mystical heart of Islam, yet the term Sufism is notoriously difficult to define, as it means different things to different people both within and outside the tradition. With that fact in mind, Carl Ernst explores the broadest range of Sufi philosophies and practices to provide one of the most complete and comprehensive introductions to Sufism available in English. He traces the history of the movement from the earliest days of Islam to the present day, along the way examining its relationship to the larger world of Islam and its encounters with both fundamentalism and secularism in the modern world.
In recent years, many historians of Islamic mysticism have been grappling in sophisticated ways with the difficulties of essentialism. Reconceptualising the study of Islamic mysticism during an under-researched period of its history, this book examines the relationship between Sufism and society in the Muslim world, from the fall of the Abbasid caliphate to the heyday of the great Ottoman, Mughal and Safavid empires. Treating a heretofore under-researched period in the history of Sufism, this work establishes previously unimagined trajectories for the study of mystical movements as social actors of real historical consequence. Thematically organized, the book includes case studies drawn from the Middle Eastern, Turkic, Persian and South Asian regions by a group of scholars whose collective expertise ranges widely across different historical, geographical, and linguistic landscapes. Chapters theorise why, how, and to what ends we might reconceptualise some of the basic methodologies, assumptions, categories of thought, and interpretative paradigms which have heretofore shaped treatments of Islamic mysticism and its role in the social, cultural and political history of pre-modern Muslim societies. Proposing novel and revisionist treatments of the subject based on the examination of many under-utilized sources, the book draws on a number of disciplinary perspectives and methodological approaches, from art history to religious studies. As such, it will appeal to students and scholars of Middle East studies, religious history, Islamic studies and Sufism.
The lives and teachings of Islam's great women saints--especially that of the mystic Rabi'a of Basra--are laid bare in this beautifully written survey of Muslim mystics. Original.
This book deals with the major Islamic movements in Iran from the time of the Arab conquest in the 7th century to the Mongol invasion in the 13th century. They range from a sect amalgamating Iranian dualist with Islamic traditions, like the Mazdakite Khurramiyya, to trends and schools of mainstream Sunnite Islam like the Murjia, traditionalism, Hanafism and Shaf'ism, the ascetic and mystical trends of the Karramiyya and Sufism, and the religio-political opposition movements of Kharijism and Imami, Zaydi, and Isma'ili Shi'ism. The author traces the origins, development, and interaction of these movements and relates them to their specific Iranian environment in order to reveal their significance in the religious and social evolution of Iran independent of their ramifications elsewhere in the Islamic world. Special attention is paid to the socially integrative aspects of the doctrine of these religious groups and to their relations with the established governments. Much recent research and new perspectives are integrated for the first time to offer an original survey of major currents of Islam in Iran before its transformation by the Mongol conquest and the Safavid adoption of Twelver Shiism as the state religion.
This definitive sourcebook presents more than fifty authoritative new translations of key Islamic texts. Edited and translated by three leading specialists and clearly contextualized for introductory-level students, it illustrates the growth of Islamic thought from its seventh-century origins, through to the end of the medieval period. Eight thematically-organized sections cover the Qur'an and its interpretation, the life of Muhammad, hadith, law, ritual, mysticism, and Islamic history. Among the selections are Ibn 'Abbas's account of the heavenly journey; al-Taftazani on the uncreatedness of the Qur'an as God's speech; al-Farabi on the faculties of the soul; and extracts from Rumi's Mathnawi. Classical Islam includes a glossary, extensive bibliography and explanatory prefaces for each text. With many extracts translated here for the first time into English, this is an essential resource for the study of early and medieval Islam and its legacy.
This definitive sourcebook presents more than sixty authoritative new translations of key Islamic texts. Edited and translated by three leading specialists, Classical Islam features eight thematically-linked sections covering the Qur'an and its interpretation, the life of Muhammad, hadith, law, theology, mysticism and Islamic history. The new edition has been expanded to cover a fuller range of material illustrating the growth of Islamic thought from its seventh-century origins through to the end of the medieval period. It includes illustrations, a glossary, extensive bibliography and explanatory prefaces for each text. Classical Islam is an essential resource for the study of early and medieval Islam and its legacy.
This history examines the complex origins of religious dissent in 19th-century Qajar Iran (known to Westerners as Persia), and how it provided a mood and attitude which led to far-reaching political dissent, culminating in the establishment of a new government in 1906.