Friendship with God is the source of authority. In Sufism, it is the Almighty who chooses whom to honour

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Last update: 2022-04-22 09:58:51

Friendship with God is the source of authority. In Sufism, it is the Almighty who chooses whom to honour, elect, sanctify and bless with the knowledge and spiritual powers that will make him a guide in his domain. In mystical texts, this holiness is likened to the trunk of a tree with many branches. Each branch produces a force that is transformed into a real form of leadership capable of shaping the culture of the society of the day.


The history of Sufism shows how the thought and life trajectories followed by “religious authorities” in the mystical field all intersect with the notion of walāya (“divine friendship”, “holiness”). While God commands all the active and interactive forces in the universe, whether visible or hidden, spiritual or material, the walī (which is to say the person close to God and who is loved by God) becomes a significant symbolic force in human affairs, and in the balance of forces.


From the third century of the Islamic era[1] (ninth century CE)[2] until the end of the seventh century – in other words, during the period when the most pre-eminent exponents of Sufism emerged and before the start of the brotherhoods period, it became apparent that, whether expressly declared or not, the objective of the lovers of God who had chosen the path of mysticism was to secure divine friendship (walāyat Allah) through spiritual exercises, corporeal asceticism, various acts of worship, spiritual retreat and dhikr [a Sufi ritual consisting in the repetition of the name of God, Ed.].


The Sufi regards walāya as a free gift that cannot be acquired by means of works, even though the latter do increase one’s chances of gaining it. It is the Almighty who honours, elects and sanctifies a person, whether the person engages in spiritual exercises or not, and infuses him/her with cognitive and spiritual powers that give him/her authority in his particular domain, an authority based on mercy, love, guidance and illumination.[3]


In the mystical texts that chronicle the acts of leading Sufis, walāya is compared to the trunk of a tree with many branches. Each branch produces a force that is transformed into an effective authority that shapes the culture of the society of the day, joining or separating from other forces.



Man and Self-Dominion


According to Sufi literature, man attains full self-dominion only when his spirit (rūh) comes to dominate the entire human kingdom, or his entire personhood. Muhyī al-Dīn Ibn ‘Arabī (d. 1240), the most prominent Sufi sheikh, describes the inner life of man in his book Al-Tadbīrāt al-ilāhiyya fī islāh al-mamlaka al-insāniyya (“Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom”). In brief, Ibn ‘Arabī compares man’s self to a kingdom that the Almighty has placed under the rule of the spirit, which serves as the lieutenant (“caliph”, khalīfa), lord and sovereign of the domain. The Almighty entrusts the governance and rule of the kingdom to this sovereign, and places the sovereign’s abode in the human body, specifically in the heart.


God also gives the sovereign a “minister” to help him with the rule and governance of the kingdom. This minister is the intellect, whose abode the Almighty places in another part of the human body: the brain.[4] As long as the spirit, i.e. the sovereign, continues to taste the station of Servitude, he is opposed in the kingdom by a mighty rival, a powerful prince whom the Almighty has also placed in the kingdom. The prince is passion, which yields fleeting pleasures, and the soldiers of this prince are human desires. The powerful prince, also has a minister: carnal desire.


The human soul (nafs) therefore finds itself caught between two great opposing forces: spirit and passion, each flanked by a powerful minister: the intellect and desire. The soul thus becomes a terrain either of mutability or purification. If it responds to the call of passion, then mutability prevails; if it responds to the call of the spirit, then purification begins. If the battle between the spirit and passion ends with the triumph of the spirit, the soul is purified and sanctified, becomes one with the spirit, and man obtains dominion and governance over the kingdom, which is to say over himself.[5]


Three observations flow from this geographical representation of human forces. First, the fact that the intellect is minister of the spirit suggests that the spiritual (i.e. the religious) project belongs to the intellect, and that the spirit’s governance of the self is a rational requirement. Second, when the human soul is sanctified and becomes one with the spirit, all forms of selfishness, hatred, sectarianism and vanity of the ego dissolve, and the soul takes on qualities of the spirit, such as comprehension, mercy, charity, tolerance and love for mankind, the environment and the universe. Third, passion and desire are like veils that stand between man and the attainment of the most elevated stages of holiness, inspired learning and spiritual asceticism. Ibn ‘Arabī writes: “The door of the celestial kingdom and of knowledge does not open if the passion for the material kingdom burns in the heart. As for the door of the Science of God, it will not open to the witness if in his heart even a mere ember of the material or celestial world continues to glow.”[6]


In sum, man will enjoy a God-given power of knowledge and practical wisdom and can approach Him by entering the circle of His saints only by overcoming the obstacles of passion and carnal desire.



The Power of Divine Protection


In a hadīth qudsī [a hadīth in which God is speaking] reported by al-Bukhārī, the Messenger of God – prayer and peace be upon him – affirms: “Whoever takes a friend (walī) of Mine () as an enemy, I will wage war on him.” On the basis of this saying, the mystic, who has become a friend of God, enjoys God’s support and lives out his days under divine protection because he belongs to Him, as the use of the term , “my”, indicates.


This divine beneficence is acknowledged by all Sufis on the strength of the religious text and real-life testimony. The common people recognise the presence of walāya in those persons who are clearly blessed with divine support or endowed with one of the gifts of holiness, such as knowledge springing from divine inspiration or the capacity to perform miracles, or whose walāya has been proved by one of the pre-eminent sheikhs of Sufism either in a vision or through his words. Once this holiness is acknowledged, or at least accepted as probable, the person is seen by all those around him as enjoying divine protection, and thus becomes an object of veneration and fear, lest he might harm them by word or deed. In other words, the person becomes a force to be reckoned with within the sphere of human relations in which he operates.



The power of Gnosis (Ma‘rifa Ilhāmiyya)


The cognitive authority of the Sufi saint bears no relationship to his official religious power. The Sufi saint, even though he has learned the Qur’an by heart from a master and the sayings of the Prophet from a trustworthy traditionist, will limit himself to obtaining from ordinary men the basic Islamic texts, which is to say the word of God and the sayings of his Messenger. Everything else – the various exegeses of these texts and the various human arts – are not considered adequate fonts of knowledge by the great Sufi Masters. In lieu of this learning, the Sufi Masters preferred to learn directly from God through various means: inspiration, spiritual animation, dictation, a whispering in the heart, bearing witness, revelation, conversation and allocution.


Abū Yazīd al-Bistāmī (d. 874), speaking to the ulama of the day, explained the difference between knowledge that has been bestowed as a gift for the sake of revelation and knowledge that has been acquired through study: “You all took your knowledge like a dead person from another dead person. But we took ours from the Living One who never dies.”[7] Whereas Ibn ‘Arabī declares: “What an abyss exists between the man who speaks on the strength of his own study and ego (i.e. on the basis of personal intellect) and the man who speaks on the authority of his Lord!”[8]. A saying by al-Hakīm al-Tirmidhī (d. 869) teaches: “As to the sciences of Sufism, they are the hidden science, that is to say the science of divine inspiration, a secret between the Almighty and His saints, without any intermediation.”[9]


Ibn ‘Arabī relates an anecdote on this subject. One day, [the Sufi] Abū Madyan heard someone saying: “So-and-so said on the authority of A.N. Other.” To this opening, Abū Madyan replied: “We do not want tainted meat, give us fresh meat.”[10] They (the ancient ones on whose authority the traditions have been transmitted) ate this meat when it was fresh, but the Giver of Gifts is not dead, and has not closed the door of divine effusion and revelatory dreams.”[11]


So the great Sufi figures not only liberated themselves from reliance on official religious authority, but also considered the knowledge bestowed upon them as superior, more reliable, deeper, and more pertinent to their own times than all the knowledge that might be acquired through scholarship and learning. This stance, which was characteristic of some of the leading Sufis, along with the attractiveness of their teachings and their writings for the masses, led some legal scholars to comb through their sayings, traditions and books looking for error. This led to the issuing of fatwas condemning some of the Sufi doctrines and expressions, which were censured as being innovations (bid‘), unbelief and atheism.[12] Conversely, however, we find no text in which a Sufi accuses a jurist of unbelief, although they do not shrink from pointing out deficiencies of knowledge and method.



The Power of Miracles and Prodigies


Miracles (karāmāt)[13] can be categorised by their level of holiness: Mystic Pole, Guide, Pillar... They can also be categorised by style, whether as archetypical of the prophet Idris[14], Ibrahim, Moses, Jesus or Mohammed. Many of the great Poles of Sufism do not regard miracles (in the sense of prodigious acts) as an indispensable and defining aspect of holiness, and believe that there can be great saints who do not perform visible miracles. Hence the maxim “the true miracle is righteousness.” Even so, we can still find dozens of Sufi texts recounting diverse miracles such as bilocation, walking on water, flying, the healing of bodily diseases and spiritual wounds, the satisfaction of needs, the recovery of things that have been lost, the liberation of prisoners and so on.


These divine gifts impress the people and are usually the first thing they demand of the saints. This is why the people turn to those who are recognised as saints and, if the saints are still living, will implore them to come to their assistance in various ways or carry out acts of miraculous healing. After the death of the saints, their graves would become places of pilgrimage and an open space from which to offer up personal prayers to God.[15]


This “rescuing” power of the saints became the subject of debate after the eighth century of the Hijrah (fourteenth century CE), and devolved into a violent dispute involving some Muslim ulama and religious parties (but not official religious institutions). The Sufis cultivated dialogue, seeking to demonstrate the solid foundations of their practices and to elucidate their legitimacy and limitations. Their opponents, however, remained firm in their condemnation, to such a degree, indeed, that some of them went so far as to tear down the mausoleums and domes of the shrines of the saints, indifferent to the fact that they were thus destroying the cultural identity of Islamic cities.



Master and Disciple


The authority of the sheikh over his disciple is based on a pact between the two, a sort of two-person covenant. Under the covenant, the sheikh pledges to giving his disciple the power to cure the diseases of the soul (passion, carnal desires, selfishness, vanity) and to purify it through a series of spiritual exercises and ascetic efforts, so that it may become deserving of belonging to God (holiness, gifts etc.). The disciple, for his part, undertakes to follow the sheikh’s orders with sincerity and without question, for he accepts that his master knows more than him about the defects, obstacles and barriers of the soul.


From the fifth century of the Hijrah (eleventh century CE), a number of sayings were published in which the disciple is urged to submit completely to the authority of the sheikh if ​​he wants to follow his path to God. Among the most celebrated sayings are: “He who asks his master why has already failed” and “It is right that the disciple commend himself to the hands of his sheikh as the dead man commends himself to the hands of those who bathe his corpse.” Here is not the place to discuss the legitimacy and reasonableness of this authority, nor to explore in details the different categories of authority to understand whether it is born of fear, ambition, love, symbolic power, charisma, or of something else. This is a matter that merits separate study.


We limit ourselves to the observation that it has often escaped the notice of scholars and even many disciples that the authority in question is based on obedience rather than persuasion. This means that the disciple is obliged to obey the orders of his sheikh regarding education and purification, and not to contest his ideas or opinions, because to contradict the master would be to upset the balance of authority between the one giving orders and the one carrying them out. Yet the disciple is not expected to base his personal knowledge on the ideas of his sheikh. He has the right to opinions and knowledge that are independent of the sheikh, especially if the inspirations he receives from God are truthful. This distinction between the level of education and the level of knowledge is evident in the relationship between Ibn ‘Arabī and his masters. For all that he might sometimes surpass them in knowledge, he needed their practical experience.[16]


I believe that a sound understanding of the nature of the relationship of authority between the sheikh and his disciple would pre-empt many of the criticisms and condemnations of the educational practices of the Sufi brotherhoods that have been made on religious and rational grounds, and might point the way to renewal among the disciples.



The Power of the “State of the Saints”


With the arrival on the scene of al-Hakīm al-Tirmidhī, Sufi texts and Sufi adherents began to suggest that the institutions and apparatuses of the state might not constitute the ultimate authority for the governance of the earthly world or for the protection of religion. The true authority, namely the authority to “loosen and bind”, would lie with the “hidden state”, i.e. the state of the saints,[17] who would form part of a pyramidal system parallel to that of the “visible state.”[18]


At the beginning of the seventh century of the Hijrah, and especially with the arrival of Ibn ‘Arabī, all the traits of this hidden state, as well as its pillars, are clearly delineated in Sufi texts. It emerges when the mystic, having attained the spiritual station of divine lieutenancy (or the “caliphate”), which is to say the supreme spiritual station of Mystic Pole (Qutb), no longer wields power in the visible world,[19] as was the case of Abū Yazīd al-Bistāmī (d. 874) and of Ahmad al-Zāhid Ibn Hārūn al-Rashīd al-Sibtī (d. 839).[20] In such cases, the hidden lieutenancy diverges from visible lieutenancy and apparent power passes into the hands of the caliph of the visible world, while the fulcrum of royal command passes into the hands of the hidden caliph.


Some contemporary scholars have dedicated books or chapters of books to the study of the “hidden state”. The research has revealed the existence of a link to and collaboration among the saints of the hidden state, who are said to gather together every Friday. These scholarly works also explain how orders and sentences are passed down through various channels, such as inspiration, dreams sent by God, and spiritual guidance. They also argue for the existence of a Constitution, conventions and courts (in case one saint files an action against another). The works also show that this state is interested in the real world, and influences it with its instruments.[21]



The Power of Numbers


In the seventh century of the Hijrah (thirteenth century CE), the popular base of Sufi brotherhoods began to expand as thousands of Muslims joined them for various reasons, including appreciation of how the Sufis’ educational and purification methods could bring spiritual peace and reconciliation. But they also joined from the wish to find friends, brothers and fellow-travellers or to live in the shade of the educating sheikh, or among the men of the “chain” and the founding saint, or for other reasons intrinsic to the idea of Sufi holiness. The impetus no longer came from a desire to attain holiness, as in the first seven centuries, but rather from the desire to live in its shade.


The membership of Sufi brotherhoods therefore continued to grow, and now numbers tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions. Although this abundant force is made up of believers who are peaceful, neutral, tolerant, pluralistic, non-belligerent and undesirous of political power, secular leaders and aspiring leaders have begun to address themselves to Sufi brotherhoods in a bid to secure the backing of the sheikh for all sorts of reasons, ranging from securing the peace of the nation to securing votes in elections.


The numerical strength of the Sufi brotherhoods has afforded them recognised religious and social power, which can be called upon to play a balancing role between different national forces. The concept of the walāya, however, continues to underpin all forms of authority in the Sufi world.



Sufi Authorities and Political Power


The relationship between the Sufis and temporal authorities has never been fully settled. The Sufis did not adopt any one single position with respect to the political authorities of their day, although there is such thing as a sort of Sufi custom or convention with respect to the government in office.


Under the Umayyad Caliphate (661-750), this Sufi custom took the form of a stand-offishness from politics, centres of power and state roles. Al-Hasan al-Basrī (d. 728), who lived under the Umayyad Caliphate, represents a type of Sufi whose letters, counsel and sermons, though addressed to rulers, did not tie him to the world of power, except with respect to the Caliph Umar Ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz (d. 720).


Under the Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad (750-1258), the Sufi custom was still to steer clear of state politics and roles. In the meantime, the persecutions began. Many Sufis were placed under investigation, put on trial, interrogated about their doctrinal orthodoxy, tortured, imprisoned and sometimes killed (e.g. al-Hallāj, d. 922). The inquisition (mihna) of Ghulām al-Khalīl (d. 888) can be considered the first act of collective persecution, and it almost led to the death of around seventy Sufis in Baghdad, including al-Junayd, Abū l-Husayn al-Nūrī, Simnūn al-Muhibb, Abū Bakr al-Shiblī and Abū Hamza al-Sūfī.


With the decline of the Abbasid Empire and the rise of the emirates and various provincial dynasties, the nature of the relationship between the state and the Sufis changed. The ruling dynasties began to try to win over the Sufis, and friendships developed among some great figures. For example, the Seljuk Sultan Kaykaws I (d. 1218) went forth so that he might personally greet Muhyî al-Dīn Ibn ‘Arabī at the gates of Konya. A friendship arose between them, and they exchanged letters in which the mystic offered plenty of advice to the sultan[22].


Safī al-Dīn Ibn Abī l-Mansūr (d. 1283) and Muhyī al-Dīn Ibn ‘Arabī attest to the existence of strong bonds of fellowship between the Ayyubid princes and some Sufi masters. For example, a “fraternal bond” was formed between al-Malik al-Kāmil (d. 1218) and the old sheikh, whose words were also listened to by the king of Aleppo al-Zāhir Ghāzī (d. 1216), one of the sons of Saladin. So strong was the bond that in the course of one hearing, Ibn ‘Arabī, assuming the King’s judicial function, pronounced on 118 cases in which he had interceded on behalf of the indigent and victims of injustice.[23] That said, it was under the Ayyubid dynasty that Sohravardī was executed in Aleppo in 1191.


Many Mamluk sultans glorified the Sufi masters. For instance, Zāhir Baybars (d. 1277) consulted with his sheikh Khidr al-Maharānī (d. 1272), sent gifts of great value to the “convent” of the Qalandariyya brotherhood in Damascus that was led by sheikh Muhammad al-Balkhī (d. 1273), made repeated visits to the sheikh Jandal bin Muhammad (d. 1276) in the village of Manīn in Syria,[24] and went out with his army to meet sheikh Ahmad al-Badawī (d. 1276) upon the latter’s return from Hijāz.[25] Sultan Barqūq (d. 1399) counted the Sufi Ahmad al-‘Ajamī al-Majdhūb (d. 1398) among his close companions, Qaytbāy (d. 1496) paid many a visit to Ubayd al-Bilqīnī (d. 1518), while Qansūh al-Ghūrī (d. 1516) attached himself to sheikh Sharaf al-Dīn al-Sa‘īdī.[26]


The Ottoman state continued its predecessors’ policy of honouring Sufi masters and undertook the construction of “convents” to host brotherhoods. Many governors became disciples of Sufi sheikhs, and some Sultans appointed Sufi masters as counsellors of state affairs.[27]


Despite the violent attacks launched against the Sufi brotherhoods by reformers and intellectuals after the fall of the Ottoman caliphate, the widespread appeal of Sufism has not diminished, and Sufism continues to grow in numerical strength and reaffirm its philosophy and practice. The relationship between the state and Sufi brotherhoods has become an internal question for different countries, and varies from state to state depending on balances of power and on the choices of leaders.


In conclusion, for more than ten centuries Sufism has acted as a peaceful, mild and tolerant force that is accepting of intellectual, doctrinal, ethnic and class differences. It has thus been able to function as an engine of social, national and global peace.


At a time when Arab and Islamic states stand on the cusp of enormous historical change, let us hope that Sufism can expand its scope of religious and social influence and retain its “soft power”. In any event, it must not be treated as a “sleeping power”.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Oasis International Foundation

[1] In this article the author uses the Islamic calendar, which begins with the Hijrah in 622 CE, and whose year is shorter than the solar year by about 11 days. Roughly speaking, the Islamic calendar is 600 years behind the Christian one (Ed.).

[2] See the texts of al-Junayd (d. 910), who is believed to have played an active role in making Islamic Sufism independent and in establishing it as an autonomous system of belief, with its own themes, issues, goals, methods, language, technical terms and masters. Al-Junayd al-Baghdādī, Tāj al-‘ārifīn, [The Crown of the Gnostics] in al-A‘māl al-kāmila [The Complete Works], (Dār al-shurūq, Cairo, 2004).

[3] It can be said that al-Hakīm al-Tirmidhī (d. 869) was the first to raise the question of the mystic walāya and to explain its realities, ramifications and implications. See our study Fikra al-khatamiyya wa atharu-hā ‘alā tārīkh al-walāya [The idea of a ‘seal of holiness’ and its impact on the history of the walāya] presented at the International Forum “The Ways of the Faith” held in Algiers in 2013.

[4] See the depiction that Ibn ‘Arabī makes of the brain, a prodigious place of passage with openings and three caskets: the casket of fantasy, the casket of thought, and the casket of memory. Al-Tadbīrāt al-ilāhiyya fī islāh al-mamlaka al-insāniyya, p. 133.

[5] Ibn ‘Arabī, Al-Tadbīrāt al-ilāhiyya, bāb 3, pp. 131-138. Ibn ‘Arabī, Al-Futūhāt al-makkiyya, edited by Osman Yayhā (al-Ha’ya al-misriyya al-’āmma li-l-kitāb, Cairo, 1990), vol. 1, pp. 113-114.

[6] Idem, Risālat al-anwār fī mā yumnah sāhib al-khalwa min al-asrār in Rasā’il Ibn ‘Arabī, edited by Sa‘īd ‘Abd al-Fattāh (Dār al-intishār al-‘arabī, Beirut, 2002), p. 162.

[7] Idem, Al-Futūhāt al-makkiyya, vol. 1, p. 31.

[8] Idem, Al-Tadbīrāt al-ilāhiyya, p. 114.

[9] Al-Hakīm al-Tirmidhī, Kitāb adab al-mulūk. Ein Handbook zur islamischen Mystik aus dem 4./10. Jahrhundert, edited by Bernd Radtke (Oriental-Institut, Beirut, 1991), pp. 34-36

[10] Fresh meat denotes new knowledge overflowing with divine mystery, and the dried meat denotes arid knowledge that has lost its freshness. The formula “So-and-so said on the authority of A.N. Other” is the conventional way of introducing a saying of Muhammad (a hadīth), Ed.]

[11] Ibn ‘Arabī, Al-Futūhāt al-makkiyya, vol. 1, p. 280.

[12] Muhammad Hilmī ‘Abd al-Wahhāb has analysed the various positions of legal scholars and traditionists in respect of the Sufism in Wulāt wa-awliyā’. Al-Sulta wa-l-mutasawwifa fī Islām al-‘asr al-wasīt [Governors and Saints. Authority and Sufism in mediaeval Islam], (al-Shabaka al-‘arabiyya li-l-abhāth wa-l-nashr, Beirut, 2009), pp. 317-376.

[13] In the Islamic technical lexicon a distinction is drawn between mu‘jiza, a “prophetic miracle” by which God attests to the veracity of a messenger and karāma, a “gift”, by which He reveals the sanctity (walāya) of a Sufi. It is obligatory to believe in prophetic miracles but not in the “gifts” of sanctity [Ed.].

[14] Idrīs, sometimes identified with the biblical Enoch, is in Islam a prophet associated with hermetic knowledge.

[15] Here, too, the Islamic technical lexicon distinguishes the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) and prayer performed five times a day (salāt) from visiting the tomb of a saint (mazār) and personal prayers (du‘ā’). While the former are obligatory, the latter are discretionary.

[16] The story concerns Ibn ‘Arabī and his sheikh al-‘Uraybī. After challenging his master on a matter concerning gnosis, Ibn ‘Arabī meets with al-Khadir who orders him to return to obedience to the words of his sheikh. It then becomes apparent that in issuing the order al-Khadir expects ostensible obedience to the sheikh’s words only, but does not believe them to be truthful. Claude Addas, Ibn ‘Arabī ou la quête de Soufre Rouge (Gallimard, Paris, 1989): pp. 109-110 in the Arabic translation by Ahmad al-Sādiqī and Su’ad al-Hakīm (Dār al-madār al-islāmī, Beirut, 2014). [Al-Khadir or al-Khidr, literally the “verdant”, is a Qur’anic character who plays a leading part in the eighteenth sura. In the Islamic tradition, he is the incarnation of science infused by divine grace, as opposed to science acquired through scholarship [Ed.].

[17] On the hakīmiyya group (followers of al-Hakīm al-Tirmidhī), see al-Hujwīrī, Kashf al-mahjūb, trans. Is‘ād Qindīl (Dār al-nahda al-‘arabiyya, Beirut, 1980), pp. 447-448. [See also The Kashf al-Mahjub, The Revelation of the Veiled, An Early Persian Treatise on Sufism, trans. Reynold A. Nicholson (Gibb Memorial Trust, London, 1911, reprint 2014)].

[18] Ibn ‘Arabī explains this pyramidal structure in al-Futūhāt al-makkiyya, vol. 2, pp. 3-39. The “mystic pole” is the head of the hidden state; seated to his right and left are his two ministers and so on. On the notion of “mystic pole” and its discovery, see Su‘ād al-Hakīm, Al-Mu‘jam al-sūfī. Al-Hikma fī hudūd al-kalima [Sufi Dictionary. Wisdom within Word’s Borders], (Dizionario sufiDandara, Beirut, 1981), pp. 910-913.

[19] It reaches the spiritual station of the lieutenancy (maqām al-khilāfa) of the hidden dimension. See Ibn ‘Arabī, Bulghat al-khawwās (Dār al-kutub al-‘ilmiyya, Beirut, 2010), pp. 20-21; Su‘ād al-Hakīm, Al-Mu‘jam al-sūfī, pp. 418-419.

[20] Ibn ‘Arabī, Al-Futūhāt al-makkiyya, vol. 2, p. 6.

[21] Muhammad Hasan al-Sharqāwī, Al-Hukūma al-bātiniyya [The hidden government], (al-Mu’assasa al-jāmi‘iyya li-l-dirāsāt wa-l-nashr wa-l-tawzī, Beirut, 1992). This both a theoretical and a field study.

[22] See Claude Addas, Ibn ‘Arabī ou la quête de Soufre Rouge, pp. 23-24, 164, 357.

[23] Ibid. pp. 297-298.

[24] See Louis Pouzet, Dimashq fī al-qarn al-sābi‘ al-hijrī/al-thālit ‘ashar al-mīlādī. Al-hayāt al-dīniyya wa muqawwamātu-ha fī hādira islāmiyya [Damascus in the seventh century of the Hjirah/thirteenth century of the Christian Era. Life and Religious Structures of an Islamic Metropolis], (Dār al-mashriq, Beirut, 1988), pp. 228-229; and Su‘ād al-Hakīm, Al-Tasawwuf wa-l-thaqafa al-sūfiyya fī ‘ahd al-mamālīk [Sufism and Sufi culture in the Mamluk era], paper delivered at a conference organized at the American University of Beirut in 1997.

[25] Ibn al-‘Imād, Shadharāt al-dhahab fī akhbār man dhahab [Golden fragments of news of those who have disappeared], (Dār Ibn Kathīr, Beirut, 1986), vol. 5, p. 345.

[26] See Éric Geoffroy, Le soufisme en Égypte et en Syrie sous les derniers Mamlouks et les premier Ottomans (IFPO, Damascus, 1996), pp. 124-125.

[27] See Tawfīq al-Tawīl, Al-tasawwuf fī Misr ibbān al-‘asr al-‘uthmānī (Maktabat al-ādāb, Cairo, 1946), pp. 55-56, 75, 201, 203; ‘Alī Abū Shāmī, Al-tasawwuf wa al-turuq al-sūfiyya fī al-‘asr al-‘uthmānī al-muta’akhkhir, PhD dissertation (Lebanon University, Faculty of Letters, History Dept, 1993), pp. 136, 95-97, 172, 179, 156-157.


To cite this article

Printed version:
Souad al-Hakim, “The Sufis’ Soft Power”, Oasis, year XIII, n. 25, July 2017, pp. 36-46.

Online version:
Souad al-Hakim, “The Sufis’ Soft Power”, Oasis [online], published on 1st July 2017, URL: