Arjan Post
Search for other papers by Arjan Post in
Current site
Google Scholar
Open Access

In the summer of 2014 I visited the Universitätsbibliothek Basel to view the Nachlass of Fritz Meier, a collection of personal unpublished papers and notes the late Swiss scholar of Sufism bequeathed to the university. At that time, I still aspired to devote my PhD project to the much-debated Ḥanbalī shaykh al-Islām Taqī al-Dīn Aḥmad Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328) and his supposedly fraught relationship with taṣawwuf, commonly known in the West as Sufism. I was aware that Meier’s Nachlass contains some material that deals with this very topic and was hence curious to see what I would find. As I went through the many pages of the Nachlass, I came across a note concerning ʿImād al-Dīn Abū al-ʿAbbās Aḥmad al-Wāsiṭī, who was known to me as a companion of Ibn Taymiyya. I had found out long before that al-Wāsiṭī was in fact recognized by his contemporaries as a ṣūfī, a notion that intrigued me given his membership of Ibn Taymiyya’s circle. In that regard, Meier made an observation that caught my attention. Referring to al-Wāsiṭī as ‘al-Ḥizāmī,’ he wrote:

This is a case of connection between Sufism and orthodox Ḥanbalism, at the same time a convergence of the Šādiliyya and Ibn Taymiyya. In the person of Ibn Taymiyya and in the person of Ibn ʿAṭāʾ Allāh al-Sikandarī the two positions clash with each other. They merge in Ḥizāmī. Šādilism is a return to classical Sufism, or at least a recollection thereof, [it is a form of] classicism. Ibn Taymiyya represents a reform of Sunna, an attempt to brush off the contaminated traditionalism and reconnect with the ancient foundations of orthodoxy. Both of these seem to have converged here in Ḥizāmī. Ḥizāmī sought to link the acceptable and good of Šādilī mysticism with the oldest form of Islam. Ḥizāmī recognized Ibn Taymiyya as a great reformer and leader, and was on his part recognized by Ibn Taymiyya as a great Sufi. It is appealing that Ḥizāmī did not abandon Sufism, but simply put it on a Ḥanbalī basis.1

By coincidence, just a few months earlier in March, I discovered that a large number of al-Wāsiṭī’s works had quite recently been edited and published. Since Meier did not disclose the source on which he based the above-quoted observation, I was curious as to whether I could find proof for it in al-Wāsiṭī’s own books. Meier thus gave me the final nudge I needed to start reading the material that was to become the main source for the research I would conduct for the next three years – though at that point I still simply wanted to see whether al-Wāsiṭī would be of any use to our understanding of Ibn Taymiyya’s relationship with Sufism. As I skimmed through several of the titles at my disposal, I was fascinated by the richness of al-Wāsiṭī’s thought on Sufism and realized that we have here a scholar who deserves to be studied in his own right. And this is exactly what the present book sets out to do. But before I turn to discuss the relevance of studying al-Wāsiṭī and the approach of this volume, some preliminary remarks must be made concerning Sufism, traditionalism, and Ibn Taymiyya, for it is within the scholarly discussions on these topics that we must attempt to situate al-Wāsiṭī.

1 A Contextual Approach to Studying Sufism(s)

What is taṣawwuf? In truth, it is hard to come up with an umbrella definition that includes its many differing, and sometimes seemingly contradictory, manifestations. Taṣawwuf is far from monolithic. While for long the tendency has been to view it as Islam’s ‘mysticism’ and the ṣūfiyya as its ‘mystics,’ this basically leaves us with an equally thorny problem: What is mysticism? Who are mystics? The common use among scholars of the latter terms seems to be inherited from our Orientalist predecessors, who had the anachronistic tendency to understand Islam through the lens of Christianity. Apart from the Western-centrism implicitly present when using the terms mysticism and mystic, there is also the problem that they are difficult to define in a way that includes all groups and individuals historically associated with the terms taṣawwuf and ṣūfī. Sara Sviri has looked at the formative period of taṣawwuf and observed that, according to her definition of mysticism and mystic, some figures she identifies as mystics were not called ṣūfīs, and some figures who were called ṣūfīs cannot be identified as mystics.2 For such reasons, there have been several scholars who have rightly problematized the use of mysticism and mystic.3 A recent critique comes from Nathan Hofer, who has opted to simply use the modern terms ‘Sufism’ and ‘Sufi’ instead, because they “bear some resemblance to local medieval usage,” that is, to ‘taṣawwuf’ and ‘ṣūfī’ respectively.4 In the present study we will likewise avoid mysticism and mystic and instead use Sufism and Sufi. And rather than attempting to provide a definition for them, my aim will be to let the objects of our inquiry explain to us in their own terms how they gave substance to ‘Sufism’ and ‘being Sufi’ in the period that stretches from roughly the middle of the seventh/thirteenth century up to the early eighth/fourteenth century.

In this epoch Sufism in its many manifestations had become an integral part of the Sunni world, that is, the regions dominated by Muslims who identified themselves as belonging to the Ahl al-Sunna wa-al-Jamāʿa. Antinomian and controversial Sufi currents certainly existed, but it was not uncommon that these would be criticized and censured by the very scholars who were themselves Sufis. It is a historical reality that taṣawwuf was widely acknowledged as one of the legitimate religious sciences (‘ʿulūm’ in Arabic), on par with other fields of knowledge such as specialist theology (kalām or uṣūl al-dīn) and jurisprudence (fiqh).5 The class of jurists was in most cases not a category separated from the specialized theologians or the Sufis. One could be jurist, theologian, and Sufi at the same time – and indeed, in the realm of the Mamluks and the Ilkhanids, this increasingly became the rule rather than the exception.6 The milieu of the professional scholars, the ʿulamāʾ, thus comprised different layers of identity between which there was cross-pollination and mobility. And with the rise of the phenomenon of the Sufi order – still called ‘ṭāʾifa’ (pl. ṭawāʾif) rather than ‘ṭarīqa’ (pl. ṭuruq), the common designation in later centuries – affiliation with a Sufi genealogy (silsila) traced back to a renowned shaykh became widespread in all layers of medieval Muslim society.7

It has been argued that, at least from the ninth to tenth century onwards, the classical Sufis may be considered perfectly “orthodox” (Sunni) Muslims.8 While I agree with what is intended by this claim, there is again a problem of terminology here that we must address – one that will in part help us better understand the diversity within Sufism. Unlike Christianity, Islam never knew a fixed orthodoxy that enforced a specific doctrine to regulate what is correct belief and what is incorrect (and hence heterodox). What was considered normative and mainstream in terms of dogma differed over time and space. Like the term mysticism, the value of ‘orthodoxy’ for our field of study has therefore been questioned.9 Josef van Ess has noted this problem and suggested that the term may only be useful when understood as the “dominant opinion” and “mainstream position” as it existed within a particular spatial-temporal context. In that sense it could be said – as van Ess does – that Islam knows not one orthodoxy, but multiple local orthodoxies.10 This is a very valid point that I believe also bears relevance for the way one could approach the different manifestations of Sufism. For if the Sufi is indeed “orthodox” and there existed multiple “orthodoxies,” then it will be useful to question which trend of Sufism was associated with which “orthodoxy.”

Now, while this study will henceforth avoid the latter term due to its historical incompatibility with Islam, it is to some degree possible to identify a more widely understood category of normative religiosity.11 However, I would argue that this category should not only be understood in terms of dogmas of a certain school of thought claiming monopoly over Sunni theology. What was considered normative in a certain locality at a certain time was also shaped by embodied forms of religion, and by broader ideas about the sociopolitical, economic, and cultural expressions of Islam. And even in a specific locality, it may be possible to recognize different categories of people with very differing notions of normativity. So clearly, if we attempt to distinguish normativity in Islam, this must always be done against a specific context with an open mind to the different forces that may have helped shape it.

Like all manifestations of religiosity, Sufism was never disconnected from the context in which it existed. For instance, it has been observed that Sufism in the Turco-Persian cultural context was markedly different from that of the Arab cultural context.12 What was considered normative when it came to Sufism evidently had to do with the cultural dimension in which it was practiced. Furthermore, around the period that concerns us, historical circumstances such as wars and economic growth or decline led to streams of migrants resettling in other parts of the Muslim world, where they subsequently reshaped the local religious landscape. What was considered normative when it came to Sufism was, of course, affected by historical context as well. By taking such factors into consideration, we may investigate the relationship between various trends of Sufism and the contexts in which they were practiced. We may thereby attempt to understand better why, for instance, a certain manifestation of the Sufi path was accepted as perfectly normative by one group of people and not by another.

To be clear, I am not attempting to make any essentialist claims when describing what is normative to a particular group of people in a particular context. For as intended by van Ess when he speaks of Islamic orthodoxies, what we identify as mainstream is not static but rather evolves, and is renegotiated and adapted according to circumstances.13 It cannot therefore be defined along strict lines. To exemplify how a contextualized approach to normativity could nevertheless be useful and at the same time take into consideration the fluidity of this category, let us look at a case that will be central to this book: the place of Sufism in the traditionalist community of early Mamluk Damascus and, more specifically, in the circle of Ibn Taymiyya.

2 Situating Ibn Taymiyya’s Circle in Its Context

Ibn Taymiyya’s circle consisted mostly of Ḥanbalīs and Shāfiʿīs who belonged to the Ahl al-Ḥadīth, the ‘partisans of tradition,’ or ‘traditionalists.’ This intellectual current, which has historically been represented most vividly by the Ḥanbalī school, strove to base religious knowledge (almost) exclusively on the Qur’an, the Sunna, and the presumed consensus of the Muslim community. Although there certainly are exceptions, the traditionalists have generally displayed a suspicious, at times even highly critical, attitude towards the interference of reason with these sources, especially in their formulation of theology (which they term ‘uṣūl al-dīn’). This approach put them at odds with the rationalist Ahl al-Kalām (or mutakallimūn), the scholars of speculative theology. The latter group allowed much more space for reason in determining how to interpret the divine sources to extract therefrom the articles of faith (sing. al-ʿaqīda, pl. al-ʿaqāʿid). The Ashʿarī school – named after its eponymous founder, Abū al-Ḥasan al-Ashʿarī (d. 324/936) – gradually became the dominant trend of kalām in the Sunni world and was adopted in particular by jurists of the Shāfiʿī and Mālikī schools of law. Because both the traditionalists and the Ashʿarīs put themselves forward as the true representatives of normative Sunni theology, they frequently clashed with each other.14

If we look at the spatial-temporal context of early Mamluk Damascus, we could say that the city itself contained at least two theological groups: a community of Ḥanbalī/Shāfiʿī traditionalists and a community of Ḥanafī/Mālikī/Shāfiʿī mutakallimūn (mostly Ashʿarīs). If we home in on the city’s traditionalist fraction, we find that the religiosity that existed among them was influenced by several other factors, such as the presence of Ḥanbalī families that had emigrated from Iraq and Palestine due to the Mongol invasion and the Crusades respectively. The Ahl al-Ḥadīth here was thus not a monolithic group per se, including both Ḥanbalīs and Shāfiʿīs of different cultural backgrounds, at times differing in the way they positioned themselves vis-à-vis their theological outlook.15 A good example of this is Ibn Taymiyya himself, who sought to defend the traditionalist creed through a very rational argumentation, an approach not all his traditionalist colleagues appreciated – among whom the shaykh’s own pupil, Shams al-Dīn al-Dhahabī (d. 748/1348).16 Furthermore, it would be a gross simplification to assert that traditionalists and Ashʿarīs were two perpetually segregated groups, since they had to coexist in the same professional stratum. Interaction would occur, for instance, through their shared interest in collecting and studying tradition among the city’s ḥadīth-scholars. Traditionalist Shāfiʿīs would especially have had to maneuver between their Ḥanbalī colleagues and their fellow Ashʿarī Shāfiʿīs. Thus, although I have chosen to view the traditionalists of early Mamluk Damascus as a specific community with its own notions of normativity, its boundaries were clearly not always sharply delineated.

In spite of this observation, for the sake of analysis there is still value in identifying the traditionalists as a distinct group in the context we just described, and to delineate certain elements of normativity that were particular to them. Ultimately, the difficulties of defining boundaries here have to do with the dynamic character of (group) identity. I understand identity as per Gerd Baumann and Andre Gingrich as that which “designates social subjectivities as persons and groups of persons.” These subjectivities are “multidimensional and fluid; they include power-related ascriptions by selves as well as by others; and they simultaneously combine sameness, or belonging, with alterity, or otherness.”17 Very simply put, identity is construed through ‘selfing’ and ‘othering.’ As we have just seen with regard to the traditionalists, there is a fluidity to this process of identity-making that works differently on different levels. Baumann has explained this through what he calls ‘the grammar of segmentation,’ which he based on the anthropological theory of Evans-Pritchard. If we apply this model to the above-discussed case, then we could say that on a lower level of segmentation the traditionalists may reject the Ashʿarīs as the ‘other’ due to conflicting notions of normativity; for instance, when it comes to the way they understand God’s divine attributes. On the other hand, on a higher level of segmentation they may share notions of normativity; for instance, when attending an audition of ḥadīth under a renowned shaykh, or in opposition to a common theological foe.18 Baumann has therefore argued that “[f]usion and fission, identity and difference are not matters of absolute criteria in this grammar, but functions of recognizing the appropriate segmentary level.”19 The traditionalists of early Mamluk Damascus can thus be studied as a delineated group with its own notions of normativity particular to their identity, as long as we are conscious of the segmentary level on which we operate.

It is within this group in this context that I want to situate Ibn Taymiyya and his circle of companions and followers in order to better understand the place of Sufism among them. For if we look at the kind of Sufism that al-Wāsiṭī taught amidst the Damascene traditionalist community, we will find that the very process of selfing and othering resulted in a Sufi doctrine that was particular to this context – a ‘traditionalist Sufism’ that in certain respects distinguished itself from other trends of Sufism that simultaneously existed elsewhere and among other groups. Having said that, it should be noted that a specific traditionalist affinity with Sufism has been recognized before. It is therefore necessary to have a closer look at the previous scholarship on the relationship between Sufism and traditionalism, especially with respect to Ibn Taymiyya and his circle.

3 Sufism, Traditionalists, and the Circle of Ibn Taymiyya

In the introductory paragraph I quoted Meier stating that al-Wāsiṭī had put Sufism “on a Ḥanbalī basis.” Whether intended or not, this remark hints at the prevalent notion that the Ḥanbalīs had something of a troubled relationship with taṣawwuf.20 It is as if prior to al-Wāsiṭī Sufism had never been adapted to Ḥanbalism. Now, in the context of the early third/ninth century, Christopher Melchert has indeed made notice of an overall “traditionalist suspicion of Sufism” and concluded that the piety of the traditionalists was “at odds” with that of the Sufis.21 Elsewhere, Melchert argued in the same vein that Aḥmad Ibn Ḥanbal (d. 241/855) himself was clearly “hostile to crucially important precursors of the Classical Sufis” and would likely have had little sympathy for Sufism as it developed after him.22 However, Melchert also noted that, about a century later, the Ḥanbalī and Sufi traditions did “surprisingly” seem to meet in the person of al-Barbahārī (d. 329/941).23 This is perhaps not as surprising as one may think.

Even if there was some concrete opposition to proto-Sufism among early traditionalists, this attitude did not survive for long. Scholars such as George Makdisi, Ahmet Karamustafa, and Laury Silvers have observed that the early Sufis from around the fourth/tenth century were generally aligned with the traditionalist movement through their shared interest in ḥadīth.24 That medieval sources nevertheless present us with examples of Ḥanbalī scholars from subsequent generations who displayed animosity towards certain Sufis or Sufi practices was not a shift away from this alignment, but rather had to do with the shift Sufism made away from traditionalism; or to put it differently, the shift Sufism made away from the traditionalist understanding of what normative Sunni Islam embodies. It has been shown, for instance, that Ibn ʿAqīl (d. 513/119) and Ibn al-Jawzī (d. 597/1201), though generally known as critics of the Sufis, had in all likelihood both been positively involved with Sufism as well.25 Addressing the objectives of the traditionalists in that regard, Makdisi has gone as far as to allege that “[t]he Hanbali School preserves Sufism in the spirit of the early Sufis who … belonged to the Ahl al-Ḥadīth.”26 While this is admittedly a rather bold statement, he was not alone in noticing a trend he referred to as ‘traditionalist Sufism’ that could occasionally be hostile towards ecstatic and rationalist kalām-aligned trends of Sufism.27

Unfortunately, there are but few examples of traditionalist Sufi shaykhs who left behind teachings in writing, which makes it difficult to study how they may have distinguished themselves from other trends of Sufism. Some of the noteworthy authorities who have been studied are Abū al-ʿAbbās Ibn ʿAṭā⁠ʾ (d. 309/922),28 Abū Manṣūr Maʿmar al-Iṣfahānī (d. 418/1027),29 ʿAbd Allāh al-Anṣārī al-Harawī (d. 481/1089),30 and ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī (or al-Jīlī) (d. 561/1166).31 We must note, however, that these shaykhs all have in common that they never became prolific authors. It is perhaps partly for that reason that the influence that traditionalists in particular have historically had on the development of Sufism has received little notice.

A widely known exception is Ibn Taymiyya, though this is for the most part due to the considerable list of writings he composed wherein he criticizes the Sufis. Both in and outside of academia he is therefore still frequently perceived as the archenemy of Sufism. And because he is often negatively portrayed as the intellectual forefather of today’s extremist Salafis, who are well-known for their opposition to Sufism, his anti-Sufi image seems more prevalent than ever.32 This reputation has since long been contested, however, starting with Henri Laoust, who already noticed in 1939 that Ibn Taymiyya had a “frank intellectual affinity with the ethico-mystical tendencies of a moderate taṣawwuf.”33 He argued that, rather than attacking Sufism as a whole, the Ḥanbalī shaykh aimed his pen at specific deviant trends he recognized, such as monistic Sufism.34 Since Laoust, an increasing number of scholars have described Ibn Taymiyya’s position vis-à-vis Sufism in similar terms, such as Joseph Bell,35 Fritz Meier,36 Thomas Michel,37 Emil Homerin,38 and Alexander Knysh to name a few.39 Broadly speaking, the general consensus seems to be that the shaykh’s polemical effort in the field of Sufism was aimed at purifying it of those elements he considered alien to Islam, so as to keep it strictly in accordance with the Qur’an and the Sunna as he understood it from the framework of traditionalism. Because he accepted the vast majority of the early Sufis as traditionalists, he argued that his vision of pure Sufism was actually in perfect accordance with the kind they had practiced and preached. This is, of course, very much in line with what Makdisi saw as the general attitude towards Sufism among the Ḥanbalīs as noted above.

But does this mean that Ibn Taymiyya himself also consciously practiced Sufism? Did he teach or preach Sufism? Was he a Sufi? These questions have not yet received definitive answers. In that respect an important contribution that must not be left unmentioned is George Makdisi’s article from 1974, which set out to prove that Ibn Taymiyya was not only sympathetic towards classical Sufism, but was in fact himself a Sufi of the Qādiriyya, the order traced back to the aforementioned Ḥanbalī Sufi ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī.40 Some scholars such as Éric Geoffroy,41 Yahya Michot,42 and Josef van Ess43 have accepted Makdisi’s evidence for this theory, whereas others such as Meier44 and Michel45 found it unconvincing and remained skeptical. We can thus conclude that while the prejudice that Ibn Taymiyya had a strict anti-Sufi agenda has been debunked for good, his exact personal relationship with Sufism remains somewhat shrouded in mystery.

More recently scholars have also taken an interest in the circle of people around Ibn Taymiyya, most notably his pupil Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d. 751/1350).46 Among the academic research done on the latter figure we again find special attention for Sufism. In their respective articles on the life and works of Ibn al-Qayyim, Birgit Krawietz and Livnat Holtzman have both regarded him as a Sufi, in part due to his numerous writings that appear to fall under the category of Sufism.47 However, it could be argued against this that even if his writings seem “Sufic” to us as modern readers, this does not mean that they were intended as such. The question of his affinity with Sufism has been dealt with in more detail by Ovamir Anjum and the late Belgian scholar Gino Schallenbergh in their respective work on the Madārij al-sālikīn. Anjum considered the latter book Ibn al-Qayyim’s “most developed spiritual discourse … and arguably an authentic development of Ibn Taymiyyah’s ideas as well,” and hence an ideal source to “explore the vexed question of their relationship to Sufism.”48 He concluded that even though both master and pupil never identified themselves as Sufis, they “endorsed Sufism devoid of mysticism, and wished to recover the earliest tradition of Sufism when mystical knowledge had not challenged the primacy of scriptural knowledge.”49 Schallenbergh arrived at a somewhat similar conclusion in his earlier study of the Sufi terminology used in the Madārij, where he hypothesized that Ibn al-Qayyim and Ibn Taymiyya “professed possibly a Sufism that … aimed foremost at a spiritualization of the šarīʿa.”50 In a later article, however, he adjusted this conclusion, stating instead that Ibn al-Qayyim in all likelihood “saw it as his task to offer an alternative spirituality to Sufism.”51 Thus, while Ibn al-Qayyim is clearly a vital source for our understanding of Taymiyyan thought on Sufism, the work done on him has not yet unequivocally answered whether taṣawwuf as an Islamic science was really consciously taught, studied, and practiced in the circle of Ibn Taymiyya.

This finally bring us back to al-Wāsiṭī, the companion of Ibn Taymiyya who had supposedly put Sufism on a Ḥanbalī basis. As such, he is potentially an important source for our knowledge of the kind of Sufism that was practiced among the traditionalists of early Mamluk Damascus, and specifically in the circle of Ibn Taymiyya. Although he has certainly not been overlooked by academics, still very little work has been done on him. Henri Laoust was perhaps the first scholar to notice him in an article that paraphrased his entry from Ibn Rajab’s (d. 795/1397) biographical dictionary of Ḥanbalīs.52 After that, he has sporadically been mentioned in several publications that in some way deal with Sufism and/or members of Ibn Taymiyya’s circle.53 Joseph Bell and Livnat Holtzman have both stated that al-Wāsiṭī was an important teacher of Ibn al-Qayyim and may have greatly influenced his early acquaintance with the discipline of Sufism, as well as inspired his later composition of the Madārij.54 Al-Wāsiṭī was also named several times in Alexander Knysh’s study on the medieval polemics against Muḥyī al-Dīn Ibn ʿArabī as one of the latter’s Sufi critics. Knysh remarked in a footnote that al-Wāsiṭī had written at least three works to refute Ibn ʿArabī, all of which were unfortunately left unstudied as he did not have access to them.55 Caterina Bori has written an article on the group dynamics of Ibn Taymiyya’s circle wherein she summarized and analyzed a letter al-Wāsiṭī had written to seven of its members, imploring them to hold fast to their shaykh.56 By far the most relevant publication on our list is, to my knowledge, the only one dedicated solely to the Ḥanbalī Sufi. In 1995, Éric Geoffroy published a nineteen-page article that discussed what he believed to be a unique manuscript of a Sufi work by al-Wāsiṭī preserved in the Ẓāhiriyya Library of Damascus.57 His aim was to summarize several of the characteristic elements of the Sufi doctrine he recognized therein and make suggestions concerning al-Wāsiṭī’s influences. In line with Meier’s notes on al-Wāsiṭī, he found several instances of clear Shādhilī-inspired teachings.58 Naturally, he also considered how the manuscript is of relevance to our knowledge of Ibn Taymiyya’s relationship with Sufism, and concluded that al-Wāsiṭī’s testimony “proves that the shaykh al-Islām has indeed been the spiritual director of Sufis.”59 Moreover, taking Ibn Taymiyya’s Qādirī affiliation for granted, he hypothesized that al-Wāsiṭī must have been instructed by his Ḥanbalī master in the teachings of the Qādiriyya, even though, he admits, no mention of the Sufi order is made in the manuscript.60

Apart from the above publications, there has been no research into al-Wāsiṭī, and the theory that Ibn Taymiyya was his (or anyone else’s) teacher in taṣawwuf as put forth by Geoffroy has not been further explored. The reason for that is quite simple, I believe: until recently, practically all of al-Wāsiṭī’s writings have only been available in manuscript form. However, now that we actually have the majority of them at our disposal in printed editions, including many titles that were not studied by Geoffroy, it is high time that we give this Sufi from Ibn Taymiyya’s circle his due.

4 Book Outline: al-Wāsiṭī’s Two Journeys

In order to systematically study al-Wāsiṭī this book is split into two parts. This division is based on two journeys that are described in his writings: The first part will be concerned with al-Wāsiṭī’s riḥla, the physical journey he made to find a teacher who could guide him to the level of religious perfection to which he aspired. The second part will be concerned with his sulūk, the inward spiritual journey he put down in writing in Damascus and taught to his students as a teacher of Sufism there. Like most Sufis, he believed that the very purpose of taṣawwuf was to take the latter journey and traverse a sequence of spiritual stations in order to reach the ultimate goal of friendship with God (wilāya, or walāya). As we will see throughout the coming chapters, his formulation of sulūk was the direct product of all he had accumulated during his riḥla through the Muslim world. One of the purposes of distinguishing between these two journeys is therefore to evaluate how al-Wāsiṭī’s physical movement in search of guidance influenced the way he eventually systematically formulated his spiritual movement on the Sufi path.

We will follow both journeys through a detailed analysis of all his writings that have been available to me. Apart from three titles in manuscript form, we will rely on published editions. It must be noted that none of these have been critically edited, as they were all exclusively based on a single manuscript. The majority of them have been made available thanks to Muḥammad Abū al-Faḍl al-Qūnawī, who first published a lengthy collective volume of treatises by al-Wāsiṭī in 2010, and another one of equal length in 2014. In addition, the late Walīd b. Muḥammad al-ʿAlī has likewise been working on a series of shorter volumes with editions of al-Wāsiṭī’s writings. Coincidentally, some of the titles found therein are also present in either of the two volumes published by al-Qūnawī. This is probably in part due to the fact that both scholars have based their editions on the same manuscript, a collective volume of works by al-Wāsiṭī held in the Hacı Selim Ağa Library in Istanbul (under shelf number 404). The manuscript’s scribe, one Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Dimashqī, finished copying it in 805/1402, which is less than a century after al-Wāsiṭī’s passing in 711/1311. According to al-Qūnawī there is good reason to believe that this al-Dimashqī relied on copies that were based on the original manuscripts, since his grandfather, Ibn Ṭūlūbghā (d. 749/1348), is known to have copied directly from al-Wāsiṭī’s own handwritten work.61 So although most titles at our disposal are based on this one manuscript, it seems to be relatively reliable considering its transmission history. Rather than merely describing what al-Wāsiṭī’s writings tell us, we will aim at contextualizing and historicizing them.

In order to prepare the reader for what is to come in the next chapters, it will be helpful to briefly explain how part one of the current book applies this approach differently from part two by presenting a chapter overview:

The first part consists of three chapters. Chapter 1 follows al-Wāsiṭī’s account of his years in Iraq. We begin in Wāsiṭ, where he grows up among Sufis of the Rifāʿī order and starts his training in jurisprudence among Shāfiʿī jurists. Then we follow his migration from his hometown to Baghdad, where he accompanies another group of Sufis whose affiliation is not clearly specified. Chapter 2 focuses solely on his time among the Shādhilīs of Alexandria, whose teachings will later greatly influence his own formulation of Sufism as both Meier and Geoffroy have noted. In chapter 3 we begin with his stay in several Cairene Sufi convents, where he is confronted for the first time with Sufis who follow Ibn ʿArabī’s school of thought. Then we turn to his final destination, Damascus, where, awed by the city’s traditionalist fraction, he adopts the Ḥanbalī school and becomes a member of Ibn Taymiyya’s circle. Here he spends the final years of his life teaching his own traditionalist version of ­Sufism.

By thus following the stages of his journey through his personal account we are provided with a unique emic view of the religious groups he accompanied. For each of these we will critically assess his descriptions of them on the basis of primary and secondary literature. Whenever works produced by members of these groups are relevant in relation to al-Wāsiṭī’s account these will be consulted. In addition, a plethora of chronicles that deal with the period in question will also be consulted.62 These sources allow us to reconstruct the main doctrines of the groups under consideration, and in some instances their respective network of people. They also allow us to sketch an image of the sociopolitical, cultural, historical, and spatial context in which al-Wāsiṭī encountered them.

The purpose of this endeavor is to historicize al-Wāsiṭī’s riḥla and at the same time situate each group he accompanied in its own context. It will thereby be argued that the extent to which these groups were able to successfully establish themselves in their respective spatial context can to some degree be connected to the notions of normativity that were prevalent there. At the same time this part of the book means to capitalize on al-Wāsiṭī’s riḥla in order to provide new historical insights into the practices, beliefs, and group structure of the early Rifāʿiyya, the early Shādhiliyya, and the Damascene circle of Ibn Taymiyya.

The second part of this book consists of two chapters. In chapter 4 we will distinguish the foundations of the Sufi path as described in al-Wāsiṭī’s writings. The first of these is his doctrine on intimate knowledge (maʿrifa) of the ­Prophet Muḥammad, which is centered around what he calls ‘the Muḥammadan way’ (al-ṭarīqa al-Muḥammadiyya); the second is his doctrine on intimate knowledge of God, which he very much defines in traditionalist terms; the third is his polemics against what he saw as the deviations of the Sufi path. In chapter 5 we will analyze his doctrine of the degrees of witnessing God, which brings us to the conclusion of the Sufi path as he formulated it.

Throughout these two chapters we will use our study of al-Wāsiṭī’s physical journey as the context against which we may understand the contents of his spiritual journey. We will thereby attempt to recognize where certain episodes described and analyzed in part 1 may have shaped his views on Sufism, where and how he appears to have appropriated material from the different religious groups and scholars he accompanied, and how he was an original thinker in his own right. Particular focus will be put on the manner in which his Sufi teachings were formulated within the framework of traditionalism. It will be argued that while some of his ideas and concepts in the field of Sufism can be traced back to either Ibn Taymiyya or the Shādhiliyya, others may be understood as a counter-reaction to some of the Sufi practices he had observed and disapproved of, while yet others appear to have been the product of his own creative thought. Such observations will showcase how ‘selfing’ and ‘othering’ was an important force behind the way he construed his Sufi doctrine, and that the common thread guiding this creative process was his understanding of traditionalist Islam.

It is hoped that this study will be of value in at least three different ways. First, for the general field of Sufi studies, it provides a window into numerous trends of Sufism that existed in some of the most prominent centers of Muslim learning in al-Wāsiṭī’s epoch. This allows us to see how diversely ‘Sufism’ and ‘being Sufi’ was given substance in various contexts of roughly the same period, and consider how this diversity may be related to differing notions of normativity. Second, by studying al-Wāsiṭī’s writings we are offered an exceptional glimpse into the kind of Sufism that was accepted and practiced in the traditionalist community of Damascus at the beginning of the eighth/fourteenth century, a subject that has hitherto hardly been studied. Third, for the specific field of Taymiyyan studies, this book provides new information concerning the role allotted to Sufism in the circle of Ibn Taymiyya and how this circle operated. In addition, it aims to answer whether Ibn Taymiyya functioned as something of a Sufi shaykh for the people around him and whether he actually was himself a Sufi.


Fritz Meier, “Profet als lebensvorbild: šādilī und ḥanbalī in personalunion,” Nachlass Fritz Meier, Universitätsbibliothek Basel, NL 0323 D 1.7, translation my own.


Sarah Sviri, “Sufism: Reconsidering Terms, Definitions and Processes in the Formative Period of Islamic Mysticism,” in Les maîtres soufis et leurs disciples des IIIe-Ve siècles de l’hégire (IXe-XIe): enseignement, formation et transmission, ed. Geneviève Gobillot & Jean-Jacques Thibon (Beirut: Institut français du Proche-Orient, 2012), p. 32.


See for instance: Omid Safi, “Bargaining with Baraka: Persian Sufism, “Mysticism,” and Pre-Modern Politics,” The Muslim World 90:3–4 (2000): pp. 260–263; Nile Green, Sufism: A Global History (Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), pp. 1–4. p.125; Lloyd Ridgeon, “Mysticism in Medieval Sufism,” in Cambridge Companion to Sufism, ed. Lloyd Ridgeon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), p. 125.


However, Nathan Hofer also notes that the term Sufism is not altogether unproblematic either because, strictly speaking, taṣawwuf cannot be called an ‘-ism,’ see: The Popu­la­risation of Sufism in Ayyubid and Mamluk Egypt, 1173-1325 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Uni­versity Press, 2015), p. 4. On the issue of terminology, see also: Pieter Coppens, Seeing God in Sufi Qur’an Commentaries: Crossings between This World and the Otherworld (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018), pp. 6–10.


On the notion that Sufism as ‘ʿilm al-taṣawwuf’ was considered one of the religious sciences, see for instance: Richard McGregor, “The Problem of Sufism,” MSR XIII (2009): pp. 75–76, where he refers to Ibn Khaldūn’s Muqaddima.


Éric Geoffroy, Le soufisme en Égypte et en Syrie sous les derniers Mamelouks et les premiers Ottomans: orientations spirituelles et enjeux culturels (Damascus: Institut français d’études arabes de Damas, 1995), pp. 65–90; Michael Chamberlain, Knowledge and Social Practice in Medieval Damascus, 1190-1350 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 128; Hofer, The Popularisation of Sufism, pp. 7–11.


Ṭāʾifa is a generic term that literally means ‘group,’ and could refer to all kinds of organized groups in society. For Sufis in the period under consideration, ṭāʾifa referred to the order organized around the leadership of a shaykh. The word ṭarīqa still signified the Sufi method taught by that shaykh, cf. Geoffroy, Le Soufisme, pp. 269–270, and p. 90 for the initiation of ʿulamāʾ into Sufi genealogies.


Bernd Radtke, “Warum ist der Sufi Orthodox?” Der Islam, 71 (1994): pp. 302–307.


Among the several important contributions are: Bernard Lewis, “Some Observations on the Significance of Heresy in the History of Islam,” Studia Islamica 1 (1953): pp. 42–63; Alexander D. Knysh “‘Orthodoxy’ and ‘Heresy’ in Medieval Islam: An Essay in Reassess­ment,” The Muslim World 83:1 (1993): pp. 48–67; and for a more recent criticism in the same vein as that of Knysh: Brett Wilson, “The Failure of Nomenclature: The Concept of ‘Orthodoxy’ in the Study of Islam,” Comparative Islamic Studies 3:2 (2007): pp. 169–194. An overview of the criticism leveled at the term orthodoxy has been provided by Christian R. Lange, “Power, Orthodoxy and Salvation in Classical Islamic Theology,” in Islamic Studies in the Twenty-First Century, ed. Léon Buskens & Annemarie van Sandwijk (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2016), pp. 135–152. For a discussion of orthodoxy in light of the study of Sufism, see: McGregor, “The Problem of Sufism,” pp. 71–74 & 78–83.


Lange, “Power, Orthodoxy and Salvation,” p. 152, where he quotes from Josef van Ess, Der Eine und das Andere: Beobachtungen an islamischen häresiographischen Texten (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2011), p. 1299.


I am aware that the late Shahab Ahmed regards it as “misplaced” to replace the category of orthodoxy with normativity as suggested by Sherali Tareen, “Normativity, Heresy, and the Politics of Authenticity in South Asian Islam,” The Muslim World 99:3 (2009): p. 526. However, I do not strictly speaking intend to use normativity here as the needed alternative for orthodoxy, nor do I follow Tareen’s definition of the term. I actually think Ahmed is right to say that the normative is different from the orthodox in that it “is produced by a much more diffuse set of social actors and discursive practices than those of the ʿulamāʾ/“religious experts” alone, and does not seek or enjoy the same authority of sanction,” see: Shahab Ahmed, What is Islam? The Importance of Being Islamic (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2017), p. 285n 85. This agrees with the point I am trying to make above, namely that Muslim scholars were not the sole force responsible for what was regarded as normative religiosity in a particular community of a particular context, but that this involved other dimensions that should be taken into account as well.


Ahmet T. Karamustafa, God’s Unruly Friends: Dervish Groups in the Islamic Later Middle Period, 1200-1550 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1994), p. 99; Éric Geoffroy, Intro­duction to Sufism (World Wisdom, 2010), pp. 190–191, and by the same author, Le Soufisme, pp. 250–258.


Lange, “Power, Orthodoxy and Salvation,” p. 152, quoting Van Ess, Der Eine und das Andere, p. 1299.


Note that in this definition the ‘traditionalist’ is set apart from the ‘traditionist’ in that the latter signifies someone who is a scholar of ḥadīth, which does not necessarily means that he or she abides by the above stated traditionalist principles regarding the Islamic sources. Here I follow George Makdisi’s definition as presented in: “Ashʿarī and the Ashʿarites in Islamic Religious History,” Studia Islamica, no. 17 (1962): p. 49. On the traditionalists, see also: Marshall G. S. Hodgson (who prefers to call them ‘the Hadith folk’), The Venture of Islam, Volume 1: The Classical Age of Islam (University of Chicago Press, 1974), pp. 386–392. For the distinction between (Ḥanbalī) traditionalism and rationalist kalām, see also: Binyamin Abrahamov, Islamic Theology: Traditionalism and Rationalism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998), p. ix; Geoffroy, Le Soufisme, p. 82; Christopher Melchert, “The Piety of the Hadith Folk,” IJMES, vol. 34, no. 3 (2002): pp. 431 & 434. For a brief historical overview of Ḥanbalī theology, see: Jon Hoover, “Ḥanbalī Theology,” in The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Theology, ed. Sabine Schmitdke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 625–633.


George Makdisi, “Hanbalite Islam,” in Studies on Islam, trans. & ed. Merlin L. Swartz (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), pp. 263–264.


For Ibn Taymiyya’s rational approach to traditionalist theology, see the recent excellent study of Sophia Vasalou, Ibn Taymiyya’s Theological Ethics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), pp. 238–241. For al-Dhahabī’s “uber-traditionalist” stance, see: Caterina Bori, “al-Dhahabī,” in EI3, 2016, p. 75. For a good overview of Ibn Taymiyya’s theology, and its divergence from the classical traditionalist position, see: Hoover, “Ḥanbalī Theology,” pp. 637–638.


Gerd Baumann and Andre Gingrich, Grammars of Identity/Alterity: A Structural Approach (New York: Berghahn Books, 2006), p. x.


Ibid. pp. 21–24.


Ibid. p. 23.


Note of this attitude has been made, for instance by: George Makdisi, “The Hanbali School and Sufism,” Humaniora Islamica, 2 (1974): p. 72; Geoffroy, Le Soufisme, p. 62; Josef van Ess, “Sufism and its Opponents,” in Islamic Mysticism Contested: Thirteen Centuries of Controversies and Polemics, ed. F. de Jong & Bernd Radtke (Leiden: Brill, 1999), p. 29.


Christopher Melchert, “The Piety of the Hadith Folk,” pp. 431–432, and on p. 429 he uses “Max Weber’s terms of ideal types” to argue that traditionalist piety may be described as “an ascetic (moralistic) orientation” as opposed to the ‘mystical’ orientation of the sufis.


Christopher Melchert, “The Ḥanābila and the Early Sufis,” Arabica, T. 48, Fasc. 3 (2001): p. 359, and pp. 355–360 for a general overview of Ibn Ḥanbal’s opinion of proto-Sufis. This attitude was also observed by Van Ess, “Sufism and its Opponents,” pp. 28–29.


Ibid. p. 367.


See for instance: Ahmet Karamustafa, Sufism: The Formative Period (Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2007), pp. 22–23; Laury Silvers-Alario, “The Teaching Relationship in Early Sufism: A Reassessment of Fritz Meier’s Definition of the shaykh al-tarbiya and the shaykh al-taʿlīm,” The Muslim World 93, 1 (2003): p. 91; Makdisi, “The Hanbali School and Sufism,” p. 72; Geoffroy, Le Soufisme, pp. 98–100.


For Ibn ʿAqīl, see: George Makdisi, Ibn ʻAqil: Religion and Culture in Classical Islam (Edin­burgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997), pp. 216–217; for Ibn al-Jawzī, see: Merlin L. Swartz. Ibn al-Jawzī’s Kitāb al-Quṣṣāṣ wa’l-Mudhakkirīn (Beirut: Dar el-Machreq Éditeurs, 1986), pp. 23–25.


Makdisi, “The Hanbali School and Sufism,” p. 72.


Karamustafa, Sufism, pp. 87–96; Van Ess, “Sufism and its Opponents,” pp. 29–30; Makdisi, “The Hanbali School and Sufism,” p. 72, and by the same author, Ibn ʻAqil, p. 216.


Studied by Richard Gramlich in: Abū l-ʿAbbās b. ʿAṭāʾ: Sufi und Koranausleger (Stuttgart: Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft Kommissionverlag, F. Steiner, 1995).


Studied by Serge de Laugier de Beaurecueil in: “La voie du privilegie: petit traité d’Abu Mansur Maʿmar al-Isfahani,” in Mélanges Taha Husain: offerts par ses amis et ses disciples á l’occasion de son 70ième anniversaire, ed. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Badawī (Cairo: Dar Al-Maaref, 1962), pp. 65–76.


Studied by Serge de Laugier de Beaurecueil in: Khwādja ʿAbdullāh Anṣārī (396-481H./1006-1089): mystique Hanbalite (Beirut: Librairie Orientale, 1965); also: A. G. Ravan Farhadi, ʿAbdullah Ansari of Herat (1006-1089 C.E.): An Early Sufi Master (Richmond, Curzon Press, 1996).


Except for a Tafsīr, all Arabic works attributed to al-Jīlānī have been translated into English by the late Muhtar Holland and published by al-Baz Publishing. Of all the above-mentioned traditionalist Sufis, al-Jīlānī has been studied most extensively. There are a few studies in different languages, such as: Walther Braune, Die Futūḥ al-Ġaib des ʿAbd al-Qādir (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1933), André Demeerseman, Nouveau regard sur la voie spiri­tuelle d’ʿAbd al-Qâdir al-Jilânî et sa tradition (Paris: Vrin, 1988), and the dissertation by Pascal Held, The Hanbali School and Mysticism in Sixth/Twelfth Century Baghdad (University of Chicago, 2016); and more recently Hamza Malik’s book The Grey Falcon: The Life and Teaching of Shaykh Abd Al-Qādir Al-Jīlānī (Leiden: Brill, 2019).


Yahya Michot gives a good overview of several biased representations of Ibn Taymiyya, see: Muslims under non-Muslim rule (Oxford: Interface Publications, 2006), pp. 123–128. For the Salafis’ opposition to Sufism and their appropriation of Ibn Taymiyya, see for instance: Joas Wagemakers, “Why Salafis Have Anti-Sufi Attitudes,” OASIS, June 21, 2017, accessed June 29, 2017, <>.


Henri Laoust, Essai sur les doctrines sociales et politiques de Taki-d-Din Ahmad b. Taimiya, canoniste hanbalite né à Harràn en 661/1262, mort à Damas en 728/1328 (Cairo: Impr. de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 1939), p. 89.


Ibid. pp. 89–93.


Joseph N. Bell, Love Theory in Later Ḥanbalite Islam (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1979), p. 94.


Fritz Meier, “The Cleanest about Predestination: A Bit of Ibn Taymiyya,” in Essays on Islamic Piety and Mysticism, trans. John O’Kane (Leiden: Brill, 1999), p. 313 (originally published as: “Das sauberste über die vorbestimmung: Ein stück Ibn Taymiyya,” Saeculum 32 (1981): pp. 74–89).


Thomas Michel, “Ibn Taymiyya’s Sharḥ on the Futūḥ al-Ghayb of ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī,” Hamdard Islamicus, vol. 4, no. 2 (1981): p. 9.


Th. Emil Homerin, “Ibn Taymiyya’s Al-Ṣūfīyah wa-al-Fuqarāʾ,” Arabica 32 (1985): p. 244.


Alexander D. Knysh, Ibn ʻArabi in the Later Islamic Tradition: The Making of a Polemical Image in Medieval Islam (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999), pp. 87-88. More recent contributions have also drawn on the work of their predecessors, such as: Qais Assef, “Le soufisme et les soufis selon Ibn Taymiyya,” Bulletin d’Etudes Orientales LX (2012): pp. 102-104, and: Diego R. Sarrio, “Spiritual anti-elitism: Ibn Taymiyya’s doctrine of sainthood (walāya),” Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations, 22:3 (2011): p 287.


George Makdisi, “Ibn Taymīya: A Ṣūfī of the Qādiriyya Order,” American Journal of Arabic Studies, vol. 1 (1974): pp. 123–124.


Geoffroy, Le Soufisme, p. 225.


Yahya Michot, “Ibn Taymiyya’s Commentary on the Creed of al-Ḥallāj,” in Sufism and Theology, ed. Ayman Shihadeh (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007), p. 123.


Van Ess, “Sufism and its opponents,” p. 31.


Meier, “The Cleanest about Predestination,” pp. 317–318n 9,


Michel, “Ibn Taymiyya’s Sharḥ,” p. 3.


I have already made note of this development in my article: “A Glimpse of Sufism from the Circle of Ibn Taymiyya: An Edition and Translation of al-Baʿlabakkī’s (d. 734/1333) Epistle on the Spiritual Way (Risālat al-Sulūk),” JSS 5 (2016): p. 157, where I refer to Caterina Bori’s contributions: “Ibn Taymiyya wa-Jamāʿatuhu,” in Ibn Taymiyyah and his Times, ed. Yossef Rapoport & Shahab Ahmed (Lahore: Oxford University Press, 2010) pp. 23–52, and: “The collection and edition of Ibn Taymīyah’s works: Concerns of a disciple,” MSR XIII (2009): pp. 47–67.


Birgit Krawietz provides a brief description of Ibn al-Qayyim’s Sufi writings in: “Ibn Qayyim al-Jawzīyah: His Life and Works,” MSR X (2006): pp. 47–55. On p. 47 she calls Ibn al-Qayyim a “Sufi-Hanbalite,” a term she borrows from: Makdisi, “Hanbalite Islam,” p. 247. For Livnat Holtzman’s list of Ibn al-Qayyim’s Sufi writings, see: “Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah,” in Essays in Arabic Literary Biography II: 1350–1850, ed. Devin J. Stewart & Joseph E. Lowry (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2009), pp. 218–219. On p. 218 she argues that Ibn al-Qayyim is portrayed by his biographers as an “extremely devoted Sufi.” It must be noted, however, that they never explicitly call him such.


Ovamir Anjum, “Sufism Without Mysticism? Ibn Qayyim al-Ğawziyyah’s Objectives in Madāriğ al-Sālikīn,” Oriente Moderno, XC 1 (2010): p. 159.


Ibid. p. 177. Anjum defines mysticism “as a mode of cognition which does not merely experience ecstasy or divine illumination (kašf or mukāšafah) of scriptural knowledge, but also turns that experience into discursive knowledge independent of scriptural knowledge. Mysticism does not necessarily oppose the Scripture but the crucial point is that it may, for mysticism claims a separate, often superior, epistemological authority” (p. 158).


Gino Schallenbergh, “Intoxication and Ecstasy: Sufi Terminology in the Work of Ibn Qayyim al-Ğawzīya,” in Proceedings of the 6th, 7th and 8th colloquium on the history of Egypt and Syria in the Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mamluk Eras, ed. Jo van Steenbergen & Urbain Vermeulen (Leuven: Uitgeverij Peeters, 2005), p. 474.


Gino Schallenbergh, “Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya’s Manipulation of Sufi Terms: Fear and Hope,” in Islamic Theology, Philosophy and Law: Debating Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya, ed. Birgit Krawietz & Georges Tamer (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2013), p. 120.


Henri Laoust, “Le Hanbalisme sous les Mamlouks Bahrides (658/784–1260/1382),” in Revue des Études Islamiques 28 (1960): pp. 61–62.


Besides the list of publications given above, I also found mention of al-Wāsiṭī in: Louis Pouzet, Damas au VIIe-XIIIe siècle: vie et structures religieuses d’une métropole islamique (Beirut: Dar el-Machreq, 1988), p. 234; Joel L. Kraemer, “The Andalusian Mystic Ibn Hūd and the Conversion of the Jews,” in Israel Oriental Studies XII (1992): pp. 67 & 69.


Bell, Love Theory, pp. 93-94; Holtzman, “Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah,” p. 209.


Knysh, Ibn ʻArabi in the Later Islamic Tradition, pp. 66, 113, 218, 330n 69, 359n 2.


Bori, “Ibn Taymiyya wa-Jamāʿatuhu,” pp. 26–29. This letter was available to Bori as it was preserved in: Shams al-Dīn Muḥammad Ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī, al-ʿUqūd al-durriyya min manāqib shaykh al-islām Aḥmad b. Taymiyya, ed. Muḥammad Ḥāmid al-Fiqī (Beirut: Dār al-kitāb al-ʿarabī, 2010), pp. 306–337. The same letter was also used as a source in a footnote of Abdul Hakim I. Al-Matroudi’s book The Ḥanbalī School of Law and Ibn Taymiyyah: Conflict or Conciliation (London: Routledge, 2010), p. 203.


Éric Geoffroy, “Le traité de soufisme d’un disciple d’Ibn Taymiyya: Aḥmad ʿImād al-dīn al-Wāsiṭī (m. 711/1311),” Studia Islamica, no. 82 (1995): p. 85, translation my own. The Damascene manuscript is in fact not unique, as the published edition I will discuss below is based on a manuscript from Istanbul.


Ibid. pp. 86–88 & 97–98.


Ibid. p. 102.


Ibid. p. 97.


For the list of al-Wāsiṭī’s works used in this book, see the bibliography, pp. 284–287. For al-Qūnawī’s remarks on the manuscript, see: al-Wāsiṭī, al-ʿImādiyyāt: Majmūʿ fīhi rasāʾil li-al-imām ʿImād al-Dīn al-Wāsiṭī al-maʿrūf bi-Ibn Shaykh al-Ḥazzāmiyya, ed. Muḥammad b. ʿAbd Allāh Aḥmad (Abū al-Faḍl al-Qūnawī) (Beirut: Dār al-kutub al-ʿilmiyya, 2010), p. 16, and also: al-Wāsiṭī, Qawāʿid fī al-sulūk ilā Allāh taʿālā aw: al-Sayr ʿalā al-minhāj, ed. Muḥammad b. ʿAbd Allāh Aḥmad (Abū al-Faḍl al-Qūnawī) (Beirut: Dār al-bashāʾir al-islāmiyya, 2014), p. 18. For al-ʿAlī’s remarks on the manuscript, see: al-Wāsiṭī, Talqīḥ al-asrār bi-lawāmiʿ al-anwār li-al-ʿulamāʾ al-abrār, ed. Walīd b. Muḥammad b. ʿAbd Allāh al-ʿAlī (Beirut: Dār al-bashāʾir al-islāmiyya, 2014), pp. 32–33, and also: al-Wāsiṭī, al-Sirr al-maṣūn wa-al-ʿilm al-makhzūn fīhi lawāʾiḥ min al-maḥabba wa-shuʾūn, ed. Walīd b. Muḥammad b. ʿAbd Allāh al-ʿAlī (Beirut: Dār al-bashāʾir al-islāmiyya, 2013), p. 29.


The present study has benefited greatly from a considerable variety of searchable digitalized Arabic works of history (tārīkh) and biographical dictionaries (ṭabaqāt) that have been accessed through the digital library al-Maktaba al-shāmila.

  • Collapse
  • Expand