Philosophical Sufism

Authored by: Mohammed Rustom

The Routledge Companion to Islamic Philosophy

Print publication date:  September  2015
Online publication date:  August  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415881609
eBook ISBN: 9781315708928
Adobe ISBN: 9781317484332


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It is often assumed that “philosophy” and “mysticism” are mutually exclusive. Of course, this all depends on how we define our terms, which is not something I will attempt to do here. In medieval Islam, the philosophy/mysticism dichotomy becomes even more problematic, since these are not necessarily watertight categories to begin with. This is why such a philosophical giant as Ibn S?n? (d. 428/1037) wrote favorably about mysticism (Avicenna 1996), and why the influential philosopher and founder of the school of Illumination Shih?b al-D?n Suhraward? (d. 587/1191) openly espoused mysticism in both theory and practice (Aminrazavi 1997: 58–120). We even find a number of well-known figures in the Islamic mystical tradition (commonly referred to as “Sufism”) whose approach to things was “philosophical,” but who had little interest in the actual discipline of philosophy (Mayer 2008: 276–7). There are also Muslim mystics or Sufis who had a good grounding in philosophy proper, and some of whose works bear witness to a sort of wedding between philosophy and mysticism. The most eminent early examples of this tendency are to be found in the works of Ab? ??mid al-Ghaz?l? (d. 505/1111) (al-Ghaz?l? 1998) and the pivotal figure ‘Ayn al-Qu??t Hamad?n? (d. 525/1131) (Izutsu 1994: 98–140).

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