SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Introduction to Sufism

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2018/2019
Year of study:
Year 2
Taught in:
Full Year


  • 158000189 Islam: Foundations OR 
  • 155901258 The Muslim World: Unity in Diversity

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

By the end of this module, students:

  1. should be familiar with the salient features of Sufism
  2. should be familiar with the historical background, emergence and development of Sufism
  3. should be familiar with the foremost personalities of the tradition, and the concepts, doctrines, trends and practices of Sufism within their appropriate religio-intellectual and social contexts
  4. should have competence in understanding and contextualising medieval historical materials through secondary sources


This module is taught over 22 weeks with 2 hours classroom contact per week.

Scope and syllabus

This module will chart and contextualise the development of Sufism from the earliest phase of Islamic history up to the modern period.  It will provide an introductory overview of the main figures, trends, doctrines, concepts and practices of Sufism.  Attention will be given to some of the controversies and debates that surrounded specific figures, doctrines or practices, or the Sufi tradition as a whole.  The module will use secondary sources and a small number of representative primary sources available in English translations.  

No knowledge of Arabic is needed to take this module.  

This module is compulsory for Year 2 students on the programme BA Islamic Studies.

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (70%); one essay of 2,500 - 3,000 to be submitted on day 1, week 1, term 2 (15%); one essay of 2,500 - 3,000 to be submitted on day 1, week 1, term 3 (15%).

Suggested reading

  • Addas, Claude. Quest for the Red Sulphur: The Life of Ibn ʿArabī, Cambridge, 1993.
  • Baldick, Julian. Mystical Islam, London, 1989.
  • Chittick, William C. The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi, Albany, NY, 1983.
  • Chittick, William. Sufism: A Short Introduction, Oxford, 2000.
  • Chodkiewicz, M. An Ocean Without Shore: Ibn Arabi, the Book and the Law, Albany, NY, 1993.
  • Cornell, Vincent. The Way of Abu Madyan, Cambridge, 1996.
  • Ernst, Carl. Rūzbihān Baqlī: Mysticism and the Rhetoric of Sainthood in Persian Sufism, Richmond, 1994.
  • Ernst, Carl. The Shambhala Guide to Sufism, Boston, 1997.
  • Izutsu, T. Sufism and Taoism, Berkeley, 1984.
  • Karamustafa, Ahmet. Sufism: The Formative Period, Edinburgh, 2007.
  • Knysh, Alexander. Islamic Mysticism: A Short History, Leiden, 1999.
  • Lewisohn, Leonard (ed.). The Heritage of Sufism, 3 vols, Oxford, 1999.
  • Lings, Martin. A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century, Berkeley, 1971.
  • Massignon, L. The Passion of al-Ḥallāj: Mystic and Martyr of Islam, 4 vols, Princeton, NJ, 1982.
  • Schimmel, Annemarie. Mystical Dimensions of Islam, Chapel Hill, 1975.
  • Sells, Michael. Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Qur’an, Mi‘raj, Poetic and Theological Writings, New York, 1996.
  • Trimingham, J. Spencer. The Sufi Orders of Islam, Oxford, 1971.
  • Valiuddin, Mir. Contemplative Disciplines in Sufism, London, 1980.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules