SOAS University of London

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

Sufism Part A

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/2023
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1 or Year 2
Taught in:
Term 1

This module takes an analytical and textual approach to medieval Sufism. It concentrates on, and contextualises, key figures, doctrines, practices and institutional structures, and introduces primary texts representing a range of literary genres. Attention is given to controversies and debates that surrounded specific figures or doctrines.


Enrolment on host programme.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  1. Understand the historical form and content of the traditions of learning and modes of scholarship which feature in Sufi literary texts
  2. Read, translate and competently analyse selected Arabic Sufi texts
  3. Appreciate the written legacy of the medieval Islamic sciences
  4. Engage with the academic discourses and theroretical issues which feature in the analysis and study of Sufism


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week, consisting of a 1 hour lecture and a 1 hour seminar.

Scope and syllabus

Part A of the module reviews literature and concepts from the early formative period of Sufism. This will range from the study of early ascetic tracts and treatises; materials which chart the emergence of formative Sufi works such as Abū Ṭālib al-Makkī's Qūt al-qulūb; al-Sarrāj's al-Lumaʿ and al-Qusharī's Risāla; it will also explore the development of Sufi biographical compilations such as the works of Abū Nuʿaym al-Iṣfahānī and al-Sulamī.

Method of assessment

One 3000-word essay submitted on Friday, Week 1, Term 2 (100%)

Suggested reading

Basic bibliography:

(a) In Arabic

  • Al-Ghazali (d. 505/1111), Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Muhammad, Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din, edited by 'Abdullah al-Khalidi (5 vols., Beirut, Sharikat Dar al-Arqam Ibn Abi al-Arqam, 1998).
  • al-Munqidh min al-Dalal (2nd edition, Beirut, al-Maktabat al-Sharqiyya, 1969).
  • Al-Hujwiri (d. between 465/1073 and 469/1077), 'Ali b. 'Uthman al-Jullabi, Kashf al-Mahjub (Beirut, Dar al-Nahda al-'Arabiyya, n.d.). Al-Kalabadhi (d. 380/990), Muhammad b. Ishaq, al-Ta'arruf li Madhhab Ahl al
  • Tasawwuf, ed. Ahmad Shams al-Din (Beirut, Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya, 1993).
  • Al-Qushayri (d. 465/1072), 'Abd al-Karim b. Hawazin [Abu al-Qasim], al-Risala al-Qushayriyya fi 'Ilm al-Tasawwuf, ed. Ma'ruf Mustafa Zurayq (Beirut, al-Maktaba al-'Ashriyya, 2001).
  • al-Risala al-Qushayriyya, translated as "Sufi Book of Spiritual Ascent" by Rabia Harris, edited by Laleh Bakhtiar (Chicago, ABC International Group Inc., 1997).
  • Al-Sarraj (d. 378/988), 'Abd Allah b. 'Ali al-Tusi, al-Luma' fi al-Tasawwuf, ed. R. A. Nicholson (Luzac & Co., London, 1914).
  • Zarruq, Ahmad b. Ahmad, Qawa'id al-Tasawwuf, ed. Muhammad Zuhri al-Najjar (Cairo, Maktabat al-Kulliyat al-Azhariyya, 1967).

(b) In English

  • Abdel-Kader, Ali Hassan, The Life, Personality and Writings of al-Junayd (London, Luzac & Company ltd., 1976).
  • Arberry, Arthur J., Sufism – An Account of the Mystics of Islam (London, Unwin Hyman Ltd., 1979).
  • Attar, Farid al-Din, Tadhkirat al-Awliya, translated as "Muslim Saints and Mystics" by A. L. Arberry (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979).
  • Al-Attas, Syed Muhammad Naquib, The Nature of Man and the Psychology of the Human Soul (Kuala Lumpur, The International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation, 1993).
  • Baldick, Julian, Mystical Islam (London, I. B. Tauris and Co. Ltd., 1989).
  • Chittick, William C., Sufism - A Short Introduction (Oxford, Oneworld Publications, 2000). Ernst, Carl W., Words of Ecstasy in Sufism (Albany, SUNY, 1985).
  • The Shambhala Guide to Sufism (Boston, Shambhala, 1997).
  • Frager, Robert, Heart, Self, & Soul - the Sufi Psychology of Growth, Balance and Harmony (Wheaton, Illinois, Quest Books, 1999).
  • Heer, Nicholas and Honerkamp, Kenneth L., Three Early Sufi Texts: "A Treatise on the Heart", "The Stumblings of Those Aspiring" & "Two Texts on the Path of Blame" (Fons Vitae, 2003).
  • Al-Hujwiri (d. between 465/1073 and 469/1077), Ali b. Uthman al-Jullabi, Kashf al-Mahjub, translated from the Persian by Reynold A. Nicholson (Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1911).
  • Jami, Abd al-Rahman b. Ahmad, al-Durra al-Fakhira, translated as "The Precious Pearl" by Nicholas Heer (Albany : State University of New York Press, 1979).
  • Al-Kalabadhi (d. 380/990), Muhammad b. Ishaq, al-Ta'arruf li Madhhab Ahl al-Tasawwuf, translated as "Doctrine of the Sufis" by A. J. Arberry (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1977).
  • Knysh, Alexander D., Islamic Mysticism – A Short History (Leiden, Brill, 1999). Lewisohn, Leonard (ed.), The Heritage of Sufism (3 vols., Oxford, Oneworld Publications, 1999).
  • Massignon, Louis, Essay on the Origins of the Technical Language of Islamic Mysticism, translated from the French by Benjamin Clark (Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, 1997).
  • Nasr (ed.), Seyyid Hossein, Islamic Spirituality 1-Foundations / 2- Manifestations (London, SCM Press, 1989).
  • Al-Qushayri (d. 465/1072), Abd al-Karim b. Hawazin [Abu 'l-Qasim], al-Risala al-Qushayriyya, translated as "Sufi Book of Spiritual Ascent" by Rabia Harris, edited by Laleh Bakhtiar (Chicago, ABC International Group Inc., 1997).
  • Schimmel, Annemarie, Mystical Dimensions of Islam (Chapel Hill, The University of Carolina Press, 1975).
  • Sells, Michael, Early Islamic Mysticism (New York, Paulist Press, 1996).
  • Smith, Margaret, An Early Mystic of Baghdad (New York, AMS Press, 1973).
  • Stoddart, William, Sufism - the Mystical Doctrines and Methods in Islam (Wellingborough, Thorsons Publishers Ltd., 1976).

(c) Note also:


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules