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Ibn Khaldun's Perception of Sufis and Sufism: The Discipline of Tasawwuf in Umran

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The purpose of this study is to analyse, against the backdrop of historical, social and political philosophy, Ibn Khaldun's perception of tasawwuf, a discipline he enumerates among the sharia sciences to emerge in umran, and notwithstanding his commending of the first phases of the incipience of tasawwuf rooted in ascetic ethics, his general criticisms of the Sufi thought of muhaqqiqs, i.e., investigative post-Ghazzalian Sufis, lead by Ibn al-Arabi. The analysis will seek to accentuate two determining problems of Ibn Khaldun's connected outlook: first, the identity of the religious-political authority; and second, how tasawwuf ought to be in umran. Historical experience illustrates, Ibn Khaldun holds, that the attempts of saints in seizing religious-worldly authority have been futile, as attested by the upheavals of Ibn al-Qasi and other Sufis, a failure which accordingly is occasioned by their deprivation of the support of tribalism, more precisely, their inefficiency in garnering social agreement on their ideas. Proceeding from this sociohistorical perspective, Ibn Khaldun has urged tasawwuf to abide by interpreting the spiritual states of pre-Ghazzalian Sufis, at the detriment of ruing the notion of tasawwuf espoused by muhaqqiq Sufis.

Affiliations: 1: Turkish Religious Foundation, Center for Islamic Studies (ISAM)


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