Unveiling Sufism - From Manhattan to Mecca - William Rory Dickson

Unveiling Sufism - From Manhattan to Mecca - William Rory Dickson

A Reality without a Name: Early Sufis and the Formation of Tradition

Unveiling Sufism - From Manhattan to Mecca - William Rory Dickson

Meena Sharify-Funk [+-]
Wilfrid Laurier University
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Meena Sharify-Funk, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor for the Religion and Culture Department at Wilfrid Laurier University who specializes in Islamic studies with a focus on contemporary Muslim thought and identity. Sharify-Funk has written and presented a number of articles and papers on women and Islam, Sufi hermeneutics, and the role of cultural and religious factors in peacemaking. Her current research focuses on the construction of contemporary North American Muslim identity in a post 9/11 world. It is a continuation of her first manuscript, Encountering the Transnational: Women, Islam, and the Politics of Interpretation (2008) which examined the impact of transnational networking on Muslim women’s identity, thought, and activism. She also has co-edited two books, Cultural Diversity and Islam (2003) and Contemporary Islam: Dynamic, Not Static (2006).
William Rory Dickson [+-]
University of Winnipeg
William Rory Dickson, PhD is an Assistant Professor for the Religion and Culture Department at the University of Winnipeg, with a specialization in Islamic Studies. His research focuses on contemporary Islam and Sufism in North America. Dickson's recent book Living Sufism in North America: Between Tradition and Transformation (2015) explores the ways in which Sufi leaders in North America relate to Islamic orthodoxy, authority, and gender. Dickson has published articles on contemporary Muslim thought and Sufism in the Journal of Contemporary Islam and Studies in Religion and has presented his research at a number of national and international conferences.


In Chapter Six, we trace the formation of Sufism in the early period of Islam, from the 8th to the 10th centuries. Islamic spirituality, like law and theology, was being formulated during this period. It was hence subject to conflicts over the nature of God, the Qur’an, and the ideal Muslim self and society, conflicts that affected all aspects of the emergent Islamic civilization. Proto-Sufis emerge as exponents of the Qur’an’s hidden meaning, rejectors of the newfound wealth and worldly status of early Islamic empires, and proponents of relating to God not simply as a law-giver and lord, but also as an intimate friend and lover. Seminal figures of this era include Hasan al-Basri (d. 728) and Rabi‘a the great female Sufi and representative of the path of divine love. Sufis drew controversy for their claims of intimacy and unity with God, most notably culminating in the death of Sufism’s famous ‘martyr of love’ al-Hallaj. Also, in this period Sufism began to be understood as a distinctive science within Islam due in large part to the efforts of Sufi biographers like Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri (d. 1074) to document the principles and practices of Sufism. Sufis would further embrace the structure and themes of pre-Islamic poetry, using its imagery of loss, longing, and the journey to find the beloved, to represent the spiritual search for God.

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Sharify-Funk, Meena ; Dickson, William. A Reality without a Name: Early Sufis and the Formation of Tradition. Unveiling Sufism - From Manhattan to Mecca. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 179-220 Aug 2017. ISBN 9781781792445. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=26332. Date accessed: 02 Jul 2022 doi: 10.1558/equinox.26332. Aug 2017

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