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The Popularisation of Sufism in Ayyubid and Mamluk Egypt, 1173-1325$
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Nathan Hofer

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780748694211

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748694211.001.0001

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The Emergence of the Shādhilīya in Egypt

The Emergence of the Shādhilīya in Egypt

(p.105) 4 The Emergence of the Shādhilīya in Egypt
The Popularisation of Sufism in Ayyubid and Mamluk Egypt, 1173-1325

Nathan Hofer

Edinburgh University Press

The Sufi order known as the Shādhilīya was one of the most popular Sufi movements of the Islamic Middle Ages, counting adherents across north Africa, Egypt and Greater Syria.1 The order’s eponymous ‘founder’, Abū l-Óasan al-Shādhilī (d. 656/1258), was born in the Maghrib but eventually settled in Alexandria in the 1240s with the explicit sanction of the Ayyubid regime. While al-Shādhilī and his cohort rejected overt state sponsorship, they did cultivate warm relations with Ayyubid and early Mamluk rulers, as well as many of Egypt’s most prominent ʿulamāʾ. These alliances permitted al-Shādhilī to intercede on behalf of his disciples and clients and to travel freely across Egypt to teach his form of Sufism– advantages he did not enjoy in his previous home in Tunis. Al-Shādhilī met with great success in Egypt, establishing a reputation as a powerful Sufi master and an ally of people across the socio-economic spectrum, attracting a large numbers of followers in the process. Indeed, within roughly fifty years of al-Shādhilī’s death, a nascent social movement tied to his name had emerged that persists to the present day in multiple branches and sub-orders. But how did this informal and localised teaching circle become a trans-regional voluntary association of Sufis who conceptualised themselves as a coherent social body tied together by the teachings of an eponymous master?

Keywords:   Institutionalised Identity, Shādhilī Identity, Hagiographical Image of al-Shādhilī

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