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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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Wonder-working Sufis

Wonder-working Sufis

(p.225) 9 Wonder-working Sufis
The Popularisation of Sufism in Ayyubid and Mamluk Egypt, 1173-1325

Nathan Hofer

Edinburgh University Press

One of the more puzzling historical questions of this study is why no organised order linked to an Upper-Egyptian tarīqa developed during this period. Given the facts– that Sufism was well established there by the Mamluk period, that there were numerous Sufi masters who maintained ribā†s across the landscape, and that these masters enjoyed widespread fame and recognition– it is surprising that not a single initiatic lineage was institutionalised and organised around one of these masters. Some of the early circles in Qinā would seem to have been ripe for such a development, but in each case the collectivity of Sufis around a particular master ceased to exist in the first or second generation after his death. We find instead that the master’s charismatic authority was itself institutionalised rather than any socially reproducible doctrine or praxis (i.e. a †arīqa). In terms of Blumer’s symbolic interactionism, we might say that these Sufi masters became the objects of veneration and not emulation. Thus, instead of organised (informally or otherwise) collectivities linked to an eponymous †arīqa, localised shrine cults emerged at the physical site of interment. The fact that a Sufi’s tomb would become the object of regular veneration and visitation was certainly not unusual or unique to Upper Egypt; this happened with most Sufi masters across Egypt during this period. But the specific form of Upper-Egyptian Sufism in this period seems to have completely displaced or foreclosed the possibility of other potential social formations. The answer to why this should be the case is inextricably linked to the way in which the Sufis of Upper Egypt produced.

Keywords:   Popularisation of Sufism, Miraculous authority, Upper-Egyptian Sufism

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