This paper focuses on Sufism, the still little-known mystical tradition of Islam. It examines the early development of Sufism, beginning with the model conduct of the Prophet Muhammad himself and highlighting some famous Sufi figures in early Islam. The crucial relationship between Sufism and the Shari‘a, as well as the development of Sufi theosophy, are then examined. The discussion moves to the emergence of the Sufi brotherhoods (tariqas) and their key role in medieval Muslim society. Finally, the ongoing importance of Sufism right across the Muslim world and its growth in Europe and America in recent times are addressed.
This article was first delivered as a keynote speech at the Third International Conference of the British Association for the Study of Spirituality, Spirituality in a Challenging World.
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