Rodrigo Adem

  • Fellowship Dates 2012-2013
  • Research Topic Sufism in Egypt in the 7th Century AH (13th Century CE)
  • Fellow or Grant Type Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
  • Affiliation Pre-doctoral candidate University of Chicago
This study positions Egypt in the 13th century as a meeting place between “old” and “new” Sufism. “Old” Sufism is characterized by the world-abandoning and ascetic practices of the generations close to the Prophet Muhammad, whereas later speculation in Greek philosophy, the nature of the cosmos, and the exalted ranks of spiritual masters characterize the “new” Sufism. Egypt at this time had become an important location for Sufi groups founded on new teachings from the Islamic West from names such as Ibn Sabʿīn (d. 1239), Ibn ʿArabī (d. 1240) and Abū’l-Ḥasan al-Shādhili (d. 1258). The presence of local charismatics and the influx of the Rifāʿī Sufi Order from the East in the same century additionally contributed to the changing religious scene. Eventually, the rising profile of adherents to this trend led to a climactic confrontation with representatives of the old Sufism in the beginning of the 14th century. This research focuses on how adherents of the new Sufism in Egypt worked with temporal rulers to establish a new religious orthodoxy, a process already underway by the time of Saladin, who ended Fatimid Shi‘ite rule in Egypt in 1171. Subsequent Ayyubid successors later patronized Sufis in order to mold the religious landscape of the country and uphold the teachings of Sunnism, with Mamluks following their footsteps in 1250. This study surveys the landscape of the new religious orthodoxy, examines the exchange of ideas and categorizes various politically endorsed Sufi preachers according to their specific new religious teachings in 13th-century Egypt.

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