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Sufism: Introduction to Islamic Mysticism


Admission requirements



This course offers an introduction to spiritual and mystical dimensions of Islam, known as Sufism. It examines various doctrines and practices of Islamic mystics, offering insights into the social, political, artistic and literary aspects of Sufism. The purpose of this course is to offer a bird’s eye view of the history of Islamic mysticism, its influence on Islamic literature and art, its impact on Muslims’ daily life, its application to politics in modern times, (e.g., how mystics fought against colonial powers or how mystical doctrines were applied to Iran’s political system), and the mystical exegesis of the Koran. As the course cannot cover all areas of Sufism, each week will focus on one specific aspect of Sufism. Subjects to be treated are as follows: ascetic movements, institutions, mystical journey, prophet Mohammed’s place in Sufism, the position of Satan in the creation, doctrine of love, mystical dance and music, and finally the manifestations of Sufism in modern politics in a wide geographic area.

Course objectives

The purpose of this course is to offer the student insights into various aspects of Sufism so that s/he could acquire an understanding as how Sufism has influenced Muslims around the world in various ways. The student will acquire knowledge about religious, literary and artistic output, daily practices, and manifestation of Sufi doctrines in socio-political contexts in various regions stretching from North Africa to Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia, India and Pakistan.


Time table

Mode of instruction


Course load

Lectures: 26 hrs
Preparation: 26 hrs
Midterm and final exam: 88 hrs

Assessment method

  • One after block 3 (40%) and one (covering all subjects dealt with) after block 4 (60%).

  • Resit (100%).


The Blackboard will be used for this course to impart additional information.

Reading list

For a full bibliographic list, please see the Blackboard

  • A.T. Karamustafa, God’s Unruly Friends. Dervish Groups in the Islamic Later Middle Period 1200-1550, University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City 1994, pp. 1-38 (Chapters 1-3).

  • F.D. Lewis, Rumi, Past and Present, East and West. The Life, Teachings and Poetry of Jalâl al-Din Rumi. Oxford 2000 (herdr. 2001, 2003), pp. 271-326.

  • A. Schimmel, Mystical dimensions of Islam. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1975.

  • A.A. Seyed-Gohrab, “No Reward – Martyrdom as Piety, Mysticism and National Icon in Iran,” in Der Islam: Zeitschrift für Geschichte und Kultur des islamischen Orients, issue 1-2, 87, 2012, pp. 248-73.

  • A.A. Seyed-Gohrab, “Khomeini the Poet Mystic,” in Die Welt des Islams: International Journal for the Study of Modern Islam, 51, 2011, pp. 438-458.

  • M. Takeshita, Ibn ‘Arabî’s Theory of the Perfect Man and its Place in the History of Islamic Thought, Tokyo, 1987.



Registration Contractonderwijs



Dr. A.A. Seyed-Gohrab