march, 2020

202019mar12:30 pm2:00 pmFaculty Workshop: Saeed Zarrabi-Zadeh—Sufism and “Orthodoxy:” An Old Debate in a New Context12:30 pm - 2:00 pm Institute of Islamic Studies, 170 St. George Street, Jackman Humanities Bldg, Suite 530, Seminar Room, Toronto Event Organized By: Institute of Islamic Studies


Event Details

As the main mystical trend of Islam, Sufism has enjoyed a growing presence in the West over the last two and a half centuries. Entering the Occident initially through literature in the late eighteenth century, it has expanded its domain as a living praxis and intensified its visibility and influence since the turn of the twentieth century. The migration of mystical Islam to the Occident and the (cultural) translation of taṣawwuf, and its Shiite version ‘irfān, into the new construct of “Sufi-ism,” however, involved the decontextualization of mystical Islam from its religious background and the imagining of taṣawwuf as representative of the common core of religions. This imagining was further reinforced as Sufi elements were incorporated into the eclectic systems of the New Religious Movements and placed alongside other esoteric and spiritual beliefs and practices.

This discussion divides the trajectory of Sufism in the Euro-American space into four chronological phases of early literary Sufism (ca. 1770‒1900), universalistic Sufism (ca. 1900‒1960), New Age Sufism (ca. 1960‒1975), and re-orthodoxized Sufism (ca. 1975‒the present). It goes on to discuss how its presence has reinvigorated the longstanding debates in the Muslim world around the relationship between Islamic mysticism and “orthodoxy”—this time in a new, Occidental setting. It explains how the pioneers of the fourth phase of Sufi presence in the West felt the responsibility to defend the religious authenticity of Sufism against criticism not only from Muslim fundamentalists and Salafis but also from Western scholars and the general population, who were used to defining Sufism as an Islamicate, rather than Islamic, phenomenon.


Saeed Zarrabi-Zadeh is assistant professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Erfurt, Germany. His research is mainly devoted to the study of Sufism (in both medieval and modern times), mysticism and modernity, comparative mysticism, and Persian literature. His recent publications include Practical Mysticism in Islam and Christianity: A Comparative Study of Jalal al-Din Rumi and Meister Eckhart (Routledge, 2016) and Sufism East and West: Mystical Islam and Cross-Cultural Exchange in the Modern World (Brill, 2019, co-edited with Jamal Malik). He is co-editing, along with Marcia Hermansen, Handbook on Sufism in Western Contexts (Brill, forthcoming) and is associate editor of Mawlana Rumi Review.


(Thursday) 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm


Institute of Islamic Studies

170 St. George Street, Jackman Humanities Bldg, Suite 530, Seminar Room, Toronto




Institute of Islamic Studies