Fall 2012 REL 277 Islamic Mysticism

The objective of the course is to introduce you to the varieties of Islamic mystical traditions and conceptual framework that could navigate and make sense of this diversity. In summary, this course is a thematic, conceptual and historical introduction to the “inner Islam” and its numerous manifestations. We will begin with a discussion of the key terms and concepts, ‘inner’, ‘spiritual’, ‘religious’, ‘esoteric’ and ‘mystical’ (and how these will be employed throughout the course), review the history of the study of Islamic mysticism in the West and a very basic introduction to the Islamic tradition. Then through a conceptual framework of “action-love-knowledge” centered forms of spiritual orientations, we will survey the various forms of Islamic spirituality. These include generic spiritual doctrines and practices shared by all Muslims, Sufism – the most popular and influential mystical tradition – and its diverse manifestations, Shi‘ite spirituality in its Twelver and Sevener varieties, Islamic mystical philosophy and philosophical mysticism. Our method of study will include primary sources, secondary scholarship, multimedia material, interviews and field work. In our study we will cover historical origins of these traditions, their development, key figures, doctrines and spiritual practices and influence within Islamic societies and beyond. We will also examine the doctrinal and historical overlaps among these spiritual traditions, and their attitude towards one another, from mutual respect and acceptance to polemical rejection. The final section of the course will reflect on the cultural and intellectual significance of Islamic mysticism for Islamic civilization, its response to the intellectual and civilizational challenge of modernity, and for current debates such as gender, jihad and religious pluralism.