Erik S. Ohlander

in The Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780195328998
Published online September 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks


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This article provides an introduction to Sufism. As situated within the Islamic tradition, Sufism refers to the active process of discovering, developing, and actualizing certain spiritual verities within one's own person, normally in hopes of achieving an intimate, unmediated, or unitive encounter with God, who alone is the true ground of existence and the “really real.” As situated within the purview of world philosophies, Sufism refers to the Islamic mystical tradition as a whole: a historical phenomenon composed of a diverse complex of attitudes, ideas, doctrines, practices, texts, and institutions that share certain features with the mystical traditions of Islam's cousin faiths, Judaism and Christianity. At the same time, however, while validating the private concerns of individual world-renouncing ascetics and reclusive mystics, Sufism has typically been possessed of a public and social dimension that differentiates it from both the Judaic and Christian mystical traditions, in particular in terms of its diffuse historical persistence as a popular and enduring mode of religiosity prevalent across almost all Muslim societies past and present.

Keywords: Islamic philosophy; Sufism; God; Islamic mystical tradition

Article.  6170 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy

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