DOI link for ‘Ṣūfism’
This chapter reconsiders two generally accepted postulations: first, the alleged overall synonymity of ‘Ṣūfism’ with ‘Islamic mysticism’; and second, the widely accepted paradigm according to which Islamic mysticism (taṣawwuf) gradually evolved from an earlier phase of ‘asceticism’ (zuhd). Against current scholarly discourse concerning the debatable term ‘mysticism’, the use of the term ṣūfī in early Islamic literature, mystical and otherwise, is examined and reappraised. It is shown how early mystics often used the term ṣūfī pejoratively, criticizing extroverted, show-off customs. In this context, the convention according to which taṣawwuf, ‘mysticism’, had gradually evolved from ‘ascetical’ and ‘renunciant’ trends in Early Islam, is also re-examined and re-evaluated. Evidently, ‘asceticism’ and ‘mysticism’ represent two independent trends within Islam, at times at odds with one another and at times interwoven into one another. Each trend created its own literary corpora, its own social affiliations, its own theoretical paradigms and its own ethical and behavioural codes. A historical and paradigmatic ‘transition’ from asceticism into mysticism seems a fallacy.