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Visiting speaker: Saeed ZarrabiI-Zadeh

Sufism: An Outsider Perspective.

Event details

The major mystical tradition of Islam, known in Arabic primarily as tasawwuf, has undergone a lengthy process of evolution in the Muslim world. Its initial appearance among early Islamic ascetic circles in Basra and Baghdad, followed by its systematization during the tenth and eleventh centuries and noticeable intellectual, artistic and organizational development over subsequent periods, have created a diversity of views toward tasawwuf among Muslims. To this “insider perspective,” which ranges from denouncing it as an unorthodox mystical trend to admiring it as the zenith of Islamic religiosity, an “outsider perspective” was added once tasawwuf entered the Western world during modern times. As a consequence of migration from the Orient to the Occident, tasawwuf was transformed into Sufism, which was not merely a translation of the original Arabic term but rather a novel construct in its own right. The current lecture explores this outsider outlook by studying the trajectory of Sufism in the Euro-American space, from its literary presence in the eighteenth century to the vibrant activity of syncretic New Age Sufis and members of orthodox Sufi orders in the postmodern age.

SAEED ZARRABI-ZADEH is a researcher and lecturer in Islamic mysticism at the Department of Religious Studies, University of Erfurt, Germany. His research interests include Islamic and comparative mysticism, mysticism and modernity, mystical ethics, and Persian literature. He received his BSc in Industrial Engineering from Sharif University of Technology and obtained his MA in Islamic Mysticism, both from Tehran, Iran. Though having been granted a doctoral scholarship from The University of Chicago (NELC), he moved to Germany in 2007 and began work on a comparative study of Rumi and the German Dominican, Meister Eckhart (d.1327/8) as his PhD dissertation. Having received funding from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), he defended his doctoral dissertation in 2013. His publications include “The Teachings of Rumi in the Mathnawī” (in Persian, 2005), “Sufism in the 6th–7th Centuries A.H./12th–13th Centuries A.D.” (in Persian, co-authored with Dr. des. Soraya Khodamoradi, 2008), “Defining Mysticism, A Survey of Main Definitions” (2008), “Practical Mysticism, Its Definition, Parts and Characteristics” (2009), “Jazuli, Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad b. Sulayman” (in Persian, 2012), “Meister Eckhart und der Sufismus” (2013), and “Eckhart’s Mysticism of Intellectual Detachment” (2013). His book entitled Practical Mysticism: Jalal al-Din Rumi and Meister Eckhart was published by Routledge in 2015.

Tea and coffee will be served in the Common Room from 4.30 pm onwards. Everyone is very welcome to attend and no registration is required.


IAIS Building/LT1