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A Ṣūfī Apologist of Nīshāpūr

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Abū ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Muḥammad b. al-Ḥusayn al-Sulamī (d. 412/1021 AH/CE) was born and raised in Nīshāpūr, one of the most renowned cities in the Islamic world. He was part of a line of earlier Ṣūfī figures who attempted to defend the cardinal tenets of Sufism from accusations of heresy. However, al-Sulamī surpassed his predecessors by amassing a corpus of antecedent mystical dicta from the architects of Islamic mysticism and substantiating them with transmission channels (isnāds) or grounding them in a core teaching of the Prophet Muḥammad. This study demonstrates that al-Sulamī was an accomplished mystic. It outlines his life and times, and surveys in full all his works as far as they can be identified. Moreover, the important sources that shaped the development and impression of his thinking and modality of transforming the ego-self (nafs) are presented in detail, bringing together earlier and current academic scholarship on this important figure of the third and fourth centuries of Islam (ninth and tenth centuries CE).

Published: Sep 1, 2019

Book Contributors


Section Chapter Authors
List of Figures S.Z. Chowdhury
Acknowledgements S.Z. Chowdhury
Introduction S.Z. Chowdhury
Chapter 1
Reviewing the Literature on al-Sulamī S.Z. Chowdhury
Chapter 2
Geography and Environment S.Z. Chowdhury
Chapter 3
Khurāsānian Protégés: Examining al-Sulamī’s Main Influences S.Z. Chowdhury
Chapter 4
Vita Sulamii S.Z. Chowdhury
Chapter 5
Textual Terrain and Taxonomy: The Oeuvre of Abū c Abd al-Raḥmān al-Sulamī S.Z. Chowdhury
Chapter 6
"Words along the Way": Surveying alSulamī’s Mystical Lexicon… S.Z. Chowdhury
Chapter 7
“Mystical Interiority: al-Sulamī’s Method of Self-Transformation” S.Z. Chowdhury
Chapter 8
Conclusions: An Apologetics for a Ṣūfī Orthodoxy S.Z. Chowdhury
End Matter
References S.Z. Chowdhury
Index S.Z. Chowdhury


A Sufi Apologist of Nishapur is an original and valuable study, skilfully researched and written, of a major Sufi author and thinker. It deserves the attention of anyone interested in the development of methodology in 'ilm al-tasawwuf and/or that of the classic treatises composed in its defence.
The Muslim World Book Review

The author engages all of the key scholars writing in European languages about this period and has integrated their insights well.
In conclusion, one should note Chowdhury’s choice of a primary descriptor for al-Sulamī: apologist. References to al-Sulamī’s apologetic intent permeate the volume and are presented in summary synthesis in the brief final chap- ter, “Conclusions: An Apologetics for a Ṣūfī Orthodoxy.” … his choice, like many others in this much-appreciated monograph, is defensible.