World of Ecstasy in Sufism

World of Ecstasy in Sufism

This is the first in-depth study in English of the import and impact of ecstatic utterances (shathiyat) in classical Islamic mysticism. It makes available an important body of mystical aphorisms and reveals not only the significance of these sayings in the Sufi tradition, but also explains their controversial impact on Islamic law and society.

This study descrives the development and interpretation of shathiyat in classical Sufism and analyzes the principal themes and rhetorical styles of these sayings, using as a basis the authoritative Commentary on Ecstatic Sayings by Ruzbihan Baqli of Shiraz. The special topic of mystical faith and infidelity receives particular emphasis as a type of ecstatic expression that self-reflectively meditates on the inadequacy of language to describe mystical experience. The social impact of ecstatic sayings is clarified by an analysis of the political causes of Sufi heresy trials (Nuri, Hallaj, and ‘Ayn al-Qudat) and the later elaboration of Sufi martyrologies. This study also examines the attitudes of Islamic legal scholars toward shathiyat, and concludes with a comparison of Sufi ecstatic expressions with other types of inspired speech.