Fall 2020

The Lives of Muslim Saints

Listed in: Asian Languages and Civilizations, as ASLC-289  |  Religion, as RELI-288

Moodle site: Course


Tariq Jaffer (Section 01)


(Offered as REL 288 and ASLC 289) A study of the most venerated saints in the history of Islam. We will read from their biographies, poetry (paying special attention to the themes of love), and theoretical and literary works. We will examine how such literature discloses the dimensions of Islamic mysticism: rituals and practices (some of which were considered socially deviant), theories of the self/soul, epistemologies, cosmologies, and ontologies. We will examine the ways that Sufi theories and practices challenged other self-professed Islamic orthodoxies and orthopraxies. We will ask: what made these aspects of Islamic mysticism (often subsumed under “Sufism”) so appealing as articulations of Islam? To answer this question, we will attempt to grasp how Muslim saints understood their expressions of Islam in relation to the disciplines—especially law, theology, and philosophy—and to understand how their ways of being Islamic are meaningful expressions and interpretations of Islamic institutions, concepts, principles and values. In this course we will also engage with the theories that scholars of religion in North America and Europe have used to analyze and interpret the various dimensions of Islamic mysticism. In doing so, we will examine the ways that perceptions of Sufism (and Islam more broadly) have been shaped by European theories, paradigms, and methods of interpretation and discuss their value for understanding Sufism and Islam. No pre-requisites; first-year students welcome.

Fall Semester. Associate Professor Jaffer.


Attention to Speaking, Attention to Writing, Transnational or World Cultures Taught in English


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020