HSC325 – Islamic Mysticism


This module examines some of the main mystical theories and concepts of the Islamic mystical tradition. It begins by asking ‘What is Islamic Mysticism?’ and explores its various roots and manifestations and its relationship with the Shari‘a. It discusses the relationship between the Imamology of Twelver Shi‘a Islam and the theory of sainthood in Sunni Sufism. It also examines the itinerary of the journey of the soul, with its states and stations, based upon the Holy Qur’an; the path to annihilation and subsistence in God; the importance of the angelic and spiritual realms; the theory of knowledge by presence (‘ilm al-huduri); the theory of the Unity of Existence (wahdat al-wujud); the concepts of the Muhammadan Truth and the Perfect Man; and the importance of ethical practice in the training of the soul.

  • Meaning of Islamic Mysticism
  • Roots and manifestations of mysticism and its relationship with shariah
  • Importance of ethical practice in the training of the soul
  • Development of early Sufism
  • Biographies of major Sufi and saints
  • Sainthood in Sufism and Imamology in Shiism
  • States and station of the spiritual journey of the soul
  • The theories of Ilm al-Huduri, Ilm al-Ladunni and Wahadat al-Wujud. –    Al-Haqiqa al-Muhammadiyya and the Perfect Man

Learning Outcomes

 On completion of this module, the successful student will be able to:

  • Critically analyse the foundational elements of the Islamic mystical tradition. (B2, B3, C1, D6)
  • Critically discuss the various debates on the legitimacy of certain manifestations of Islamic spirituality, especially as understood in the Shi’ite trend of Islam. (A1, A2, A3, A6, C4)
  • Critically evaluate doctrinal implications of mystical works. (A7, B1, C1, C6, C7D2)

This module will call for the successful student to:

  • Effectively appraise and critically review theories within the Islamic mystical tradition. (B2, B5, C1, C2, D1, D3, D4)

Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy

Alongside lectures and seminars, students will also be expected to undertake individual study in preparation for and as follow-up to lectures. The lectures are interactive and thought provoking and require intellectual effort from students.

Assessment Mode
Participation in debates on a question around topics covered within class provides students the basis formative assessment, whereby students will be expected to present the case for or against a particular position and the quality of their argument be judged by peers. The module leader will regularly give feedback to student regarding the progress of their coursework, a draft copy of the completed coursework need be handed in to the module leader before the 10th learning week as part of the formative learning process. Additionally, revision sessions are arranged that will cover topics in preparation for exams, providing constructive formative feedback to students.
Summative, graded assessment for this module consists of a coursework and a written examination. The coursework will require the student to write an essay of 1,500  words to be done based on class discussions (Outcomes 4, 5). The 2 hour written examination will take place at the end of the semester (Outcomes 1, 2, 3).

Assessment Weighting
Coursework: 50%
Written Examination: 50%

Learning Materials

Core readings

  • Burckhardt, T. (2008). An Introduction to Sufi Doctrine. Bloomington: World Wisdom Inc.
  • Safavi, G.S. ed. (2009). Sufism (‘Irfan). London: London Academy of Iranian Studies Press.