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The Friends of God Are the True Kings. Sufi Perspectives on Sanctity and Sovereignty in Mamluk Egypt

Budapest Campus events
Thursday, January 30, 2020, 5:30 pm

The lecture is a part of lecture series on Lecture series: Devlet and Divan: Mystical and State Authorities in Early Modernity

The present paper will focus on representations of sovereignty among Sufi masters in Mamluk Egypt, as reflected in doctrinal and hagiographic literature produced by Sufi circles of the time. 

Both theoretical notions on "mystical" sovereignty, such as the hidden hierarchy of saints (diwan al-awliya'), and hagiographic narratives encoding models of "proper" relations between spiritual and political authorities will be taken into account, by providing historical and rhetorical analysis of relevant passages from a wide selection of works, ranging from the Risala by Safi al-Din b. Abi l-Mansur b. Zafir (d. 683/1283) to the Tabaqat al-Kubra by 'Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha'rani (d. 973/1565). In this framework, particular emphasis  will be put on the idea that "The Friends of God (i.e. Muslims Saints) Are the True KIngs" and other  views on intellectual, social and political dimensions of 'sanctity' (walaya, it. "friendship with God") expounded by the most influential Shadhili shaykh Ibn Ata' Allah al-Iskandari (d. 709/1309) in his Kitab Lata'if al-minan, that is the first and best known hagiographic work on the eponymous master of the tariqa Shadhiliyyah Shaykh Abu l-Hasan al-Shadhili (d. 656/1258) and the latter's first successor (khalifa) Shaykh Abu l-'Abbas al-Mursi (d. 686/1287).  

All this will hopefully provide some new insights into social rappresentations on 'sanctity' and 'sovereigty' and, at least to some extent, on actual dynamics of relationships between 'mystical' and 'political' networks in the Egyptian society during the Mamluk time. 

Giuseppe Cecere is Associate Professor of Arabic Language and Literature at the University of Bologna. He holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies (History and Philology) from the University of Florence (2007). He was Fellow Researcher in Arabic and Islamic Studies at the IFAO (Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale) in Cairo from 2009 to 2014, and Visiting Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Israel in 2013-2014. He collaborated with: CNRS- France National Research Council (UMR 8167); Academy of Sciences of Israel; National Research Council of Hungary, the Institute of Oriental Studies at the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia (NAS RA). He is member of the Scientific Board of the Cahiers de Tunisie (Tunis) and of ISGAP (Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policies; New York). His researches focus on Sufi “presence” in the multicultural and multi-religious context of the Egyptian society, mainly in the Mamluk era and in contemporary times.