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Sufism and Suprarationality:
The Cognitive Aspects of Islamic Mysticism

online lecture series │ SS 2024 (March–July)

organized by Dr. Raid Al-Daghistani (ZIT, University of Münster)


Sufism (taṣawwuf) as a purgative-mystical tradition of Islam can be regarded as one of the paths of realizing the Divine, of knowing God (maʿrifat Allāh). As a way of spiritual purification (sulūk/ṭarīq) and inner knowledge (ʿilm al-bāṭin), Sufism contains a fundamental epistemological dimension. The mystical experience itself can be understood as phenomenology of realization, insofar as mysticism reveals the genesis of realization in its evolution step by step until the absolute or the ultimate knowledge, which is the direct and experiential knowledge of the divine Absolut as the ultimate Reality (gnosis/maʿrifa). Against this background we may indeed speak of a genuinely epistemic mysticism in Islam, in the sense that it represents a domain of numerous different meta- or supra-rational forms of knowing such as “transcendental tasting” (ḏawq), “mystical unveiling” (kashf), “direct vision” (ruʾya), “pure contemplation” (mushāhada) or “divine inspiration” (ilhām). In this respect, the phases of realization represent an inner path or an inner journey, which for the Sufi mystics can be generally accomplished only by the spiritual discipline on the one hand, and by the merciful intervention of the Transcendence on the other hand. The spiritual (the mystical) cannot be found outside of us, in the other, in the alien, but within ourselves, so that according to the famous prophetic tradition, the true self-realization leads to the realization of God as the ultimate ground of our own being.

Critically pursuing the foundations and various manifestations of this process of realization is the main objective of the present series of lectures. This online lecture series, which takes place in the period from March until July 2024, aims at exploring and illuminating various insights drawn from mystical experiences within the Islamic religious tradition. As a result, the present series of lectures focuses on analyzing meta-rational forms of mystical knowledge in Sufism, their conditions, functions and ways of expression. Such analyses necessarily involve transcendental anthropology, spiritual psychology and mystical epistemology. The spiritual-mystical history of Islam, as it is expressed foremost in the tradition of Sufism, offers a wide range of propositions and accounts of mystical experiences. It follows that this lecture series also represents an attempt to grab hold of the mystical itself, i.e. the “mysterious”, the “impervious”, and therefore the “ineffable” from a theoretical and rigorously academic point of view.

Some of the fundamental questions that will be discussed in the context of the present lecture series are for example the following:

  • What are the main features of mystical epistemology in Islam? What role do knowledge (ʿilm/maʿrifa) and knowing in general play in the Islamic-mystical tradition?  
  • How exactly is mysticism related to knowledge? What is the reality and the structure of knowledge in Sufism?
  • Which forms of knowledge exist in Sufism? How do they differ from each other, and what do they have in common?
  • What is the relationship between spiritual purification (tazkīya/taṣfīya) and mystical realization (maʿrifa)?
  • How can mystical knowledge and mystical experience be communicated with others? What is the relationship between mystical experience and language? Which linguistic/stylistic devices are Sufis generally using to express and describe their inner encounters with the Divine?
  • What theological relevance do the mystical experiences of the Divine have in Islam?
  • What is the relation between epistemologies in the Islamic theology (kalām), classical philosophy (falsafa) and mysticism (taṣawwuf)? What is the relation between rationality (rational reflection) and suprarationality (direct mystical experience or intuitive Knowledge) in the framework of Sufism?



28 March 2024 │ 6:00 pm (CET)

From True “History” to the “He-Story” of Truth: Al-Mawqif as Narration of the Beginnings

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Chafika B. Ouail (Nizwa University, Oman)


12 April 2024 │ 6:00 pm (CET)

Towards a New Definition of Ḥikma

Assist. Prof. Dr. Mukhtar H. Ali (University of Illinois)


25 April 2024 │ 6:00 pm (CET)

Suprarationality in the Poetry of ʿAṭṭar

Prof. Dr. Cyrus A. Zargar (University of Central Florida in Orlando)


30 May 2024 │ 6:00 pm (CET)

► Poetry in Pursuit of Prophetic Perfection:
Ma'rifa, Rationality, and Poetry, Reflections on the Legacy of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse

 Assoc. Prof. Dr. Oludamini Ogunnaike (University of Virginia)


13 June 2024 │ 6:00 pm (CET)

► Modes of Remembrance (Dhikr): A Comparative Perspective

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Atif Khalil (University of Lethbridge)


18 July 2024 │ 6:00 pm (CET)

► Ni'matullāhi Sufis in 18. and 19. Century: Relationship between Exoteric and Esoteric Knowledge

Dr. Reza Tabandeh (University of Toronto)


Contact: Dr. Raid Al-Daghistani – raid.aldaghistani@uni-muenster.de

ZOOM-Code: https://wwu.zoom-x.de/j/68440994551


Programme for download