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date: 15 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the growth of the Muslim allegorical-mystical (Sufi) exegetical tradition from its inception in the eighth century ce, through its ‘classical period’ in the tenth-eleventh centuries, to its fruition in the late Middle Ages. Special attention is given to the major Sufi exegetes of Sunni persuasion and the hermeneutical techniques that they employed to explore the esoteric (batin) aspects of the Qur’an and to demonstrate the superiority of their divinely inspired exegesis (taʾwīl) to the exoteric, historical-philological, moral-ethical, and legal commentary (tafsīr) of non-Sufi theologians. The differences between ‘moderate’ and ‘bold’ types of Sufi exegesis are highlighted alongside the two distinctive schools of mystical exegesis, the Akbari, going back to Ibn [al-]‘Arabi (d. 638/1240), and the Kubrawi associated with Najm al-Din Kubra (d. 618/1221).

Keywords: Sufism, allegorical-mystical exegesis, exoteric (zahir)-esoteric (batin), mystical unveiling, Kubrawi and Akbari hermeneutical traditions.

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