Il Libro come Maestro: Sufismo e Storia della Lettura nel Medioevo Islamico
Between the end of the 8th/14th century and the beginning of the 9th/15th, the literate elites in Yemen and al-Andalus publicly debated the legitimacy and the educational function of Sufi books. In Yemen, where Ibn ʿArabī’s ‘school’ thrived, some jurists urged the ban of his books, while ʿAbd al-Karīm al-Jīlī and his associates extolled their educational virtue for Sufi novices. In al-Andalus, the debate focused on whether books could take the place of the master in Sufi education, an issue whose relevance was felt well beyond Sufi circles, prompting Ibn Ḫaldūn to join the discussion. These controversies, even though they were connected to specific local contexts, are significant in a general way because they offer evidence for the spread of private reading among Sufis in the later Middle Ages. To appreciate the historical importance of this, one should ask how far it is new and whether it is limited to Sufism. These two questions are addressed in
the first two parts of this article. The first part outlines key changes relating to Sufi literary output in the 12th and 13th centuries. In particular, it examines the tension between orality and writing within Sufism, and the ways in which the written transmission of mystical knowledge was controlled or repressed. The second part draws attention to shared paradigms of both esoteric and exoteric knowledge as the connection between private reading and innovation, and the preservation of oral symbolism in written transmission. Finally, the third part re-examines the 14th and 15th-century debates from the angle of the history of reading in medieval Sufism. The arguments exchanged in these debates bear witnesses to changes in reading practice linked to the shifting relationships between authority and knowledge in Islamic cultural history.
For content published in editions of JAIS before 2002, copyright belongs to the author. Content published between 2002 and 2017 is copyrighted by Edinburgh University Press (reproduced on FRITT with permission). Text and other material published in these journal volumes can only be shared and republished with written permission from the rights holders.
Starting from 2017, the content published in JAIS is - unless otherwise is stated - licensed through Creative Commons License Attribution 4.0: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. Through this licence content can be copied and distributed but also remixed, transformed and built upon for any purpose under the following conditions:
Attribution — You must give appropriate credit to the creators of materials published in JAIS, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
No additional restrictions — You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.
Notice: No warranties are given. The license may not give you all of the permissions necessary for your intended use. For example, other rights such as publicity, privacy, or moral rights may limit how you use the material.
Authors who publish in JAIS accept the following conditions:
Author(s) retains copyright to the article and give JAIS right to first publication while the article is licensed under the Creative Commons CC BY 4.0. This license allows sharing the article for non-commercial purposes, as long as the author and first publishing place JAIS are credited. The license does not allow others to publish adapted versions of the article without the author's permission.
The author is free to publish and distribute the work/article after publication in JAIS, as long as the journal is referred to as the first place of publication. Submissions that are under consideration for publication or accepted for publication in JAIS cannot simultaneously be under consideration for publication in other journals, anthologies, monographs or the like. By submitting contributions, the author accepts that the contribution is published in both digital and printed editions of JAIS.