Sufi Shaykhs and Society in Thirteenth and Fifteenth Century Anatolia: Spiritual Influence and Rivalry

Journal of Islamic Studies 24 (1):1-24 (2013)

Following the last quarter of the eleventh century, the number of Sufi groups and of their adherents increased in parallel with the Turkicization and Islamization of Anatolia. The shaykhs at the head of these groups became important figures in society. The influence of Islamic mysticism carried on from the past, combined with the positive image the Sufi shaykhs secured by their service to the people, enabled them to exert a powerful spiritual influence over the populace. That influence was the basis of a position of privilege vis-à-vis the ruling elites as well as the ordinary people; over time, for all its grounding in religious authority, this privilege accrued a worldly dimension. It is noticeable that the most influential of the Sufi shaykhs found it difficult to share influence with fellow shaykhs of different affiliation in different regions. This paper describes and explains their competition in connection with their sociopolitical standing and influence. In this regard, it aims firstly to examine the reasons for the spiritual influence enjoyed by the shaykhs, and the impact of those reasons on how the shaykhs were perceived by the people in thirteenth and fifteenthcentury Anatolia. The competition among the shaykhs is presented through analysis of their relations as recorded in historical and hagiographical sources from the period
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DOI 10.1093/jis/ets067
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