Journal of Islamic Studies 32 (1):1-26 (2021)

Abstract
One of the central claims of early Sufis was the harmony of the Sufi path with the sunna of the Prophet Muḥammad. It remains to be explored, however, how early Sufis related to the sunna as an authoritative model. Focusing on the writings of al-Junayd al-Baghdādī, in particular the understudied Adab al-Muftaqir ilā Allāh, this article argues that al-Junayd sought to resolve a tension between anti-ascetic aspects of the sunna and the ascetic practices undertaken by Sufis. By attributing appeals to anti-ascetic ḥadīths to the influence of the lower-soul, al-Junayd made room for Sufis to undertake practices, including celibacy, that ran counter to the widely accepted sense of sayings of the Prophet. In so doing, he intervened in ongoing discussions concerning the value of asceticism and sexual abstinence. Al-Junayd’s writings reveal a nuanced approach to the sunna, whereby Sufis must identify those aspects of the sunna that would help rather than hinder their spiritual path. His writings thus take us beyond the affirmation that early Sufis upheld the law and sunna and allow us to see how Sufis wrestled with the example of the Prophet and the meaning of his life and words for their path to God.
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DOI 10.1093/jis/etaa051
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