From wayfaring elites to local associations: Sufis in Medieval Palestine
By Daphna Ephrat
al-Qantara, Vol 27, No 1 (2006)
Abstract: This article is part of a comprehensive study of the Sufis of medieval Palestine. At its heart resides the birth of locally embedded Sufi-inspired associations in this historical framework in the course of the Earlier Middle Period (late tenth to mid- thirteenth centuries). Drawing on the profiles of renowned Sufi traditionalists and legalists living in the Palestine of the time, the article highlights the assimilation of Sufis into the scholarly circles of the religiously learned, the ‘ulama’, and the social order.
It outlines how they perceived their role and place in society and disseminated the truth of Islam, and how, parallel with their integration into the world of the ‘ulama’ of the established legal schools (the madhhabs), they developed their own inner life and organizational forms and devised their own ways of integrating into the fabric of social and communal life. The early development of a coherent local Sufi congregation around the Sufi guide out of the loosely knit and dispersed circle of disciples is closely tied to the change in the concept of guidance for advancement along the Path and the change in the relationship between master and disciple.