Ibn Khaldūn on Sufism

Mysticism through the Lens of History, Philosophy, and Law

Lecture by Fitzroy Morrissey, All Souls College, University of Oxford


The nature of Ibn Khaldun’s relationship to Sufism, the mystical dimension of Islam, is a complex and much-debated issue. The great North African historian and philosopher of history has variously been described as a critic of the Sufis, an admirer of Sufism, or even a Sufi himself. Through a close look at Ibn Khaldun’s discussion of Sufism in the Muqaddimah and other relevant sources, this talk aims to shed further light on the issue.

Placing Ibn Khaldun’s treatment of Sufism in the context of his wider intellectual project, we shall consider how his views on Sufism tie into his famous philosophy of history and other essential aspects of his thought. In this way, the talk aims to elucidate not only Ibn Khaldun’s relationship to mysticism, but also his thought more generally.

Fitzroy Morrissey is a Fellow of All Souls College, University of Oxford. A specialist in Sufism and Islamic intellectual history, he is the author of Sufism and the Perfect Human (Routledge, 2020) and Sufism and the Scriptures (I.B. Tauris, forthcoming).


Series: The Keenan Chair of Interfaith Studies and the James McGill Professor of Islamic Philosophy are collaborating in a reflection on religion, Islam, and cosmopolitanism associated with McGill’s academic tradition of Islamic Studies, and epitomized by scholars such as Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Fazlur Rahman, and Toshihiko Izutsu. In preparation for the Keenan Conference on World Religions and Globalization, to be held in Montreal in Spring 2022, we are hosting an online lecture series titled ReOrienting the Global Study of Religion: History, Theory, and Society. While the study of the Islamosphere has stimulated a critical reconceptualization of the notion of religion, we would like to extend this reflection to how religious concepts have been embedded in broader views of history and society, including the Western colonial construction of the “Middle East” as the cradle not just of Islam but of all Abrahamic religions. Some of the lectures will contribute to such reflections also through the foil of the interdisciplinary legacy of Ibn Khaldun, a champion of non-Western thought and precursor of social theory.

Back to top