Kitāb Ṭabaqāt al-Ṣufiyyah by al-Sulamī [1/11] : Brief Background Information followed by the Translation of the Book’s Introduction


This is the first part of a series of translations of the first ten Sufis (commonly understood to be the mystics of Islam) listed in the biographical dictionary Kitāb Ṭabaqāt al-Ṣufiyyah (Book of the Generations of Sufis) written by Abū ʿAbd al-Raḥman al-Sulamī (d. 412 AH/1021 CE).  Before offering more detailed information on the author and the text, it is imperative to situate al-Sulamī within the trajectory of Sufism’s development so that we may fully appreciate the significant role he and other figures played in systematizing emergent forms of Islamic mystical religiosity.  In the 3rd/9th century, al-Ḥarith al-Muḥāsibī (d. 243/857) wrote a foundational text titled Kitāb al-Riʿāya li-Ḥuqūq Allāh (Book of Observing What is Due to God), which showed the development of an experiential mode of piety focused on introspection that sought to overcome the weakness of human nature so that an aspirant can truly love and serve God in the most…

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