Sufism, like many terms in the study of Islam, can be difficult to define and even more difficult to handle, but Alexander Knysh
, in Sufism: A New History
(Princeton University Press
, 2017), has produced a primer that will both challenge and reinforce many of the assumptions we've made in the study of Islamic mysticism. Knysh walks us through how to define Sufism, the origins of Sufism (including the influence of the Hellenic world), how texts fit into our consideration of Sufism, contemporary developments in Sufism, and more. He places this within the framework of outsiders and insiders (to Sufism), challenging us to understand better how the study of Sufism itself came into being. The entire book itself is in conversation, not simply with theoretical debates in Islamic studies and the study of religion, but also the greater field of history.
Nadirah Mansour is a graduate student at Princeton University's Department of Near Eastern Studies working on the global intellectual history of the Arabic-language press. She tweets @NAMansour26 and produces another Middle-East and North Africa-related podcast: Reintroducing.