The Problem of Periodization in Su Studies: The Struggle of Su sm to Become a Discipline Between the Religious Sciences and Metaphysics


The periodization of sciences is one of the essential devices of treating a field by specification and tracing the transformations in that field. Nonetheless, it would be hard to speak of robust periodization concerning religious sciences of Islam. What Ibn Khaldūn said retained its validity quite long for the mainstays of kalām (Islamic theology), and partially for Sufism. The basic reason was the methodological problems rather than the inadequacy of the studies in religious sciences. Yet there is no method that would also make the periodization of the religious sciences of Islam plausible, ergo the history of religious sciences has not been written scientifically. On the other hand, the history of science cannot be written solely from within; one may consider writing comparative –at least taking note of it– history of science that would take into account many internal and external factors. Sufi studies are fraught with serious challenges in the absence of that classification. We have no clear-cut opinion about which Sufi and which work should be handled in which framework. The periodization is one of the crucial tasks to be undertaken in order to obtain valid and scientific results in Sufi studies. Periodization would give us a point of view about the period independent from a Sufi and his text, and enable us to read the text from this perspective.


the period of zuhd the period of Sufism philosophical Sufism Sunnī Sufism metaphysical Sufism