The creation of Sufi spheres in medieval Damascus (mid-6th/12th to mid-8th/14th centuries)

Daphna Ephrat, Hatim Mahamid

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This article explores the processes by which medieval Sufi masters and holy men established themselves through their physical and spatial settings and left their mark on the religious and sacred topography. Focusing on Damascus from the mid-6th/12th to mid-8th/14th centuries under the reign of the Zangids, Ayyubids and early Mamluks. The article offers observations on three parallel developments: the genesis and growth of a local space around masters of the Path, the spread of endowed establishments designed by their founders to support the mystics and their rituals, and the incorporation of venerated shaykhs' tombs and shrines into a growing inventory of regional and local sacred sites. Special emphasis is placed on the variations in the very nature of the local sites and spaces that came to be associated with Sufism, their patterns of development and geographical spread, the functions they served and their symbolic message. Through this investigation, the article casts light on the concrete signs of the creation of diverse Sufi spheres in pre-modern Damascus and develops an understanding of the tangible material manifestations of the overall prominent status that Sufism came to hold during a period of intense religious activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-208
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the Royal Asiatic Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Royal Asiatic Society 2014.


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