1st Edition

Love in Sufi Literature Ibn 'Ajiba's Understanding of the Divine Word

By Omneya Ayad Copyright 2024
    270 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Focused on Aḥmad Ibn ‘Ajība – an eighteenth-century Moroccan Sufi scholar renowned for his contribution to Sufi Qur’ānic exegesis – this book engages critically with his theory of divine love to elucidate his impact on the wider field of Qur’ānic scholarship.

    The principal source of analysis is Ibn ‘Ajība’s Oceanic Exegesis of the Qur’ān which connected theoretical works on the concept of divine love to their practical application, a breakthrough in Sufi literature. Close analysis of this text is supplemented by a comparative approach focusing on several other eminent Sufi commentaries, including those of Abū al-Qāsim al-Qushayrī and Rūzbihān Baqlī Shīrāzī. This comparative approach situates Ibn ‘Ajība’s thought in theological and historical perspective, engaging with his mystical approach which integrates his theory of divine love with other Sufi doctrines in an accessible manner. This approach, it is argued, left an indelible impact on future generations of Qur’ānic exegetes within North Africa and across the Islamic world.

    The book will prove an important resource for academic researchers who wish to explore the vast intellectual heritage that Ibn ‘Ajība left, as well as to those interested in Sufi literature and Islamic theology in general.

    Introduction  1. Aḥmad Ibn ‘Ajība (d.1224/1809): Life and Times  2. The Methodology of Ibn ‘Ajība’s Qur’ānic Commentary  3. The Paradigm of Love in Aḥmad Ibn ‘Ajība’s Qur’ānic Commentary  4. Love and Sin  5. Love and Gnosis  6. Love and the Unity of Being  Conclusion


    Omneya Ayad is currently Assistant Professor of Sufi Studies at the Institute for Sufi Studies at Uskudar University. She completed her PhD at the University of Exeter. Her latest article is "Abū Madyan al-Ghawth and Divine Unity in His Lāmiyya Ode" for the Journal of Islam and Muslim Studies.

    "In an age when the dominant interpretive process for understanding the Qur’an is literalist, the author provides a masterful treatise on Ibn 'Ajība’s (d. 1224/1809) Sufi exegesis of the Qur’an. By focusing on a thematic treatment of love, the reader is shown how prominent Sufis scholars engaged with the text of the Qur’an to provide a mystical/gnostic interpretation. Comparison with other famous Sufi commentaries of the Qur’an indicates how far Ibn 'Ajība went in his unitive approach to Islam and his attempt to popularise Sufism beyond the world of the elites."

    Ron Geaves, Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK, Cardiff University

    "This book is a major contribution to our understanding of the mystical thought of Ibn 'Ajība, an important 18th-century North African Sufi of the Darqāwī order. Through a close reading of Ibn 'Ajība's hitherto understudied Qur'an commentary, and a skilful analysis of his treatment of key Sufi concepts such as love, wisdom, sin, and gnosis, Omneya Ayad has produced a work that will be of considerable interest to scholars of Sufism and early modern Islamic thought."

    Fitzroy Morrissey, All Souls College, University of Oxford

    "In her riveting and richly detailed study, Omneya Ayad successfully argues for the centrality of love and divine knowledge in Ibn ʿAjība’s influential Quranic commentary, a work that is distinctive for the delicate and unparalleled manner in which it straddles the worlds of exoteric and esoteric scriptural interpretation and takes its departure from love, journeys in love, and returns to love. Love in Sufi Literature: Ibn ‘Ajiba’s Understanding of the Divine Word is a major contribution that pushes the fields of Quranic studies, Islamic theology, Islamic ethics, and Sufism far ahead, and thus should be on the shelf of every student of Islamic thought." 

    Mohammed Rustom, Professor of Islamic Thought and Director of the Carleton Centre for the Study of Islam, Carleton University

    "This carefully researched monograph introduces us to the theme of love in the Quranic scholarship of the fascinating Moroccan Sufi figure, Aḥmad ibn ʿAjība. Dr. Ayad’s clear presentation of the historical and exegetical contexts of Ibn ʿAjība’s work will interest both specialists and students. The book as a whole is a very welcome contribution to the study of Sufism, Quranic hermeneutics, and Islam’s intellectual history."

    Cyrus Ali Zargar, Al-Ghazali Distinguished Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Central Florida