1st Edition

Sufism in Ottoman Damascus Religion, Magic, and the Eighteenth-Century Networks of the Holy

By Nikola Pantić Copyright 2024
    250 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Sufism in Ottoman Damascus analyzes thaumaturgical beliefs and practices prevalent among Muslims in eighteenth-century Ottoman Syria. The study focuses on historical beliefs in baraka, which religious authorities often interpreted as Allah’s grace, and the alleged Sufi-ulamaic role in distributing it to Ottoman subjects.

    This book highlights considerable overlaps between Sufis and ʿulamā’ with state appointments in early modern Province of Damascus, arguing for the possibility of sociologically defining a Muslim priestly sodality, a group of religious authorities and wonder-workers responsible for Sunni orthodoxy in the Ottoman Empire. The Sufi-ʿulamā’ were integral to Ottoman networks of the holy, networks of grace that comprised of hallowed individuals, places, and natural objects.

    Sufism in Ottoman Damascus sheds new light on the appropriate scholarly approach to historical studies of Sufism in the Ottoman Empire, revising its position in official early modern versions of Ottoman Sunnism. This book further reapproaches early modern Sunni beliefs in wonders and wonder-working, as well as the relationship between religion, thaumaturgy, and magic in Ottoman Sunni Islam, historical themes comparable to other religions and other parts of the world.

    Chapter 1. Patterns of Grace in History and Scholarship: Networks of the Holy in eighteenth-century Bilād al-Shām; Chapter 2. Miracles of God and Saintly Wonders: Magic and Religion in the Syrian Eighteenth Century; Chapter 3. Haunting the Shadows: Contending with the Jinn between the Visible and the Invisible Worlds; Chapter 4. Path to Holiness: The Quest for Grace in eighteenth-century Damascus; Chapter 5. Beyond the Grave: Graceful Dead, Hallowed Places, and the Network of the Holy; Chapter 6. Artes Magicae: Thaumaturgical Rituals in eighteenth-century Shām; Chapter 7. Conclusion; Index


    Nikola Pantić is Postdoc Assistant at the Department of Near Eastern Studies, University of Vienna, and Permanent Fellow of the Center for Religious Studies, Central European University, Vienna.

    "This book probes directly and robustly the relations between official state religion, Muslim jurisprudence and magical practices as they actually occurred, untroubled by common clichés found in both contemporary sources and in modern scholarship."

    Aziz Al-Azmeh, Central European University

    "This book is a vivid contribution to the study of thaumaturgy and magic in Ottoman Islam. In eighteenth-century Damascus, Sufism was recognized by Sunni Muslims as producing wonders. Based on a thorough analysis of baraka conceived as praeternatural grace, it sheds original light on charismatic power in religion, but also in political life. Nikola Pantic’s book should be read by all those interested the power of extraordinary phenomena to regulate the sacred."

    Jean-Louis Fabiani, Central European University