Beauty in Sufism

The Teachings of Rῡzbihān Baqlī

By Kazuyo Murata

Subjects: Islam, Sufism, Middle East Studies
Paperback : 9781438462783, 212 pages, January 2018
Hardcover : 9781438462790, 212 pages, June 2017

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Table of contents

Note on Transliteration

1. Discourse on Beauty

2. The Language of Beauty

3. The Theology of Beauty

4. The Anthropology and Cosmology of Beauty

5. The Prophetology of Beauty

Selected Bibliography
General Index
Index of Qurʾānic Verses
Index of Ḥadīths and Sayings

Analyzes the place of beauty in the Sufi understanding of God, the world, and the human being through the writings of Sufi scholar and saint Rūzbihān Baqlī.


According to Muhammad, "God is beautiful and He loves beauty. " Yet, Islam is rarely associated with beauty, and today, a politicized Islam dominates many perceptions. This work tells a forgotten story of beauty in Islam through the writings of celebrated but little-studied Sufi scholar and saint Rūzbihān Baqlī (1128–1209). Rūzbihān argued that the pursuit of beauty in the world and in oneself was the goal of Muslim life. One should become beautiful in imitation of God and reclaim the innate human nature created in God's beautiful image. Rūzbihān's theory of beauty is little known, largely because of his convoluted style and eccentric terminology in both Persian and Arabic. In this book, Kazuyo Murata revives Rūzbihān's ideas for modern readers. She provides an overview of Muslim discourse on beauty before Rūzbihān's time; an analysis of key terms related to beauty in the Qur'ān, Ḥadīth, and in Rūzbihān's writings; a reconstruction of Rūzbihān's understanding of divine, cosmic, and human beauty; and a discussion of what he regards as the pinnacle of beauty in creation, the prophets, especially Adam, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and Muhammad.

Kazuyo Murata is Lecturer in Islamic Studies at King's College London and coeditor (with Mohammed Rustom and Atif Khalil) of In Search of the Lost Heart: Explorations in Islamic Thought by William C. Chittick, also published by SUNY Press.


"Kazuyo Murata's Beauty in Sufism is a real gem, simply faceted and polished to maximize the radiance and clarity of its message. Murata concisely sheds light upon the origins of Islamic aesthetics and spirituality. " — Temenos Academy Review

"…Murata has added a useful contribution to scholarship on medieval Sufi metaphysics and underscored the need to widen our gaze past the category of love as the central conception of the Sufi path. " — Reading Religion

"Murata opens up a vista on Islam that nobody talks about anymore: the Sufi vision of Islam as a religion of love and adoration of beauty. This is a fascinating book and an impressive achievement. I predict that it will remain the central work on the metaphysics of beauty in Sufism for decades to come. " — Leonard Lewisohn, Senior Lecturer in Persian, University of Exeter