Sanctity and Mysticism in Medieval Egypt

The Wafāʼ Sufi Order and the Legacy of Ibn al-ʿArabī

By Richard J. A. McGregor

Subjects: Sufism, Middle East Studies, Islam
Series: SUNY series in Islam
Paperback : 9780791460122, 260 pages, January 2006
Hardcover : 9780791460115, 260 pages, February 2004

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations


Note on Transliteration


1. Tirmidhi, Ibn 'Arabi, and Others on Sanctity


Tirmidhi on Walaya
Sahl Tustari on Walaya
Lesser Treatments of Walaya
Walaya and Shi'ism
Ibn 'Arabi and Walaya


2. The Early Shadhiliyya and Sanctity


Literature and History of the Shadhiliyya
Al-Shadhili, Tirmidhi, and Ibn 'Arabi
The Early Figures of the Order
The Writings of Ibn Bakhila
Proximity to the Divine
The Levels of Walaya
Sanctity and Prophecy


3. The Wafa'iyya in Time and Space


Arriving from the Maghreb
Among the Elite of Cairo


4. The Writings of the Wafa's


Supplications (du'a)
Jurisprudence (fiqh) and Exegesis (tafsir)
Mystical Treatises (Muhammad Wafa')
Mystical Treatises ('Ali Wafa')


5. Sanctity and Muhammad Wafa'


Absolute Being and Its Self-disclosure
The Preexistential and the Everlasting
Spiritual Anthropology
The Teaching Shaykh and Beyond
The Muhammadan Reality and the Pole
Sanctity, the Renewer, and the Seal


6. Sanctity according to 'Ali Wafa'


Divine Oneness, Self-disclosure, and Creation
The Teacher and Oneness
On Walaya and Nubuwwa
The Seal of Sainthood
The Seal and the Renewer of Religion






Using the original, little-known writings of Sufis Muhammad and 'Ali Wafa', this book explores the development of the idea of Islamic sainthood in the post-Ibn 'Arabi period.


Using the original writings of two Egyptian Sufis, Muḥammad Wafāʼ and his son 'Alī, this book shows how the Islamic idea of sainthood developed in the medieval period. Although without a church to canonize its "saints," the Islamic tradition nevertheless debated and developed a variety of ideas concerning miracles, sanctity, saintly intermediaries, and pious role models. In the writings of the Wafāʼs, a complete mystical worldview unfolds, one with a distinct doctrine of sainthood and a novel understanding of the apocalypse. Using almost entirely unedited manuscript sources, author Richard J. A. McGregor shows in detail how Muḥammad and 'Alī Wafāʼ drew on earlier philosophical and gnostic currents to construct their own mystical theories and notes their debt to the Sufi order of the Shadhiliyya, the mystic al-Tirmidhī, and the great Sufi thinker Ibn ʿArabī. Notably, although located firmly within the Sunni tradition, the Wafāʼs felt free to draw on Shi'ite ideas for the construction of their own theory of the final great saint.

Richard J. A. McGregor is Assistant Professor of Religion at Vanderbilt University.