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Sufism Conceptualization in Western Historiography

In the article, Khalil and Sheikh (2016) explore the way Sufism has been conceptualized throughout the centuries. The authors trace the changes in the views regarding this concept among Western and Islamic scholars. It is emphasized that people’s views on the matter have differed considerably, depending on the scholar’s perspective. The key point the authors are making is that Sufism is the basis and the heart of true Islam, guiding devout Muslims in their faith and their daily routines. It is argued that Sufism has no connection with the destructive agenda of some fundamentalists who cause harm to material culture, stipulating their struggle for true Islam.

To support these claims, Khalil and Sheikh (2016) describe the major concepts of scholars that conceptualized Sufism. Sufism has been analyzed in terms of its similarities with Christian and Judaism values. The three major religions are viewed as closely related paradigms with a focus on spiritual self-perfection and the search for truth internally and externally (Khalil & Sheikh, 2016). Islamic scholars also stressed that the nature and essence of Sufism are associated with spiritual growth, which was supported by the writings of the Quran.

One of the most useful concepts the authors bring out is linked to the spiritual domain and knowledge behind Sufism and its exploration. Khalil and Sheikh (2016) claim that Sufism cannot be seen as the actual background for Islamist extremism and some groups’ desire to destroy the fruit of human civilization. Sufism is a paradigm deeply rooted in Indo-European and Middle Eastern philosophies. Hence, the authors conclude that all Muslims and people practicing other religions should understand that religious belief cannot be an excuse for destructive actions in the modern world.

The most remarkable strength of the article is its abundance of details and deep analysis of the concepts related to Sufism. The authors manage to describe the major shifts in views concerning the concept under consideration (Khalil & Sheikh, 2016). They provide the views of philosophers and scholars that come from different cultural backgrounds, so a multifaceted view of Sufism is given. The links between Sufism and other religions and philosophies drawn by the authors are instrumental in developing a deep understanding of the nature of this element of Islam. At that, the article is characterized by a considerable weakness. The authors state that Sufism is based on the principles of spirituality and self-development and is rooted in centuries of scholarly examination (Khalil & Sheikh, 2016). However, they only note that modern extremists use some of the concepts of Sufism to pursue their agendas. It could be beneficial to include ways to show millions of people, especially those who might support destructive practices, the true essence of Sufism. It is important to communicate effectively and reach those millions, which is hardly possible if thinkers keep their discussion within the scope of scholarly domains.

This article is in line with the readings studied previously as it sheds light on religious aspects of human society. The authors manage to explain the way different people interpret some concepts that are closely related or can be even the same thing. This source also provides insights into the core of Islam and fundamentalism. When reading the article, many questions arise, but one of them is quite persistent. What is the balance between spirituality and materialism? People have different answers to this question for some, spirituality means complete asceticism, while others see material culture as a continuation and manifestation of people’s spirituality. My answer to the posed question is similar to the latter view. I believe Sufism does not mean destruction for the sake of spiritual purification, but it means creative zeal for the glorification of every individual’s spiritual journey to self-perfection.


Khalil, A., & Sheikh, S. (2016). Sufism in western historiography: A brief overview. Philosophy East and West, 66(1), 194–217.

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StudyKraken. (2023, January 4). Sufism Conceptualization in Western Historiography.

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"Sufism Conceptualization in Western Historiography." StudyKraken, 4 Jan. 2023,

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StudyKraken. "Sufism Conceptualization in Western Historiography." January 4, 2023.


StudyKraken. 2023. "Sufism Conceptualization in Western Historiography." January 4, 2023.


StudyKraken. (2023) 'Sufism Conceptualization in Western Historiography'. 4 January.

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