Alexander Knysh receives 2019 I.R. Iran World Award for Book of the Year


Sufism. A New History of Islamic Mysticism

Alexander Knysh

Princeton University Press, Princeton & Oxford 2017



Winner of the 2019 I.R. Iran World Award for Book of the Year, Islamic Republic of Iran

Alexander Knysh's book, Sufism: A new history of Islamic mysticism, written during his stay at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Study in 2014-2015 on a EURIAS fellowship, received a Book of the Year award in Iran award.


"Prof. Alexander Knysh is one of the recipients of the "2019 I.R. Iran World Award for Book of the Year" in the field of  Islamic Studies, for his book, Sufism: A New History of Islamic Mysticism, published by Princeton University Press, Princeton & Oxford 2017.

Travelling to Iran to receive his award, he was honoured at a ceremony which took place in Tehran, Vahdat Hall, on Tuesday, February 5, 2019, in the presence of the President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani."



A pathbreaking history of Sufism, from the earliest centuries of Islam to the present
After centuries as the most important ascetic-mystical strand of Islam, Sufism saw a sharp decline in the twentieth century, only to experience a stunning revival in recent decades. In this comprehensive new history of Sufism from the earliest centuries of Islam to today, Alexander Knysh, a leading expert on the subject, reveals the tradition in all its richness.
Knysh explores how Sufism has been viewed by both insiders and outsiders since its inception. He examines the key aspects of Sufism, from definitions and discourses to leadership, institutions, and practices. He devotes special attention to Sufi approaches to the Qur’an, drawing parallels with similar uses of scripture in Judaism and Christianity. He traces how Sufism grew from a set of simple moral-ethical precepts into a sophisticated tradition with professional Sufi masters (shaykhs) who became powerful players in Muslim public life but whose authority was challenged by those advocating the equality of all Muslims before God. Knysh also examines the roots of the ongoing conflict between the Sufis and their fundamentalist critics, the Salafis—a major fact of Muslim life today.
Based on a wealth of primary and secondary sources, Sufism is an indispensable account of a vital aspect of Islam.



"This groundbreaking monograph is critical not only for understanding the complex phenomenon that is Sufism, but also for gaining insight into the significant methodological issues of modern historiography."--Kamal Gasimov, Voices on Central Asia

"Anyone looking for an introduction to the complexities of Sufism should turn to this book by Alexander Knysh."--History Today



"A thorough rethinking and reframing of one of Islam's central traditions, this is an important and highly original book from a scholar who really knows what he is talking about."—Mark Sedgwick, Aarhus University, Denmark

"This is the best study to date of how Sufism has been conceptualized and interpreted by a wide variety of insiders and outsiders down into modern times."—William Chittick, Stony Brook University