Can the seeker after Truth wholly depend on the guidance found in books on Sufism or are the oral teachings of a spiritual master necessary? This was a heated debate in fourteenth-century Andalusia that extended beyond the confines of Sufi circles. Ibn Khaldun (d. 808/1406), the celebrated social theorist and historian, ventured into this debate with a treatise that is as relevant today as it was then.
Ibn Khaldun on Sufism: Remedy for the Questioner in Search of Answers is the first ever translation into English of Shifa' al-Sa'il li-Tahdhib al-Masa'il. Though Ibn Khaldun is renowned for the Muqaddima and the Ibar - which are considered milestones in the fields of medieval sociology and the philosophy of history - little is known about his religious and spiritual life. In her introduction to Ibn Khaldun on Sufism,
Dr Yumna Ozer seeks to restore Ibn Khaldun and his work to the context from which his theories arose, both in intellectual and religious terms; she also draws a vivid painting of Sufism in the fourteenth century and rethinks Ibn Khaldun's relationship with Sufism. The translation itself addresses the dichotomies or synergies between religious law and the Sufi path, the roles played by jurists, and that played by Sufis, and the particular position of the Sufi shaykh or spiritual master.