ʿAWĀREF al-MAʿĀREF (Kind gifts of [mystic] knowledge), a classic work on Sufism by Šehāb-al-dīn Abū Ḥafṣ ʿOmar b. Moḥammad Sohravardī (b. 539/1145 in Sohravard near Zanjān, d. 632/1234 in Baghdad, a Shafeʿite faqīh, celebrated Sufi master, and šayḵ-al-šoyūḵ (dean of Sufi masters) of Baghdad (appointed by the caliph al-Nāṣer in 599/1202-03). Šehāb-al-dīn has sometimes been confused with his paternal uncle and spiritual guide, Abu’l-Najīb ʿAbd-al-Qāher b. ʿAbdallāh Sohravardī (d. 563/1168), the founder of the Sohravardi Order, and with the Illuminationist (ešrāqī) theosopher Šehāb-al-dīn Yaḥyā b. Ḥabaš Sohravardī Maqtūl (d. 587/1191).

Sohravardī’s work demonstrates the increasing tendency of Sufis to organize and systematize their teachings; it soon gained wide acceptance as the standard manual for matters pertaining to the duties of masters and disciples. It was translated into Persian by Qāsem Dāwūd Ḵaṭīb Darāča in ca. 639/1241-42, and by Esmāʿīl b. ʿAbd-al-Moʾmen b. ʿAbd-al-Jalīl b. Abī Manṣūr Māšāda in 665/1266 (ed. Q. Anṣārī, Tehran, 1364 Š./1985; cf. N. Māyel Heravī, “Tarjama-ye ʿAwāref al-maʿāref-e Sohravardī,” Našr-e dāneš 6, 1364 Š./1985-86, pp. 114-20). Other Persian translations were made by Ẓahīr-al-dīn ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān b. Shaikh Najīb-al-dīn ʿAlī b. Bozgoš (d. 716/1316; cf. Brockelmann, GAL, S. II, p. 789), Ṣadr-al-dīn Jonayd b. Fażlallāh b. ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Šīrāzī (d. 791/1389, including a commentary called Ḏayl al-maʿāref), Kamālzāda Čalabī, and Behbūd ʿAlī Ḵorāsānī (13th/19th century). All these works are extant (Māʾel Heravī, art. cit., p. 117). Ḥājjī Ḵalīfa cites an addendum (taʿlīqa) by the famous theologian and philosopher Sayyed Šarīf Jorjānī (d. 816/1413-14), an abridgment by Moḥebb-al-dīn Aḥmad b. ʿAbdallāh Ṭabarī Makkī Šāfeʿī (d. 694/1294-95), and a Turkish translation by ʿĀrefī (Kašf al-ẓonūn [Istanbul], cols. 1177-78; Brockelmann mentions a Turkish translation by Moḥammad b. Aḥmad b. ʿAlī Ḵabbāz completed in 938/1531). The ʿAwāref is said to have been introduced into Indian Sufism through a summary written by Farīd-al-dīn Masʿūd Ganj-e Šekar (d. 664/1265; EI2 II, p. 796). In India as elsewhere it remained one of the most popular Sufi manuals (A. Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam, Chapel Hill, 1975, p. 348).

Most sources, including Ḥājjī Ḵalīfa, refer to Meṣbāḥ al-hedāya by ʿEzz-al-dīn Maḥmūd b. ʿAlī Kāšānī (d. 735/1335) as a Persian translation of ʿAwāref (hence the title of Meṣbaḥ’s awkward and partial English translation by H. Wilberforce Clarke: The ‘Awarif-l-Ma’arif, Calcutta, 1891; repr. New York, 1970). Kāšānī himself writes that he had received an “influx” (wāred) from the Unseen World telling him to compose an independent work based on the words of the great masters and including his own intuitions (ʿendīyat) and inspirations (fotūḥāt) “such that most of the roots and branches of ʿAwāref al-maʿāref would be included” (Meṣbāḥ al-hedāya, ed. J. Homāʾī, Tehran, 1324 Š./1945, pp. 7-8; cf. Homāʾī’s introd., p. 37). Comparison of the tables of contents of ʿAwāref and Meṣbāḥ is enough to show that the two works bear little resemblance in structure, while those passages which are indeed based upon ʿAwāref (often indicated by reference to “Šayḵ-al-eslām”) have usually been expanded and/or rewritten.

Sohravardī displays a deep concern to defend Sufism from its detractors and to demonstrate its roots in the Koran and Hadith. He provides detailed quotations from earlier authorities (many of them not known as Sufis) with full chains of authority (esnād). He criticizes those who have falsely attached themselves to Sufism (chap. 9) and identifies true Sufis with “the people brought nigh to God” (al-moqarrabūn) mentioned in the Koran (chap. 1, Beirut, 1966, p. 18). Much of the text is taken up by quotations and esnāds, but Sohravardī’s own contributions are far from insignificant. He demonstrates skill in formulating sophisticated and fresh explanations of well-known terms, weaving together elements from the authorities he has quoted and from his own understanding and intuition (see, for example, his explanation of the terms nafs, rūḥ, qalb, and serr, chapter 56, [pp. 449-55]; compare this with Kāšānī’s much expanded version, Meṣbāḥ, pp. 82-103).

The sixty-three chapters (bāb) of the ʿAwāref can be divided into five major sections: Chapters 1-9: the term “Sufism” (taṣawwof); what sets Sufis apart from other Muslims. Chapters 10-28: specific institutions and practices connected with Sufism, including the Shaikh, the spiritual companion (ḵādem), the cloak of initiation (ḵerqa), and the Sufi center (rebāṭ); traveling (safar) as opposed to staying in the rebāṭ; marrying (taʾahhol) as opposed to staying single (tajarrod); listening to music (samāʿ); spiritual retreats (arbaʿīnīya). Chapters 29-30: the character traits (aḵlāq) of the Sufis, such as humility (tawāżoʿ), kindness (modārāt), charity (īṯār), forgiveness (tajāwoz), cheerfulness (ṭalāqat al-wajh), indulgence (sohūla), abandoning affectations (tark al-takallof), and contentment (qanāʿa). Chapters 31-55: propriety and proper conduct (adab), including the Sufi’s attitude toward God; the performance of the specific ritual practices such as ablutions (ṭahāra), prayer (ṣalāt), and fasting (ṣawm) common to all Muslims; everyday activities such as eating (akl) and sleeping (nawm); vigils (qīām al-layl); relationship between shaikh and disciple (morīd). Chapters 56-63: the different kinds of knowledge (maʿrefa) and inspiration (ḵawāṭer); the states (aḥwāl) and the stations (maqāmāt) of the spiritual travelers.



The text has often been printed in commercial editions, e.g., Beirut, 1966; and on the margin of Ḡazālī’s Eḥyāʾ ʿolūm al-dīn, Cairo, 1327/1909.

German translation by R. Gramlich, Die Gaben der Erkenntnisse des Umar as-Suhrawardi (ʿAwaref al-maʿaref), Wiesbaden, 1978.

See also H. Ritter, “Philologika IX. Die vier Suhrawardī. Ihre Werke in Stambuler Handschriften,” Islam 24, 1937, pp. 270-86; 25, 1939, pp. 35-86, esp. pp. 36-43.

J. S. Trimingham, The Sufi Orders in Islam, Oxford, 1971, pp. 29-30.

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(W. C. Chittick)

Originally Published: December 15, 1987

Last Updated: August 18, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. III, Fasc. 2, pp. 114-115