The study of Ottoman Sufism has grown exponentially in recent years, but has tended to focus more on the Balkan or Anatolian contexts than those of the Arab provinces, leaving broad gaps in our understanding of the religious history of the Arab provinces after the sixteenth century. Rachida Chih’s study of the history of Sufism in Ottoman Egypt is, for this reason alone, a welcome intervention in the historiography of early modern Ottoman society and culture. However, it is also a critical intervention into a historiography that has often portrayed the Ottoman era as a period of religious sclerosis and decline for Egypt and the Maghreb. To replace this outdated trope, she uncovers a transformational shift in Egyptian Sufism that should be recognized as one of the most consequential since the foundation of its earliest Sufi movements in the medieval period of the twelfth and thirteenth century.
Keywords: Sufism, Egypt, Ottoman Empire, Khalwati, Islam, Hagiography