“Travelling Souls” between Al-Andalus and Persia: Presence, Stories, and Inter-influences

 Bárbara Boloix Gallardo

University of Granada, Spain

It is widely known that Sufism, the mystical tendency of Islam, was conceived in the East, experimenting a growing influence and development in the societies of those territories incorporated to the Islamic empire throughout centuries. Through this process, Islamic mysticism ended up taking roots in such a broad and diverse geographical framework as that covered from Persia and India, in the Muslim East, to the Maghreb and al-Andalus, in the West.

The Andalusi territory always tried to maintain alive its links with the Orient, for being the cradle of the Islamic civilization and for constituting, therefore, a religious and cultural reference in very different aspects. Within Sufism, the tendency of benefitting personally from the wisdom of celebrated Oriental masters (shuyýkh) constantly took many Andalusi mystics to travel to the Islamic East, taking advantage of their journeys to Mecca. This spiritual need was still felt by many “travelling souls” of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada (13th–15th centuries), who reached the far-off lands of Persia searching for the saintly advice of its Spiritual leaders. In addition to that, the works composed by exponential figures of Iranian Sufism –such as al-Hall×¥ (d. 244/857)–were well-known and spread within the spiritual brotherhoods (Ðuruq) in al-Andalus. As for Persia, it is also known that this land was interested in the spiritual atmosphere of al-Andalus, to where several mystics guided their steps. According to some Arabic sources, some Iranian Sufis visited the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada, participating in the religious festivals held in Granada that had the palace of the Alhambra as a privileged setting.

Throughout this paper, both the presence and the influence of Nasrid Sufis in Persia and Persian mystics in al-Andalus will be analyzed, paying special attention to their respective experiences in such distant lands.