The Uwaysis are Muslim mystics, named after Uways, a contemporary of the prophet Muhammad reputed to have communicated with him telepathically. Uwaysis still look to the spirit of a dead or physically absent person for instruction. Little was known of them until about 1600, when Ahmad of Uzgen wrote his History of the Uwaysis, a series of biographics, mostly of imaginary people. It mirrors the development of the religion from the seventh to the fourteenth century.Julian Baldick surveys the Uwaysi movement as it is usually presented in Sufism, Islam’s main mystical tradition. He examines it in its sixteenth-century stronghold, East Turkistan (now in China), and summarizes Ahmad of Uzgen’s History, analysing its intertwining of biblical motifs, shamanistic initiation rites and Muslim, Christian and Buddhist legends. Since information about Islamic women mystics is scarce, he pays particular attention to the thirteen women mystics in the book, showing how some of these biographies reflect the Christian antithesis of the asexual wife and the penitent courtesan.Finally, he compares his findings with current French theories of the imaginary, and argues that the Uwaysis illuminate paradoxes central to Islam.
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