Following © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2008 DOI: 10.1163/156852908X271123 Religion and the Arts 12 (2008) 343–355 RELIGION and the ARTS Following Steffen A. J. Stelzer Th e American University in Cairo Abstract Recent studies of Islamic mysticism have unearthed and developed the central role of “imagination” in Sufism and mystical philosophy. Th is has been done in conscious contrast to the perceived “degradation of the image” in Western thought. Imagination is said to be both a cosmological and a noetic realm in the midst of a hierarchy of universes that mark, at the same time, different stations on the initiatory path of human beings on their way to God. Into these well laid-out plans of worlds and images, my paper introduces a compo- nent that is found very rarely in these studies and occurs, rather, in Islamic hagiographic texts about the lives of Saints or the “Friends of God” ( awliya ʾ ). Th is component is the motive of “following,” or obedience to the Prophet ( sequela prophetae ). In one particular account of a meeting of two “Friends of God,” reference is made to the incapacity of imagination to contain—i.e. to imagine—one of them. Th e Religion and the Arts Brill


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© 2008 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
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