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Notes and Comments

Dear Editors,

The most recent issue of JSIS contains Professor Paul Ballanfat’s review of my book Sufi Bodies: Religion and Society in Medieval Islam (vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 242-248). The review portrays the book as bad scholarship, a judgment that is Professor Ballanfat’s prerogative and with which I have no quarrel. However, the force of Professor Ballanfat’s invective is blunted by the fact that his description of the book’s contents is severely incorrect in certain instances. He calls the book a “socio-anthropological work” (a nonsensical compound, in my view) in the very first sentence. The book is not that at all but a religious and cultural history, as would be evident to anyone with a basic knowledge of academic disciplines. The third sentence states that the book concentrates on Sufism “after the rise of the Safavids”. This is not so at all either. The book is focused most explicitly on the pre-Safavid period of Iranian history. Moreover, the statement has little relevance for the book’s coverage of Central Asian materials. Professor Ballanfat mentions that the book utilizes Naqshbandi hagiographic sources, which makes the error all the more surprising since he seems to be unaware that the Naqshbandiyya established itself before the sixteenth century CE. Unfortunately, a majority of Professor Ballanfat’s own prose in the review is so obscure that one wonders whether he is aware of the basics of the history of Sufism or has the wherewithal to read an academic book written in English. I agree entirely with the last sentence of the review, which expresses the hope that other scholars will write better books on this topic in the future.


Shahzad Bashir
Stanford University [End Page 373]

Shahzad Bashir
Stanford University