Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Religious Studies

Major Professor

Kathleen Malone O'Connor, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Carlos Lopez, Ph. D.

Committee Member

Wei Zhang, Ph. D.


Literature, History, Islam, Mysticism, Music


Sufi poetry of the Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258 CE/132-655 AH) exhibited a particular penchant for highlighting the relationship between humankind and God with homoerotic language. While the homoerotic nature of Sufi poetry has received considerable scholarly attention, the ritual expression of such literature has not. The ritual of sama was a practice that occurred in the Sufi institutions and incorporated various elements of the poetry examined. By listening to the poetry, in the form of song and often with accompanying instrumentation, the mystics would experience transient moments of altered state experiences, usually interpreted as moments of union with God.

This thesis seeks to align the homoerotic verse with ritual, and thus demonstrating the incorporation and sublimation of sexuality in medieval Sufi society. By focusing on the works of four specific Arab Sufi poets, Abu al-Husayn al-Nuri, Abu Bakr al-Shibli, Umar Ibn al-Farid, and Muhyiddin Ibn al-Arabi, a distinct tendency to express passionate love for the Divine emerges. Furthermore, the portrayal of the Divine in masculine terms reflected, not necessarily homosexual love, but the intimate bonding between men experienced in a sex-segregated society.