image of By the Tongue of the Heart: Role and Development of Metaphors in Sufi Literature

By the Tongue of the Heart: Role and Development of Metaphors in Sufi Literature

CERES Palais, room "Ruhrpott" (4.13)

Within the wide range of literary genres of the Sufi tradition – mystical prose, didactic poems, poetry, Qur’anic Tafsir, etc. – metaphors play a central role in conveying the meaning of mystical ideas. This workshop shall investigate the variety, composition, and functions of such mystical metaphors and how they developed over time and within different doctrinal currents inside Arabic and Persian Sufi literature.
The workshop is jointly organized by two subprojects of the Collaborative Research Center Metaphors of Religion (Ruhr University Bochum), which investigates the role of metaphors in religious meaning-making across religious traditions. The two subprojects A01 "Path and Guidance: Interpretations of Qur’anic Metaphors of Space and Movement in the Tafsīr Literature" and C01 "Grammar as a Religious Metaphor", both of which also partly focus on religious metaphors in Sufi literature. A01 discusses the metaphor of the “straight/solid road” (al-s ̣̣ira ̄ t ̣ al-mustaqi ̄̄m) and other WAY-metaphors also from the perspective of Sufi Qur’anic exegesis and Moulana Rumis opus magnum the Masnavi and C01 asks how grammatical terms and concepts are used in the work the "Grammar of Hearts (Naḥw al-qulūb)" penned by the 11th-century Sufi scholar Abū l-Qāsim al-Qushayrī.
The CRC approaches metaphors from the perspective of Conceptual Metaphor Theory and other related theories, such as the conceptual blending theory. According to the Conceptual Metaphor Theory, first introduced by the linguists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in Metaphors We Live By (1980), “a conceptual metaphor is understanding one domain of experience (that is typically abstract) in terms of another (that is typically concrete).”
The Workshop is hence mainly dedicated to discussing the metaphorical use of conceptual domains which are central to the Sufi discourse such as the domain HEART; LOVE; TASTING; UNITY/UNION; RETURN; DEATH/LIFE; ANNIHILATION/DISSOLUTION or WAY/JOURNEY.

Download the workshop program

Affiliated Persons

Photograph of Maren Jordan M.A.

Maren Jordan M.A.


Universitätsstr. 90a
44789  Bochum
Office 3.08
+49 234 32-21982
Photograph of Dr. Roman Seidel

Dr. Roman Seidel


Universitätsstr. 150
44801  Bochum
Office Institut für Arabistik und Islamwissenschaften, GB 2/141
+49 234 32-24383
Photograph of Dr. Vicky Ziegler

Dr. Vicky Ziegler


Universitätsstr. 150
44801  Bochum
Office GB 2/147
+49 234 32-19259