A long time ago, there were times when people would describe the ulama and Sufi as rivals. People supposed that the ulama represented the major tradition, whereas Sufis were thought to be responsible for the minor tradition in Muslim societies. However, in reality, there were many Sufis of ulama origin, or vice versa, in the heart of the Islamic world. In other words, Sufis who supervised people — whose hearts were set on becoming Sufis — were the ulama as well.

Even though there were times when it seemed that no one had both ulama and Sufi backgrounds at the same time, it was a common that the two groups cooperated and helped each other. Therefore, it can be said that these groups resourced Islamic traditional knowledge.

Modern Islamic thinkers tend to be against this sort of traditional intellectualism. Especially, in the Sunni part of the Muslim world, Islamists are coming from the modern secular educational background, not the traditional Islamic educational setting.

Recently, many people have tended to concentrate on modern Islamists. Does that mean that the role of traditional Muslim thinkers has ended? Actually, no. In reality, traditional thinkers continue to be active and are supported by many Muslims today.

To describe a more balanced image that is in line with the reality of the contemporary Islamic world, the ulama and Sufis should be reconsidered.

Sufism — along with its tariqa and saint veneration — often involves ordinary Muslims. It has been studied within popular belief systems and pre-Islamic local religions. Its elements could be important in the Jochi Center's investigation of components in Sufism from the perspective of human resources. Our center, while keeping a close relationship with the Jochi group, sticks to intellectual resources. Therefore, Islamic sciences other than Sufism have becomes focal points.

It can be said that the ulama and Sufis have been studied separately thus far. Studies with an interdisciplinary perspective (involving Sufism and other Islamic sciences) are not sufficient. Therefore, merging what is lacking in previous studies under the keywords, "Combining traditional Islamic knowledge with educational change" and "Resourcing religious knowledge" is another goal of this project.

【Main Research Themes】
・Research on the ulama, and Sufis as the Islamic mainstream and moderate groups
・Ulama and Sufi research as an intellectual resource
・Research on transformations of the ulama and Sufis in premodern and modern times
・Case study of the ulama and Sufis of the Ottoman era
・Case study of the Ibn Arabi School
・Comparative study on the ulama and Sufis of the Middle East and other Islamic countries

【International Cooperation】
This research is a cooperative effort with CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) of France, and joint research is ongoing. The CNRS team does not only deal with the topic of the Middle East but also with many academic achievements in the Central Asia as well. Their know-how and experience will be useful for a comparison of our research studies.

Moreover, at the same time, this project was launched, we started an academic cooperation with Üsküdar University (Turkey). By cooperating with the Institute for Sufi Studies at this university, we will continue to promote the project.

  • Ulama - Sufi Research Group: Leader
    • TONAGA Yasushi (Professor, Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies (ASAFAS), Kyoto University)
  • Ulama - Sufi Research Group: Co-Researchers
    • AKAHORI Masayuki (Professor, Sophia University)
    • FUTATSUYAMA Tatsuro (Associate Professor, Faculty of Economics, Kagawa University)
    • FUJII Chiaki (JSPS Research Fellow (RPD), Graduate School of Language and Culture, Osaka University)
    • Idris Danisman (Associate Professor, College of International Relations, Ritsumeikan University)
    • IMAMATSU Yasushi (Specially-Appointed Associate Professor, ASAFAS, Kyoto University)
    • MARUYAMA Daisuke (Associate Professor, National Defense Academy)
    • NAKANISHI Tatsuya (Associate Professor, Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University)
    • NINOMIYA Ayako (Associate Professor, Aoyama Gakuin University)
    • OGURA Satoshi (Assistant Professor, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies)
    • SAWAI Makoto (Leturer at Oyasato Institute for the Study of Religion, Tenri University)
    • Thierry ZARCONE (Directeur de recherche CNRS (GSRL / EPHE))