Mobility, Empire and Cross Cultural Contacts in Mongol Eurasia

Or Amir

Or Amir

Or Amir

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies

Personal Project:

Sufis and Mamluks: a Chapter in the Islamization of Palestine

The aim of this MA thesis is to examine the Islamization of Palestine, a long and slow process, whichSufis  culminated only in the Mamluk eriod (1260-1516), during which the Muslim share in the population increased significantly, from about a half to a vast majority. This study aspires to ook into the conditions that permitted, and catalyzed, the process of Islamization during the early Mamluk period. More specifically, it tries to look into the role of Sufi shaykhs in the formation of a new Islamic order in post-crusades Palestine.

The first part of the paper studies the relations between the Mamluk elite and Sufi shaykhs, and show that the former showed a great inclination to Sufism and supported charismatic shaykhs with extremely generous foundations. Thanks to Mamluk patronage, Sufi shaykhs gained even greater importance in society and were able to spread into new areas, diffusing Islam along with them.

The second part of the paper deals directly with the presence of Sufism in Palestine. It surveys the presence of Sufi shaykhs and institutions in areas such as Jerusalem, Hebron and Nablus, showing a significant Sufi presence in those areas (ch.2), and then moves to the area of Safed and the Galilee (ch.3). This chapter is based mostly on a previously unstudied primary source written in Safed in the 14th century by a local khatib, named Shams al-Din Muhammad al-῾Uthmani. The source, named "Ta’rikh Safad", gives us a rare glimpse into Muslim life in the area, it reveals unknown villages, religious institutions and more. More important for our purpose, it shows how fluid were the boundaries between "Sufis" and "῾Ulama", and how significant was the presence of Sufi shaykhs in Safed, as well as in the rural hinterland of the Galilee, in the first hundred years after the expulsion of the Crusaders. The presence of Sufis and Sufi institutions in the area in this transformative period and their important role in the local Islamic society, on top of the hostile attitude that many Sufis showed towards the non-Muslim inhabitants, indicate that the Sufis played a crucial role in the shaping of Islamic society and the Islamization of the area.



M.A in Islam and Middle Eastern Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The title of my dissertation was: "Sufis and Mamluks: A Chapter in the Islamization of Palestine", written under the supervision of Prof. Reuven Amitai (2010-2013).

Recipient of the Segal award for academic achievement in Middle East Studies (2013).

Recipient of the "Yad Ora" scholarship (2013).

Participant in an international academic program (Israel-Germany) – "New Frontiers in the Study of Islam", focusing on the Mamluk and Mongol empires (Jerusalem, 2011), and on the Cairo Geniza (Berlin, 2012).

Member in an academic delegation to Germany (summer 2011).

B.A in Islam and Middle Eastern Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2006-2009).

Israeli matriculation certificate – expanded studies in Psychology, Sociology, Middle Eastern Studies and English (1998-2000).

Work experience

Research assistant of Prof. Reuven Amitai at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Working in a research group – "The Formation of Muslim Society in Palestine" (2010-2013).

Researcher in the ERC project – "Mobility, Empire and Cross Cultural Contacts in Mongol Eurasia" (2013).

Archives of the East Jerusalem branch of the Ministry of Interior Affairs (2009-10).


“The Religious Lives of Muslims in the Safed Area during the 13th-14th Centuries according to a 'New-old' Source”, Cathedra 156 (2015, in Hebrew).


Hebrew: Mother tongue.

English: Very good skills.

Arabic: Very good skills.

French: Good skills. Finished advanced level course.

Spanish: Basic skills.

German: Basic skills (learning).