Freud would likely have seen Sufism as ‘nothing but psychology projected into the external world’, but to Abu al-Wafa al-Ghunaymi al-Taftazani, a professor of Islamic philosophy and Sufism at Cairo University, and others it was as an ethical path toward the divine. Al-Taftazani’s engagement with the Freudian tradition is just one example from the mid-20th century Arab world of the exchange between psychoanalysis and Islam. It was a sympathetic and creative exchange, involving a mutual recognition, and built on genuinely shared and deep affinities between Freudianism and the Islamic mystical tradition.

Detail from a miniature painting of Sufi s, 1750, National Museum, New Delhi, India. Photo by Getty