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This article presents an Arabic transcription and complete English translation of an untitled text – labelled “Khalwa” in the manuscript catalogue - attributed to Sīdī al-Mukhtār al-Kuntī, a Saharan scholar and Sufi teacher of the late-eighteenth century. In the accompanying commentary, I demonstrate how this text draws together two passages in the Qur’ān: the ambiguous visionary encounters of 53:1-18 and Moses’s request to see God in 7:142-143 to argue that, unlike Moses, Muḥammad received a direct vision of God. I further argue that, for Sīdi al-Mukhtār al-Kuntī, the question of seeing God was linked to his concern over legitimate and illegitimate knowledge from the realm of the unseen (ʿālam al-ghayb). Intertextual references demonstrate that Sīdī al-Mukhtār understood the friends of God to occupy the same role in the spiritual hierarchy as Muḥammad and the prophets. Read in this context, “Khalwa” suggests that the friends of God might be able to follow Muḥammad’s example, see God with their own eyes, and thus master the sciences of the unseen.


Islam, Islam in Africa, Sufism, West Africa, visions, visionary experiences, occult, visio dei, beatific vision, Sahara

Total Pages

37 pages


Copyright © 2020 Ariela Marcus-Sells

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.



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