Mark Sedgwick

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Mark Sedgwick (born London, England, July 20, 1960) is a British historian specializing in traditionalism, Islam, Sufi mysticism, and terrorism. He is Professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at Aarhus University in Denmark and was secretary of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism.



Sedgwick was educated in England at Harrow School and Worcester College, Oxford. He did his PhD in Norway at the University of Bergen.

Encounter with Sufism and Traditionalism[edit]

While living in Cairo in 1990, Sedgwick encountered Sufis from both the Naqshbandiyya tariqa and the Traditionalist Maryamiyya. However, he did not join either group. He started research on Traditionalism in 1996.[1]


Sedgwick first taught history at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. In 2007 he moved to Aarhus University, Denmark as Coordinator of the Arab and Islamic Studies Unit. His books have been translated into French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Romanian, and Serbian.[2] He was a founder member of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism, of which he was Secretary 2010-16.[3] He was elected to the board of the Nordic Society for Middle Eastern Studies in 2016.[4]


Sedgwick's earliest research was on Sufism in the Arab and Muslim world.[5] He is best known for his work on Sufism and Traditionalism, especially for his Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century (2004). He is also known for his work on terrorism, especially for his 2004 article "Al-Qaeda and the nature of religious terrorism" in which he argues for understanding the terrorism of Al-Qaeda should be understood in political rather than religious terms.[6] He is a critic of the concept of radicalization, which he argues is a "source of confusion."[7] Despite his association with the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism, he has argued that understanding Western Esotericism as distinctly Western may no longer be appropriate.[5]


Sedgwick has been accused of “an undisclosed personal history with Traditionalism” and, therefore, of having “a personal and undisclosed bias against Traditionalism”.[8] He has also been accused of being a secret Traditionalist Sufi and part of a conspiracy against Enlightenment values.[9] He has pointed out that both charges can hardly be true at the same time and explained that his personal history with Traditionalism was early and limited. He claims this did not result in any bias one way or the other.[1]


  • Sufism: The Essentials. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2000.
  • Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century. Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • "Al-Qaeda and the Nature of Religious Terrorism" Terrorism and Political Violence 2004
  • Saints and Sons: The Making and Remaking of the Rashidi Ahmadi Sufi Order, 1799-2000. Brill, 2005.
  • Islam and Muslims: A Guide to Diverse Experience in a Modern World. Boston: Intercultural Press, 2006.
  • Muhammad Abduh. Oxford: Oneworld, 2009.
  • Islamic Myths and Memories: Mediators of Globalization. Editor, with Ulrika Mårtensson and Itzchak Weismann. Farnham: Ashgate Press, 2014.
  • Making European Muslims: Religious Socialization among Young Muslims in Scandinavia and Western Europe. Editor. New York: Routledge, 2014.
  • Western Sufism: From the Abbasids to the New Age. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.


  1. ^ a b Sedgwick, Mark (August 2010). "Autobiographical note". Aarhus University. Retrieved 2015-01-27. 
  2. ^ "Publikationer". Aarhus University. Retrieved 2015-01-27. 
  3. ^ "Officers". Retrieved 2016-11-17. 
  4. ^ "ICSRU member elected to board of Nordic Society for Middle Eastern Studies". 2016-11-08. Retrieved 2016-11-17. 
  5. ^ a b Giudice, Chris (2016). "Scholar Interview: Mark Sedgwick" (PDF). ESSWE Newsletter. 7: 6–7. 
  6. ^ SEDGWICK, MARK (2004-01-01). "Al-Qaeda and the Nature of Religious Terrorism". Terrorism and Political Violence. 16 (4): 795–814. doi:10.1080/09546550590906098. ISSN 0954-6553. 
  7. ^ Sedgwick, Mark (2010-09-14). "The Concept of Radicalization as a Source of Confusion". Terrorism and Political Violence. 22 (4): 479–494. doi:10.1080/09546553.2010.491009. ISSN 0954-6553. 
  8. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael. "Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press, 2004)". Sacred Web: A Journal of Tradition and Modernity. Sacred Web Publishing. 13. Retrieved 2015-01-27. 
  9. ^ Frederik Stjernfelt, "Mareridt: Dialog Mysteriet," Weekendavisen 15.01.2010 section 3 p. 1

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