The Bayān al-saʿāda fī maqāmāt al-ʿibāda (The Elucidation of Bliss concerning the Spiritual Stations of Worship) is a Qur’anic commentary (tafsīr) written by Sulṭān ʿAlī Shāh Gunābādī (d. 1909). A central work in the modern intellectual and religious history of Iran and Shi‘i Islam, it represents a mature synthesis between Twelver Shi‘ism and Sufism. In this first detailed study of Sulṭān ʿAlī Shāḥ’s Bayān, Alessandro Cancian argues that this commentary represents the foundational act of modern Twelver Shi‘i organised Sufism.

Cancian first explores the intellectual contexts of Iranian Shi‘ism and Sufism, before introducing the author and the text. The eponymous master of the largest branch of the Niʿmatullāhī Sufi order (the Gunābādīyya), Sulṭān ʿAlī Shāh was at the same time a religious scholar taught by some of the most authoritative Shi‘i ulama of his time, a philosopher in the Akbarian/Sadrian tradition who studied with renowned Qajar philosopher Mullā Ḥādī Sabzawārī (d. 1873) and a master of mysticism who drew from the classical tradition of Persian and Persianate Sufism. Cancian shows how these elements coalesced into the formation of a Shi‘i Sufi ṭarīqa, making a credible claim for Niʿmatullāhī Sufi legitimacy within the Twelver Shi‘i establishment and influencing subsequent Qur’anic exegesis in Iran. Cancian then provides a thematic and genealogical analysis of the text alongside a study of its impact and legacy, and a translation of Sulṭān ʿAlī Shāh’s own introduction, outlining his hermeneutical approach and theological and philosophical principles, is provided in an appendix.

This book will appeal to scholars in a range of disciplines within Islamic studies, including Qur’anic exegesis, Shi‘i studies, Sufi studies, mysticism, and the intellectual history of Iran.