Message from the Director

Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies (ASAFAS), Kyoto University inaugurated the Kenan Rifai Center for Sufi Studies on March 6, 2016 in cooperation with the Institute for Sufi Studies at Üsküdar University, Turkey and the Kerim Foundation in Istanbul, which provides financial support to the Institute.

The Center’s aims are to develop the University’s research on the Middle East and Islam to a global level and to encourage an accurate understanding of Islam in Japan by promoting research into Sufism (so-called “Islamic mysticism”).


Director of the Kenan Rifai Center for Sufi Studies, Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies

TONAGA Yasushi


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Sufism is commonly referred to as the “Islamic mysticism,” reflecting the rich spirituality and interiority of the religion. Research into Sufism is a pressing matter for correcting the way Islam is currently viewed through the lenses of terrorism and conflict.

Although Japan has a long tradition of research into Sufism that began with Toshihiko Izutsu (Keio University and McGill University, Canada), there has never been an institute focused on Sufism in Japanese education and research. The inauguration of this Center at Kyoto University is a groundbreaking venture for the research of Islam in Japan.

The Center’s formal name is the Kenan Rifai Center for Sufi Studies attached to the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University. Kenan Rifai was a renowned Turkish proponent of research into Sufism.


The Kerim Foundation
The foundation was established in 2013 by Current President Ms. Cemalnur Sargut (born 1952). Ms. Sargut got her doctoral degree in Islamic philosophy. She became the founder and president of the foundation through her work as president of the Turkish Women Cultural Association (TURKKAD), established in 1966.

With the aims of promoting culture, science, and the arts, the foundation has been engaged in activities in Turkey, where along with the establishment of the Institute for Sufi Studies at Üsküdar University it has set up a master’s course that has been running since September 2015. It has also been active on the international scale, where it has continued to be involved with initiatives from the TURKKAD era, running both an Islamic research lecture series at North Carolina University, USA (established 2000), and a human culture research institute at Peking University, China (established 2009).

Related URLs below (mostly Turkish, some English)
The Kerim Foundation:


Üsküdar University
A private university officially launched in 2011 under the banner of the NP Group, a medical group focusing on neuroscience and psychotherapy. The university is made up of a communications department, a health science department, an engineering and natural sciences department, a human culture department, a health services vocational school, and four research institutes (the Social Sciences Institute, the Humanities and Sciences Institute, the Health Sciences Institute, and the Institute for Sufi Studies).
Related URLs below (Turkish & English)
Üsküdar University:
The Institute for Sufi Studies:


Kenan Rifai
Kenan Rifai was born in Thessaloniki in 1867, when Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire, and was a Sufi master in the early 20th century. Following the abandonment of the Sufi order in the wake of the separation of church and state in the newly born Republic of Turkey in 1925, he was active as an educator, researcher, and author. He is renowned for his research on the eminent Medieval Sufi Ahmad Rifa’i and for his commentaries on Jalal al-Din Rumi’s Spiritual Mathnavi, the greatest Persian mystic poem. He died in Istanbul in 1950.