Awḥad al-Dīn Kirmānī is regarded as one of the most colourful characters in Persian Sufi history, whose reputation has been largely tainted by both non-Sufis and Sufis. Despite this, some maintain that Kirmānī must have been a “chaste” Sufi. 1 But the significance of the controversy surrounding Kirmānī’s supposed practice of shāhid bāzī is greater than the story of the rise and fall of a single individual, entertaining, enlightening and moving, as it is. The controversy needs to be understood within the context of the thirteenth century in the Islamic world where Kirmānī lived, and to ask whether the controversy was symptomatic of conditions already prevalent in the tradition, or whether it represented an innovation within Sufism. The answer should contribute to our understanding about the nature and development of Sufism at this time.