About Ivan Aguéli

Si Ivan en français                      Eğer Türkçe ve diğer dillerde Ivan                        Wenn Ivan in deutscher Sprache 

Ivan Aguéli

Ivan Aguéli (born John Gustaf Agelii) (May 24, 1869 – October 1, 1917) also named Sheikh ‘Abd al-Hādī ‘Aqīlī (Arabic: شيخ عبد الهادی عقیلی‎) upon his conversion to Islam, was a Swedish wandering Sufi, painter and author. As a devotee of Ibn Arabi, his metaphysics applied to the study of Islamic esoterism and its similarities with other esoteric traditions of the world. He was the initiator of René Guénon into Sufism and founder of the Parisian al Akbariyya society. His art was a unique form of miniature Post-Impressionism where he used the blend of colours to create a sense of depth and distance. His unique style of art made him one of the founders of the Swedish contemporary art movement.

Childhood and Youth

Ivan Aguéli was born John Gustaf Agelii in the small Swedish town of Sala in 1869, the son of veterinarian Johan Gabriel Agelii.

Between the years 1879-1889 Aguéli conducted his studies in Gotland and Stockholm. Early on in his youth he began showing an exceptional artistic talent and a keen interest in religious mysticism.

In 1889 he adopted the name Ivan Aguéli and travelled to Paris where he became the student of the Symbolist painter Émile Bernard. Before returning to Sweden in 1890 he made a detour to London, where he met the Russian anarchist scholar Prince Kropotkin.

Returning to Stockholm in 1890 he attended art school in Stockholm where he was taught by the Swedish artists Anders Zorn and Richard Bergh. By the end of 1892 he again returned to Paris where he learnt to know the French poet and animal-rights activist Marie Huot (1846–1930). Active in French anarchist circles he was in 1894 arrested and put on trial in the “Trial of the thirty”. Within months of his release in 1895 he left France for Egypt, where he lived until he returned to Paris in 1896. It was later on in Paris that Aguéli finally converted to Islam and adopted the name ‘Abd al-Hadi.

In 1899 he travelled to Colombo (in today’s Sri Lanka), again returning to France in 1900.


In 1902 Aguéli moved to Cairo and became one of the first Western Europeans to be officially enrolled at Al-Azhar University, where he studied Arabic and Islamic philosophy. In 1902 he was also initiated into the al-‘Arabiyya Shadhiliyya Sufi order by the great Egyptian Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahman Ilaysh al-Kabir (1840–1921).

With the blessing of Shaykh Ilaysh, Aguéli and an Italian journalist and fellow-convert named Enrico Insabato (1878–1963) founded and contributed to an Italian magazine published in Cairo (1904–1913) named Il Convicto (Arabic: An-Nadi).


First World War and Spain

Suspected to be an Ottoman spy he was expelled to Spain in 1916. Stranded in Spain, Aguéli lacked the funds to continue back to Sweden. In Spain, Aguéli was left without money to return to Sweden and on October 1, 1917 he was killed by a train at a rail crossing in the village of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat outside Barcelona.

After Aguéli’s death, Prince Eugén Bernadotte, who was known as a patron of artists, made certain to return his paintings and belongings to Sweden.

Place of Ivan Aguéli in Sala.

Aguéli’s Heritage

In Sweden, Aguéli is admired as a celebrated contemporary painter. Most of his paintings are found at the Swedish National Museum of Fine arts, the Museum of Modern Art and in the Aguéli museum.

Aguélis prominence in Sweden was clearly shown in 1969 when, at the centenary of his birth, six of his paintings were printed as stamps by the Swedish Postal Service.

Aguéli’s remains were kept in Barcelona, Spain until 1981, when he was brought back to Sweden and re-buried with Islamic rites in his hometown of Sala.

In Sala there is also the Aguéli museum with the largest collection of his artworks, donated by Sala’s well-known physician Carl Friberg to Nationalmuseum.




  • Chacornac, Paul; The Simple Life of Réne Guénon, pp. 31–37, Sophia Perennis.
  • Hatina, Meir; Where East Meets West: Sufism as a Lever for Cultural Rapprochement, pp. 389–409, Volume 39, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  • Nasr, Seyyed Hossein; Sufism: Love and Wisdom, page X of foreword, Worldwisdom, 2006.
  • Nur ad-Din, Farid (introduction and translation); Universality in Islam, Studies in Comparative Religion, Worldwisdom, 2011.
  • Turner, Jade (ed.); The Grove Dictionary of Art, pp. 465–466, Grove, 1996.
  • Waterfield, Robin; Réne Guénon and the Future of the West, pp. 28–30, Sophia Perennis.

About Ivan Aguéli (wikipedia)

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