Sufism in the Modern World

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2023) | Viewed by 24231

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Department of Religious Studies, University of Erfurt, Nordhaeuser Str. 63, 99089 Erfurt, Germany
Interests: Sufism, Islamic mysticism, Persian literature, mysticism and modernity, comparative mysticism, mystical theology, intellectual history, Muslims in the West

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Since the advent of the “modern” age, the main mystical trend of Islam, or Sufism, has become the target of new, multifaceted criticism in the Muslim World. The strong denunciation of the folk Sufism by Muslim purists and fundamentalists of the eighteenth century onwards—who consider mystical Islam to be a major part of, and reason for, the deviation from an imagined, pristine Islam—was followed by a fresh wave of Sufi antagonism by Muslim modernists and secular thinkers from the nineteenth century, who often regard Sufism as something belonging to the past, and thus incompatible with the present. Notwithstanding these dense and multifarious critiques, Sufism has remained an active part of Muslim life and culture in most Muslim-majority areas, even extending its presence to new spheres such as Europe and America. The purpose of this Special Issue is to analyze and examine different aspects of the presence of Sufism in the modern world, and to scrutinize the dynamics of its beliefs, practices, and institutions which have been developed since the dawn of the early modern period. The Issue also addresses the post-medieval conceptualizations of Sufism and the modern interpretations of Sufi tradition. Scholars from different fields such as history, religious/Islamic studies, sociology, anthropology, literature, theology, and philosophy are invited to approach the topic from their own specialism or from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Dr. Saeed Zarrabi-Zadeh
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • Sufism, Islamic mysticism
  • modern period
  • dynamics of religion
  • Sufism in the West
  • history of ideas
  • Islamic reform
  • spirituality

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Editorial

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8 pages, 197 KiB  
Editorial
Preface to the Special Issue “Sufism in the Modern World”
by Saeed Zarrabi-Zadeh
Religions 2024, 15(5), 554; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15050554 - 29 Apr 2024
Viewed by 475
Abstract
“Sufism is the major sacrifice offered by Islam on the altar of its modernization”, declares a contemporary scholar while explaining the modern challenges faced by Sufism (Weismann 2015, p [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sufism in the Modern World)

Research

Jump to: Editorial

18 pages, 307 KiB  
Article
Yoga and the “Pure Muhammadi Path” of Muhammad Nasir ‘Andalib
by Soraya Khodamoradi and Carl Ernst
Religions 2024, 15(3), 359; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15030359 - 18 Mar 2024
Viewed by 881
Abstract
This article addresses the question of how early modern Sufis dealt with yoga. Some scholars have argued that a movement of Sufi reform occurred in South Asia during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, representing a shift towards legal Islam, which would call for [...] Read more.
This article addresses the question of how early modern Sufis dealt with yoga. Some scholars have argued that a movement of Sufi reform occurred in South Asia during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, representing a shift towards legal Islam, which would call for the rejection of non-Islamic practices. This explanation overlooks the rhetorical construction of Sufi claims of spiritual status and shari‘a legitimacy, and it fails to distinguish eighteenth-century examples from the very different reform movements created in the nineteenth century in response to European colonialism. This article considers as a case study Nala-yi ‘Andalib (“The Nightingale’s Lament”), the central text produced by the pre-colonial founder of the “pure Muhammadi path”, Muhammad Nasir ‘Andalib (d. 1758), with the help of intertextual references to the masterpiece of his son, Khwaja Mir Dard (d. 1785), ‘Ilm al-Kitab (“Knowledge of the Book”). The consequence of their evaluation of yoga was not the systematic rejection of non-Islamic practices, but a guarded acknowledgement of their efficacy within a framework that used Indic references as a straw man for intra-Islamic debates. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sufism in the Modern World)
30 pages, 9828 KiB  
Article
Bektaşi Female Leadership in a Transnational Context: The Spiritual Career of a Contemporary Female Dervish in Germany
by Sara Kuehn
Religions 2023, 14(8), 970; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14080970 - 27 Jul 2023
Viewed by 2139
Abstract
In this article, I bring premodern and contemporary Bektaşi perspectives to the current ethical debate on gender equality in the Bektaşi Sufi order. While there is tremendous potential in the historical legacy of Kadıncık Ana, the spiritual successor of Hacı Bektaş-ı Veli (d. [...] Read more.
In this article, I bring premodern and contemporary Bektaşi perspectives to the current ethical debate on gender equality in the Bektaşi Sufi order. While there is tremendous potential in the historical legacy of Kadıncık Ana, the spiritual successor of Hacı Bektaş-ı Veli (d. ca. 1271), and her peers who served as female spiritual leaders in the proto-Bektaşiyye, the institutionalization of the Bektaşi order resulted in the marginalization of women and their exclusion from certain opportunities and positions in religious practice and leadership. This article explores the spiritual journey of Güllizar Cengiz (today also known as Neriman Aşki Derviș after becoming a Bektaşi “dervish”), including her foundation of an Alevi-Bektaşi cultural institute in Cologne, Germany, in 1997 and the opening of a Bektaşi Sufi lodge (dergah) in the Westerwald near Bonn in 2006. I explore the impact of Hacı Bektaş’s teaching that both men and women have the same spiritual potential to become the ultimately ungendered insan-ı kamil, or spiritually and ethically completed human being. I also discuss the time-honored Bektaşi principle of “moving with the times and staying one step ahead of the times” and how it can inform contemporary understandings of ethical and spiritual prerogatives within Bektaşism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sufism in the Modern World)
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39 pages, 8220 KiB  
Article
Contemporary Art and Sufi Aesthetics in European Contexts
by Sara Kuehn
Religions 2023, 14(2), 196; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020196 - 2 Feb 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 4620
Abstract
This article examines the work of seven contemporary artists whose aesthetics exemplify the “lived” experience of Islamic mysticism or Sufism (Arabic tasawwuf) within a European context. The work of artists born in Islamic majority countries and familiar with “traditional” Sufi idioms and [...] Read more.
This article examines the work of seven contemporary artists whose aesthetics exemplify the “lived” experience of Islamic mysticism or Sufism (Arabic tasawwuf) within a European context. The work of artists born in Islamic majority countries and familiar with “traditional” Sufi idioms and discourses, but now immersed in Western culture, is often associated with “diasporic art”. From this hybrid perspective some of their artistic narratives reconfigure or even subvert the “traditional” Sufi idioms, and do so in such a way as to provoke a more profound sensory experience in the viewer than traditional forms of art. Drawing upon recent methodological tendencies inspired by the “aesthetic turn”, this study explores post- and decolonial ways of thinking about Sufi-inspired artworks, and the development of a transcultural Sufi-inspired aesthetic within the context of migration and displacement over the last half-century. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sufism in the Modern World)
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0 pages, 277 KiB  
Article
Nationalism, Post-Secular and Sufism: The Making of Neo-Bektashism by Moikom Zeqo in Post-Socialist Albania
by Gianfranco Bria
Religions 2022, 13(9), 828; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13090828 - 5 Sep 2022
Viewed by 1549
Abstract
This article focuses on Moikom Zeqo’s (1949–2020) work Syri i Tretë (“The Third Eye”, 2001) as a New Age reworking of Albanian Bektashism. The success of this book, and the recognition that Bektashi authorities themselves accorded it, make it highly representative of Bektashi [...] Read more.
This article focuses on Moikom Zeqo’s (1949–2020) work Syri i Tretë (“The Third Eye”, 2001) as a New Age reworking of Albanian Bektashism. The success of this book, and the recognition that Bektashi authorities themselves accorded it, make it highly representative of Bektashi neo-intellectualism and beyond: it is a cross-section that enables us to investigate the complex reworking of Sufi knowledge in a post-secular environment, such as Albania. This article examines this specific work while outlining a history of the Bektashiyya from the Ottoman era to the post-socialist Albanian period and highlighting its doctrinal and practical developments. Syri i Tretë is the expression of a secularist engulfment of post-socialist or even post-secular religion, which Bektashism embodies. Thus, Zeqo’s work expresses a common trend in Albanian society that is beyond the members of the Bektashi community. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sufism in the Modern World)
30 pages, 525 KiB  
Article
Naqshbandi Mujaddidi Mysticism in the West: The Case of Azad Rasool and His Heirs
by Michael E. Asbury
Religions 2022, 13(8), 690; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13080690 - 27 Jul 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2426
Abstract
The transfer of Sufism as a lived tradition to the Euro-American sphere, which first began in the early twentieth century, is a notable modern development that has been the subject of increasing academic interest in recent decades. Yet much of the literature on [...] Read more.
The transfer of Sufism as a lived tradition to the Euro-American sphere, which first began in the early twentieth century, is a notable modern development that has been the subject of increasing academic interest in recent decades. Yet much of the literature on this topic to date has focused more on what has changed during the process of transfer, rather than on what has remained the same. It has also tended to prioritize context over mysticism. However, examining the main mystical doctrines and practices of the case study lineage of the Indian shaykh Azad Rasool (d. 2006), who from 1976 sought to introduce his teachings to Westerners arriving in India in search of spiritual fulfillment, in fact reveals substantial continuity with the early and pre-modern past. Such examination involved textual analysis of the primary sources of this lineage combined with multi-sited ethnography, comprised of participant observation as well as interviews, conducted primarily in Germany and the US, along with an excursion to India, among members of the two branches of this lineage between 2015 and 2020. It thus seems that shifting focus from context to mysticism itself, at least in some traditions, has the potential to also reveal much continuity in spite of changing contextual factors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sufism in the Modern World)
21 pages, 462 KiB  
Article
Charles Taylor and the Invention of Modern Inwardness: A Sufi, Constructive Response
by Muhammad U. Faruque
Religions 2022, 13(8), 674; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13080674 - 25 Jul 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 3779
Abstract
Philosophers such as Charles Taylor have claimed that selfhood is a distinctly modern phenomenon, associated with inwardness, inner depths, and creativity. In this conception, selfhood is defined in terms of “radical reflexivity”, which saw its emergence with the likes of Descartes. Thus, according [...] Read more.
Philosophers such as Charles Taylor have claimed that selfhood is a distinctly modern phenomenon, associated with inwardness, inner depths, and creativity. In this conception, selfhood is defined in terms of “radical reflexivity”, which saw its emergence with the likes of Descartes. Thus, according to Taylor, it is only with modern people that we see the appearance of selfhood and subjectivity, whereas premoderns did not have a notion of the self, because they lacked the essential conceptions of inwardness and reflexivity. The purpose of this article is to challenge and overturn the above thesis by presenting how various historical Sufi–Islamic authors placed “inwardness and reflexivity” at the center of their conceptions of the self, while emphasizing its ambivalent nature. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sufism in the Modern World)
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13 pages, 285 KiB  
Article
Sufism and Shari‘a: Contextualizing Contemporary Sufi Expressions
by William Rory Dickson
Religions 2022, 13(5), 449; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13050449 - 17 May 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 4336
Abstract
In this article I propose that questions about the nature of contemporary Sufism, especially in Western contexts, can be addressed with further precision and nuance by shifting the focus from Sufism’s relationship to Islam, to its relationship to shari‘a, or Islamic law [...] Read more.
In this article I propose that questions about the nature of contemporary Sufism, especially in Western contexts, can be addressed with further precision and nuance by shifting the focus from Sufism’s relationship to Islam, to its relationship to shari‘a, or Islamic law (fiqh). As very few questioned Sufism’s Islamic nature prior to the modern period, this analytical shift offers the advantage of contextualizing contemporary debates about Sufism within the much richer history of intra-Islamic difference over Sufism and shari‘a. I suggest that traditional Sufi-shari‘a conceptions, though varied in nature, can be categorized for analytical purposes as (a) juristic, (b) supersessionist, and (c) formless Sufism. I propose these terms not as archetypal categories, but rather as a tentative template for mapping Sufi approaches to the shari‘a, which can allow us to better appreciate how contemporary Western Sufi orientations towards the shari‘a reflect premodern tendencies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sufism in the Modern World)
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