Western Sufism

Western Sufism

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Sufism as Art in Berlin

For all those interested in the New York Sufis once led by Muzaffer Ozak, a lecture-performance at the ACUD macht NEU art collective in Berlin, March 31, 2018, at 7:30pm, "Al-Isnad or Chains we can believe in."

The lecture-performance is by Slavs and Tatars, who have previously held exhibitions and lectures around the world inspired especially by one episode in this story, the "Sufi mosque" with lights by the leading modern artist of the time, Dan Flavin. Although this artistic episode is emphasised, Slavs and Tatars are also good on the "back story."

ACUD macht NEU is at Veteranenstraße 21, Berlin 10119. Read more here.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Sanctuary of Sufism Reoriented

In Western Sufism, I left Sufism Reoriented, the American group descended from Inayat Khan that shifted to Meher Baba and left the Western Sufi milieu, running a preschool in California. A new article by Amos Barshad in Fader reports that it has also built a large “sanctuary” (pictured) in Saranap, California, designed to withstand Californian earthquakes and last 700 years until the expected return of Meher Baba. This project is said to have cost around $35 million, most of it donated by David Overton, a long-term member of Sufism Reoriented who grew rich from his worldwide chain of Cheesecake Factory restaurants. The Sanctuary sounds a bit like a survivalist project, with two thirds of its space under ground. Curious.

My thanks to C for drawing my attention to this article.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Film about the Darqawiyya of Norwich

There is a now a film about the Darqawiyya of Norwich, formerly of Bristol Gardens, discussed in chapter 14 of Western Sufism. It is entitled “Blessed are the Strangers” and is directed by Ahmed Peerbux. It has a website, where a trailer is available. The film lasts 58 minutes.

Using autobiographical interviews with participants, “Blessed are the Strangers” tells the central story of the Darqawiyya from its origins, and also the story of the Brixton-mosque Muslims who ended up joining the Darqawiyya in Norwich. As might be expected, it does not cover all the details discussed in Western Sufism, but the basic understanding of the book and of the film are the same.

Beautifully made, and worth watching.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Burhaniya in Italy

A new article on the Burhaniya in Italy: Paola Abenante, “Essentializing Difference. Text, knowledge and ritual performance in a Sufi brotherhood in Italy,” The e-Journal of Economics & Complexity 2, no. 1 (May 2016), pp. 51-68.

The paper explores the different and competing understandings of ‘proper Islamic praxis’ between Egyptian Muslim immigrants and Italians converts to Islam within the Italian branch of an Egyptian-Sudanese Sufi brotherhood, in Rome. The Italian brethren foreground intellectual engagement with texts and scriptures over ritual performance and the role of the body, elements to which immigrants instead give prominence. I suggest that such polarization and the reasons of its persistence may be best understood by focusing on the performative role of cultural essentialisms against immigrants and of stereotypes concerning the definition of ‘orthodox’ Islam circulating in Italy and beyond. Whereas these prosaic essentialisms and binaries do not actually map socio-cultural realities, they are on their turn performative: essentialised discourses orient everyday praxis, make sense of experience and support forms of empowerment and of domination within the brotherhood.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Dervishes in Dickens and Bérault-Bercastel

Two further eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European references to Sufis again show how familiar the reading public was with Mevlevi turning. In his Histoire générale de l'Église (1778-90), the French historian Antoine-Henri de Bérault-Bercastel discusses the “Convulsionnaires” (Convulsionists), a controversial eighteenth-century religious movement that emphasized direct religious experience. He describes some Convulsionnaires as standing on their heads while others “turned rapidly on their feet like dervishes” (1840 edition, vol. 10, pp. 418-19). The same comparison is made by Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities (1859) when Dickens refers to the Convulsionists while ridiculing pre-revolutionary French society (p. 134). Dickens, however, does not mention turning, which makes the logic of the comparison hard to follow.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Interview on Sacred Matters

Sacred Matters: Religious Currents in Culture has a series in which they ask seven standard questions of the authors of books they like. They liked Western Sufism. My answers are available here.

Monday, February 20, 2017

SOI in Pakistan

Just found: an article on the Sufi Order International in Pakistan (and Dubai). Alix Philippon describes the SOI in Europe from the perspective of a summer camp in the Swiss Alps, and then discusses its Lahore branch and one of that branch's leaders, Ayeda Naqvi, showing how the SOI resolved her spiritual search, as it does the searches of other cosmopolitan Pakistanis who dislike what they see as "general intolerance and the aggressive declarations of all those groups that think they have the monopoly of religious truth."

The article, "De l’occidentalisation du soufisme à la réislamisation du New Age? Sufi Order International et la globalisation du religieux" (Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée 135, July 2014) is available online at http://remmm.revues.org/8487.