Western Sufism

Western Sufism

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

New essays on Western Sufism

There are six chapters on Western Sufism in a new book, Sufism East and West: Mystical Islam and Cross-Cultural Exchange in the Modern World, edited by Jamal Malik and Saeed Zarrabi-Zadeh. The publisher is Brill, which means that the prices are bizarre: $153 or €127. But people are expected borrow Brill books from libraries, not to actually buy them.

In the first part of the book, two chapters deal with early and scholarly Western understandings of Sufism. One, by Carl W. Ernst, “The Dabistan and Orientalist Views of Sufism,” looks at the reception of the Dabistan, an influential text discussed in chapter 6 of my Western Sufism. The other, by Alexander Knysh, “Definitions of Sufism as a Meeting Place of Eastern and Western ‘Creative Imaginations,’” looks at more recent scholarly understandings.

Three chapters then deal with specific stands within Western Sufism. My own “Sufism and the Gurdjieff Movement: Multiple Itineraries of Interaction” argues that there is more than one answer to the question of how the Gurdjieff movement related to Sufism after the death of Gurdjieff. Marcia Hermansen, in “Beyond West Meets East: Space and Simultaneity in Post-Millennial Western Sufi Autobiographical Writings,” looks at four examples of the genre: Michael Sugich, Nuh Ha Mim Keller, Rabia Christine Brodbeck, and Maryam Kabeer Faye. And Marta Dominguez Diaz, in “Between Two or Three Worlds: Reversion to Islam, Beur Culture and Western Sufism in the Tariqa Budshishiyya,” looks at the Budshishiyya, and especially at European-born Budshishis of North African background.

More general questions are handled by Saeed Zarrabi-Zadeh in “Sufism in the Modern West: a Taxonomy of Typologies and the Category of ‘Dynamic Integrejectionism.’” “Integrejectionism” is understood as a hybrid of integration and rejection, as Zarrabi-Zadeh argues that different Western Sufi groups (which can be fitted in to various typologies) all both integrate and reject modernity, though in different ways.

In addition to these six chapters, there are four chapters that focus more on “Eastern” Sufism: Jamal Malik on Sayyid Ahmad Khan, Rachida Chih on the Tariqa Muhammadiyya, Catharina Raudvere on Bosnia, and Ali S. Asani on “Sufi Rock” in Pakistan. The first three topics are all important, and generally something is already known of them. I, for one, knew nothing about “Sufi Rock,” and therefore found Asani’s chapter absolutely fascinating.   

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