of the papers for the conference on
"Sufism and the modern",
Jakarta, September 4-7, 2003
and Governmentality in Late Ottoman and Republican Turkey
Center for Modern and Contemporary Studies, University of California, Los
article examines the practices of a Sufi Order in contemporary Turkey to
identify and understand how specifically modern practices and techniques
have come to take a role in the constitution of ethical dispositions that
are central to the viability of Islamic virtues. Building on recent work
that approaches Islam as a discursive tradition, I argue that this work
has elided the historicity of Islamic institutions as they have evolved in
a global context of encounter with centers of power outside the Muslim
world. Attending to the Ottoman/Turkish case of Islamic practices
characterized by a historical articulation with modern techniques such as
rationalization and normalization - that assemblage Foucault referred to
as governmentality - entails a reconceptualization of the relationship
between Islam and modernity, for governmentality in the Ottoman lands was
not a colonial project as it was in many parts of the Muslim world, but
one of sovereign Ottoman reform; the Turkish present is not a postcolonial
one. The article considers the 'archaeology' of the present for Turkish
Sufis, summarizing the incorporation of the Orders into the 'ilmiye
hierarchy in the late Ottoman Empire and their bureaucratization with the
establishment of the meclis-i meshayih in 1866; institutional
reforms in the 1910s; and the proscription of the Orders in 1925.
The article then examines the contemporary practices of a
Naqshbandi order and argues that what they are focused on is not the
so-called experience of the divine, but rather the Good as defined by God,
and how one can be predisposed to practice it. As such, these practices
are within the broader Islamic disciplines of virtue, but are structured
around techniques of constitution of a ethical disposition that are orally
transmitted, though grounded in the mode by which the textual traditions
have themselves been transmitted, namely sohbet [Ar. suhba],
or 'companionship-in-conversation.' I describe Naqshbandi sohbet as
one of their central devotional practices, and argue that it is an
instance of what linguists have called performative or instrumental
language in practice. It is not orality per se that is valued here over
texts; rather it is the kinds of relationships formed in the act of oral
transmission and liable to constitute a moral habitus, or structured
disposition, in the devotee that are the object of careful cultivation.
Central to these techniques is language not as representation, but as
practice. To the extent that the viability of Islamic disciplines is
focused on the creation of specific relationships, they are inherently and
intimately linked to formal and informal social, political and economic
institutions. The historicities of Sufi practice and governmentality are
shown in the Ottoman/Turkish case to be coterminous, suggesting that the
relationship between Islam and modernity cannot be adequately interpreted
in terms of alterity, incommensurability or difference.
social: the emergence of neo-traditional Sufism in Iran.
van den Bos
My paper addresses aspects of (Soltan'alishahi) Ne'matollahi Sufism in
modern Iran in relation to questions of
traditionalism versus transformations;
construction of Sufism as modern and traditional, and
the role of
particularly explores the noticeable absence of Shiite Sufism from major
social and political arenas, including civil society, in contemporary
Iran. Post-revolution quietism in the Islamic Republic had a rationale in
Sufis seeking accommodation to the new regime. But Sufism remains
virtually absent from the public sphere now that state strictures on
Sufism have loosened under Khatami and Sufism even attains a new societal
and religious legitimacy. This state of affairs apparently underscores the
modernist image of Sufism, famously painted by the nationalist historian
Ahmad Kasravi, as a traditionalist and otherworldly religiosity. However,
different circumstances prevailed not long ago, in Pahlavi Iran
(1921-1979). "Pahlavi Sufism" was marked by a new orientation on
the economy, society, the nation (1921-1941), and royal patronage and
affiliation by many of the regime's modernist elite (1941-1979). More
important, Sufism's continued nation-state orientation is a modern fact
that extends to the Islamic Republic. This and new, surrogate religious
conceptualisations of the social point to neo-traditionalism as an
explanation of Sufism's current state. Neo-traditionalism comes to the
fore in a Shiite Sufi's Sociology of Islam that primarily attempts to
allocate valayat/velayat doctrine, central to the Soltan'alishahi
order, to social realms. Its schemes impose a web of disembodied social
science terminology upon Shiite theology to paint the Soltan'alishahi aqtab's
embodiment of Shiite Sufism as true Islam. The project inverses
Shari'ati's political Sociology of Islam that sought Islamic language to
account for a more or less sociological vision.
Reformist Sufism of the Tablighi Jama'at: A Case Study of the Meos of
The Tablighi Jama'at (TJ) is believed to be the largest Islamic movement
in the world today, in terms of numbers of followers and geographical
spread. It would not be wrong to say that the TJ is present in almost
every country with a significant Sunni Muslim population.
The TJ has its roots in the reformed Sufism as represented by the founders
of the Dar ul-'Ulum madrasa at the north Indian town of Delhi. The founder
of the TJ, Maulana Muhammad Ilyas (d.1944) had studied at the madrasa, and
counted among his teachers numerous spiritual preceptors, one of whom,
Mahmud al-Hasan, had initiated him into the Chishti Sabri order, with
which many of the teachers of Deoband were also closely connected. Deoband
represented a form of reformed Sufism, aiming at reconciling the shari'at
and the tariqat, attacking what were seen as 'un-Islamic' and 'Hindu'
customs among the Muslims and exhorting them to closely follow the model
of the Prophet. The madrasa also represented a creative response to the
challenges of colonial modernity. Thus, while it insisted that Muslims
should steer clear of the 'irreligious' influences of Western culture, it
did not hesitate from taking advantage of new inventions that the British
had introduced, from methods of bureaucratic management and organization
to the printing press and other new forms of communication.
The TJ itself grew out of the rapidly changing context of early twentieth
century colonial north India, characterized by fierce, and often violent,
competition between Muslim and Hindu elites. It was in response to the
challenge of Hindu revivalist efforts to bring to the fold large numbers
of neo-Muslims that Maulana Ilyas actually launched his movement, in the
area of Mewat, to the immediate south of Delhi in the early 1920s, among a
group of neo-Muslims known as the Meos. Ilyas saw himself as conveying the
message of reformed Sufism of the Deoband school, but using his own method
of communication (tariqa-i tabligh). The focus of his efforts was on
cultivation of faith (iman), instructing the Meos in the basic Islamic
rituals and the abandoning of 'un-Islamic' customs.
Despite its vast geographical spread, the TJ continues to consider Mewat
its most successful experimental ground, and most Meo Muslims continue to
identify, to varying degrees, with the movement. Among the issues that
this paper seeks to explore are the following:
The form and content of the reformist Sufism of the TJ in Mewat
2. Reasons for the spread of Tablighi-type reformism in Mewat
3. The ways in which Tablighi reformism has sought to negotiate with
earlier forms of Islam (mainly centred on the cults of the shrines of
Sufis and Hindu deities) and Meo social institutions.
4. The reinterpretation of the role and function of the Sufi shaikh and
the 'alim, as represented in the TJ and the manner in which these are
perceived by the Meos.
5. Re-conceptualisation of 'Islam' and 'Hinduism' in Tablighi discourse
and what this has meant for inter-communal and inter-caste relations in
6. Tablighi responses, first to the colonial state and then to the 'Hindu'
state of post-1947 India and how these have impacted on the Meos.
7. Tablighi responses to the challenges of modernity, with specific
reference to 'modern' education, women's rights and secular politics.
8. The impact on Meo self-understandings of global Tablighi activism and
its advocacy of Islamic scripturalism.
9. The impact of urbanization, modernization and the activities of the
modern state on Meo attitudes towards the TJ.
10. Selective adaptations and negotiations of the Tablighi message by Meos
to creatively engage with the demands of 'modernity', including modern
education and political involvement.
charisma: Indonesia's living
saints in the closing years of the Suharto era
Not many countries have recently had a living saint as the head of state.
Abdurrahman Wahid was widely recognized as a saint by both educated and
uneducated members of the organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), which he led
from 1984 to 1999, the year of his election as president. During those
fifteen years, which were a period of modernization and fierce political
struggles, the concept of sainthood became of much more central importance
in the NU than it had been before. Significantly, Abdurrahman's
grandfather, Hasyim Asy'ari, who had been one of the founders and the
leading religious authority in the NU, had been fiercely opposed to Sufi
orders and favoured a strict concentration on fiqh. Under Abdurrahman,
'spiritual' activities became more conspicuous in the NU, and various men
known as 'saints' (wali) - none of them regular Sufi teachers, however,
and at least some of them seemingly lax in formal religious obligations -
came to prominence and gained political patronage.
rise of saints in the NU had a parallel in other circles. A remarkable
case is that of Kadirun Yahya, a chemistry teacher turned Naqshbandi
shaykh cum miracle worker and propagator of
'scientific' metaphysics, who found himself powerful patrons and a
large following. Kadirun Yahya followed in the tracks of his
father-in-law, an equally remarkable man, who cultivated (and cleverly
used) good relations with President Sukarno and who invented a
correspondence course in Naqshbandi discipline to spread his network of
authority over the entire country, but who never developed saint-like
traits and was more of a bureaucrat. In this branch of the Naqshbandiyya
too, sainthood emerged in an organizational context that appeared to have
done away with the concept.
resurgence of sainthood in Muslim circles where it used to be relatively
rare coincides in time with, and may be directly related to, the gradual
shift in cultural and religious orientation (as well as political
alliances) of Suharto and other key members of the elite away from abangan
syncretism to more explicitly Islamic forms of spiritualism. The growth of
Sufi orders at the expense of syncretist kebatinan movements is another
aspect of this shift.
without tasawwuf: A Naqshbandi-related Response to the Islamist Critique
in India and the Middle East
University of Haifa
have always regarded themselves as belonging to the most orthodox and
activist Sufi tradition. During the twentieth century they were also in
the forefront of Sufi reactions to the multi-faceted challenge of
modernity. Drawing on their inner spiritual and organizational resources,
various Naqshbandi branches adopted diverse strategies to coop with their
formidable opponents: Western rationalism, the secularized State, and
Islamic fundamentalism. These responses were formulated at times within
the traditional Sufi framework, but at other cases they amounted to its
transformation into new religious ideas and structures.
This paper focuses on one Naqshbandi-related response to the 'modern',
namely, the attempt to avert the Islamist critique by relinquishing the
specific Sufi terminology, and even the term tasawwuf itself. My aim is to
analyze the discursive meaning of this idea and its organizational
implications against the sociopolitical context of the two major countries
in which it was employed, India and Syria. I will begin by observing its
use by two opposing Naqshbandi-related Syrian thinkers, the State-backed
Grand Mufti Ahmad Kuftaru and the Muslim Brothers' mouthpiece Sa'id Hawwa.
I will then trace the origins of this idea to the Indian scholar Abu al-Hasan
'Ali al-Nadwi, head of Nadwat al-Ulama who also had roots in the
The idea of Sufism without tasawwuf provides us with one more example of
the remarkable ability of those trained in the Naqshbandi tradition to
adapt to the 'modern', while it also points out to the continuing
importance of India, homeland of its most pervasive Mujaddidi offshoot, in
disseminating innovative religious ideals.
and Representation: Sufi and Sabili
Indonesia seems to lurch from one crisis to another, Sufis and Sufism
appear, at least on the surface, to be obscured by the smoke and
confusion. In this short contribution, I shall try to extract competing
visions of Sufism by comparing the content of a journal that once enjoyed
the support of Indonesia's first ulama-president (Sufi) and a Salafi
periodical that has risen to become, it is claimed, the most-read news
journal in Indonesia, and which is often frank in its distrust of State
motives (Sabili). Such a comparison will, I hope, serve to address the
research questions raised by this project. Namely: what does (or should)
Sufism mean to a largely urbanized and educated readership in Reformasi
Indonesia? How is Sufism presented as either something modern or
anti-modern in relation to the current climate of crisis - whether in
terms of the widely challenges of globalisation, modernity or violence?
What role to Sufis have to play in resolving Indonesia's problems? And is
Sufism presented as something eternal or novel in the process? Still,
rather than concentrating solely on the incidences of dicursive conflict
between the journals, in my paper I will attempt to read between the lines
to determine how their respective messages may be read together, and
indeed by a shared audience.
modernity in contemporary Senegal: Religious dynamics in a Sufi-dominant
University of Florida
Islam, to which 94% of the West African country's population adheres, is
distinguished by being overwhelmingly Sufi in orientation; over 90% of the
Muslim population declares an allegiance to one of the major Sufi orders (turuq)
which have dominated religious organization in the country.
A distinctive feature of Senegalese Sufism is its high degree of
formal organization and the public and political character of Sufi
institutions in the country. While the basic forms of this
organization--and especially the associations known as daaras and da'iras--were
originally rural and agricultural in origin, the Sufi orders in Senegal
have over the course of the post-colonial period managed to transform
themselves into highly effective means of socio-economic organization in
urban and international settings.
process of this evolution, and linked to the country's political history
in the post-colonial period, the Sufi orders have engaged in debates and
discussions with representatives of new forms of "reformist" and
"arabizing" Islam which have gradually gained in importance.
While in many African (and
other) contexts such encounters between "African Islam" and
"Islam in Africa" have been described as conflictual and
mutually incompatible, in the Senegalese context I will argue that debates
about what it means to be "Muslim," "African" and
"Modern" have blurred these distinctions and produced new and
hybrid forms of religious modernity, rooted deeply in Sufism but borrowing
from other elements of the Islamic tradition.
paper will examine these dynamics by focusing on the case of the Mouride
Sufi order, considered in the broader Senegalese religious context.
As a point of departure and a means of examining notions of Mouride
modernity, the paper will examine the ideology of the Mouride Students'
Association at the Université Gaston Berger de St. Louis in Senegal, as
well as the official presentation of the order offered by MICA, the Murid
Islamic Community of North America.
Spiritual Debates and Social Implications in Contemporary Egypt: The Case
of the Khalwatiyya
paper examines contemporary Egyptian Sufism in three areas, of which the
first is a study of the basis of the Sufi shaykh's authority: how is a
shaykh recognized? Michael Gilsenan's anthropological work on Egyptian
Sufi started a debate on the adaptation of Sufism to the modern world, and
while his prognosis of the irremediable decline of Sufi orders has been
rightly criticized, his analysis of the means of transmission of shaykhly
charisma-- which draws on the Weberian concept of routinization--has
influenced many later researchers. Routinization of charisma cannot,
however, be relevant to the study of Sufism, since the shaykh--whether or
not he heads an order--is not a canonical superior as in Christian
congregations, but is instead even more than a spiritual director--he is a
saint. This thesis will be supported by specific examples.
second part of the paper considers the factors that contribute to the
success or decline of Sufi orders. Except for the Burhamiyya, scholars
working on Egyptian Sufism have generally studied the Shadhiliyya, an
order whose branches illustrate a Sufism that is urban, institutionalized,
organized, hierarchical, and official--that benefits from the support of
the state. Their shaykhs are public persons, integrated into the state
machinery. Such orders are not, however, typical of Egyptian Sufism, and
the institutionalization of an order may even bring with it the germs of
its later decline and extinction. The support of the state, contrary to F.
De Jong's view, is very far from being a central factor in the survival or
decline of an order, if only because most Egyptian orders have no official
existence and enjoy no political patronage.
third part of my paper shows how Sufism and the orders today are
intertwined in the social and political structures of the country. I will
proceed from the example of the Khalwatiyya. Both the present minister of
Waqfs and the present mufti of the republic are members of the Khalwatiyya,
but while in the eighteenth century this allegiance would have been
prominent, today it is almost unknown to the general public.
Saints in the Age of Neoliberalism
African Studies Centre, Leiden
on research in two different and sometimes competing Islamic religious
centers and among three lineages of Islamic religious specialists in Mali,
I trace transformations in the nature of the religious authority that have
accompanied the period of neo-liberal reforms. I examine some of the ways
in which the world of commodities has come to permeate the largely
ritualized "visits" with exceptional Muslim religious leaders
considered saints. I argue that certain processes of commodification-the
exchange of blessings and prayers for commodities-have intensified around
Sufi saints in the neoliberal era. Such processes of commodification have
facilitated the personalization of religious authority in certain
provincial saints, to whom many have turned for succor in these times of
political and economic uncertainty. These living saints are exemplars for
ordinary people though clearly not the puritans or ascetic world-renouncers
that Weberian models would lead one to expect. Through their great wealth,
very large families, and large entourages, certain saints exhibit the
capacity for successful social reproduction, that is, precisely what has
become much more difficult for the vast majority, who face an increasingly
precarious existence in the era of neo-liberal reforms, declining real
wages, cutbacks in public services and education, and recurring political
crises. I argue that such saints have become more privatized religious
figures-effectively free-floating sanctifiers-in a religious economy that
has come to be more like a market.
Anom's responses to current Islamic issues in Indonesia
Universitas Islam Negeri, Jakarta
Shohibulwafa Tajul 'Arifin (Abah Anom) is one of leading murshids
(spiritual masters) of the Tariqa Qadiriyya Naqshbandiyya (TQN) and a very
well known personality in Indonesia. Following his success in adapting a
regime of Sufi devotions to a program for the treatment and rehabilitation
of young drug addicts, he has developed a set of speeches, announcements
or maklumat, in which he responds to current issues.
also continuously refers to the Tanbih (a kind of wasiyya,
meaning advice) that he received from his murshid, K.H. Abdullah Mubarok (Abah
Sepuh d. 1956). In the Tanbih there is a short poem called the
chain of pearls which has a special position in Abah Anom's repertoire.
The Tanbih best reflects the daily practical life of faith for the
tariqa members and Muslims in general, as well as the nation. It explains
how the ikhwan/akhawat (members of TQN) should behave one another,
and how to establish a good relationship with fellow members of other
tariqa (in particular), and with Muslim brothers (in general), and how to
be a good citizen of the nation. It also implies a positive attitude
towards the government in power. It does not explicitly mention the name
of any country and so it can also be applied to other national questions.
spite of his advanced age, Abah Anom shows a lively interest and concern
with the current political situation of the country and such issues as the
emergence of numerous new political parties, violent disturbances and
ethnic conflicts in various part of the country, problems of juvenile
delinquency, the widespread drug problems, the issue of "reformasi"
(as the transition to a post-Suharto order is called), as well as his
responses to the disaster (musibah) of Iraq.
I believe that he is
quite well-informed as to the latest developments in the country, and he
speaks publicly on these matters on certain occasions such as Indonesian
Independence day, general election etc. However, his tacit endorsement of
his followers' right to vote as they pleased, for example, in the general
election of 1999 was much appreciated, because prior to the previous
election in 1997, he was explicit in advising them to vote for a specific
party. The concerns of Abah Anom are continuously printed and read in
public by his representative in Suryalaya area, while for the far-off
region, it is sent by mail.
Disciples in the Modern World:
Difference and Resemblance in Local and Global Sufism
paper analyses the nature of sociality and intimacy among saintly murids
in South Asia and Britain, with a special focus on younger disciples. It
begins from the question of difference and resemblance in global and local
Sufism; the fact that in any locality in South Asia, there is a wide range
of Sufi saints and cults, from major shrines of great antiquity, managed
by descendants of the original saintly founder or guardians of his tomb,
to minor pirs with a highly localised clientele. In any generation, only
some outstanding living saints succeed in founding major regional cults
which extend widely beyond their immediate locality. The paper begins by
discussing an instance of one such major cult, which has extended into
same variability found in South Asia is also found in Britain, the paper
shows. Analysing several Pakistani Sufi saints and groups based or with
branches in Manchester, it discloses that while Sufi groups differ a good
deal in their religious orientation and practice - from very strict
Naqshbandi Mujaddidiya and more traditional Sufi orders at one end of the
spectrum to, at the other extreme, somewhat eclectic and hence
idiosyncratic groups - all the different Sufi groups in the city have
developed voluntary networking and mutual visiting throughout Britain and
transnationally, to Pakistan. A striking feature of Sufi groups in the
city is their remarkable vitality, evidenced by the deep faith and love
people feel for their saint and their willingness to devote their lives to
him or her. This vitality needs to be considered, the paper proposes,
against the background of a more general debate about the 'decline' of
Sufi cults and of charisma more generally in the context of secular
modernity. Against this view the paper shows that British-based Sufi
groups forge new national and international networks that bridge towns and
cities in Britain and Pakistan and incorporate members of different
kinship, regional and caste groups in relations of amity and
quasi-kinship. These translocal ties of amity throw light on emergent
processes of voluntary sociality of British Pakistanis in the UK.
different cases, seen together, show that for young people in Britain of
Pakistani origin Sufism is grasped in social and ethical rather than
merely 'magical' terms; it is also perceived to lead to an experience of
transcendence and to a deeper, more real, form of knowledge. In all the
groups, being a disciple leads to a broader exposure to like-minded
Pakistanis living in different towns and cities in Britain, and to new
kinds of links with Pakistan and Islam.
and the Borderlands of Islamic Spirituality in Indonesia's New Sufi
scholars have quite appropriately taken exception to Gellner's association
of Sufism with heterodoxy and an outmoded traditionalism, Indonesian
urbanites in social strata most intensely engaged with processes of
modernization in the last thirty years have had to grappled with just such
stereotyping of 'Sufi' practices and orders (tarekat). This paper
traces those stereotypes to the legacies of colonial administrative
strategies, currents in the early twentieth century Muslim Modernist
movement, and constructs of religion articulated in mid-twentieth century
social science and religious studies discourses of
'religion.' It is argued that these influences combined to shape
the legal and administrative structures that defined 'proper' religiosity
for Indonesian citizens of the Republic in New Order Indonesia (1968-1998)
in 'high modern' terms as scripturalist, 'rational,' congregational and
exclusive, thereby devaluing experiential religiosity and eclecticism as
superstition and violations of orthodoxy. It further argues that the
increasingly intense experiences of globalisation and 'late modernity'
into which Indonesia's new Muslim middle and upper classes have been drawn
have prompted such cosmopolitan Muslims to rework 'high modern'
constructions of religiosity in general and Islamic spirituality in
particular in what has been called 'late-' or 'ultra-modern' terms. In
this process contemporary constructions of 'Sufism,' encountered and
shaped through novel Muslim educational institutions and progressive
exponents of Sufi orders, have facilitated a broadening of Indonesian
conceptions of 'religion' (agama) signaled by the recovery of positive
valences for autonomy, eclecticism and experiential religiosity. Evidence
for this is found in the declining salience of 'kebatinan' (I.
inwardness; the mysticism of groups outside 'religion') in cosmopolitan
discourse and the increasing salience of 'spiritualitas.' It is
also found in the willingness of highly committed cosmopolitan Muslims
educated in the new adult Muslim education institutions to patronize a
broad range of 'spiritual' groups, both clearly identified with Islam and
otherwise (traditional Sufi orders, modern 'workshopped' programs on tasawwuf,
international New Age therapies and New Religious Movements, Sufi
orders 'hot-housed' in the West on the model of Indic NRMs, home-grown
post-kebatinan spiritual groups, etc.), all in the name of a broadly
and personal development in Casablanca's elite :
of the self and spiritual pluralism
ideological repositioning of the Arab world got us used to the conversion
from leftist pan-arabism to Islamism. This political center approach
neglected more discrete paths of recentring of the religious reference in
the Arab world. A similar process to what happened in the political field
is occurring in the spiritual field in Morocco during the nineties :
"imported" spiritual products or personal development therapies
(yoga, zen, sophrology, rebirthing) loose their hegemony or are leading to
a new interest for local mysticism, that is to say to Sufism. The order
who benefited the most of this change is the Budshishiyya, a branch of the
Qadiriyya, leaded by Sīdī Hamza, and present now both in the Moroccan
bourgeoisie as well as in the West (France, USA, Spain, but also Brazil).
Nevertheless, in this case, the conversion process is less dictated by an
identitarian process (reappropriation of modernity, identity claims, etc.)
than by a "new age" type of spiritual development :
multi-belonging (either "external pluralism" that is to say
belonging to Sufism and other spiritual techniques, or
"internal", that is to say belonging to several Sufi orders),
vision of religion as a personal realization, individualization,
marginalization of legal aspects of religion and insertion of faith in
highly internationalized networks (Zen monks belonging to Sufi orders
developing their particular Zen teaching, nominating their disciples who
will then export back their teaching to the West through western converts
living previously in Morocco, penetration of Sufism in the Moroccan
bourgeoisie through western converts to Islamic mysticism).
As a result, a certain kind
of syncretism developed at both the level of practices (persons realizing
their zikr in the zazen position, ecstatic states reach
through yoga practice, psychological preparation to the zikr
through Zen meditation, etc.) and theories (all masters of Asian spiritual
traditions adapt them to the Islamic context : search of local equivalents
or substitutes, emancipation from direct affiliation to foreign spiritual
masters, separation between spiritual traditions and their Buddhist
philosophical background; one of them considered Sufism as the ultimate
stage of the yoga development).
Nevertheless, this postmodern indistinctive use of different spiritual
traditions is criticized by a certain kind of "Sufi dogma", that
is to say, the refusal of multi-belonging. As a result, all persons
engaged in this multi-referential spiritual quest have to compose with the
challenge of pluralism. Responses differs from a person to another, but
reflect in a quite clear way both the expansion and the limits of new age
styles of faith in the Arabic world.
Tarekat Kadisiyyah: An Example of Neo-Tarekat Searching for Sympathy of
Urban People in Bandung
Research Desk, Ministry of Religious Affairs, Jakarta, Indonesia
Until recently, tarekats were predominantly linked with rural people.
Tarekats were declared to be traditionalist and the main cause of the
backwardness of the Muslim community throughout the world. It was also
said that tarekats had made a historical distortion of Islamic teachings,
isolating their followers from social interaction; they are old-fashioned
traditionalists opposing progress and modernity. In many other areas,
however, tarekats demonstrate a remarkable flexibility. At present,
several tarekats surfaced in the urban centers of Indonesia and their
rapid spread shows that tarekats continue to perform as a vehicle of
social and cultural cohesion. In the early decades of the 20th century an
increasing number of Muslim intellectuals and activists questioned the
position of tarekats in Indonesian society.
general, these reformist Muslims propagated rational reference to the
sacred texts and Islamic law. Particularly, they rejected the close
association between tarekats and the veneration of saints and holy places.
The critical posture introduced by the so-called neo-Sufi mystical orders
(neo-tarekats), which originated from the Middle East. They disassociated
themselves from existing mystical tradition by the use of very short silsilah
(chain of initiation and transmission of mystical knowledge) in which
entire generations of mystical teachers were omitted. A recent example of
the so-called neo-Tarekats is Tarekat Kadisiyyah, located in central
Bandung city of West Java. The presence of this tarekat met with the
strong opposition from the established (mu'tabar) tarekats.
Tarekat Kadisiyyah continued to attract adherents, both among the rural
and urban population of Bandung. They, consisting of a number of top
officials in the bureaucracy, university students, businesspersons,
executives and other high-wage earners, are now fond of affiliating
themselves with Tarekat Kadisiyyah. Yet, this tarekat comes with a
modified face, it is somewhat different from that of the traditional one.
There is neither such veneration of holy persons nor construction of a
version of Sufi order, tarekat, (in an orthodox manner) aimed at obtaining
closeness with Allah. It is to the study of such 'traditional' Sufism that
they now turn.
needs to be stressed is that adherents of this tarekat have spread out
more apparently among the educated people. An over-abundance of material
wealth has led them to the state of existential emptiness. Life is full of
uncertainty. Their political downfall and loss of wealth can happen at any
time. Thus, everyone is in the state of uncertainty. In that condition,
people feel downhearted, anxious and suffer mental stress. As a
consequence, they no longer indulge themselves in food and drink. They no
longer compete for promotion, because these are already fulfilled.
Instead, they want to make life more meaningful, and they find this in
Sufism. They turn to study tarekats in the pursuit of tranquility in the
knowledge that they can avoid anxiety.
to my findings, members of Tarekat Kadisiyyah until August 1999 number 136
people (68 males and 68 females). From educational level, the majority of
them are university students and graduates (80%). The rest (20%) are
graduates of the maximum of secondary school. Most of them (91%) no longer
experience the state of disappointment (neurosis noogenic), and feel
better, after attending the spiritual gatherings of Tarekat Kadisiyyah for
certain period of time, while 7% are mediocre and 2% do not feel any
better. This data shows that Tarekat Kadisiyyah proves to be meaningful
for those who need to reduce symptoms of disappointment in their life. The
questions that this article will raise are:
* Do they really join the Tarekat Kadisiyyah in order to gain closeness to
* Do they just regard joining the
Tarekat Kadisiyyah as a matter of psychological escape?
* Is the Tarekat Kadisiyyah a kind of creative adaptation of a
traditional tarekat that meets the needs of Modern Muslims and prove
adaptive with social contexts of Bandung city? So, what does tasawwuf mean
to urban members especially those involved with the modern life?
Nursi's Search for Meaning in the Age of Science
Melbourne Institute of Asian Languages and Societies, University of
the horizontal dimension of life refers to the point in time when Man has
forsaken his vertical dimension, the traditionally imagined 'heavenly'
utopia, to realize the 'earthly' utopia instead. The horizontal dimension
marks the time when human fulfillment was seen as no longer above the
cosmos but in time and space. From the end of the 18th century onwards,
major scientific studies were devoted to the empirical phenomena with an
insatiable interest for everything happening in nature. Nature, however,
was not to be contemplated but controlled. The existentialist movement, it
is contended, emerged primarily as a reaction against a world determined
only by the horizontal dimension, and helped draw our attention to a
serious crisis of 'meaning'. 'What is the meaning of my being and of all
being which I am a part? Where do we come from and where are we ultimately
going? How can I save my self amid the mechanised ways of life?
Existentialism showed that questions like these were left utterly
unanswered (Tillich). The popularity of the school of logotherapy further
vindicated existentialism's negative diagnosis of the modern personality.
It is not the will to pleasure of Freudian psychoanalysis, nor the will to
power of Adlerian psychology that Man strives for, but it is the will to
meaning that is his primary motivational force (Frankl).
theologians argue that the eclipse of the vertical dimension, namely, the
transcendental vision or the religious consciousness of the Divine mystery
(al-ghayb) has much to do with the perceived 'crisis of meaning'. They
also argue that much of the 'crisis of faith' or its perceived irrelevance
has to do with the inability of the religious traditions to answer the
existential questions mentioned above in the context of its modern
setting. Responding to 'existential vacuums', and reconciling Man to God,
the ground of Being has been one the major functions of Sufism. In light
of the preceding argument, it appears it is the way Sufism carries its
function today that will determine whether it remains relevant or not.
aim in this paper is to bring out the answers that Said Nursi (1877- 1960)
provides to the questions arising both from the modern mind, and from the
analysis called existentialism. The paper could, thus, be divided into two
parts. Firstly, I discuss Nursi's attempt to re-instate the vertical
dimension against claim of positivism, by focusing on his critique of the
principle of mechanistic causality. Secondly, I move on to demonstrate how
Nursi, by means of this very critique and its outcome conquers
'meaninglessness', answering its feeling of emptiness with purpose, its
feeling of radical doubt with the possibility of a 'yes', its feeling of
annihilation with reconciliation and the feeling of self-inacceptance with
Finally, this brief study provides an insight into the way Nursi deals
with the nature of Being, and shows that his formulation of this issue
represents a significant development in Sufi thought by comparing it with
those of Ibn Arabi and Sirhindi.
Sufism in the Perspective of Contemporary Theory
("Sufism") is both a dimension of Islamic faith experience and
of social organization and identity. The forms of "Sufi" faith
experience and organization have changed over the centuries as the
historical conditions of the ummah have changed. Analysis of Sufism in
modern contexts requires conceptual frameworks that go beyond those
utilized by scholars for interpreting Sufism in pre-modern contexts.
Significant developments in contemporary human affairs have produced
responses from scholars who are developing some theoretical tools for
interpreting them. This paper will identify some of those significant
developments and the conceptual frameworks used to analyze them, and then
discuss how these frameworks can assist in the study of contemporary
1) Globalization and the interaction of cosmopolitan "global"
elements with particular/ local identities and traditions. Increasingly,
scholars are recognizing that globalization is not simply a one-way
process - that it is shaped by local. Roland Robertson utilized the term
"glocalization" for this interactive process in which
"global" features take on distinctive "local" forms
and distinctive particularisms emerge that are comprehensible only as part
of a global framework of interaction. Sufi organizations have taken on
modern global characteristics and are interregional (and sometimes
intercivilizational) in character, while also adapting to specific local
conditions that range from suburban "New Age" Sufism in some
Western cities to new forms of urban association in Muslim majority
societies. However, this "glocal" characteristic of Sufism is
not distinctively modern and reflects the historical modes of creating
syntheses between the "local" and the "universal"
elements of Muslim experiences.
De-secularization of modern/ contemporary society. The religious
resurgence of the late 20th century has brought rethinking of the older
assumptions about the inherently secular nature of modernity. Scholars
like Peter Berger and Rodney Stark have been active in redefining the
importance of religion. Just as the predictions of the disappearance of
religion (especially in the public sphere) in modernity have been proven
wrong, that is also the case with predictions by scholars of the
disappearance of Sufism.
Social movements and their changing nature. In the second have of the 20th
century great interest developed in what came to be called "new
social movements." This led to the development of a broader field of
the study of social movements, and social movement theory can provide
important tools for the analysis of Sufism in contemporary society. This
is especially true in the area of "framing," especially as
analyzed by scholars like David Snow. In this, the continuing vitality of
Sufism can be viewed within the framework of the emergence of what Ronald
Inglehart identifies as the "shift toward postmaterialist
values" in the late 20th century.
Viewing contemporary Sufi experiences and organizations within the
framework of globalization/ glocalization conceptualizations, the
understanding of the desecularization of contemporary society, and recent
social movement theory can be a way of going beyond the older scholarly
perspectives for the study of Sufism that are based on assumptions about
Muslim societies that are tied to the conditions of pre-modern societies,
the assumptions of modernization theory, and ideas about social
organizations that do not take into account developments of the past half