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MC2 Sufism


Coordination: Susanne Enderwitz, Hans Harder


The impact of Islamic reform movements since the 18th century has led to the perception of Sufism as a receding and local form of Islam, and downplayed the international (and sometimes global) networks it continues to command. Both as a transgressive form of mysticism and as a network-oriented organisational phenomenon, Sufism has proven to be intricately transcultural also in its recent history.

Proceeding from such premises, the project under MC 2.1 has analysed saintly tombs in Western India. Grey literature, oral tales about Muslim shrines in the region, ethnographic documentation of rituals and a description of Sufi shrines across Coastal Maharashtra and Coastal Southern Gujarat has formed a focus of this project. Research in this project has mostly analysed the manner in which Sufi shrines and the materials they yield are efforts made at politically developing a regional Muslim identity in Western India and a discursive form of historicity that are located within the larger framework of the state in Gujarat and Maharashtra. Sufi shrines as institutions, their literature, rituals, and their very architectural bodies and surroundings become deployed as contested and complex place-making mechanisms as they negotiate with Muslim production of discursive historicity, mystical experiences about miracles, entitlement to place, land ownership, and regional inheritance that is often subject to state control on the one hand and grassroots-based anti-superstition social movements and Islamic reform movements on the other.

One research activity of MC2.2 was concerned with the transnational and -cultural New Religious Movement „Universal Sufism“. This movement is characterized by global travel activities and exchange of ideas of the founder Hazrat Inayat Khan as well as of his followers ever since. The research has focused on the centennial celebration of the founder’s ‘emigration to the West.’ The event was celebrated in Delhi’s shrine area of Nizamuddin. The project’s analysis of the ritual setting provides an example of ritual in transcultural perspective.

Furthermore, MC2.2 investigated Islamic sermons as a transcultural medium in different contexts. A particular focus has been laid on Egypt and Bangladesh. The research treated on one hand questions of content, on the other different approaches of delivery. Particularly the latter have proven to be fruitful in the context of transcultural studies yielding a complex picture of one of the most important genres of religious communication of Islam.