Global Sufism

Boundaries, Structures, and Politics

Edited by
September 2019 9781787381346 299pp


Sufism is a growing and global phenomenon, far from the declining relic it was once thought to be. This book brings together the work of fourteen leading experts to explore systematically the key themes of Sufism’s new global presence, from Yemen to Senegal via Chicago and Sweden.

The contributors look at the global spread and stance of such major actors as the Ba ‘Alawiyya, the ‘Afropolitan’ Tijaniyya, and the Gülen Movement. They map global Sufi culture, from Rumi to rap, and ask how global Sufism accommodates different and contradictory gender practices. They examine the contested and shifting relationship between the Islamic and the universal: is Sufism the timeless and universal essence of all religions, the key to tolerance and co-existence between Muslims and non-Muslims? Or is it the purely Islamic heart of traditional and authentic practice and belief?

Finally, the book turns to politics. States and political actors in the West and in the Muslim world are using the mantle and language of Sufism to promote their objectives, while Sufis are building alliances with them against common enemies. This raises the difficult question of whether Sufis are defending Islam against extremism, supporting despotism against democracy, or perhaps doing both.


‘Highly recommended … one of the best academic treatments of contemporary Sufism.’ — Global Intellectual History

Global Sufism is well worth the read and will no doubt be of great benefit in the classroom as we move towards more nuanced, subtle and less normative modes of studying Islam and Sufism.’ — Muslim World Book Review

‘Insightful and nuanced, this engaging and informative book is a must read for those who follow contemporary Sufism, whether academically or personally. From Rumi to rap, San Francisco to Senegal, we get both backstory and analysis of the dynamics of a new global Sufism.’ — Marcia Hermansen, Professor and Director of Islamic World Studies, Loyola University Chicago

‘Ranging between “Afropolitanism”, state-sponsored anti-Salafism and the American New Age movement, these essays chart the varied and sometimes contradictory claims to the legacy and legitimacy of traditional Islam. This is a timely survey of the complex “glocal” politics of transnational Sufism.’ — Nile Green, Professor of History, UCLA, and author of Sufism: A Global History

‘This volume shows Sufism’s amazing viability and adaptability to new circumstances and challenges. It provides a comprehensive and erudite analysis of the vicissitudes of Sufism in various parts of the Muslim world and in the West.’ — Alexander Knysh, Professor of Islamic Studies, University of Michigan, and author of Sufism: A New History of Islamic Mysticism

‘This rich volume provides a selection of chapters on contemporary Sufism in its varied appearances in a global world. All chapters are thoroughly contextualised and present orders, informal groups, individuals and ritual practices as well as political dimensions and influences from present-day spirituality.’ — Catharina Raudvere, Professor of the History of Religions, University of Copenhagen

‘Effectively shatters many interrelated shibboleths we still cling to in our understanding and teaching of Sufism … From radio programs to Rumi to rap music, [the book] covers with
depth and concision a rich amount of ground within its pages.’ — Nova Religion Journal


Francesco Piraino is Marie Curie Fellow at KU Leuven and Acting Director of the Centre for Comparative Studies on Spiritualities and Civilisations at the Cini Foundation.

Mark Sedgwick is Professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at Aarhus University.

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