Not Just Friday Muslims: A European Sufi Order and the Search for Spiritual Realisation and Public Recognition in the Modern World
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CitationEl-Ashry, Lulie. 2020. Not Just Friday Muslims: A European Sufi Order and the Search for Spiritual Realisation and Public Recognition in the Modern World. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation considers the place of Islam in contemporary Europe. Specifically, it historically and geographically situates the Ahmadiyya Idrisiyya Shadhiliyya Sufi order in the European context. The order was founded in the 1980s and is comprised of autochthonous Italian and French converts to Islam. Since its establishment the community has slowly transitioned from being a private, religious order to being a community that seeks to carve a space for itself in the public sphere as representatives of European Islam. This shift has forced community members to redefine themselves with regards to their religion and reconsider their place in a European environment where the interaction between civil society and Islam is in constant flux.
Through a multi-disciplinary approach and a combination of detailed historical analysis and ethnographic fieldwork, I contribute to the study of Islam in the West in three main fields of scholarship: 1) Islam’s historical presence in the West, 2) Sufism in Europe and Transnational Sufi networks; and 3) Conversion to Islam. Specifically, I use the Ahmadiyya Idrisiyya Shadhiliyya as a case study to gain further insight into: the historical presence of converts to Sufi Islam in Europe and the intellectual and genealogical connections that have formed among different Sufi orders across continents; new motives for conversion to Islam, specifically conversion as the result of a search for initiation and the cultural and physical proximity the convert has to the community they wish to join; how disciples of a Sufi order may have to negotiate the search for spiritual realisation with the need for public recognition and legitimacy; and the socio-cultural dynamics at play between different Muslim communities in Europe.
I argue that Islam’s presence in Europe can no longer be thought of only in historical terms, as solely related to post-colonial immigration, or in political terms, as a product of the current migrant crisis, and thus problematise the study of European Muslim convert communities as a monolithic whole. This serves to add a new dimension to Islam’s place in Europe, both in terms of its representation in scholarship and as a lived reality.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37368954
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