Unveiling Sufism - From Manhattan to Mecca - William Rory Dickson

Unveiling Sufism - From Manhattan to Mecca - William Rory Dickson

The Many Faces of Contemporary Sufism in North America

Unveiling Sufism - From Manhattan to Mecca - William Rory Dickson

Meena Sharify-Funk [+-]
Wilfrid Laurier University
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Meena Sharify-Funk, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor for the Religion and Culture Department at Wilfrid Laurier University who specializes in Islamic studies with a focus on contemporary Muslim thought and identity. Sharify-Funk has written and presented a number of articles and papers on women and Islam, Sufi hermeneutics, and the role of cultural and religious factors in peacemaking. Her current research focuses on the construction of contemporary North American Muslim identity in a post 9/11 world. It is a continuation of her first manuscript, Encountering the Transnational: Women, Islam, and the Politics of Interpretation (2008) which examined the impact of transnational networking on Muslim women’s identity, thought, and activism. She also has co-edited two books, Cultural Diversity and Islam (2003) and Contemporary Islam: Dynamic, Not Static (2006).
William Rory Dickson [+-]
University of Winnipeg
William Rory Dickson, PhD is an Assistant Professor for the Religion and Culture Department at the University of Winnipeg, with a specialization in Islamic Studies. His research focuses on contemporary Islam and Sufism in North America. Dickson's recent book Living Sufism in North America: Between Tradition and Transformation (2015) explores the ways in which Sufi leaders in North America relate to Islamic orthodoxy, authority, and gender. Dickson has published articles on contemporary Muslim thought and Sufism in the Journal of Contemporary Islam and Studies in Religion and has presented his research at a number of national and international conferences.


In Chapter two, we explore Sufism in 20th and 21st century North America. We begin painting a picture of the political climate within which contemporary Sufis operate, in exploring Sufism in post-9/11 Manhattan. Sufis frequently find themselves at the intersection of a variety of political pressures, including growing anti-Muslim sentiment among Americans, and growing anti-Sufi movements among Muslims. We then shift from contemporary politics, to discuss the different interpretive tendencies emerging among Sufi communities in North America, including universalist tendencies that understand Sufism as something not limited to Islam, to more traditionalist perspectives that assert Sufism’s necessary connection to Islamic practices and laws. In order to shed light on Sufism’s remarkable influence on North American artists, we look at the the 13th century Sufi personality, Jalal al-Din Rumi (d. 1273), whose immensely popular poetry has inspired a variety of cultural expressions, from restaurants, to visual art, yoga, social activism, dance, and music. We conclude with a brief mapping of Sufism’s historical development throughout the 20th century, charting the lives and influences of Sufi personalities, who would shape distinct trends, including more universalist approaches to Sufism, and those more closely affiliated with Muslim identity and ritual life.

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Sharify-Funk, Meena ; Dickson, William. The Many Faces of Contemporary Sufism in North America. Unveiling Sufism - From Manhattan to Mecca. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 10-53 Aug 2017. ISBN 9781781792445. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=26328. Date accessed: 02 Jul 2022 doi: 10.1558/equinox.26328. Aug 2017

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