The Many Faces of Contemporary Sufism in North America
Meena Sharify-Funk [+]
Wilfrid Laurier University
William Rory Dickson [+]
University of Winnipeg
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.