Unveiling Sufism - From Manhattan to Mecca - William Rory Dickson

Unveiling Sufism - From Manhattan to Mecca - William Rory Dickson

Warriors, Philosophers and Poets: Sufis in the Age of Colonialization

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.


Understanding the contemporary complexity of Sufism’s place in North America, and indeed around the world, is possible only if we understand how that place has been shaped by the global power shifts, conflicts, and migrations of the past three centuries, during a period known as the colonial era. The reverberations of this era continue to undergird contemporary patterns, such as the Western fascination with Sufism, and opposition to Sufism among some Muslims. Chapter Three allows us to make sense of these contemporary dynamics. Politically, Sufis such as ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza’iri (d. )organized military resistance to growing European dominance of the Muslim world. Despite being at the forefront of Islamic resistance and revival movements, Sufis like Ahmad al-‘Alawi were soon facing anti-Sufi reformist movements, having to justify their place within Islam in unprecedented ways. Just as Sufism was being contested among Muslims however, Western literary figures like Johann Wolfgang van Goethe (d. 1832) and Ralph Waldo Emerson (d. 1882) were being drawn to Sufism’s rich poetic traditions. The availability of Sufi poetry was in many cases a direct result of the access European colonial officials had to the classical Sufi literary canon. Their presentation of Sufism however largely situated it as something apart from Islam. This separation would have implications for how Sufism was perceived by Muslims and Westerners during this period and ultimately into the 20th and 21st centuries.

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Sharify-Funk, Meena ; Dickson, William. Warriors, Philosophers and Poets: Sufis in the Age of Colonialization. Unveiling Sufism - From Manhattan to Mecca. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 54-94 Aug 2017. ISBN 9781781792445. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=26329. Date accessed: 18 Oct 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.26329. Aug 2017

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