Warriors, Philosophers and Poets: Sufis in the Age of Colonialization
Meena Sharify-Funk [+]
Wilfrid Laurier University
William Rory Dickson [+]
University of Winnipeg
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.