Commanding Sultans to Wandering Dervishes: Sufism in the Late Medieval Era
Meena Sharify-Funk [+]
Wilfrid Laurier University
William Rory Dickson [+]
University of Winnipeg
The diversity of contemporary Sufism and its dynamism during the colonial era can be traced to shared roots, which we explore in Chapter Four, considering Sufism’s role during the height of the Muslim “Gunpowder” empires between the 15th and 18th centuries: the Ottoman, Safavid, andMughal dynasties. In terms of politics and power, this chapter delves into the close relations some Sufis had with Muslim dynasties. The Safavid political dynasty itself emerged out of a Sufi order, while Sufi orders were integral to the social and political structures of Ottoman life. In Mughal India, Sufism was closely associated both with efforts to dissolve boundaries between Muslims and Hindus, and with movements to reassert the superiority of Islam and to entrench the boundaries between Muslims and non-Muslims. In contrast to Sufism’s relationship with imperial elites, we discuss the wandering mendicants of Islam, the dervishes, representing a counter-cultural Sufism that rejected social norms and conventions. Regardless of their position in society, Muslims in general during this period congregated in Sufi shrines, seeking the blessings of the saints. The Sufi shrine then brought together all elements of Muslim society, being honored by imperial courts, venerated by dervishes, and respected as focal points of local devotion. As we illustrate, in contrast to the contemporary period, Sufism during this era was integral to almost every facet of life in Muslim societies, infusing government, commerce, and industry as well as the arts and sciences.