4. Sufi Politics in the Contemporary West: The Role and Definition of Sufism in the Works of Javad Nurbakhsh (1926-2008)
Milad Milani [+]
Associate Lecturer, University of Western Sydney Fellow Religion and Society Research Centre
Sufi ideas about altruism and universalism did not emerge in a vacuum. Applying Trompf’s notion of ‘payback’ and ‘retributive logic’ (1994), it is argued that the egalitarian and liberal worldview of Sufism is pertinent to a charged socio-political atmosphere. This chapter offers further contextualization by examining some of the Sufi publications of Javad Nurbakhsh (1926-2008), the late master of the Persian Sufi tradition, the Nimatullahi Khaniqahi Sufi order, during the 1990s. This paper also focuses on some elements of his writings, in particular, Nurbakhsh’s adaptation of Sufi material for a more democratic Sufi outlook. Most importantly, the modern history of the Nimatullahiya, under Nurbakhsh’s leadership (1953-2008) (self-exiled after the 1979 Revolution), demonstrates the strains of domestic politics upon liberal interpretation of Islam, and the need for Iranian Sufis to seek sanctuary within Western democratic societies.