Sufi Cyberscapes: the Inayati Order in the Virtual Ecosystem of American Islam

Words of Experience - Translating Islam with Carl W. Ernst - Ilyse Morgenstein Fuerst

Robert Rozehnal [+-]
Lehigh University
Robert Rozenhal is a Professor in the Department of Religion Studies and the founding director of the Center for Global Islamic Studies at Lehigh University. He holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from Duke University, and an M.A. in South Asian Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of numerous articles and three books: Cyber Sufis: Virtual Expressions of the American Muslim Experience (Oneworld, 2019); Piety, Politics and Ethics in Southeast Asian Islam: Beautiful Behavior, editor (Bloomsbury, 2019); Islamic Sufism Unbound: Politics and Piety in Twenty-First Century Pakistan (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). He previously served as the national co-chair of the Islamic Mysticism program unit at the American Academy of Religion.


Drawing on Carl W. Ernst's multidimensional scholarship, this essay explores the changes and challenges that increasingly (re)shape Sufi identity, piety, and practice in cyberspace. The case study focuses on the digital footprint of the oldest and one of the most prominent Sufi communities in the West: the Inayati Order. Molded by the enduring legacy of its founder, Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan (1882-1927), this multidimensional Sufi tariqa has from its inception embraced a universal, perennialist mysticism. Through careful and coordinated planning, today's Inayati Order in North America is now pivoting into the Internet Age under the leadership of his grandson, Pir Zia Inayat Khan (b. 1971)—strategically deploying digital media to broadcast its message, solidify the bonds of community, and broaden its social networks. An exegesis of the new flagship website ( illustrates the Inayati Order's articulation of its own past, its understanding of Sufi identity and authority, and the trajectory of its evolving and expanding administrative architecture. Blending language, symbols, sounds, and imagery, this sophisticated and multilayered digital document spotlights the deep linkages to Islamic sacred history, Indo-Muslim culture, and the Chishti Sufi tradition from which this hybrid community emerged.

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Rozehnal, Robert. Sufi Cyberscapes: the Inayati Order in the Virtual Ecosystem of American Islam. Words of Experience - Translating Islam with Carl W. Ernst. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Oct 2020. ISBN 9781781799109. Date accessed: 08 Jul 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.38427. Oct 2020

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