Sufi Cyberscapes: The Inayati Order in the Virtual Ecosystem of American Islam
Robert Rozehnal [+]
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 (https://inayatiorder.org) 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.