10. The Body is a Tool for Remembrance: Healing, Transformation and the Instrumentality of the Body in a North American Sufi Order

The Religious Body Imagined - Pamela D. Winfield

Megan Adamson Sijapati [+-]
Gettysburg College
Megan Adamson Sijapati, PhD, is Associate Professor and Chair of the Religious Studies Department at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, PA. Her areas of interest are religion and modernity, religious violence and non-violence, religious revivalism and reform, the body, religion and belonging, religious traditions of South Asia, contemporary Islam, Nepal, Himalayas, and Sufism. Megan's fieldwork with religious communities in South Asia has led to the publication of Islamic Revival in Nepal: Religion and a New Nation(Routledge 2011), Religion and Modernity in the Himalaya(co-editor, Routledge 2016) and Muslim Communities and Cultures of the Himalaya: Conceptualizing the Global Ummah(co-editor, Routledge, forthcoming 2020), and numerous articles in academic journals. She currently serves on the Steering Committee of the Religion and Body program unit at the American Academy of Religion, on the Executive Board of the South Asian Muslim Studies Association, and on the South Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies. At Gettysburg College, Megan is on the advisory boards for Middle East and Islamic Studies and Peace and Justice Studies. Her PhD is from the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.


This paper explores the instrumentality of the body in religion through focus on praxis in a Shadhiliyya Sufi Muslim community based in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in western Pennsylvania. The practices and beliefs of this tariqah (Sufi order) are derived from the guidance of its recently deceased Shaykh, Muhammad al-Jamal (d. 2015), from Jerusalem, who began teaching in the US in the 1990s. Healing is a key religious practice in this tariqah and plays an important role in the spiritual seeker’s deepening relationship with Allah, a process the community refers to (in English) as ‘walking.’ Drawing upon two years of fieldwork, I argue the body is central to these Sufis’ religious experiences and their understandings of themselves and I will aim both to describe this complex production of the religious Sufi body in this tariqah and, through this, to theorize the body as a site where religion happens.

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Sijapati , Megan Adamson . 10. The Body is a Tool for Remembrance: Healing, Transformation and the Instrumentality of the Body in a North American Sufi Order. The Religious Body Imagined. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Nov 2023. ISBN 9781781799727. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=39654. Date accessed: 11 Aug 2022 doi: 10.1558/equinox.39654. Nov 2023

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