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 is Professor of Religious Studies at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. She received her PhD from the University of California Santa Barbara. Her interests are in modernity and religion, the body, contemplative traditions, digital religion, contemporary Islam and Sufism. She is the author of the book Islamic Revival in Nepal: Religion and a New Nation (2011) and co-editor of the books Religion and Modernity in the Himalaya (2016) and Muslim Communities and Cultures of the Himalaya: Conceptualizing the Global Ummah (2021), all published with Routledge. Her most recent publications examine connections between Islamic piety, the body, and contemplative practices in digital contexts: ‘Sufi Remembrance Practices in a Meditation Marketplace of Mobile Apps’ in Anthropological Perspectives on the Religious Uses of Mobile Apps (Palgrave 2019) and ‘Islamic Meditation: Mindfulness Apps for Muslims in the Digital Spiritual Marketplace’ in Cyber Muslims: Mapping Islamic Networks in the Digital Age (OneWorld 2022).


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.

Notify A Colleague


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. 223-243 Jun 2024. ISBN 9781781799727. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=39654. Date accessed: 18 Apr 2024 doi: 10.1558/equinox.39654. Jun 2024

Dublin Core Metadata