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The Ethical Turn of Neo-Traditionalism: Karāmāt al-awliyāʾ in Nuh Keller’s Sea Without Shore

In: Journal of Sufi Studies
Author:
Elvira Kulieva University of Freiburg Freiburg im Breisgau Germany

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Abstract

This article focuses on the concept of karāmāt al-awliyāʾ in the contemporary Sufi manual Sea Without Shore by Nuh Ha Mim Keller (b. 1954), an American convert and a major representative of the neo-traditionalist camp. Through situating Sea Without Shore within the context of early Sufi manuals, this article analyses the specificities of Keller’s interpretation of karāmāt al-awliyāʾ. I argue that his approach represents an ethical turn, as his discussion aims to lessen anxiety about the metaphysical aspects of miracles and instead direct attention towards the ethical standards that make the awliyāʾ extraordinary. By emphasizing the ethical over the metaphysical, Keller’s handling of the subject of karāmāt al-awliyāʾ does not challenge modern “rational” sensitivities, but instead re-frames the idea of miracles for the modern age. In the wider context, this article contributes to a more nuanced understanding of the ways that neo-traditionalists are interpreting and adapting Muslim traditions to modernity.

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