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Alexandre Papas

Series:

Alexandre Papas

Series:

Carl W. Ernst

Abstract

From the time of Sir William Jones (1746–1794), early British Orientalists were united in their praise of the Dabistan-i Mazahib (“School of Teachings”), a 17th-century Persian treatise on all the religious teachings existing in India at the time. The unusual perspective of the author as a follower of the esoteric Zoroastrian movement of Azar Kayvan subsequently led many scholars to discredit it as a reliable historical witness, despite its many quasi-ethnographic observations of contemporary religious behavior and thought. These observations, both admiring and critical, apply particularly to the book’s treatment of Sufism in its final chapter. Yet the work’s immense popularity, in the deeply flawed 1847 translation of David Shea (1777–1836) and Anthony Troyer (1769–1865), reinforced many common Orientalist stereotypes of Sufism, including its ostensible universality and its supposed lack of connection with Islam. This chapter undertakes to assess the character and impact of Shea and Troyer’s presentation of Sufism in their translation of the Dabistan, as measured against both the original Persian text and the more robust accounts of Sufism available from other sources.

Series:

Ali S. Asani

Abstract

Historically, South Asia’s many literary traditions have provided both the structure and the idiom for Muslims across a broad spectrum of ideological persuasions to express and transmit their ideas. As is well known, Sufis affiliated with different tariqas have commonly employed genres of vernacular folk poetry as a means of elucidating and popularizing mystical ideas. Over the last century, thanks to a variety of intricately related set of factors such as the revolution in media technology, globalization and the spread of popular western culture and the rise of religiously based nationalisms, the form, content and context of South Asian Muslim devotional expressions have been radically transformed. This chapter explores the emergence of Sufi Rock, a new genre of Muslim devotional expression that has become increasingly popular in South Asia, particularly Pakistan. A genre which fuses western rock music with traditional Sufi poetry and imagery, Sufi Rock is commonly associated with one of its earliest exponents, Salman Ahmad, a guitarist and vocalist in one of South Asia’s biggest rock band, Junoon. The chapter explores Salman’s role in the emergence of Sufi Rock, specifically with reference to his professional development as a musician and spiritual development as a Muslim who deeply identifies with Sufism.