This study investigates the Deobandī engagement with classical Sufi thought through the writings of one of modern South Asia’s most influential Sufi thinkers, namely Ashraf ʿAlī Thānavī (d. 1943). The article brings to focus Thānavī’s contributions to South Asian Sufism by showing how he sought to preserve, defend, revive, and disseminate classical Sufi teachings in a climate of social reform. The article documents how Deobandī scholars such as Thānavī – far from being propagators of shallow fundamentalist discourses – immersed themselves in the ocean of some of the most sophisticated strands of Islamic learning such as Sufi metaphysics that often employ rational methods of argumentation, alongside symbols and imageries to articulate complex metaphysical doctrines in both prose and poetry.
Shaykh Muḥammad Bahārī (1265/1849–1325/1907), aside from being a Shīʿite cleric (mujtahid), was a scholar and follower of Sufism. He was a disciple of Mullā Ḥusayn-Qulī Hamadānī (1239/1824–1311/1894) in ʿirfān (gnosis) in the Shīʿī seminary. In his treatise on spiritual wayfaring, Tadhkirat al-muttaqīn, Bahārī represents a triad of jurisprudence (fiqh), ethics (akhlāq) and monotheism (tawhīd). In his terms, fiqh is an introduction to ʿamal (practice), practice is an introduction to the refinement of character (tahdhīb akhlāq), and akhlāq is an initial step to tawḥīd (the assertion of God’s unity). This paper examines the intersection of Shīʿī and Sufi spiritual movements within the Shīʿī seminary. It demonstrates that Bahārī sought to reframe mystical thought to present it as more acceptable to the Shīʿī seminary, which was characterized by rigid interpretations of Islamic law. This paper also studies the development of the Ẕahabiyya esoteric school within the Shīʿī seminary by tracing the Sufi chain of Bahārī and his masters.
This article examines Sayyid Ḥaydar Āmulī’s occult narratives of sainthood (al-walāya) with a focus on his Naṣṣ al-nuṣūṣ fī sharḥ al-fuṣūṣ, a voluminous commentary on Ibn al-ʿArabī’s (d. 638/1240) Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam. I argue that Āmulī uses lettrism, astrology, and alchemy to construct occult narratives that advocate for the supremacy of sainthood over prophecy (al-nubuwwa). I first examine the relation between Āmulī’s lettrism and Shiʿism by concentrating on Shiʿi narratives about the mysterious occult books, Jafr and Jāmiʿa, that are transformed into the macrocosmic and microcosmic books in Āmulī’s work. The focus then shifts to Āmulī’s analysis of the complex relation between alif, bāʾ, and the dot written under bāʾ as the first three components of the basmala formula. As will be seen, Āmulī uses astrology in a similar fashion to illustrate the supremacy of sainthood by associating the heavenly planets with prophecy and the zodiacal signs with sainthood. He also draws on alchemy, or what he identifies as “spiritual alchemy (al-kīmiyāʾ al-maʿnawī),” to argue for the supremacy of sainthood.
Divorce is not uncommon among Muslims in Senegal and tends to take place outside of court, even if the Senegalese Family Code has made out-of-court divorce illegal. Yet little is known about how women in particular may obtain divorce outside of the court. This article provides ethnographic material on the way women divorce out-of-court, and the repertoires of justification they draw on. In line with scholarly work on women’s use of Islamic courts in other countries the article foregrounds women’s agency, yet in a different out-of-court context. First, it is shown that women draw on multiple, gendered, repertoires. Second, it is argued that because family members play a central role in the divorces studied, the analysis of women’s agency requires an attentiveness to kin and women’s “kinwork”.
Although Islam has a long history in coastal northern Mozambique, the question of how Muslims manage family life there is little understood. Based on the analysis of historical, ethnographic and legal records, and a case study of a bairro (Port., ward) called Paquitequete in the contemporary coastal city of Pemba in Cabo Delgado province, this article focuses on Muslim family and gender relations in northern Mozambique. It argues that Muslims of this region maintain concurrent legal identities as Muslims, matrilineal Africans and citizens of the modern state. While women benefitted from matriliny by accessing the land and support from their maternal side, upon widowhood and divorce they lost access to their husband’s or common assets because the husbands’ matriclan claimed them. The perseverance of matriliny made local Muslims seem to abide less by Islamic norms, but historically they have combined the Shāfiʿī madhhab (Islamic legal school) with matrilineal custom. In contemporary Pemba, family and gender relations are regulated not only by Sharīʿa or by African ‘traditions’, but by a blend of elements from these two alongside modern legislations. Moreover, it could be said that this arrangement is endorsed by a kind of popular consensus, which is particularly salient in the Community Courts.