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Unity in Diversity

Mysticism, Messianism and the Construction of Religious Authority in Islam

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Edited by Orkhan Mir-Kasimov

What are the mechanisms of change and adaptation in Islam, regarded as a living organism, and how do they work? How did these mechanisms preserve the integrity of Muslim civilization through the innumerable hazards, divisions and devastations of time? From the perspective of history and intellectual history, this book focuses on a significant, though still largely under studied, aspect of this immense issue, namely, the role of mystical and messianic ferment in the construction and re-construction of religious authority in Islam. Sixteen scholars address this topic with a variety of approaches, providing a fresh outlook on the trends underlying the evolution of Muslim societies and, in particular, the emergence and consolidation of the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal Empires.

Contributors include: Abbas Amanat, Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi, Paul Ballanfat, Shahzad Bashir, Ilker Evrim Binbaş, Daniel De Smet, Devin DeWeese, Armin Eschraghi, Omid Ghaemmaghami, Ahmet T. Karamustafa, Todd Lawson, Pierre Lory, Matthew Melvin-Koushki, Orkhan Mir-Kasimov, A. Azfar Moin, William F. Tucker.

Living Knowledge in West African Islam

The Sufi Community of Ibrāhīm Niasse

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Zachary Valentine Wright

Living Knowledge in West African Islam examines the actualization of religious identity in the community of Ibrāhīm Niasse (d.1975, Senegal). With millions of followers throughout Africa and the world, the community arguably represents one of the twentieth century’s most successful Islamic revivals. Niasse’s followers, members of the Tijāniyya Sufi order, gave particular attention to the widespread transmission of the experiential knowledge (maʿrifa) of God. They also worked to articulate a global Islamic identity in the crucible of African decolonization.

The central argument of this book is that West African Sufism is legible only with an appreciation of centuries of Islamic knowledge specialization in the region. Sufi masters and disciples reenacted and deepened preexisting teacher-student relationships surrounding the learning of core Islamic disciplines, such as the Qurʾān and jurisprudence. Learning Islam meant the transformative inscription of sacred knowledge in the student’s very being, a disposition acquired in the master’s exemplary physical presence. Sufism did not undermine traditional Islamic orthodoxy: the continued transmission of Sufi knowledge has in fact preserved and revived traditional Islamic learning in West Africa.