9 Between Religiosity, Cultural Heritage and Politics: Sufi-Oriented Interests in Contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina 233

In: Sufism East and West

Purchase instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):



The importance of Sufi orders in the Muslim history of the Balkans is undeniable. The orders constituted, beside their obvious religious role, important social, cultural and economic networks across urban and rural divisions. With their transnational contacts and strong cohesion within the groups, the Sufi orders provided adaptation to changes within a framework of traditionalism. They have therefore become emblematic among backbiters as well as sympathizers for their ability to change and at the same time remain. The resurgence of the historical orders of the region, and the appearance of new groups and networks, is telling of the role of Islam and religious belonging in contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina. The decline of the Yugoslav socialist federation after Tito’s death in 1980 and the cruel war after the independent states were proclaimed in the early 1990s constitute the necessary background against which contemporary debates on religion, identity and belonging must be viewed. Sufism and the ritual life connected with its meeting places and local pilgrimage sites have been criticized, if not attacked, as “folk Islam” from two very different ideological angles of secular liberals and representatives of purist Muslim interpretations. Some regard Sufism as lingering superstitious folk religion, not possible to integrate with what is perceived as modern Islam, and therefore turn to more purist alternatives, quite often among proselytizing Arab, Arabized or Turkish groups. On the other hand, to the followers of the various, and varied, Sufi fellowships the rituals, pilgrimages and tesavvuf theology are an unparalleled tool to connect the present with the past. This chapter discusses the role of Sufism as a signifier of intellectual alliances in debates over Islamic authority and the authenticity of local ritual practices connected to tesavvuf, its orders and spirituality.