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Sufism, Pluralism and Democracy

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This volume provides a composite of contemporary Sufi involvement in politics using a range of approaches and disciplines. It explores the role of Sufi-related parties where they exist or are emerging. It also examines how parties that condemn Sufism have adopted aspects of Sufi organization and practice. Changes in views within the academy on politics and Sufism are discussed. Perspectives on Egypt, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia are included as are overviews of Sufism’s political dimension across various regions. Contributions in the volume seek answer questions such as: Where Sufi related parties exist, what policies do they propose, and how do they differ from those of Islamist parties? How would “law” be understood? What is the relationship between secular and Sufi ideas about the role of religion in society? How do Sufi views about how to structure the state in Muslim majority space differ from alternatives? Are Sufis more likely to support democracy?

Published: Jul 14, 2017

Section Chapter Authors
Tables and Maps Clinton Bennett, Sarwar Alam
Abbreviations Clinton Bennett, Sarwar Alam
Acknowledgements Clinton Bennett, Sarwar Alam
Sufism, Pluralism and Democracy: Contexts, Comparisons and Critiques Clinton Bennett
Section I: Multi-contextual
1. Sufis, Saints and Politics in Islam: An Historical Survey Clinton Bennett
Section II: European/Euro Asian Contexts (Kosovo, Albania and Turkey)
2. Sufism as a Working Spirit in Globalization and Pluralism: The Case of the Hizmet Movement, a Turkey-oriented Global Islamic Network Heon Kim
3. A Paradox of Political Mysticism: The Bektashi Sufi Order as an Islamic Esoteric Community and Factor in Albanian National History Stephen Schwartz
Section III: A Middle Eastern Context (Iran)
4. Sufi Politics in the Contemporary West: The Role and Definition of Sufism in the Works of Javad Nurbakhsh (1926-2008) Milad Milani
Section IV: South Asian Contexts: Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan
5. Anti-Saint or Anti-Shrine?: Tracing Deoband's Disdain for the Sufi in Pakistan Charles Ramsey
6. Sufis as Shapers of Pluralist Political Culture: The Examples of Bangladesh and Indonesia Clinton Bennett
7. In Search of God, In Search of Humanity: Vilayet-e-Mutlaka of Hazrat Delaor Husayn Maizbhandari Sarwar Alam
Section V: Literary & Theoretical Underpinnings
8. Two Beloved Sufi Poets of the Punjab: A Case of 'Hearing without Listening' Nikky-Guninder Singh
9. Looking Inside the Heart: The Universal Appeal of God and Humanity as Reflected in Ibn al-‘Arabi’s Fusus al-Hikam and Maulana Rumi’s Mathnawi Manaw Sayed Hussaini
“Corporate Islam” versus Sufi Islam and the Articulation of the Present Sarwar Alam
End Matter
Bibliography Clinton Bennett, Sarwar Alam
Index Clinton Bennett, Sarwar Alam


Sufism, Pluralism and Democracy succeeds in exploring the often-sidelined political contribution of Sufism. The chapters clearly answer questions such as what role Sufism plays in promoting pluralism, secularism, and democracy. The book examines Sufi teachings for ensuring human rights and gender equality. ... this book works well for those looking to get a basic idea about the political engagement of Sufis in modern democracies.
Reading Religion

For calling our attention to examples of Sufis in Turkey, Albania, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia who bring the resources of the Sufi tradition to bear on modern questions of governance and social cohesion, Bennett and Alam are to be commended.
Journal of Church and State

The case studies examine the role of everyday Sufism in regions that often do not receive scholarly attention and this attribute is one of the volume’s significant contributions to the field. Here is a book that gathers various experts to address the manifestation of Sufism in embodied realities of political mobilization and national projects as much as piety, philosophy, theology, and orthodoxy. The book is a must-read for scholars of Sufism and Islam.
Religious Studies Review