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Book: The Religious Body Imagined

Chapter: 10. 'The Body is a Tool for Remembrance': Healing, Transformation and the Instrumentality of the Body in a North American Sufi Order

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.39654


This paper explores the instrumentality of the body in religion through focus on praxis in a Shadhiliyya Sufi Muslim community based in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in western Pennsylvania. The practices and beliefs of this tariqah (Sufi order) are derived from the guidance of its recently deceased Shaykh, Muhammad al-Jamal (d. 2015), from Jerusalem, who began teaching in the US in the 1990s. Healing is a key religious practice in this tariqah and plays an important role in the spiritual seeker’s deepening relationship with Allah, a process the community refers to (in English) as ‘walking.’ Drawing upon two years of fieldwork, I argue the body is central to these Sufis’ religious experiences and their understandings of themselves and I will aim both to describe this complex production of the religious Sufi body in this tariqah and, through this, to theorize the body as a site where religion happens.

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