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North African Sufism in World Context

A symposium on Sufi movements from North Africa and their influence in a global context.

Thursday, February 12, 2009
1:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Kerckhoff Hall Grand Salon
Los Angeles, CA 90095

The spread of Sufism has been as rapid and profound as the spread of Islam. Mystical orders (tariqas) were established in North Africa, or the Maghrib (Muslim West) in the early Middle Ages, and Sufism flourished in the region, eventually spreading from the Maghrib to West Africa, Asia, Europe, and the United States. Each tariqa, usually named after its founder, espoused its own doctrine and tradition (including music), social convention and political culture, all of which underscore the nuances and diversity that are hallmarks of Islamic civilization.

The global paradigm is the grounding metaphor of this symposium, which focuses on the North African roots of four international Sufi tariqas and their spread across the world, including North America. The symposium brings together studies of four Sufi orders from the Maghrib: the Jazuliyya (an early modern Moroccan order of the Shadhili tradition that influenced Sufi doctrines and practices as far away as South Asia), the Tijaniyya (founded in eighteenth-century Morocco and currently influential in West and North Africa with increasing presence in Europe), the Boutchichia (a modern Moroccan Sufi order of the Qadiri Sufi tradition that has become influential under government patronage), and the Maryamiyya (a modern international Sufi order based on the Darqawi-Shadhili tradition of Morocco and the philosophy of the Transcendent Unity of Religions).

By studying these North Africa-based Sufi orders in a global context, the symposium brings attention to the Maghrib as a crossroads of ideas and spirituality which continue to enlighten our life and times.

Schedule of Events

1:00pm - Introduction by Jonathan Friedlander, Assistant Director, UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies

1:15pm - 3:15pm - Session One

Allen Roberts, World Arts and Cultures, UCLA
Chair and Discussant

Vincent Cornell, Emory University
North African Sufism and Global Islam: The Case of the Jazuliyya Sufi Order and Dala’il al-Khayrat

Cheikh Anta Babou, University of Pennsylvania
Globalizing Mystical Islam from Below: Exploring the Historical Roots and Modern Expansion of the Tijaniyya Orde

3:15-3:30pm - Break

3:30-5:30pm - Session Two

Mahmood Ibrahim, History, Cal Poly Pomona

Abdelilah Bouasria, American University
The Moroccan Boutchichi Order or the Politics of Presence

H. Talat Halman, Central Michigan University
The Maryamiyya Tariqa: Convergent, Divergent, and Resurgent Directions

Nile Green, History, UCLA

5:30-6:00pm - Discussion/Q&A 

Paper/ Presentation Abstracts

North African Sufism and Global Islam: The Case of the Jazuliyya Sufi Order and Dala’il al-Khayrat

Vincent J. Cornell, Emory University

This paper illustrates the influence of North African Sufism on the wider Islamic world through the case of the Moroccan Jazuliyya Sufi order (15th-17th centuries CE) and the worldwide dissemination of Dala’il al-Khayrat (Signs of Goodness), a manual of prayers on behalf of the Prophet Muhammad.  It begins by discussing the career of Muhammd ibn Sulayman al-Jazuli (d. 1465 CE), a Sufi jihadist, the author of the Dalil, and the founder of the Jazuliyya. Special attention is given to Jazuli’s attachment to two traditions of international Sufism, the Shadhiliyya of North Africa and the Qadiriyya, whose networks extended throughout the Islamic world from Afghanistan to Morocco. The second half of the paper focuses on Jazulite Sufism’s ideology of the “Muhammadan Way” (al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya). This doctrine of personal and social reform was originally developed in Morocco but spread in the sixteenth century to the Ottoman Empire and beyond through the mediation of Sufis in Egypt. The paper concludes with a discussion of the dissemination of Dala’il al-Khayrat as part of this reformist project through the worldwide networks of the Qadiriyya Sufi order.
Globalizing Mystical Islam from Below: Exploring the Historical Roots and Modern Expansion of the Tijaniyya Order

Cheikh Anta Babou, University of Pennsylvania

The Tijaniyya Sufi order was founded by Ahmad al-Tijani in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Algeria and Morocco. It developed at a time of an intense religious revival in the Muslim world which was fueled by European colonialism and spearheaded by the contending forces of Sufism and salafism. This context of great change informed the historical trajectories of the Tijaniyya and helped its rapid expansion in North Africa, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa. Over two centuries after its founding, the Tijaniyya remains a potent spiritual force, inspiring disciples in Africa and the Middle East but also in Europe and North Africa, where it was brought recently by the increasingly visible Black African Muslim diaspora. This paper seeks to explore the spiritual foundations of the Tijaniyya order and its extension in more recent times. It suggests that the dynamism of the Tijaniyya is rooted in its leaders’ political acumen, their capacity of religious innovation and adaptation, and their ability to respond to disciple’s changing spiritual needs across space and time.
The Moroccan Boutchichi Order or the Politics of Presence

Abdelilah Bouasria, American University

This paper analyzes the evolution of the Boutchichi Sufi order as a social movement that came from a non political stance to a pro-government stance. It will locate this Sufi oder in opposition to Al Adl wal Ihsane, another political islamist group of Sufi obedience, whose leader, Abdessalam yassine, used to be a Boutchichi disciple. The roots of the order are analyzed and its links to the Tijani brotherhood questioned. This paper also explores the strategic change of name of the order and other tactical moves in the Moroccan mystical mosaic. The main emphasis is the relationship of the regime with the order and their mutual helping. I explore the idea of a completely peaceful movement here through the writings of some of its members.

The Maryamiyya Tariqa: Convergent, Divergent, and Resurgent Directions
H. Talat Halman, Central Michigan University

In this paper I focus on the Shadhili roots of the Maryamiyya Tariqa, specifically its Shadhiliyya-Darqawiyya connection. I compare the directions taken by Frithjof Schuon (Shaykh 'Isa Nur al-Din) who introduced meditations, texts, and icons reflecting his interests in "Traditionalism," Marian devotion, and Amerindian "primordialism." Schuon legitimated his teaching authority especially through four figures:  Shaykh Ahmad 'Alawi, Rene Guenon, al-Khidr, and the Virgin Mary. These competing interests and claims to authority contributed to dividing the Maryamiyya. After Schuon's death Seyyed Hossein Nasr turned back to the Shadhili roots, calling his Tariqa al-Maryamiyya al-Shadhiliyya. I examine the results of this return. I also describe the significant influence of the Tariqa on the academic study of Sufism in the USA and in Europe, including examples of Thomas Merton and Huston Smith.

This symposium was made possible by a grant from the Social Science Research Council program on Islam in World Contexts.

Cost : Free

AmyBruinooge, Center for Near Eastern Studies

Sponsor(s): Center for Near Eastern Studies, Social Science Research Council

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