Lovers of Muhammad : A Study of Naqshbandi-Haqqani Sufis in the Twenty-First Century

Abstract: This thesis aims to contribute, both empirically and theoretically, to the field of study within Islamology that concerns contemporary Sufism in non-Muslim majority societies. It does so by investigating how activities and narratives provide meaning and identity for participants in the transnational Sufi movement Naqshbandi-Haqqani. This movement is led by the Turkish Cypriot Shaykh Muhammad Nazim Adil al-Haqqani (b. 1922) and is well-known for its capacity to attract followers from very diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The shaykh has established groups of disciples in various parts of the world since the early 1970s, particularly in London where he regularly used to spend lengthy periods of time until the late 1990s. Mainly based on fieldworks between 2004 and 2009 in London and Northern Cyprus, this thesis presents ethnographic material from settings where disciples of the mentioned Shaykh Nazim interact with each other, engage in communal rituals, and integrate his interpretation and articulation of Sufi Islam in their lives. Activities in a centre connected to the movement in North London, visits to the shaykh’s home in Northern Cyprus, and the impact of his US-based deputy Shaykh Hisham Kabbani is discussed. A separate chapter is devoted to the communications of the two leading shaykhs, including book publications, Internet presence, and public relations. Another chapter deals with the effort led by Shaykh Hisham Kabbani to establish a common structure for Sufi Muslims in Britain in the aftermath of the terror attacks in London in July 2005, named the Sufi Muslim Council (SMC). The framing of a common Sufi identity around the theme of being ‘lovers of Muhammad’, which was prominent at public events arranged by the SMC, is discussed. In sum, a perspective for the study of contemporary Sufism is advocated that focuses on activities and narratives of socially situated Sufis, relating these in turn to competing conceptualisations of Islamic tradition, to transnational flows of people and information, and to the politics of belonging and identity on both individual and collective levels. This perspective strives to acknowledge the complexity and malleability of contemporary Sufism as a lived experience.

  This dissertation MIGHT be available in PDF-format. Check this page to see if it is available for download.