Sufism and Politics
How and why has the view of Sufism as inherently peaceful became so widespread?
Sufism is increasingly seen as apolitical “moderate Islam,” and increasingly often promoted as such by states, both in the Arab world and the West. This produces a paradox as—in the view of many—the promotion of any variety of religion by a state is inherently political. It is also strangely ahistorical, since throughout the history of Islam, Sufi orders have not only engaged with states in various ways, but have even sometimes led jihads. Mark Sedgwick explores the relationship between Sufism and politics, today and in the past, tracing the recent development of the promotion of Sufism as moderate Islam, contrasting this with historical patterns, and asking how and why the view of Sufism as inherently peaceful became so widespread.
Mark Sedgwick (Doctor philos Bergen 1999) is professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at Aarhus University and chair of the Nordic Society for Middle Eastern Studies. He has been working on Sufism since the 1990s, and is the author of several books on the topic, most recently Western Sufism: From the Abbasids to the New Age (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016). He is the co-editor of Global Sufism: Boundaries, Structures, and Politics (with Francesco Piraino; London: Hurst, 2019)