Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education

The Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education (NFIE) is a non-profit, tax exempt, religious and educational organization dedicated to serve Islam with a special focus on Tasawwuf(Sufism),

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

 The Shaping shaikh: An Ethnographic Inquiry into the Role of the Shaikh in the Adaptation of Sufism in Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina - Dejan Azdajic -PhD Thesis, Middlesex University,London,UK

Abstract: This thesis is an ethnographic investigation of living Naqshbandi Sufi practitioners in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its epistemology presumes that a nuanced understanding of Islam that recognises complex realities and contradictory perspectives requires an examination of its embodied form. As a result, this research project engaged in a localised analysis of Sufi Muslims by evaluating experiences and practices from their point of view. Following this strategy, two specific communities led by different Shaikhs were identified. Although each Shaikh claimed a shared Naqshbandi origin and was located in a similar traditional, cultural, linguistic and historic milieu, there were considerable manifest dissimilarities ranging from theology, ritual practices and levels of social involvement. In light of the historic evolution of the Shaikh’s institutionally established authority in Sufism, this empirical contrast suggested that universal norms, theoretical constructs and traditional principles within a common Bosnian Naqshbandi framework were ultimately subservient to the Shaikh. This thesis argues that while operating within doctrinal continuity and a broadly defined, normative framework, each Shaikh remained free to engender legitimate adaptations that shaped the contours of religious belief and contextualised its application within a contemporary setting. Ultimately, his agency accounted for the notable diversity encountered in the field. The present study thereby underlines the inherent malleability of Sufism and advances the recognition of the Shaikh’s cardinal importance. Primarily it adds to empirical studies of Islam through an ethnographic approach that focuses on the role of the Shaikh in Sufism in general and the Naqshbandi in particular.

"2.5.1. The Naqshbandi Order in Bosnia Among Sufi Orders in Bosnia today, the Naqshbandi Order is the most numerous, influential and known as the traditional “guardian of conventional Islam in Bosnia” (Abiva 2005: 195).40 It has adapted to the mentality of the people who live in this region, influencing socio-political and cultural currents of the inhabitants of Bosnia (Hadžimejlić 2016: 30; Henig 2011: 225). The Naqshbandi have been approved by the IC and given authority to decide what “genuine Sufi teaching” should be for Bosnian Muslims (Henig 2012: 758). During Sufi events officially sponsored by the IC, such as the aforementioned Ajvatovica pilgrimage, the predominant place is given to Naqshbandis (Henig 2014: 146 – 147). The acceptance of Naqshbandi by the leadership has a historic precedent, where the first state-sponsored Sufis in Bosnia were almost exclusively the Naqshbandi who were often close to the religious and political authorities (Kukavica 2012: 367). Part of the reason for this affinity is the Naqshbandi strict moral code, adherence to orthodox views, Shariʿah observance and their intentional engagement to bring society closer to religion. These factors have helped in promoting the Naqshbandi and have authorized them to represent Bosnian Sufi norms (Le Gall 2005: 67 – 69; Ćehajić 2000: 300 – 306). Furthermore, membership is comprised from all layers of society, with a significant portion of highly educated and influential people (Ibranović 2007: 45 – 46). "

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