The Social Role of Spiritual Communication: Authority as a Relationship between Shaykh and Follower in the Contemporary Ṭarīqa Shadhuliyya-Yashrutiyya in Amman, Acre and Jaffa
Sijbrand, Linda Marianne
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
I intend to publish papers based on the thesis.
This study analyses the authority of Shaykh Ahmad al-Yashruti in Amman, Acre, and Jaffa. He is the master of the Shadhuliyya-Yashrutiyya, a Sufi ṭarīqa (brotherhood) which originated in Acre but is now based in Amman. It examines how the changing religious climate and the challenges faced by the Palestinian people affect the role of the Shaykh and the cohesion of the community. This study approaches both the concept of authority and the practice of fieldwork from a relational perspective, and discusses the challenges faced when doing multi-sited fieldwork using Graham Harvey’s concept of ‘methodological guesthood’. The study analyses how the founding Shaykh’s charisma is maintained in a ṭarīqa which is institutionalised on traditional (kinship) lines, and focuses on the doctrinal, functional and locational aspects of Shaykh Ahmad’s authority by examining the underlying paradigm of authority, as well as the different roles his followers attribute to him, how these are connected to the functions of the zawāya (lodges) in Amman and Acre, and how this affects the ṭarīqa’s place in society and in the arena of ‘Muslim Politics’ (as understood by Eickelman and Piscatori). This is mainly done by focusing on the emic concept of tarbiya (education), which corresponds to Berger and Luckmann’s concept of ‘socialisation’ and Asad’s approach to the transmission of a discursive tradition that is in a continuous process of transmission and reinterpretation through the institutionalised relationship between Sufi shaykhs and followers. The study argues that the process of tarbiya and the mode of communication between Shaykh and follower – which mainly consists of indirect communications and signs to be identified and interpreted by the follower – allows the ṭarīqa to value both individuality and submission to the Shaykh; it also allows it to be centralised, while at the same time adaptable to local circumstances. This thus explains the development of a discursive tradition, the functioning of a translocal ṭarīqa, and the changing position of a Sufi shaykh, enabling us to see that a Sufi movement can be both traditional and innovative.
Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds
Prince al-Waleed al-Saud Award
Arts and Humanities Research Council Block Grant Partnership Studentship
Netton, Ian Richard
PhD in Arab and Islamic Studies