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Accepted Paper:

Breaths of Intimacy: Haunted Subjectivities and Free Submission in the Sufi Practice of Zikr  
Muhammad Osama Imran (University of Minnesota)

Paper short abstract:

Based on the zikr practitioners of the silsila Naqshbandia Awaisia in Pakistan, this paper asks: What kind of ethics of the self does the Sufi practice of zikr generate? What does political Islam look like if the spirit rather than religious authorities is considered the source of (self)knowledge?

Paper long abstract:

Through ethnographic research among the Sufi silsila (community) of the Naqshbandia Awaisia in Pakistan, this paper is interested in practitioners' formulation of the unconscious as Divine Consciousness. Specifically, it focuses on the Sufi practice of zikr which infuses a realization of constant Divine Presence and shapes the desires and everyday material (dis)engagements of devotees. In its performance, practitioners synchronize the repetition of their breath and head movement with the inner recitation of Allah's name. This is presumed to enable the self's recognition of its own spirit as well as the experience of its transcendence from the temporal and spatial boundedness of the body, thereby providing partial access to the realm of the ghayb (hidden) which informs their everyday ethics and allows glimpses of their own futures.

When individuals themselves become the source of knowledge production and ethical action, what will be the stakes for an anthropology of Islam that associates ethics of submission with certain forms of external authority? What does political Islam look like if the spirit rather than religious authorities is considered the source of (self)knowledge? At stake in this paper is an attempt to bring to the fore a conceptual frame where submission in Islamic iterative practices is infused with creativity and involves an agency that appears to be different from the agency involved in capitalist or liberal modernity. These questions are important to ask because they challenge Western assumptions and contemporary polemics about an Islamic ethics of submission that is presumed to be devoid of freedom.

Panel P060b
Muslim imaginaries beyond mediation: Islam, the divine, and radical hope/transformation II
  Session 1 Tuesday 26 July, 2022, -