Stamping the Earth with the Name of Allah: Zikr and the Sacralizing of Space among British Muslims

Peer Reviewed

Essay Excerpt

The sanctity of space is to some extent a matter of degree: while the headquarters of Sufi saints, their darbars, are permanently transformed into sacred sites by being imbued with the saints' charisma, the sanctity of urban spaces is created and recreated by Sufi followers by marching periodically through the streets of their cities. This marching, I contend, must be grasped as a performative act, an act of metonymic empowerment, which inscribes and reinscribes space with sanctity. To stress the transformative dimensions of the processions (julus) requires that we recognize that Sufi urbanjulus are the first phase in a succession of ritual acts performed on the occasion of the 'urs, the mourning/celebratory ritual commemorating a saint's death as eternal rebirth and his final "wedding,"or mystical union, with the Prophet and God. At the same time the Sufi processions might be conceived of as "texts" conveying messages produced by Sufi followers through occasional public displays of collective identity. In deemphasizing the textual metaphor, I am not denying the rich multivocality of the procession; rather, I want to stress the active inflection, the question "Who has the power to make places of spaces? Who contests this? What is at stake?"(Gupta and Ferguson 1992:11). With this problem of agency and power in mind, let us turn to the procession itself.  (Werbner, 311-312) 

About the Author

Werbner is a Professor at Keele University.

"As a social anthropologist, my fieldwork has included research in Britain, Pakistan and Botswana, where I am currently studying puberty rituals in a Tswapong village, women and the changing public sphere, the Manual Workers Union. Recent awards include an ESRC large grant to study 'New African Migrants in the Gateway City', and a comparative study of the Filipino diaspora in Israel and Saudi Arabia, supported by a large grants from the AHRC. My fields of interest include urbanism, ritual and religion, cultural politics, migration, diaspora, and ethnicity. The scope of my work is reflected in published articles and collected volumes which engage with the challenges presented by the rise of Islamic radicalism, the Rushdie affair, cultural hybridity, women, citizenship and difference.

I have presented plenary addresses to the Australian, Swiss and American Associations, and been invited to give keynote addresses throughout Europe, the USA, Australia, Israel, Pakistan, and Indonesia. My most recent edited book is an ASA volume, Anthropology and the New Cosmopolitanism, published by Berg in 2008.

My two most recent monographs, Imagined Diasporas among Manchester Muslims (James Currey 2002) and Pilgrims of Love: the Anthropology of a Global Sufi Cult (Hurst 2003), are the second and third in 'The Manchester Migration Trilogy', which tracing the processes of Pakistani migration, community formation, religious transnationalism and diaspora over a period of fifty years. The series as a whole interrogates the translocation of culture - its dislocation, transplantation and translation in the course of migration. Collectively the three books form the most comprehensive body of ethnography about any immigrant community in Britain. The first book in the series was The Migration Process: Capital, Gifts and Offerings among British Pakistanis (Berg 1990 and 2002)."


Posted By m.arslan

very nice pic for allah names

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