Poly-symbolic Religiosity and the Dilemmas of American Sufism
An Ethnographic Study of Zikr at a Sufi Shrine in Manhattan
This ethnographic endeavor seeks to explore the ritual of Zikr and its association with the shift and dilemmas in American Sufism at a Sufi Shrine in Manhattan, The United States of America. The study highlights the ways in which Islam accommodate socio- cultural change without losing its traditional identity: It has not changed in essence. Also, it throws light on the ways such monotheistic religions create social relevance for their followers in a culture alien to universalizing discourses and identities. The paper argues that esoteric versions of traditional monotheistic religions, like Sufism are more suited to postmodern religious consciousness of modern day individuals. The study employs the conceptual lens of postmodern religiosity. Four formal interviews of the Sufi followers (dervishes) alongside field jottings that expanded from January 2012 till December 2012 were conducted. The analysis was thematic in nature. The structure of the Zikr ritual was elaborated followed by offering prayer the ‘Sushi’ way. This form of prayer ensures convivial co-existence amongst intra-religious
collectivities. The study concluded that the concept of religiosity is poly-symbolic in nature. The Zikr ritual acts as a distinct plain that invokes a sense of belonging for the participants in diverse settings. American Sufism is multifaceted in essence and in spirits
Asad, Talal. “Medieval Heresy: an Anthropological View.” Social History 11, no. 3 (1986): 345-
Bell, Catherine. Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions. Oxford University Press, 1997.
Berger, Peter L. “The Sacred Canopy.” In Sociology of Religion. UK: Routledge, 2015.
Berger, Peter L., Brigitte Berger, and Hansfried Kellner. The Homeless Mind: Modernization and
Consciousness. London: Random House Publishing, 1973.
Connerton, Paul. How Societies Remember. Cambridge University Press, 1989.
Delanty, Gerard. Challenging Knowledge: The University in the Knowledge Society. Buckingham:
Open University Press, 2001.
Ewing, Katherine. “The Politics of Sufism: Redefining the Saints of Pakistan.” The Journal of Asian
Studies 42, no. 2 (1983): 251-268.
Fujii, Ann Lee. Killing Neighbours: Networks of Violence in Rwanda. Ithaca, Cornell University
Hardwick, Charley D. “Elusive Religiosity, Illusions, and Truth Telling.” Journal of the American
Academy of Religion 49, no. 4 (1981): 645-655.
Kliever, Lonnie D. “Polysymbolism and Modern Religiosity.” The Journal of Religion 59, no. 2
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) 4.0 License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work’s authorship and initial publication in this journal.