The Madāriyya Sufi brotherhood in India: Good Muslims or heretics?

Open to the Public
Nador u. 9, Monument Building
Monday, March 12, 2018 - 5:30pm
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Monday, March 12, 2018 - 5:30pm to 7:00pm

Please note that the date and venue has been changed! The lecture will take place on Monday, March 12, 5:30, in the Gellner Room.

Since it was found by the Syrian Sufi Badīʿ al-Dīn Shāh Madār in the beginning of 15th century India, the Madāriyya Sufi brotherhood quickly became and remained one of the biggest brotherhoods on the subcontinent. Yet, with its deep root in the lower social strata of society and the focus on oral tradition on the one hand and the incorporation of forms of piety that include renunciation, itinerancy and celibacy on the other, the brotherhood has always challenged notions of religious and social normativity set by literate circles of society. Even though the awareness prevails that Islam is by no means a homogenous entity, but a religion, which produced a variety of approaches to and interpretations of piety, it tends to fail at times when it comes to define the religiosity of groups that act beyond literate circles. By drawing on different aspects of the history and forms of piety of the Madāriyya, the paper aims at discussing and questioning notions of mainstream and margin as well as definitions that evoke dichotomies with regard to religiosity in terms of orthodoxy and deviation.

Ute Falasch is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Religious Studies at Central European University. She has published on the Madāriyya Sufi brotherhood, among others, Heiligkeit und Mobilität. Die Madāriyya Sufibruderschaft und ihr Gründer Badīʿ al-Dīn Shāh Madār in Indien, 15. - 19. Jahrhundert (Berlin: Lit 2015). Her current research focuses on religious and political authority in North India in the 15th and 16th century, in which she analyzes the interaction between Sufis and regional rulers regarding discourses on legitimate rule as well as the ways of negotiating faith and reason in that period.

Mandatory reading (for those who took the course):

  1. Ernst; Carl W.: Sufism. An Introduction to the Mystical Tradition of Islam. Boston: Shambala 2011, pp. xiii-31.
  2. Falasch, Ute: Regulating Rapture: The malang in the Madāriyya, in: Oriente Moderno, 92, 2/2012, S. 369-92.


Optional further reading:

  1. Karamustafa, Ahmet T.: Antinomian Sufis. Between Sublimation and Subversion: Divergent Attitudes towards Social Norms and the Sharīʿa in Early Sufism, in: Ridgeon, Lloyd (ed.): The Cambridge Companion to Sufism. New York: Cambridge University Press 2015, pp. 101-24.