Ahl Al-Bayt Forum 2014: Introduction to Western Sufi Movements by Dr. Prof. Marcia Hermansen

Below are some notes I took during the Ahl al Bayt Forum 2014 in Streamwood, IL at the Bait-ul-Ilm center.

Sufism: Islamic “Mysticism?”

If this definition is to be believed, one must properly define mysticism. Culturally and popularly, the word invokes several other terms:

-Mystery and occultism

-Popular religion and cultural relevance (note that this point lies in contrary to the first)

-Deviance and innovation to a monolithic reality

There are obviously stark differences in the way that people treat Sufism, depending, of course, on the time and place they are witnessing it, the ways it is being manifested in its own cultural milieu, and the public exposure to Sufi practices and practitioners. Most of the time, the topic of Sufism as a particular and separate issue is regarded as “bid’ah” in Sunni circles, but in Shi’i circles, the criticism is of another nature: “They don’t work! They are lazy!” Shi’is usually don’t take issue with some of the practices that make Sunnis uncomfortable, such as calling upon the dead or visiting their shrines. Continue reading

The World Beneath His Feet: The Axis Mundi, Al-Khidr, and The Cosmos in a Mughal Painting

Wrote 7 pages about this painting for a final.

The painting I shall examine in this work is of the Emperor Jahangir, fourth Mughal ruler, successor to Akbar The Great. In this iconic allegorical painting, the artist, Abu’l Hasan, represents Jahangir’s wealth and grandeur by depicting him shooting at a sickly figure of poverty with his royal bow. In the background, putti fly, bestowing him with his royal crown and offering aid in the form of  arrows. Jahangir stands upon a globe containing a lion and lamb seated in harmony, all resting atop a fish swimming atop a great expanse of water, with another passenger engaged in reading a text. In the background, a lone putto supports a line of hanging red tassels and bells, tied to the ground at a shrine. Continue reading


Conversion as Connection: Examining Latina/o Identity in The Americas

(This essay is in reference to Latina/o Musulman: The Construction of Latina/o Identity among Latina/o Muslims in the United States by Hjamil A. Martinez-Vasquez)

           Islam in the Americas is unique because it is irreversibly tied to problems of identity and ethnicity. Most Latina/o Muslims living in the United States and in South America are converts to Islam, many of whom must engage in negotiation processes, disillusionment with their previous faith, and unfair treatment by family and peers, as well as their own co-religionists. Muslims are also forced to reorient themselves to navigate structures of ethnic superiority. To deal with these obstacles, these converts strive to adopt alternative narratives, from aligning themselves with historical movements locally to drawing chronologically and culturally distant connections to empires. I seek to argue in this essay that the adoption of these narratives, and therefore conversion to Islam entirely, is ultimately about establishing connections with three entities: God, who is invisible and personal; the ummah, or Muslim global community, and the Latina/o communities they are part of. Continue reading