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Title: Neo-traditionalism in the West : navigating modernity, tradition, and politics
Author: Quisay, Walaa
ISNI:       0000 0004 7971 6326
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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The present thesis studies the emergence of neo-traditionalism, its public pedagogues and their students (seekers of sacred knowledge), in the West. These pedagogues, many of whom Western-born converts, emerged in the 1990's after having culminated their studies in the 'traditional centres' of knowledge in the Muslim world. They came back with the intent of transmitting the 'traditional' knowledge they attained to the wider Muslim community. Of these, this research focuses primarily on Hamza Yusuf, Abdal Hakim Murad, and Umar Faruq Abd-Allah. To their community of followers and students - known as 'seekers of sacred knowledge', they represented a connection to an authentic religious tradition marginalised by modernist voices. Their religious discourse was both highly intellectual and deeply spiritual; at a time when there was a seeming decline in both intellect and spirituality. The shuyūkh disseminate their traditional knowledge in religious retreats. These retreats - often- are isolated from the modern world and imbued with traditional symbolism. In these spaces, the shuyūkh provide the desirable orientations to the sacred world in Islam, and a rejection of the modern world around them. That is, the retreat provides both 'ways of seeing' as well as 'what is to be seen' as part of Islam within modernity. The central thrust of the sites of the transaction of sacred knowledge is to 'school' the learners into different narratives of the spiritual decline under modern condition. In the Muslim specific context, this led to the rise of different modernist post-colonial movements and activist tendencies. Such trends obscured Muslim metaphysical outlook. The shuyūkh's critiques of modernity and discourses on the side lining of metaphysics interpret these in terms of the wider political and social principles. This research shows, on the one hand, how the neo-traditionalist shuyūkh conceive of modernity, tradition, and how that impacts their political discourse on issues such as dissent, race, belonging, and gender. The research highlights how the critique of 'modernity' is interlinked and reaffirms notions of authority and stability. On the other hand, it shows, through field interviews with seekers who attended their religious retreats, how young Muslims negotiate and navigate these discourses on modernity, tradition, and politics.
Supervisor: Talib, Mohammad ; Armbrust, Walter Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Anthropology of Islam ; Islamic Studies