This talk will highlight two key dynamics within Sufism today that emerged in developing an introductory text to Sufism and then a volume on contemporary Sufism. First, we consider the historically unprecedented contestation surrounding Sufism's place within the Islamic tradition, a contestation that has only grown in recent decades and continues to manifest globally in anti-Sufi movements. Second, we explore the role of gender in shaping Sufi practice, and the question surrounding the global emergence of female Sufi leaders. In discussing each theme we consider first Unveiling Sufism: From Manhattan to Mecca, and how the structure of this book led us to the themes that would shape Contemporary Sufism: Piety, Politics, and Popular Culture.
Meena Sharify-Funk, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Religion and Culture Department at Wilfrid Laurier University who specializes in Islamic studies with a focus on contemporary Muslim thought and identity. Sharify-Funk has written and presented a number of articles and papers on women and Islam, Sufi hermeneutics, and the role of cultural and religious factors in peacemaking. Her current research focuses on the construction of contemporary North American Muslim identity in a post 9/11 world. It is a continuation of her first manuscript, Encountering the Transnational: Women, Islam, and the Politics of Interpretation (Ashgate 2008) which examined the impact of transnational networking on Muslim women’s identity, thought, and activism. She also has co-edited two books, Cultural Diversity and Islam (University Press of America 2003) and Contemporary Islam: Dynamic, Not Static (Routledge 2006). Most recently, Sharify-Funk published Contemporary Sufism: Piety, Politics, and Popular Culture (Routledge 2018) with William Rory Dickson and Merin Shobhana Xavier.
William Rory Dickson, PhD is an Assistant Professor for the Religion and Culture Department at the University of Winnipeg, with a specialization in Islamic Studies. His research focuses on contemporary Islam and Sufism in North America. Dickson’s first book Living Sufism in North America: Between Tradition and Transformation (SUNY 2015) explores the ways in which Sufi leaders in North America relate to Islamic orthodoxy, authority, and gender.