Pratapaditya Pal (ed.), 2008, Sindh. Past Glory, Present Nostalgia, Mumbai, Marg Publications, vol. 60, n° 1, 180 p.
This collective book aims at making the public aware of the long and rich cultural heritage of Sindh, at the crossroads of Iranian, Central Asiatic and Indian Rajasthani-Gujarati worlds, and open on the Arabian Sea. From the remains of the protohistoric Mohenjodaro to the history of the modern Karachi and its inhabitants; from Budhhist and Hindu art and architecture, Islamic conquest and the development of Islamic architecture, to contemporary art, traditional crafts, and regional cookery; from history, political and cultural encounters through coinages to British production of representations on the region. It also points out some crucial studies that should be undertaken, for example about Buddhist sculptures, Hindu art and architecture, the medieval port of Banbhore which needs a new survey, etc. In sum, it highlights a composite Sindhi culture and identity, spoiled with the Indo-Pakistan Partition, in 1947.
Robert Rozehnal (2007) Islamic Sufism Unbound. Politics and Piety in Twenty First Century Pakistan, New York & Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.
In this book, which is a revised version of a PhD defended at Duke University with Bruce Lawrence as supervisor, Robert Rozenhal addresses a central question: “What do contemporary Chishti Sabiris make of modernity?”. He explores how they “accommodate a life of spiritual discipline and religious piety to the myriad demands of their daily experiences” (p. 8). What the author calls “alternative modernity” is made up of “a range of practical strategies to integrate Sufism into the complex matrix of twenty-first century life” (p. 9). Contesting the essentializing and reductive lenses with which Western scholars interpret Sufi thought and practice, he stresses the need of a “more nuanced, multidimensional, interdisciplinary reading of Sufism’s multiple dimensions – its public and private manifestations – doctrines and practices, its piety, and its politics” (pp. 13-14). In his methodology, Robert Rozenhal combines manuscripts and fieldwork, to bridge a disciplinary divide.
After an introduction devoted to “Mapping the Chishti Sabri Sufi Order”, the book is divided into six chapters: 1. Sufism and the Politics of Muslim Identity, 2. Muslim, Mystic, and Modern: Three Twentieth-Century Sufi Masters, 3. Imagining Sufism: The Publication of Chishti Sabri Identity, 4. Teaching Sufism: Networks of Community and Discipleship, and 5. Experiencing Sufism: The Discipline of Ritual Practice. Robert Rozenhal’s approach is undoubtedly innovative but since he focuses on the Chishti Sabri tradition, he sometimes makes rapid formulations. For instance, he states that “Pakpattan now stands as the unrivalled center of a distinctly Pakistani Sufism” (p. 26). It is a pity that his contextualization of Sufism in Pakistan is more or less restricted to the Chishti Sabri tradition. Obviously, it does not include the southern province of Sindh, although it is known as “the land of the Sufis”. What about other major Sufi centres like Multan or Sehwan Sharif?
The most important contribution of this book is to show through a fine analysis how plural the discourses on Islam are in Pakistan today. The author makes it clear that “what is at stake here is the definition of Islamic orthodoxy” (p. 34). One can nevertheless regret that the author’s demonstration is more related to the state than to radical Islam. He argues that “the state’s control of Sufi tradition (…) has never been totalizing or hegemonic” (p. 227). He also states that “Sufi identity is capacious, broader, and deeper than the parochial constructions of religious nationalism” (p. 228). The “alternative modernity” embraced by Chishti Sabri Sufi order is framed within an “alternative geography” that delineates an expansive Indo-Muslim sacred landscape centered on Sufi shrines, an “alternative history” that links the disciples ultimately to Prophet Muhammad through a sacred genealogy (silsilah), an “alternative community” rooted in a teaching network, and an “alternative authority” thanks to the experiential knowledge acquired through the Sufi ritual practices.
Michel Boivin (CNRS-CEIAS-EHESS, Paris)
“A ‘Proving Ground’ for Spiritual Mastery: The Chishti Sabiri Musical Assembly,” The Muslim World Vol. 97, No.4: October 2007): 657-677.
“Faqir or Faker? The Public Battle Over Sufism in Contemporary Pakistan,” Religion 36 (2006): 29-47.
“Debating Orthodoxy, Contesting Tradition: Islam in Contemporary South Asia,” in Islam in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives, ed. R. Michael Feener (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2004): 103-131.
“From Sufi Practice to Scholarly Praxis: Reflections on the Lessons of Fieldwork for the Study of Islam,” in Items and Issues: Social Science Research Council. Vol.3, No. 1-2 (Spring 2002).
Finbarr Barry Flood (ed) (2008) Piety and Politics in the Early Indian Mosque. New Delhi, Oxford University Press.
This book is a reader that will be of great interest not only for scholars but also for teachers and students. It brings together the different historical approaches of mosques contructed after North-West India came under control of the Ghurid sultanate originating from Afghanistan in the 1190s. In his long introduction, the author wonderfully articulates the multiple contexts through which the earliest mosques in South Asia were constructed. All this to better understand how different historical approaches and discourses around the category of mosques have been shaped over time. It is not surprising then that this book found a place in the OUP series entitled “Debates in Indian History and Society.
Plurality of sources and interdisciplinary approach:
A case study of Sehwan Sharif in Sindh
Maison de l’Asie, Grand Salon (1st floor), 22 avenue du Président Wilson, 75016 Paris
As part of activity of the research team “History and Sufism in the Indus Valley” (CEIAS), led by Michel Boivin, a workshop will be held on 27 January 2009 at the EHESS in Paris. Several members of this team will focus on how to integrate the plurality of sources in comparison with the interdisciplinary approach of a Sufi pilgrimage, that of Sehwan Sharif located in the region of Sindh in Southern Pakistan. Beginning on the work of the French Archaeological Mission in Sindh (1989-2002), different sets of research materials will be presented by the speakers: epigraphical sources, colonial archives, cartographic representations, vernacular sources, etc. If the primary objective of this workshop is to make an inventory of sources and materials collected, and eventually to compose a typology by disciplines, it also aims at multiplying angles of approach to a specific site, between local history and regional history. At the end of the day, a brief account of the field mission in October 2008 will be presented and commented, as well as various parallel projects around issues of data management and sharing (archiving and cataloging, GIS, website).
9h30: Opening remarks by Michel Boivin, CNRS
Chair: Véronique Bouiller (CNRS)
10h-10h30: Monique Kervran (CNRS), The archaeology of Sindh and Sehwan Sharif: the work of the French Archaeological Mission in Sindh
10h30-11h: Annabelle Collinet (Louvre Museum), Sehwan Sharif through the study of ceramics: 2nd-8th until 11th-17th centuries
11h15-11h45: Claude Markovits (CNRS), Sindh through colonial archives
11h45-12h15: Reza Dehghan (University of Aix-Marseille), Sindh and commercial trade between India and Baghdad
Chair: Christophe Z. Guilmoto (IRD)
14h-14h30: Johanna Blayac (EPHE), Epigraphy and architecture in Sehwan and southern Sindh
14h30-15h00: Rémy Delage (CNRS), Sehwan Sharif and Sindh represented cartographically
15h-15h50: Michel Boivin (CNRS), La’l Shahbâz Qalandar through vernacular sources; Annabelle Collinet (Louvre Museum): Commentary on the Qalandar’s begging bowl (kishtî)
15h50-16h20: Frédérique Pagani (Paris X-Nanterre), Studying the Sindhis in India
16h20-17h: Michel Boivin (CNRS) and Rémy Delage (CNRS), Brief account of the field mission in 2008, Parallel projects and Mission in Sehwan Sharif 2009
Jürgen Wasim Frembgen (2008) Journey to God. Sufis and Dervishes in Islam, Karachi, Oxford University Press.
Since 1981, the author has been conducting ethnographic fieldwork on Islamic mysticism and Sufi cults in South Asia and more particularly in Pakistan. His latest book is a revised English version translated of the German one by Jane Ripken. Jürgen Wasim Frembgen here focuses on the role played by Sufis and dervishes in shaping social and cultural environments in the whole Muslim world from Africa across the Middle East to South Asia, with special emphasis on India and Pakistan. While describing everyday practices, perceptions and representations, the author intents to show how Sufi cults and saints became popular forms of Islamic religiosity at the local level, as well as components of mass devotional movements in Muslim societies.
Pierre Alain Baud (2008) Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, le messager du qawwali [Nusrat Fath Ali Khan, the mesenger of qawwali], Paris, Editions Demi Lune.
Pierre-Alain Baud has published a number of papers on Sufi music from Pakistan. Although he began by focusing on Shah Latif’s musical tradition at Bhit Shah in Sindh, he was one of the first Westerners to personally meet Nusrat Fath Ali Khan in the 1980s. He accompanied him on several tours in Europe and elsewhere. Since the book is published for a large audience of French-speaking readers, the approach is more journalistic than academic. He nevertheless draws a useful contextualization regarding Sufism in Pakistan, and the Sufi milieu in which Nusrat grew up. It must be remembered that Nusrat’s most famous hit was Dama dam mast Qalandar, a song devoted to La’l Shahbâz Qalandar of Sehwan Sharif that he converted into a universal hymn of tolerance.