Annika Schmeding

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Boston U.

Grant number

Gr. 9576

Approve Date

October 13, 2017

Project Title

Schmeding, Annika, Boston U., Boston, MA - To aid research on 'Islamic Ecumenism? Novel Approaches in Internal and External Public Negotiation of Difference in Afghanistan's Sufi Council,' supervised by Dr. Thomas J. Barfield

The ethnographic dissertation research explores the communication and negotiation among Sufis and ulema, and their role in the public sphere and peacebuilding in present-day Afghanistan through the lens of the newly formed Sufi-Islamic council in Herat. The council brings together different Sufi associations (tariqas), local ulema as well as Sufi adherents to respond to the changing religious landscape in Afghanistan. The rise of Salafi-inclined teachers and changes in religious education have galvanized a diverse group in the Sufi spectrum to find common discursive ground for Sufis to stand on through publishing books, conducting outreach to Salafi preachers and building a support network for Sufis. The Sufi council therefore crystallizes concerns, negotiations and positionality of different Sufi affiliates and enables us to ask questions about Islamic ecumenism and public engagement in intra-faith/Islamic dialogue. What can these attempts teach us about a religious grassroots community’s efforts for intra-faith pluralism within a religiously constituted republic at a time when Islamic fundamentalists are attacking the very same base that the council attempts to build; and what is the role and reach of religion in peace-and inner-faith-pluralism-building efforts in a situation of perpetual conflict and war? This community-network-centered perspective focuses on processes at work in the negotiation of difference/sameness of doctrine and practice to find a unified position that can influence public safety of the Sufi community members in the Muslim public sphere.