Sufi Hybrids: Theorising Islamic Practical Theology: An Exploration of Sufism in Contemporary Britain

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

    Abstract

    This thesis builds on the works of Geaves (2000, 2010, 2014), Werbner (2004) and
    Hamid (2016) to provide a new narrative of the nature of Sufism in contemporary
    Britain. In doing so, it foregrounds the voices, narratives and experiences of Britishborn Sufi communities, as opposed to the immigrant settlers, who have historically
    been the major focus and subject of previous research (Werbner 2004).Through the
    lens of Practical Theology and theories of lived religion, this thesis contributes to the
    discussion of the practice of Sufism in Britain today, through conversations with British
    practitioners coupled with the author’s own insider positionality and autoethnographical reflections.
    The thesis starts with an exploration of the historical and theological trajectory of
    Sufism and its evolution through the history of Islam, both theologically and socially.
    This historical narrative is juxtaposed with contemporary lived experience using data
    collected through the semi structured interviews with British Sufis. Thus this thesis
    elucidates the contemporary significance of Sufism within British Muslim religious
    landscapes, the forms it takes, the connection (and disconnections) to traditions and
    its social and spiritual evolution in response to its British contexts.
    This thesis makes an original and topical contribution by focussing on British born Sufi
    practitioners and what it means to them to be a specifically ‘British Sufi’. In this regard,
    this thesis concludes that, in its iterative embrace and eschewing of aspects, both
    tradition and British contexts, contemporary British Sufism is a religious hybrid in the sense of Hermansen (1997) and Bhabhi’s (1994) Ideas of religious and cultural
    hybridity.
    Finally, this thesis makes a foundational contribution to theorisations of Islamic
    Practical Theology. Building on the precedence of an emphasis on practical
    considerations within classical Islamic scholastic activity, this thesis asserts the urgent
    need for inclusion of everyday needs in contemporary theological praxis within British
    Muslim contexts and provides an initial methodology that may be developed by future
    researchers and theological working in cognate areas. This work will also lay the
    foundations for future study pertaining to Islamic Practical Theology and highlights the
    need for a formal framework to be created for the study of Muslim communities through
    the methodology of Practical Theology.
    Date of Award2023
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorSariya Cheruvallil-Contractor (Supervisor), Chris Shannahan (Supervisor) & Dilwar Hussain (Supervisor)

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