Sorgenfrei, Simon; Stjernholm, Simon (2022-06-14)
The Donner Institute
The aim of this article is to analyse a local expression of the transnational Ahbash Sufi movement in light of recent scholarship on the relationship between Salafism and Sufism as well as Islamic neo-traditionalism. Some researchers have reacted against a dichotomous relationship between fundamentalism and Sufism, instead suggesting a continuum and a mutual interdependence. We aim to contribute to a developed understanding of the process whereby some Sufi actors go on the attack against their Islamic foes by publicly and loudly claiming to represent ‘true Islam’ as found in the ‘fundamentals’ of Islam – but with a different understanding of what those fundamentals are. We analyse a series of interviews with a local representative of the transnational Ahbash Sufi movement in Malmö, Sweden; the Ahbash movement has its central leadership in Lebanon. Through discussing the representative’s understanding of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bidʿa, in particular concerning the celebration of the prophet Muhammad’s birthday (mawlid al-nabi), we note a combined emphasis on authoritative textual sources – including the Qurʾan and hadith literature – and the allegedly unbroken traditional knowledge transmission which secures a correct understanding of Islam. This shows an ambiguous space of Islamic thought and practice, an arguably Salafi-affected neo-traditionalist defense of Sufism, which transgresses commonly employed dichotomies between Salafism and Sufism.