Debating Sufism: The Tijāniyya and its Opponents


Dr. Mohammad Hanif

Research Area:


Because of some rather controversial tenets Tijaniyya, a sufi order established in late eighteenth century in North Africa, has become the preferred target of criticism from other Muslims. Thus a huge polemical body of literature has been produced by both Tijanis and their opponents over time. I therefore in this research project aim to study the polemical debates involving Tijanis and their denigrators with particular consideration paid to both texts and the contexts the respective literature stems from. Polemical exchanges will be subjected to scrutiny by applying a multidisciplinary approach, a meticulous philological approach will taken to get to the core of intellectual and doctrinal dimensions of the controversies, while a historical approach will be applied to locate the right stones in the right corners by exploring the historical, political, socio-economical background of the debates. On the basis of selected case studies representing different time periods and different geographical settings, the project will analyze the form, content, and most importantly the context of the polemical confrantations between the proponents and critics of the Tijaniyya. My methodology will therefore be comparative, that will allow me to find parallels and differences and identify specific elements of the debates as either old or new. This research project seeks to offer new insights into the history of the Tijaniyya and the polemical tradition, as well as to show how leaders of the  Tijaniyya order, known shaykhs, have constructed and grounded their status in the spiritual and material realms, thus contributing to the larger theme of the resilience of Sufism in the modern world.