SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Liebeskind, Claudia (1995) Sufism, Sufi Leadership and 'Modernisation' in South Asia Since c. 1800. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

[img] PDF - Submitted Version
Download (10MB)


Relatively little research has been devoted to the responses of sufism, the Islamic spiritual tradition, to processes of 'modernisation'. I have been concerned to study the responses of Indian sufism to the growth of the colonial state, which established new forms of knowledge and new forms of order, and to the emergence of Muslim movements of revival and reform, which saw, and still see, sufism as inimical to the capacity of Muslims to sustain an Islamic society. It is a context more hostile for sufism than ever experienced before. I have approached the problem by examining the responses of three working spiritual traditions in nineteenth and twentieth century India. The first sufi shrine had an educated, urban following; the second had a largely rural following; the third appealed to all conditions of men and across all religious barriers. Unlike the other two this last tradition was a product of the colonial environment. It was notable in that the charisma of the saint was not 'routinised' through his familial descendants but through the workings of a committee. The responses of each spiritual tradition to the changing social, economic and political context have been examined. The analysis of the doings and sayings of the saints as well as their miracles has shown how they responded to the changing needs of their followers. The areas of insecurity in the social and psychic life of the followers have been charted to indicate how these changed through time. The three spiritual traditions have certainly been marginalised by the processes of 'modernisation' and Islamic reform, but not as much as might have been anticipated. Sufi affiliation has moved from being the norm for Muslims to being one option among many. The capacity of the sufi shrines to survive has been closely related to their flexibility adapting to changing times and to the skilful fostering of their constituencies.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:19

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item