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Self-help, Alternative Therapies and Apologetics. Islamic Interactions with Elements from New Religiosities

Panel Chair: Martin Riexinger | Monday, August 24, 9-11 a.m. | Venue

The strong influence of elements from new religiosities is one of the most under-researched aspects of modern Islamic intellectual history. The reception can be traced back to the late 19th century when spiritism was regarded as “Western” proof against “Western” materialism and positivism. This apologetic aspect still plays an important role today. But in recent decades elements from new religiosities have been adapted in other contexts like self-improvement and alternative therapies where they are often blended with elements from the Islamic tradition. Nevertheless, even authors who propagate such ideas are cautious to prevent the influx of elements from new religiosities they consider potentially harmful to Islamic normativity. Examples from three different regions will highlight the reception of elements from new religiosities and strategies to cope with tensions arising from Islamic claims for exclusivity and supremacy.

Martin Riexinger

Self-improvement and eschatology - the Turkish author Muhammed Bozdağ

The Turkish Islamic author Muhammed Bozdağ (b. 1967) became famous with his self-development books and related media activities. With his activities he apparently aimed at the increasingly wealthier and better educated religious middle class which has emerged in Turkey in the last two decades. Many of his ideas, in particular parascientific justifications of his concepts, are borrowed from Western New Age authors. However, he apparently considers other aspects of the New Age as dangerous, as they threaten a theistic worldview and promote individualization at the expense of collective norms. In order to counter this he also advocates in a ‘post-modernized’ form of traditional Islamic eschatology. For this purpose he uses again many holistic concepts from Western and Japanese New Age authors. Bozdağ’s writings may hence be seen as indication for how far New Age concepts can be “islamically digested” in the Turkish context.

David Jordan

Sufism and Parapsychology in Iraq – The Case of the Kasnazāniyyah Order

Facing the advance of education and sciences in modern Muslim societies on the one hand and a growing critique of heresy by puritan Salafism on the other, one may assume that Sufi orders in Islam might put less and less emphasis on miracle performances for which they have become so famous throughout the centuries. Contrary to that assumption, the case of the Kurdish Kasnazāniyyah order in Iraq shows that miracle performances such as the piercing of certain parts of the body with skewers without any injury are still a central practice supposed to prove physically the shaykh’s spiritual healing power and to contribute to membership recruitment. These miracles are, furthermore, buttressed carefully through parapsychological research in order to prove their divine origin scientifically and challenge thus Western materialist and positivist perceptions of the human as sole source of agency.

Claudia Preckel

Prophetic Medicine, Holy Trees and Yoga: Hakim Akbar Kausar's Mughal Garden in Vaniyambadi (India)

Hakim Akbar Kausar has established several hospitals in India where he and his family are offering a wide range of therapies, the most important of which is “Unani”, or literally "Greek" medicine which has its roots in Ancient Greece, and has been deeply influenced by Muslim scholars. After its advent in India, Unani Medicine also got influenced by Ayurveda and Hindu cosmology. These debates are also reflected in the arrangement of Hakim Akbar Kausar’s Mughal Garden, where therapies like Reiki, Yoga or acupuncture are offered as well. Hakim Akbar Kausar is also regarded as an expert of “Prophetic Medicine”, which is presently extensively propagated throughout India. The paper gives an overview on Kausar's vision on Islam, Prophetic Medicine and the medical and religious plurality in his hospitals. It is further discussing how new forms of religious and/or medical practices like Islamic Yoga are negotiated in the multireligious environment of India.

Rasool Akbari Chaeechi, Mahdi Hasanzadeh

Comparative Religions and Mysticism in Iran: a Case Study of Ferdowsi University of Mashhad

The Islamic Republic of Iran boasts the establishment of a religious state since 1979, embodying a Shi‘ite desecularization of Iranian politics. In fact, religion resides at the heart of numerous sociocultural dynamisms in Iran and various researches have been carried out on this subject. From an educational perspective, the study of religion abundantly undertaken in theological ways is also a serious enterprise at Iranian universities and seminaries. However, this phenomenon remains a largely untouched topic among the global community of scholars of religion, resulting in a general unawareness of the academic dynamics of religion in an important Middle Eastern country. Hence, the present paper aims mainly to explore the case of ‘Comparative Religions and Mysticism’ as a field offered by Faculty of Theology at Ferdowsi University of Mashhad (FUM). In general, the intent is to provide an analytical report on the history, structure, and institution of this field both in Iran and at FUM and the key studies conducted at the faculty.


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