image of CERES Research Colloquium
Research Colloquium

CERES Research Colloquium

CERES Palais, room "Ruhrpott" (4.13)

Dr. Oleg Yarosh

Western Sufism at the Crossroads: Re-Islamization, Authority, and Community

Abstract This presentation will focus on contemporary trends within Western Sufism, emphasising Sufi communities that have either originated in or been contextualized in the West.
Since the 1980s, Sufism in the West gradually underwent re-Islamisation, conforming to the global norm and identifying Sufism primarily with Islam (Sedgwick 2019) or ‘turn to authenticity’ when followers and communities undermine syncretism and eclecticism previously shared by them and embrace more ‘authentic’ forms of ‘Sufi life’ (Klinkhammer 2009). However, this dynamic is neither linear nor uniformly applicable across different groups. It can be reversed or reconsidered depending on the authority and prevailing attitudes within the particular group.
The typical leadership model for Sufi communities is charismatic authority, a model within which religious authority is derived from the charisma of the Shaykh. This ‘redemptive sociality’ (Werbner 2001) or collective solidarity based on bonds with a charismatic Sufi Sheikh as a living saint who is able to transmit ‘supernatural powers’ to the community is the basis for the moral order and shared beliefs, values and activities within the Sufi communities. The charismatic authority in the conditions of privatization and individualization of religiosity in the West provides a ‘base platform of certainty’ for the religious community, legitimizing beliefs and practices. (Hervieu-Léger 2006) This social bonding and mutual relationship with the Shaykh inside Sufi communities are reinforced through regular religious ceremonies, teaching, training and shared social activities. The presentation will examine how authenticity, charismatic authority, and discipleship are navigated within Western Sufi communities.

Affiliated Persons

Photograph of Maren Jordan M.A.

Maren Jordan M.A.


Universitätsstr. 90a
44789  Bochum
Office 3.08
+49 234 32-21982

Oleg Yarosh


Universitätsstr. 90a
44789  Bochum