The Alternative Institutionalization and Practices of Sufi Orders in Boston (2003)

Abstract

This paper is a testimonial study of several Sufi orders in the Boston area. This research was conducted in tandem with Maryam Hassimi’s investigation of such orders in New York City. Sufism in the Boston area cannot be described in a sweeping fashion, since it has manifested in a variety of forms in the area, a phenomenon repeated throughout the United States. Sufism in Boston ranges from the larger organizations such as Sufi Order International, a widespread universalistically-minded organization currently under the guidance of Pir Zia Khan, and the Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship, a well organized and closely knit order based upon the teachings of the Guru of the same name, to much smaller, individualistic situations. For instance, in Boston there are individual members of the Shadhili Order, the Rifai-Qadiri Order, and the Naqshdbandi Order leading their spiritual lives in a more independent fashion. Because of location, resources, and circumstances these individuals follow their respective paths through more intimate and informal practices.

As the interviews reveal, Sufism has adapted in many ways to predominating circumstances. In all instances the heads of the respective Sufi Orders are unable of maintain a physical presence in Boston. Numbers have also forced these groups to develop creative ways of solidifying the spiritual bonds that play such a large role in identify formation. Despite decentering, long distances, and lack of resources, the Sufi orders of Boston, irrespective of size, have all developed systems of communication and interconnectedness to sustain a supportive and enriching spiritual environment.

— Martin Nguyen, Pluralism Project Student Affiliate

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