Alexander Knysh presents his vision of the Sufi-Salafi confrontation, followed by a discussion of this controversial topic by three respondents: Bernard Haykel, Princeton University; Marcia Hermansen, Loyola University; and Bruce Lawrence, Duke University. The event was organized and sponsored by the Abdallah Kamel Center for the Study of Islamic Law and Civilization at Yale Law School: https://law.yale.edu/centers-workshops/abdallah-s-kamel-center-study-islamic-law-and-civilization .
The gist of the conversation: The rift between the Salafis (lit. “followers of the pious forebears of Islam”; usually translated as “purists/fundamentalists”) and the Sufis (Muslim ascetics-mystics) is found throughout the Muslim world today as well as the Muslim communities in the West and the Russian Federation. Observers often construe it as evidence of the intractable incompatibility and mutual hostility of these two distinctive interpretations and practices of Islam. However, this general observation often obscures the fact that behind the apparent universality of the Salafi-Sufi quarrel lies a myriad of local factors that shape its concrete (and often unique) manifestations in different Islamic societies. Alexander Knysh’s talk examines some concrete social and political contexts in which this long-standing confrontation is unfolding today.