Accepted paper:

Incomplete mystics: religious failure among Roma Muslims in urban Macedonia


Galina Oustinova-Stjepanovic (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

Paper long abstract:

I will look at the failure of sedentary Roma Muslims in Skopje to become religious mystics, or self-designated Sufis. Under perceived environmental pressures (e.g. negative attitudes among Sunni Muslims), a family of the current shaykh aspired to 'pure' Sufism and attempted to reform their dervish tradition fortuitously inherited from a Turkish shaykh. The family banned practices of ritual piercing and healing in their dervish order. However, despite increasing familiarity with Islamic propositions, neither these religious leaders nor their followers managed to devotedly commit to theologically prescribed practices. More, they collectively assumed that the 'true method' for efficacious performances of rituals and attainment of mystical experiences had been lost and felt too intimidated by the book-mediated ideas about Islamic orthopraxy to creatively experiment with spiritual exercises. The focus will be on an unfolding ritual event (zikir) that foundered, didn't deliver anticipated ecstatic absorption and left everybody dissatisfied and frustrated.

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At the margins of Islam in Europe