From Abstract Utopia to Concrete Practice and Place: Hizb ut-‐Tarir Members
Kirstine Sinclair, University of Southern Denmark
This contribution takes as its point of departure a non-‐existing place – Hizb ut-‐ Tahrir’s Caliphate – and discusses how members perform and behave as if the Caliphate were a reality and thus succeed in creating experiences of “living in the
Caliphate” for themselves and other members. Hizb ut-‐Tahrir is an Islamist organisation founded in Jerusalem in 1953. Since then, members organised in national branches all overthe world have worked towards establishing a Caliphate somewhere in a Muslim majority country using non-‐violent means such as demonstrations, public rallies, conferences anddistribution of leaflets and other material. Based on participant observation and interviews with members and former members of Hizb ut-‐Tahrir in Denmark and Britain and throughanalyses of placing strategies inspired by cultural geography, I am making the argument that members internalise and perform the idea of life in the Caliphate to the extent of believingthe establishment of the state is not only a future possibility but an actual and factual place. Through party related activities, in the minds of members the Caliphate is transformed froma moral to a physical destination.
Defilement of Muslim sacred objects in anti-‐Islamic activism
Jonas Svensson, Linnaeus University
The paper is an attempt at outlining underlying, mainly intuitive understandings
and sentiments that can explain the phenomenon of defilement of sacred objects in anti-‐Islamic activism. I argue that while the activity is easily understandable, such an understanding rest upon a set of intuitive assumptions and mental operations
which by no means are simple or straightforward. The theoretical framework of the analysis it taken from current psychological research on sanctity/degradation as a human universal”moral foundation”. The paper outlines in a hypothetical manner the prerequisites that makes defilement of sacred object psychologically possible, attractive as a means for hostileaction, and effective as a provocation.
British Muslims, the Hajj and Sacred Objects
Seán McLoughlin, University of Leeds
In this paper I begin by suggesting that Muslim religioning must be charted across cartographies of belief, practice, and identity that are local, multi-‐local, and supra-‐ local (Tweed1997; 2006; cf. McLoughlin 2010; 2013a). Arguing that the study of the Hajj cannot be confined to Mecca as a circumscribed, time-‐space location, I examine in particular thesignificance of circulations and flows of sacralised objects (Coleman
& Eade 2004; cf. Appadurai 1996). Back home utopian experiences in the Holy
Places can be revisited temporarily by the affective power of souvenirs. Praying on a
masala perfumed with the smell of the ka‘ba can be a resource for the (re)expansion of the religious imagination. In the act of giving, mass-‐produced souvenirs also transfer of theblessings of pilgrimage (Werbner, 1998). Thus I explore, for example, the reputed miraculous and curative properties of Zamzam water, and its sacralising contagiousness far beyondthe Holy Places. However, some souvenirs such as stones from the graves of holy people (e.g. in Madinah) are highly contested both within Saudi Arabia and British Muslimcommunities. The paper draws upon longstanding research among British Muslim Hajjis, including more than 30 in-‐depth interviews conducted as a contribution to the BritishMuseum's Hajj exhibition in 2012 and continued as part of a British Academy Mid-‐Career Fellowship in 2013-‐14.
Every place is Karbala. The turba prayer stone as traveling soil
Thomas Fibiger, Aarhus University
One of the most distinct characteristics of the Shia sect is that at prayer, the Shia Muslim should touch his/her forehead on a turba prayer stone. Ideally, this stone is made of clay fromKarbala, the site where Imam Husayn, the grandchild of the Prophet Muhammad and early leader of the Shia, was killed together with his small army at the decisive battle of Karbala in680. Thus, every time a Shia Muslim prays, anywhere in the world, he/she connects physically to the soil of Karbala and the martyrdom of Imam Husayn. As a popular saying goes,‘every day is Ashura (the tenth of Muharram, when the battle took place), every place is Karbala’. Every place is physically so when the Shia kneels to pray and put his/her head on theturba stone. This paper will illuminate and discuss the importance of the turba prayer stone, its use in prayer and other ritual activities, among women and men in the Arab states of theGulf. I intend to show how the important sacred site of Karbala travels as prayer stones, and how Shia history and experience is embedded in every piece of this clay.
On the matter of ignorance: Bedouin pasts and the problem of presence
Mikkel Bille, Roskilde University
In recent decades the theological notion of jahiliyyah, as the Age of Ignorance, has reappeared with the Islamic revival to describe contemporary practices that allegedly run againstIslamic traditions. Through claims of ignorance (jahil) people may on the one hand expose other people and their practices as less Islamic, or in some cases may be a way ofstrategically positioning oneself as ignorant by claiming that God only knows. Through this stratagem “ignorance”, either as part of theology or as part of social lives, has emerged asmore than simply a cognitive lack, but likewise an evaluative perspective to social lives. While much recent research has focused on the way people are ignorant about something, thispresentation will deal with the way Bedouin in Jordan may find themselves in negotiations over ignorance through their use of particular saint shrines and prophylactic objects. Storiesof the efficacy of these places or objects has been passed down for generations, but after taking up settled life away from their traditional tribal areas the material practices are eitherforgotten, or become increasingly contested or clandestine as more scriptural understandings of Islam are gaining influence. The fundamental problem that arise is one of the role ofmateriality: How to deal with the potency of past practices, in what way is an object really present, and how does knowing and not-‐ knowing through things become part of social lives?
The Prophet in Our Midst: Sacred objects among Muslims in Denmark
Mikkel Rytter, Aarhus University
The so called ‘cartoon crisis’ in 2005-‐2006 has resulted in a ‘freedom of speech
fundamentalism’ in secular Danish society, where Muslim minorities are instructed to endure mocking, ridicule and insults. However, parallel to this a more enchanted
‘subaltern counter-‐public’ seems to take form among Danish Muslims. It is an
enchanted public sphere where people strive to cultivate an intimate relationship with the Prophet Muhammad and let his virtues and perfect example guide all aspects of theireveryday life.
In this paper I discuss two particular kinds of ‘sacred objects’ that have been significant in the establishment and expansion of a Sufi tariqa (path, order) called NaqshbandiMujaddidi Saifi, that currently attracts many followers among Danish Pakistani youth. The first sacred object is the impressive beards grown on the chins of the devoted Sufis; thesecond is the appearance of a specific relic, a single hair supposedly stemming from the Prophet Muhammad. Applying James Frazer’s classical distinction between ‘imitative magic’,which works by what he calls law of similarity and ‘contagious magic’ that work by the law of contact, I discuss how sacred objects presents an alternative to the Islamophobia andracism many Muslim immigrants are confronted with in Danish society, and how they enables the cultivation of an intimate and affective relationship between the single Saifi and the beloved Prophet.
Early Islamic amulet cases in the David Collection
Joachim Meyer, The David’s Collection
In an Islamic context amulets are known since the early periods and their use was
probably influenced by pre-‐Islamic cultures. This seems also to be the case with Islamic amulet containers. The earliest containers date to 10.-‐11th century Iran and are made ofsilver, often partially gilded and inlaid with niello – a tradition that continues up to the 13th century. Many containers belonging to this early group have found their way into publiccollections, but only in few cases have their provenances from excavations been published.
These containers are either shaped as cylindrical tubes or as small boxes and fitted with loops for attaching a cord for suspension. The cylindrical tubes seem to belong to a tradition going back to the pre-‐Islamic Mediterranean region with antecedents including ancient Egyptian and Carthagianian cylindrical containers as well as Roman and Byzantineamulet cases.
These early Islamic amulet containers are small in size and though they
today normally miss their original contents, they are supposed to have been holding
minor scrolls of prayers or Quranic verses, sometimes also with talismanic inscriptions. Normally these texts would have been hand written, but there are also early examples of textsmade from wood block prints or from metal seals.
In The David Collection is found a small group of early amulet containers as well as a sample of a printed text that would have been stored into an amulet container. This paper will focus on these early silver containers and discuss the art historical context, they belong to.
Conference program is available here