My current project explores the conditions that enable a Sufi tradition with its spiritual legacy and original institutional form rooted in pre-modern societies, to thrive in modernizing urban settings. It attempts to address such a challenge by examining the Ba'alawi sayyids; a group of migrants in Indonesia from the Hadramaut valley of South Yemen, who has been acknowledged as descendants of Prophet Muhammad. It tries to understand how Ba’alawi scholars reconfigure their Sufi tradition, the Tariqa ‘Alawiyya through their interaction with Indonesian nationhood and Islamic reformism, which necessitated the observation of embodied practices involving Ba'alawi scholars and their students in the transmission of knowledge through time. The aim of this project is therefore (1) to understand how textual knowledge that makes up a religious tradition becomes embodied; and (2) to observe how the embodied knowledge enters into the larger public through other ways of interaction, such as various Sufi rituals that engage broader public. This requires an ethnographic approach that looks at different forms of knowledge practices as sites where the discursive tradition is transmitted, negotiated, transformed, manipulated through the interaction between scholars and students on one side and between them and the broader public on the other.
“’They are the inheritors of the Prophet’: Discourses on the Ahl al-Bayt and Religious Authority among the Ba ‘Alawi in Modern Indonesia” in Shi’ism and Beyond: ‘Alid Piety’ in Muslim Southeast Asia, edited by R. Michael Feener & Chiara Formichi. London: IB Tauris, 2012 [In Press].
“Becoming Indonesians: The Ba ‘Alawi in the Interstices of the Nation,” Die Welt des Islams, vol. 51, no. 1, 2011
“[al-] ‘Alawiyya (in Hadramawt).”Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE. Edited by: Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas and Everett Rowson. Leiden: Brill, 2010