What happens when the digital world meets Sufism? This is the question raised in the exciting new book Cyber Sufis: Virtual Expressions of the American Muslim Experience
(OneWorld Academic, 2019) by Robert Rozehnal
, a professor of Islamic Studies and South Asian Religions and the founding director of the Center for Global Islamic Studies at Lehigh University. This exhilarating new book explores how the Inayati Order, the oldest Sufi community in the west, under the current leadership of Zia Inayat Khan, utilizes cyber tools in their pedagogical practices, ritual performances, and social engagement. By investigating this one particular American Sufi community’s presence in the digital world (such as on Facebook, webpages, and etc.), Rozehnal highlights how “cyber Sufis” create complex identities both on- and offline, all the while evading any easy categorizations of Sufism, Islam, and new age spirituality. Some of the noted digital transformations unfolding within the Inayati Order are in many ways, not novel, but rather reflective of historical legacies, such as in the case of South Asian Sufism of the Chishtis that influences the Inayati Order. Methodologically, the book is deeply sensitive of and also models how to conduct digital ethnography and highlights the significance of studying digital religions, especially from an Islamic studies perspective. The book is accessible and thus is a great teaching resource for undergraduates, especially for courses on digital religions, ritual studies, media studies, American Islam, and Sufism.
Shobhana Xavier is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Queen’s University. Her research areas are on contemporary Sufism in North America and South Asia. She is the author of
Sacred Spaces and Transnational Networks in American Sufism (Bloombsury Press, 2018) and a co-author of
Contemporary Sufism: Piety, Politics, and Popular Culture (Routledge, 2017). More details about her research and scholarship may be found here and here. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org