Dudoignon, Stéphane A., ‘Fragments de Gnose Musulmane Soviétique’, JSS (2021)

Dudoignon, Stéphane A., ‘Fragments de Gnose Musulmane Soviétique: Quelques Ghazals du Dīwān de Shaykh ʿAbd al-Raḥīm Dawlat Īlākī (1881-1947)’ [Fragments of Soviet Muslim Gnosis: Some Ghazals by Shaykh ʿAbd al-Raḥīm Dawlat Īlākī (1881-1947)], Journal of Sufi Studies 10/2 (2021), pp. 197–214

Described as an isolate of conservatism, the Central Asian Islam of the Soviet era shows, even in its archaic features, deep mutations. Among them: the valorisation, by a Persian or Turkic gnostic poetry of classical form produced the short 20th century, of Sufi ways as a place of resistance to the ‘idolatries’ of the time. After the disappearance of the khānqāhs (lodges) upon collectivisation, this invocation was intended for a small audience of initiates. It reminds us of the usefulness, in a repressive context, of the inner dhikr praised in the Naqshbandiyya. Reinterpreting the Naqshbandi principle of ‘asceticism in society’, it also insists, in a mujaddidī spirit, on the importance of the figure of the Guide for deepening mystical commitment.

Its vehicle is a poetry of classical form and metre, combining hermeticism and interest in orality. Transmitted orally and preserved in manuscript form until the turn of the 21st century, this literature became a vehicle for hagiographic processes carried out by holy lineages and networks of closely related disciples, present in vast territories. It is illustrated in this study by a selection of Persian ghazals by Shaykh ʿAbd al-Raḥīm Dawlat Īlākī (1881-1947), a mujaddidī master trained in Bukhara under the last emirs. Active until his death in the upper Qarategin valley, his teaching spread the territory of the Tajik SSR as a result of the post-World War II population movements to the cotton plains of the centre and south of the republic, laying the foundation for a current celebration of Shaykh ʿAbd al-Raḥīm as a national Tajik saint.

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