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Research Workshop: Making Islam one's own

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Institute of Islamic Studies

170 St. George Street

Jackman Humanities Building, Seminar Room 530

Toronto, Ontario M5R 2M8

Canada

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Sattar Shah is an elderly resident of a remote Himalayan valley in the pahars (mountainscapes) of Northern Pakistan. Sattar calibrates his investments and reliance on others as being subservient to his relationship with Allah. He possesses a spirituality, a certain kind of asceticism, developed over a lifetime of negotiating relationships with varying degrees of reciprocity, betrayal, and fulfilment. He has arrived at the conclusion, that only Allah has stood by him through the various tribulations of life, including a large earthquake, material poverty, hunger, death of family, social isolation, and other forms of precarity. I am unable to articulate Sattar Shah only through available tools on Islam, text-critical or anthropological, and posit that another kind of attention is required to capture the work he performs: a lifelong accumulation of strength and fierceness, which cannot be sufficiently explained through forms of self-cultivation. By understanding his devotions to Allah as a site of engagement (the “local”), I seek to appreciate what compels Sattar Shah to only rely on Allah for fulfilling even the most basic of needs such as obtaining milk or the occasional cigarette or donate all his assets to the local madrassa or not seek humanitarian assistance after a large earthquake. By drawing attention to the particularities and situatedness of Sattar Shah’s relationship with Allah, I attempt to show that this relationship is accumulative and accretive of the very social it seeks to reject. The rejection of the social or engaging with it on one’s own terms, constitutes a site of the social in itself, one that is needed for Sattar Shah’s sustenance. This allows us to appreciate how Sattar Shah makes Islam his own, rather than only being subjected to its ethical norms. (paper will be available for circulation)

Omer Aijazi is a SSHRC and FAS Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto, and a research affiliate with the Institute of Islamic Studies. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2018. His works have appeared in journals such as Women’s Studies Quarterly, International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters,Journal of Narrative Politics,andHumanity and Society.

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Institute of Islamic Studies

170 St. George Street

Jackman Humanities Building, Seminar Room 530

Toronto, Ontario M5R 2M8

Canada

View Map

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