Skip to main content

How Sufism could balance Salafism

The historical background of Sufism in the Islamic world allows the establishment of political and religious reforms in this part of the world.
Students attend a traditional Sufi "halaqa" (study group) at the Ribat Tarim religious school in the historical city of Tarim in southeastern Yemen February 23, 2010. Tarim has long been a teaching centre for Sufism, a mystical strand in Islam, but all Islamic schools have come under scrutiny since al Qaeda in Yemen said it was behind a failed attack on a U.S.-bound jet on Dec. 25.  Picture taken on February 23, 2010. To match feature YEMEN-RELIGION/    REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah (YEMEN - Tags: RELIGION EDUCAT
Read in 

Followers of the history of Islam would be surprised at the transition from widespread Sufi Islam to widespread Salafist Islam. However, they are less surprised when they notice that the rise of religious extremism has coincided with a cognitive shift, as Sufism by nature rejects extremism. Salafist ideology, meanwhile, often bases its religiosity on extremism.

Political and social factors have helped set the stage for Salafist expansion in the face of Sufism. Moreover, the legacies of the colonial era in the Muslim world and the establishment of the State of Israel — which led to ongoing opposition in the Islamic world against the West — have provided fertile soil for revolutionary Islam in general.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.