Middle Class and Sufism: The Case Study of the Sammaniyya Order Branch of Shaikh Al Bur’ai

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Amani Mohamed El Obeid, Abdel Rahman
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The emphasis of this research will be on Sufism and the middle class in Sudan, as the target group of Shaikh Al Bur’ai’s centre. Shaikh Al Bur’ai is a product of the neo-Sufi phenomenon, where ordinary Sufi practices including karama making or (miracle doing) are used side by side with orthodox Islam practices. This research explains the increasing appeal of Sufism to urbanites and others who used to be secular in Sudan. The same phenomenon in Sudan is taking place in Morocco, Turkey and Indonesian, where Sufism has had become a conspicuous aspect of urban middle class religiosity. Shaikh Al Bur’ai (1923-2005) is one of the most celebrated Shaikhs of the Sammaniyya Sufi order in Sudan. He managed to establish an open edged tariqa that attracted large sections of the educated Sudanese middle class. Started as an individual Sammani order Shaikh in 1944, Shaikh Al Bur’ai gradually became popular for his unusual abilities of karama making, healing and mediation in tribal conflicts. During the 1980s he was able to achieve wide popularity among the middle class, as his poetry was broadcasted, published and propagated by the media. His poetry (Madih) which represents a complement to litanies dominated the media in Sudan for the last twenty years. Shaikh Al Bur’ai found individual solutions to the problems of the Sudanese middle class. In the 1990s, Shaikh Al Bur’ai appeared as a celebrated national figure who had strong ties with most Sudanese politicians either in the Sudanese government of the Ingazh regime or in the opposition circles. Shaikh Al Bur’ai practiced politics not as a politician but as a social reformer, who had different Khalawi providing charity works throughout Sudan. Shaikh Al Bur’ai’s influence is reflected in the transformation into Sufism of large numbers of the youth, intellectuals, professionals and employees of public and private sector. The Sudanese middle class has not been studied thoroughly. In the case of Sudan, the “middle class” is a product of colonialism. This fact led to an identity crisis of the middle class resulted out of the situation of collaboration with colonialism and being leaders of decolonization at the same time This fact resulted in the sequent limitation of the educated strata as a leading political faction. Due to identity crisis the educated middle class was divided into different factions such as the effendiyya and turbans which include the educated strata grew out of colonialism “effendiyya” and the other strata graduated from religious institution who studied Shari’a sciences “the turbans”. Later it was divided into the main sectarian political powers and finally it was divided between adovates of secularaism and advocates of Shari’a. The dissertation is trying to answer the question: To what extent the phenomenon of Shaikh Al Bur’ai represented the crisis of the middle class in Sudan? The middle class represented the audience target group of Shaikh Al Bur’ai as it is the most class seriously affected by identity and the economic crises that took place in Sudan since the last thirty years. The educated middle class was economically impoverished and politically marginalized. In particular it is the class that was badly affected by the economic policies and macro-structures of the 1990s that witnessed a total-de-subsidization and the weakening of public sector that coincided with privatization. The process of privatization witnessed thousands of lay-offs. The inability of the dominant Sufi orders to offer a moderate Islamic identity to millions of Sudanese at a time of crisis made Shaikh Al Bur’ai a refuge, savior and representative of the moderate tolerant Islam
Middle Class,Sufism ,Sammaniyya Order Branch,Shaikh Al Bur’ai