The Dervishes of the North: Rumi, Whirling, and the Making of Sufism in Canada
Published: April 2023© 2023
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 296 Pages
Illustrations: 6 b&w illustrations
Dimensions: 6.00 x 9.00
The thirteenth-century Muslim mystic and poet Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207–73) is a popular spiritual icon. His legacy is sustained within the mystical and religious practice of Sufism, particularly through renditions of his poetry, music, and the meditation practice of whirling. In Canada, practices associated with Rumi have become ubiquitous in public spaces, such as museums, art galleries, and theatre halls, just as they continue to inform sacred ritual amongst Sufi communities.
The Dervishes of the North explores what practices associated with Rumi in public and private spaces tell us about Sufism and spirituality, such as sacred, cultural, and artistic expressions in the Canadian context. Using Rumi and contemporary expressions of poetry and whirling associated with him, the book captures the lived reality of Sufism through an ethnographic study of communities in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.
Drawing from conversations with Sufi leaders, whirling dervishes, and poets, Merin Shobhana Xavier explores how Sufism is constructed in Canada, particularly at the nexus of Islamic mysticism, Muslim diaspora, spiritual commodity, popular culture, and universal spirituality. Inviting readers with an interest in religion and spirituality, The Dervishes of the North illuminates how non-European Christian traditions, like Islam and Sufism, have informed the religious and spiritual terrain of Canada.
1. Sufi Communities in Canada
2. Sama‘, Shab-i ‘arus, and Rituals of Remembrance
3. The Politics of Consumption: The Aesthetic and Cultural Expressions of Rumi
4. Gender Dynamics in Sufi Rituals, Praxis, and Authority
"The Dervishes of the North is a must-read for scholars of contemporary Sufism, whether in Canada or around the world. Brilliantly researched with impressive ethnographic fieldwork online and offline, it examines Rumi-based communities in three Canadian cities. Scholars of religion and specialists of Sufism will agree that Xavier’s book constitutes a major contribution to a number of fields: popular spirituality in Canada, Islam in Canada, and global studies of Sufism."Jennifer A. Selby, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Political Science, Memorial University
"The Dervishes of the North is a pioneering and illuminating study of distinctive Canadian experiences of Sufism explored through the lens of Rumi’s poetry and legacy. Xavier offers fresh perspectives on gender, race, performance, and diverse activities of Canadian Sufis that expand our understandings of popular religiosity, alternative spiritual paths, and diverse expressions of Islam in rapidly changing Canadian society."Marcia Hermansen, Professor and Director of Islamic World Studies, Loyola University Chicago
"In this extraordinarily well-researched book, Xavier helps us to better understand both Islam in Canada, and how that religious tradition has been studied."Amir Hussain, Chair and Professor of Theological Studies, Loyola Marymount University
"In this unique and groundbreaking work, Xavier sheds light on the stories and experiences of Sufis in Canada. The Dervishes of the North charts the diversity of Sufi teachers and communities as well as the intersection of spirituality with popular culture. Essential reading for scholars and students of contemporary Islam, Sufism, and religion in North America."Meena Sharify-Funk, Associate Professor of Religion and Culture, Wilfrid Laurier University