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The American Sufis: Self-Help, Sufism, and Metaphysical Religion in Postcolonial Egypt

  • Arthur Shiwa Zárate (a1)


This article examines an Arabic commentary on the American self-help pioneer Dale Carnegie's How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, written by a one-time leading intellectual of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Muḥammad al-Ghazālī. Ghazālī’s 1956 commentary was perhaps the earliest manifestation of an influential genre of literature within the Islamic world today: “Islamic self-help.” Although scholars treat Islamic self-help as an effect of neoliberalism, this article reorients the study of Islamic self-help beyond neoliberalism by showing first, that Ghazālī’s early version of it emerged through a critical engagement with several ideological forms that relate in complex ways to neoliberalism's antecedent, liberalism; and second, that his Islamic self-help is best understood in terms of an Islamic encounter with American metaphysical religion made possible by Carnegie's text. It argues that Ghazālī’s Islamic self-help constituted a radical reconfiguration of Western self-help, one that replaced the ethics of self-reliance and autonomy with Islamic ethical sensibilities clustered around the notions of human insufficiency and dependence upon God. In doing so, it highlights how scholars of contemporary Islam might fruitfully pose the question of how novel intellectual trends and cultural forms, like self-help, become Islamic, instead of limiting their analysis to how Islam is reshaped by modern Euro-American thought, institutions, and practices.


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1 Jaddid ḥayātak—al-fiṭra—adab al-nufūs—Muḥammad al-Ghazālī—1 (Renew your life—human nature—etiquette of souls—Muḥammad al-Ghazālī—1), YouTube video, 27:33. Posted by “Ṭarīq al-Hidāya,” 4 Sept. 2015, (accessed 19 Feb. 2019).

2 al-Ghazālī, Muḥammad, Jaddid ḥayātak (Renew your life) (Cairo: Dār al-Kitāb al-‘Arabī, 1956), 12.

3 On the Brotherhood, see Mitchell's, Richard P. The Society of the Muslim Brothers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969). Ghazālī was expelled from the Brotherhood in 1953 because of a disagreement with its leadership that involved, among other things, a dispute over its antagonistic stance towards the Free Officer's regime that came to power in 1952. On Ghazālī, see Khalafallah, Haifaa G., The al-Ghazali Enigma and Why Shariʻa Is Not Islamic Law (Sheffield, South Yorkshire: Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2017); Baker, Raymond William, Islam Without Fear: Egypt and the New Islamists (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003).

4 On Ghazālī’s influence on the student activists of Egypt's 1970s “Islamic Revival,” see Arian, Abdullah, Answering the Call: Popular Islamic Activism in Sadat's Egypt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 51, 58, 66, 112–13, 116, 130, 132, 156. See also the memoirs of ‘Abd al-Mun‘im Abū al-Futūḥ, one of the student activist leaders: ‘Abd al-Mun‘im Abū al-Futūḥ: Shādid ‘alā tārikh al-ḥaraka al-islāmīya fī miṣr, 1970–1984 (‘Abd al-Mun‘im Abū al-Futūḥ: witness of the history of the Islamic movement in Egypt, 1970–1984) (Cairo: Dar al-Shurūq, 2010), 29, 3537. For Ghazālī’s influence on the prominent women's leader Ni‘mat Sidqī, see McLarney, Ellen, Soft Force: Women in Egypt's Islamic Awakening (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015), 105, 129–30. According to Baker, Ghazālī’s ideas also gave direction to the “centrist” Islamic movement in Egypt called the Wasaṭīya.

5 A representative sample includes, Khuluq al-Muslim (Muslim character) (Cairo: Maṭaba‘at al-Kitāb al-‘Arabī, 1953); al-Jānib al-ʻāṭifī min al-Islām: baḥth fi al-khuluq wa-al-sulūk wa-al-taṣawwuf (The affective side of Islam: an investigation into character, behavior, and Sufism), 2d ed. (Cairo: Dār al-Kutub al-Ḥadītha, 1962); al-Islām wa-al-manāhij al-ishtirākīya (Islam and the socialist programs), 2d ed. (Cairo: Maṭaba‘at al-Kitāb al-‘Arabī, 1951); Fiqh al-sīra (Understanding the [Prophet Muhammad's] biography) (Cairo: Dār al-Kutub al-Ḥadītha, 1955); Min hunā naʻlam (From here we know) (Cairo: Dār al-Kitāb al-ʻArabī, 1951).

6 A sample of this literature includes, al-Qarnī, ʻĀʼiḍ, La taḥzan (Don't be sad) (Riyadh: Maktabat al-ʻUbaykān, 2003); Sulaymān, Subḥī, Da‘ al-qalaq wa ista‘in bi Allāh (Stop worrying and seek God's assistance) (Cairo: Dār al-‘Ulūm li al-Nashr wa al-Tawzī‘, 2009); Nāṣir, ʻAlī Muḥammad, Daʻ al-qalaq wa-ibdaʾ al-duʻā’ (Stop worrying and start praying) (Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Wafā’, 1985); Badrān, ʻAmr Ḥasan Aḥmad, Kayfa tatakhallaṣ min al-qalaq (How to rid yourself of worry) (Cairo: Dār al-Dhahabīya li al-Nashr wa al-Tawzī‘, 2009). For secondary literature on Islamic self-help in Egypt, see Kenney, Jeffrey, “Selling Success, Nurturing the Self: Self-Help Literature, Capitalist Values, and the Sacralization of Subjective Life in Egypt,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 47, 4 (2015): 663–80; Atia, Mona, Building a House in Heaven: Pious Neoliberalism and Islamic Charity in Egypt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013), 135–57.

7 Hoesterey, James, Rebranding Islam: Piety, Prosperity, and a Self-Help Guru (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016); see also Amira Mittermaier's critique of the notion that contemporary Islamic practices can be reduced to effects of neoliberalism, Trading with God: Islam, Calculation, Excess,” in Boddy, Janice and Lambek, Michael, eds., A Companion to the Anthropology of Religion (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013).

8 Rudnyckyj, Daromir, Spiritual Economies: Islam, Globalization, and the Afterlife of Development (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010), 21; Atia, Building a House, xvii–iii; Kenney, “Selling Success,” 665.

9 See Scott, James, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 87102. On Egyptian high modernism, see Meijer, Roel, The Quest for Modernity: Secular, Liberal and Left-wing Political Thought in Egypt, 1945–1958 (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2002).

10 On their influence on Carnegie, see Watts, Steven, Self-Help Messiah: Dale Carnegie and Success in Modern America (New York: Other Press, 2013), 128–55.

11 There was an Iranian precursor to Ghazālī’s universalization of Sufism in the writings of Keyvan Qazvini (1861–1938). See Anzali, Ata, “Mysticism” in Iran: The Safavid Roots of a Modern Concept (Columbia: South Carolina University Press, 2017), 199222.

12 As of 1994, the first Arabic translation of Carnegie's text was in its sixteenth edition. See Da‘ al-qalaq wa-ibda’ al-ḥayāh (Stop worrying and start living), 16th ed. (Cairo: Maktabat al-Khānjī bi Miṣr, 1994). Since 1956, Ghazālī’s text has been reprinted multiple times by multiple publishers; see Jaddid ḥayātak, 14th ed. (Cairo: Nahḍat Miṣr, 2012); Jaddid ḥayātak, 20th ed. (Damascus: Dār al-Qalam, 2006).

13 See the secondary literature in note 6.

14 For a study of the forms of subjective life promoted by liberalism and neoliberalism, as well as how they are disseminated, see Rose, Nikolas, Inventing Ourselves (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). For the ethics of autonomy and self-reliance in liberalism, see Gray, John, Liberalism, 2d ed. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995), 5660; Fawcett, Edmund, Liberalism: The Life of an Idea (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), 7479.

15 Neoliberalism is distinct from liberalism because rather than simply seeking to free the economy, it attempts to model “the overall exercise of political power … on the principles of a market economy.” See Foucault, Michel, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978–1979 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 117–57, 131; Rose, Nikolas, The Powers of Freedom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 141–42. For an historical overview of neoliberalism, see Harvey, David, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).

16 Rose, Powers of Freedom. See also, Foucault, Birth of Biopolitics, 51–73. It is because neoliberalism amplifies the idealization of freedom that neoliberal systems of governance aim to dismantle the social welfare state. See Harvey, Brief History, 42, 65–66, 76.

17 Compare Ghazālī’s text, for instance, with al-Qaraḍāwī, Yūsuf al-Īmān wa-al-ḥayāh (Faith and life) (Beirut: al-Dār al-Sa‘ūdīya li al-Nashr, 1969); ʻĀʼiḍ al-Qarnī, La taḥzan.

18 See, for example, Qaraḍāwī, al-Īmān, 128–29, 357–60. See also the popular science tract by Nawfal, ‘Abd al-Razzāq, al-Islām wa-al-ʻilm al-ḥadīth (Islam and modern science), 2d ed. (Cairo: Maktabat al-waʻy al-ʻArabī, 1965), 172, 174–75, 185, 198–99. Even critics of Carnegie are drawn to discuss his religious views and those of his interlocutors. See ʻAbbūd, ʻAbd al-Ghanī, al-ʻAqīda al-islāmīya wa-al-aydiyūlūjīyāt al-muʻāṣira (Islamic creed and contemporary ideologies) (Cairo: Dār al-Fikr al-ʻArabī, 1978), 138–47.

19 Albanese, Catherine, A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007); Bender, Courtney, The New Metaphysicals: Spirituality and the American Religious Imagination (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010).

20 On spiritualism in Egypt, see Smith, Jane and Haddad, Yvonne, The Islamic Understanding of Death and Resurrection (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 101, 113–26. On spiritism in Iran, see Doostdar, Alireza, The Iranian Metaphysicals: Explorations in Science, Islam, and the Uncanny (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018), 112–22. On spiritism in the Ottoman Empire, see Türesay, Özgür, “Between Science and Religion: Spiritism in the Ottoman Empire (1850s–1910s),” Studia Islamica 113 (2018): 166200.

21 Albanese, Republic, 1–18, 177–329. See also Meyers, Donald, The Positive Thinkers: Religion as Pop Psychology, from Mary Baker Eddy to Oral Roberts (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980), xv–xix, 32–45, 7382; Watts, Self-Help Messiah, 128–55.

22 Nevertheless, this conception of religion owes itself to the legacies of nineteenth-century American liberalism and the study of comparative religion, both of which posited a non-institutional, ritual free belief-centered core of “religion.” See Leigh Eric Schmidt's history of American liberal religion, Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005); and Tomoko Masuzawa's study on the formation of the discipline of comparative religion, The Invention of World Religions, or, How European Universalism Was Preserved in the Language of Pluralism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

23 See, Bender, New Metaphysicals.

24 Doostdar, Iranian Metaphysicals, 6.

25 The Arabic translator of Carnegie's text occasionally omits from his translation Carnegie's references to Christianity.

26 Groundbreaking studies such as Elshakry's, Marwa Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860–1950 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), and Shakry's, Omnia El The Arabic Freud: Psychoanalysis and Islam in Modern Egypt (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017), have complicated this narrative, though it remains firmly entrenched in the scholarship. Classic formulations of it can be found in Hourani, Albert, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798–1939 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983 [1962]), 114–15, 123, 143–44; and Kerr, Malcolm, Islamic Reform: The Political and Legal Theories of Muḥammad ʻAbduh and Rashīd Riḍā (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), 16–18, 209–11. More recent formulations can be found in Euben, Roxanne, Enemy in The Mirror: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Limits of Modern Rationalism, A Work of Comparative Political Theory (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), 9, 18, 80–81, 87, 91, 116; Tripp, Charles, Islam and the Moral Economy: The Challenge of Capitalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Dallal, Ahmad, Islam, Science, and the Challenge of History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 160–62; and Hallaq, Wael, The Impossible State: Islam, Politics, and Modernity's Moral Predicament (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), ix–xii, 155–56.

27 Benjamin, Walter, “The Task of a Translator,” in Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings, vol. 1 (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University: 1996), 253–61.

28 Asad, Talal, Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 189.

29 Ibid., 188–89.

30 Carnegie's “greatest legacy” was “the establishment of a robust self-help movement that has shaped modern American values in fundamental ways”; Watts, Self-Help Messiah, 7.

31 Ibid., 5, 275–78, 284, 310.

32 Rose, Inventing Ourselves, esp. 1–21, 150–68. See also, Rose, Powers of Freedom. Following Foucault, Rose understands power to operate not just as a repressive force but also as something that produces human behavior. See, Foucault, Birth of Biopolitics, 51–70; Foucault, Michel, The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 87104.

33 Kenney, “Selling Success”; Atia, Building a House, 135–57.

34 On Nasser's economic policies, see Beattie, Kirk J., Egypt during the Nasser Years: Ideology, Politics, and Civil Society (Boulder: Westview Press, 1994), 116–17, 154–56.

35 Beattie, Kirk J., Egypt during the Sadat Years (New York: Palgrave, 2000), 136–46, 213–20.

36 Atia, Building a House, 32–38.

37 Sirr al-najāḥ (The secret of success) (Beirut, n.p., 1880), 3–67. The original is Smiles, Samuel, Self Help; with Illustrations of Character and Conduct (London: John Murray, 1859).

38 On the reception in Egypt of Smiles's text, see Mitchell, Timothy, Colonizing Egypt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 108–10.

39 Da‘ al-qalaq wa-ibda’ al-ḥayāh (Stop worrying and start living) (Cairo: Maktabat al-Khānjī bi Miṣr, 1950).

40 Kayfa taksib al-aṣdiqā’ wa tu'aththir fī al-nās (How to gain friends and influence people) (Cairo: Dār al-Kutub al-Ahlīya, 1946).

41 In the second edition of “How to win friends and influence people,” Ziyādī describes his astonishment at the “extraordinary speed” with which the first Arabic edition disappeared from the shelves; Kayfa taksib al-aṣdiqā’ wa tu'aththir fī al-nās, 2d ed. (Cairo: Maktabat al-Khānjī bi Miṣr, 1951), v. Likewise, in the second edition of “How to stop worrying and start living,” Ziyādī describes how the “swift sales” and positive reception of the first edition surprised him; Da‘ al-qalaq wa-ibda’ al-ḥayāh, 2d ed. (Cairo: Maktabat al-Khānjī bi Miṣr, 1951), 1. Ziyādī does not say for either text how many copies were sold.

42 Watts, Self-Help Messiah, 6.

43 Carnegie, Dale, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1948), 13, 48, 143, 154, 205.

44 al-Ziyādī, ‘Abd al-Mun‘im, Da‘ al-qalaq wa-ibda’ al-ḥayāh, 1st ed. (Cairo: Maktabat al-Khānjī bi Miṣr, 1950), 15.

45 Ibid., 15–16.

46 Schayegh, Cyrus, Who Is Knowledgeable Is Strong: Science, Class, and the Formation of Modern Iranian Society, 1900–1950 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 157–93; Shakry, Omnia El, The Great Social Laboratory: Subjects of Knowledge in Colonial and Postcolonial Egypt (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007).

47 al-Ziyādī, ‘Abd al-Mun‘im, Ayna al-sa‘āda? (Cairo: Maktabat al-Khānjī bi Miṣr, 1958), 9.

48 Ibid., 10.

49 Ghazālī mentions that he read Ziyādī’s translation; Jaddid, 12.

50 Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying, 152.

51 Ziyādī, Da‘ al-qalaq, 285.

52 Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying, 153.

53 Ziyādī, Da‘ al-qalaq, 285.

54 Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying, 153–54.

55 Ziyādī, Da‘ al-qalaq, 286–87.

56 Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying, 165; Ziyādī, Da‘ al-qalaq, 301.

57 Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying, 165; Ziyādī, Da‘ al-qalaq, 301.

58 Ziyādī, Da‘ al-qalaq, 281–82.

59 Ibid., 30–31, 222, 312.

60 See Fiṭra,” in Fleet, Kate et al. , eds., Encyclopedia of Islam, 3d ed. (Boston: Brill, 2007).

61 Vasalou, Sophia, Ibn Taymiyya's Theological Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 83.

62 Ghazālī, Jaddid, 4.

63 Ibid., 12.

64 For an account of the debates caused by Darwin's theories, see Elshakry, Reading Darwin.

65 al-‘Awda ilā al-īmān (The return to faith) (Cairo: Dār al-Ma‘ārif, 1959).

66 Allāh yatajallā fi ‘aṣr al-‘ilm (God is revealed in the age of science) (Cairo: ‘Isā al-Bābī al-Ḥalabī, 1959).

67 al-‘Ilm yad‘ū li-al-īmān (Science calls to faith) (Cairo: Maktabat al-Nahḍa al-Miṣrīya, 1955).

68 Smith and Haddad, Islamic Understanding, 116.

69 Nawfal, al-Islām, 166–207. Some of the quotes he draws from Carnegie's text include the words of Carnegie himself, Carl Jung, the Mayo Brothers, Alexis Carrel, William James, and Plato. He cites these individuals on issues ranging from the negative health effects of worry to the therapeutic and scientifically established benefits of religion and prayer.

70 Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying, 154.

71 James, William, Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: Penguin Books, 1982 [1902]), 2831. See also James's comments on “mysticism,” which he argued was the core of religion (ibid., 379–82).

72 Ibid., 94–123; Albanese, Republic, 412–23; Knapp, Krister Dylan, William James: Psychical Research and the Challenge of Modernity (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017).

73 This is the reason James was interested in spiritualism and psychical research; Knapp, William James, 1–15.

74 For a sympathetic biography of Carrel, see Durkin, Joseph T., Hope for Our Time: Alexis Carrel on Man and Society (New York: Harper & Row, 1965).

75 Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying, 153.

76 Ibid., 165, 152.

77 For example, see Albanese, Republic, 225–26, 258–64, 277, 297, 397–98, 408, 413, 426, 434–35.

78 Bender, New Metaphysicals, 10, 17–18, 28, 30, 68, 95, 98–99, 101, 129, 133, 168.

79 Türesay, “Between Science and Religion”; Doostdar, Iranian Metaphysicals, 21–22, 112–22, 136–37, 163, 171–72.

80 Schayegh, Who Is Knowledgeable Is Strong, 88; Tripp, Islam and the Moral Economy.

81 Chatterjee, Partha, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993).

82 Tripp, Islam and the Moral Economy, 8.

83 Ghazālī, Jaddid, 196. Ghazālī understands these Westerners to be “Jews” and “Christians” who are dissatisfied with organized religion, 197.

84 He is speaking of what he sees as the mistaken Christian doctrine of the trinity.

85 Ibid., 197.

86 Ibid., 198.

87 Ibid., 199.

88 Ibid., 188, 205.

89 Albanese, Republic, 6, 15.

90 Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying, 165.

92 Ibid., 152–53, his emphasis.

93 Ghazālī, Jaddid, 206.

94 Ibid., 205; Ziyādī, Da‘ al-qalaq, 302–3.

95 Ghazālī, Jaddid, 207.

96 Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying, 162; Ghazālī, Jaddid, 205.

97 Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying, 165; Ghazālī, Jaddid, 219.

98 Ghazālī, Jaddid, 221.

99 Rose, Inventing Ourselves, 158.

100 Yaqub, Salim, Containing Arab Nationalism: The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Middle East (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 2355; Beattie, Egypt during the Nasser Years, 111–19.

101 Calvert, John, Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010).

102 Quṭb's critique of American culture was first published in 1951. For this article and others he wrote about the United States, see Ṣalāḥ ʻAbd al-Fattāḥ al-Khālidī, Amrīkā min al-dākhil bi-minẓār Sayyid Quṭb (America from the inside in the view of Sayyid Quṭb), 5th ed. (Jeddah: Dār al-Manārah, 1991), 97123. See also, Calvert, Sayyid Qutb, 139–56.

103 For a widely circulated argument of this nature, see Bernard Lewis, “The Roots of Muslim Rage,” Atlantic (Sept. 1990): 47–60.

104 Kenney, “Selling Success,” 672.

105 Ghazālī, Jaddid, 13.

106 I have been unable to determine the date the program originally aired, although judging from its appearance it was probably during the 1990s.

107 Jaddid ḥayātak—al-fiṭra.

108 I borrow the term “resonance” from El Shakry, who explores how Arab intellectuals perceived a range of “epistemological resonances” between Islamic traditions and Freudian psychoanalysis; Arabic Freud, 2.

109 Ghazālī, Jaddid, 12.

110 Schmidt, Restless Souls, 25–62.

111 Schimmel, Annemarie, Mystical Dimensions of Islam (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977), 34. Nevertheless, as the “private and personal” overtones of the term “mysticism” fail to account for the political and collective activities of Sufis, Carl Ernst suggests that the term can be misleading when applied to Sufism, in Sufism: An Introduction to the Mystical Tradition of Islam (Boston: Shambhala Publications Inc., 2011), xix.

112 Christmann, Andreas, “Reclaiming Mysticism: Anti-Orientalism and the Construction of Islamic Sufism in Post-Colonial Egypt,” in Green, Nile and Searle-Chatterjee, Mary, eds., Religion, Language, and Power (New York: Routledge, 2008).

113 Ibid., 73.

114 Rakā’iz al-īmān: bayna al-‘aql wa-al-qalb (The pillars of faith: between intellect and heart) (Kuwait: Maktabat al-Aml, 1967), 165.

115 Anzali, “Mysticism,” 211–12.

116 See his two tributes to Sufism: Affective Side of Islam, and Pillars of Faith. In his autobiographical notes Ghazālī describes how Sufism was a central component in his childhood religious life. His father was a lover of Sufism, who respected its men and selected from their ways what he wished”; Min maqālāt al-shaykh al-ghazālī (From the articles of Shaykh Ghazālī), vol. 3 (Cairo: Nahḍat Miṣr, 2005), 164. Ghazālī also reports that he was named after the twelfth-century Sufi scholar Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī (d. 1111). See his description of his father's esteem for Abū Ḥāmid, in “Qiṣṣat al-ḥayā” (Life story), in Islamīyāt al-Mar‘ifa (Jan. 1997), pt. 1.

117 al-Gharīb, Ramaḍān Khamis, Maḥāwir al-mashrūʻ al-fikrī ladā al-shaykh al-ghazālī (The pivots of the intellectual plan of Shaykh Ghazālī) (Cairo: Dār al-Ḥaram li al-Turāth, 2003), 6374; al-Qaraḍāwī, Yūsuf, al-Shaykh al-ghazālī kamā ‘araftuhu: riḥlat niṣf qarn (Shaykh Ghazālī as I knew him: journey of half a century) (Cairo: Dār al-Wafāʾ, 1995), 95101.

118 Sirriyeh, Elizabeth, Sufis and Anti-Sufis: The Defense, Rethinking and Rejection of Sufism in the Modern World (Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press, 1999); Johansen, Julian, Sufism and Islamic Reform in Egypt: The Battle for Islamic Tradition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).

119 Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying, 89, his emphasis.

120 Ibid., 91–93.

121 Ghazālī, Jaddid, 112.

122 Ibid., 113–15.

123 Ibid., 118.

124 Ibid.

125 Ibid., 119.

126 Ibid., 119–20.

127 Ibid., 120. Ghazālī here uses an abbreviated form of the term khawāriq al-‘āda, or khawāriq al-‘ādāt, meaning “exceeding the customary.” The term is used in Islamic literature to refer to semi-miraculous occurrences, especially those effected by Sufi shaykhs.

128 Ibid.

129 Ibid.

130 Ibid., 121.

131 Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying, 99; Ghazālī, Jaddid, 122.

132 “A tradition,” writes Asad, consists essentially of discourses that seek to instruct practitioners regarding the correct form and purpose of a given practice that, precisely because it is established, has a history”; Idea of an Anthropology of Islam (Washington, D.C.: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University, 1986), 14.

133 Asad, Talal, “Thinking about Tradition, Religion, and Politics in Egypt Today,” Critical Inquiry 42, 1 (2015): 166214, 175. I am not suggesting that liberalism is not a tradition. Alasdair MacIntyre, from whom Asad borrowed and modified the concept, held that liberalism was one. See Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988), 349. Regardless, Asad is not referring to liberalism here, but rather to “self-invention,” a phenomenon associated with lifestyle markets.

134 Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions, 109–12. See also, Khalil, Atif, “Tawba in the Sufi Psychology of Abū Ṭālib al-Makkī (d. 996),” Journal of Islamic Studies 23, 3 (2012): 294324.

135 Ghazālī, Jaddid, 15–24.

136 Ibid., 173.

137 Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying, 175.

138 Ghazālī, Jaddid, 250.

139 Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying, 153.

140 Ghazālī, Jaddid, 201.

141 Ibid.

142 On this virtue in Sufism, see Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions, 117–22.

143 For a controversial critique of this and related Sufi virtues, see the Egyptian literary scholar Mubārak's, Zakī al-Akhlāq ‘inda al-ghazālī (Ethics according to [Abū Ḥāmid] al-Ghazālī) (Cairo: al-Maktaba al-Tijārīya al-Kubrā, 1924).

144 Ghazālī, Jaddid, 203.

145 Ibid., 23.

146 Scott, Seeing Like a State, 87–102.

147 On the Nasser regime's state-sponsored social uplift initiatives, see Starrett, Gregory, Putting Islam to Work: Education, Politics, and Religious Transformations in Egypt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 7980; El Shakry, Great Social Laboratory, 197–218; Bier, Laura, Revolutionary Womanhood: Feminisms, Modernity, and the State in Nasser's Egypt (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011).

148 See Ghazālī’s al-Islām fī wajh al-zaḥf al-aḥmar (Islam in the face of the Red March) (Beirut: al-Maktaba al-ʻAṣrīya, 1966).

149 This is not to suggest that the Egyptian state and modernism were unconcerned with ethics and the self. Bier's account shows that the Egyptian regime promulgated a revolutionary socialist ethic, in Revolutionary Womanhood, 60–100. Furthermore, Schayegh's study highlights the Iranian modernist fixation with psychology, in Who Is Knowledgeable Is Strong, 157–93. Yet, in the Egyptian regime's ethical project, the state was conceived as the primary engine of reform. See, Meijer; El Shakry, Great Social Laboratory, 197–218.

150 Ghazālī, Jaddid, 14.

151 Ibid.

152 Hoesterey, Rebranding Islam, 1.

153 For the neoliberal critique of the state in the name of individual freedom, see Harvey, Brief History, 5–38, 64–67.

154 Kenney, “Selling Success,” 668–69.

155 Adamson, Peter, Philosophy in the Islamic World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 9197; Pormann, Peter E. and Savage-Smith, Emile, Medieval Islamic Medicine (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007), 4849.

156 al-Jawzī, Ibn, Al-ṭibb al-rūhānī (Spiritual medicine) (Cairo: Maktabat al-Thaqāfa al-Dīnīya, 1986), 4043. On this tract, see Perho, Irmeli, The Prophet's Medicine: A Creation of the Muslim Traditionalist Scholars (Helsinki: Finnish Oriental Society, 1995), 130.

157 On Prophetic medicine, see Perho, Prophet's Medicine; Pormann and Savage-Smith, Medieval Islamic Medicine, 71–75.

158 al-Jawzīya, Ibn Qayyim, Al-ṭibb al-nabawī (The prophetic medicine) (Cairo: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Kutub al-ʿArabīya, 1957), 147–56.

159 On Islamic ethical thought during the Ottoman period, see Yılmaz, Hüseyin, Caliphate Redefined: The Mystical Turn in Ottoman Political Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018).

160 Ghazālī was, at any rate, immersed in the study, production, and reformulation of Islamic ethics. He not only studied Islamic ethics (al-akhlāq) with one of the pioneers of the modern study of ethics at al-Azhar University, Muḥammad Yūsuf Mūsā (1899–1963), but also authored his own ethical manuals, including, for instance, Muslim Character, which was very much imbued with Islamic philosophical ethics. He was also a producer of classical Islamic ethical manuals, making them available in more accessible forms. For example, see his edited edition of al-Jawzī’s, Ibn Ṣayd al-Khāṭir (Quarry of the mind) (Cairo: Dār al-Kutub al- Ḥadītha, 1960). On Ghazālī’s interest in Islamic philosophical ethics and their place within mid-twentieth-century Islamic thought, see Arthur Shiwa Zárate, “The Making of a Muslim Reformer: Muḥammad al-Ghazālī and Islam in Postcolonial Egypt, 1947–1967,” PhD diss., Columbia University, 2018, 16–123.

161 Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying, 62.

162 Ghazālī, Jaddid, 83.

163 Ibid., 80–82.

164 Ibid., 89.

165 ʻAbbūd, al-ʻAqīda, 137.

166 Ibid., 140–41.

167 Ibid., 138.

168 Ibid., 140.

169 Rudnyckyj, Spiritual Economies, 131–56; Kenney, “Selling Success”; Atia, Building a House, 135–57.

170 See, for example, al-Azmeh, Aziz, Islams and Modernities (London: Verso Books, 1993), 3959; Eickelman, Dale and Piscatori, James, Muslim Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 2345; Ragab, Ahmed, “Prophetic Traditions and Modern Medicine in the Middle East: Resurrection, Reinterpretation, and Reconstruction,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 132, 4 (2012): 657–73. For a critique of this approach, see Kendall, Elizabeth and Khan's, Ahmad introduction to Reclaiming Islamic Tradition: Modern Interpretations of the Classical Heritage, Kendall, Elizabeth and Khan, Ahmad, eds. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016).

171 Ahmed, Shahab, What Is Islam? The Importance of Being Islamic (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016).

172 On this point, see also El Shakry, Arabic Freud, 42–43.


The American Sufis: Self-Help, Sufism, and Metaphysical Religion in Postcolonial Egypt

  • Arthur Shiwa Zárate (a1)


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