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Contemporary Islam

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 49–65 | Cite as

The hair of the Prophet: relics and the affective presence of the absent beloved among Sufis in Denmark

  • Mikkel RytterEmail author
Article

Abstract

This paper explore the politics of (in)visibility in Islam by discussing the affective presence and agency of relics - in this case a single hair of the Prophet Muhammad. The relic is obviously not the Prophet, but it is also not-not the Prophet, as the hair is filled with the baraka (blessings) of the Prophet and thereby seems to confirm Sir James Frazer’s thesis of ‘sympathetic magic’ where part and wholes are forever connected. Based on a study of the Naqshbandi Mujaddidi Saifi tariqa, this paper set out to ‘follow the hair’ in different settings in Denmark, Norway and Pakistan in order to discuss how it connects the visible and the invisible aspects of reality. I argue that the relic not only constitutes an affective presence of the beloved, but also that it becomes a significant agent in the establishment of an enchanted subaltern counter-public within Danish secular society.

Keywords

Sufism Naqshbandiyya Islam Freedom of speech Subaltern counter-public Pakistani diaspora Denmark 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The article benefitted from the readings and comments provided by Maria Louw, Lucy Seton-Watson, Nils Bubandt and Christian Suhr. Finally I would like to thank followers of the Saifi tariqa for welcoming me, and for teaching me about what it means to love the Prophet.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyAarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark

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