Smelling Baraka Everyday Islam and Islamic Normativity

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James Michael Edmonds


Indonesia, everyday Islam, the politics of representation, baraka


The rise of “everyday Islam” as an attempt to indicate the complex and ambiguous lives of Muslims and humans, in general, appears as a response to the representation of pious Muslims by figures such as Mahmood, Hirschkind, and Agrama. Fadil and Fernando critique this turn to the “everyday” for excluding the possibilities of certain types of Muslim existence in the everyday, for instance, Salafi. In this paper, baraka emerges in and beyond the performances of selawat by Habib Syech bin Abdul Qadir Assegaf (Habib Syech) in Indonesia operating like a smell. The conditions and operation of smell are revealed by Habib Syech’s utterance that he must be “like a smell.”  Habib Syech at once illudes characterization and makes declarative statements. This evasion of the either/or challenges the dichotomy of the moderate Muslim performer of selawat bringing communitas and Sufi practice to the modern Muslim and the Salafi reformer who wants to enforce gender norms, emphasize the problematics of liberal-secular tolerance, and erase ambiguity.

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