Black Muslimness Mobilized A Study of West African Sufism in Diaspora

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Youssef J. Carter



West African and American-born Muslims in the Mustafawi Tariqa
have been impacted by a Senegalese Islamic pedagogical tradition,
which places emphasis on the role of the body as a medium for religious
and spiritual training. My research examines the tremendous
labor required to produce Muslimness as an embodied reality and
critical resource initially in two key sites of pilgrimage—Moncks
Corner, South Carolina and Thiès, Senegal—by demonstrating the
important role these sister cities play in a transatlantic Sufi network.
I suggest that there exists a continuity seen in the interactions
of West African Muslims and African-American Muslims—a
solidarity emboldened through the sufi practices out of which a
broader politics of “Black Muslimness” endure. African-American
and Senegalese members of the Mustafawi Tariqa identify within
a broader category of ‘Black Muslim’ in the mobilization of bodies
oriented toward these two sites of pilgrimage. As my extensive
research reveals, Moncks Corner is the central site in which access
to the Sufi order’s most charismatic living shaykh, Shaykh Arona
Faye, has worked for the past two decades teaching and mentoring
his students on their spiritual journeys. On the other hand, Thiès is
the location where the order’s founder is buried and travelers visit
the town in order to pay homage to his memory. The processes of diasporic identification seen in both sites, I argue, are grounded
in both physical mobility and the particular spiritual pedagogy of
the Mustafawi. In order to further elaborate how local and international
solidarities are framed from within the concept of diaspora,
I unpack the manner in which religious genealogies, discourses of
ancestry, and the transmission of esoteric knowledge reinforce such
O Allah, send blessings upon our master Muhammad, the one who precedes
all others, the one whose brilliant lights radiate and fill the heavens.
May Allah bless him and his family and companions in the amount of
every grain of sand and every star in the sky. (al-ṣalāt al-samawiyya)1

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