What Role Can Sufism Play in Contemporary Egypt?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Sufism, which had played a central role in Egyptian society and religious life for many centuries, faded into the background in the twentieth century, or even dropped off the stage altogether among members of Egypt’s new elite, who embraced modernist, secularist and socialist ideologies. Sufis also came under increasing fire for their embrace of doctrines and practices deemed heretical by both modernists and fundamentalists. Nonetheless, Sufism retained resonance for a large segment of Egyptian society, including some of the top religious officials of Egypt. Today’s Shaykh al-Azhar is himself a Sufi shaykh, and the Grand Mufti also has links to the Sufi orders. Furthermore, more intellectuals are finding that Sufism has something to offer contemporary Egyptian society, which is largely religiously observant and morally conservative, but struggling to define the appropriate role for religion in contemporary society and politics, especially in a society with very diverse interpretations of Islam and a significant Christian minority. In January 2008 a large symposium was held in Cairo, entitled “Sufi Perspective on World Peace and Responsibility.” Many Sufis believe that they have a crucial role to play to counter the rise of intolerant expressions of Islam. In 2011, following the overthrow of the Mubarak regime, Salafis launched violent attacks against Sufi shrines.

This paper will explore the role of Sufis in the changes taking place in contemporary Egypt and Sufism’s potential to contribute toward positive developments in society and politics.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSufism and Social Integration
Subtitle of host publicationConnecting Hearts, Crossing Boundaries
EditorsMohammad Faghfoory, Golam Dastagir
PublisherKazi Publications
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9781567444322 1567444326
StatePublished - 2015


  • Islam
  • Sufism
  • Egypt
  • Politics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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