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From madness to eternity: Psychiatry and Sufi healing in the postmodern world

Yawar, Athar Ahmed; (2020) From madness to eternity: Psychiatry and Sufi healing in the postmodern world. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access


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Problem: Academic study of religious healing has recognised its symbolic aspects, but has tended to frame practice as ritual, knowledge as belief. In contrast, studies of scientific psychiatry recognise that discipline as grounded in intellectual tradition and naturalistic empiricism. This asymmetry can be addressed if: (a) psychiatry is recognised as a form of “religious healing”; (b) religious healing can be shown to have an intellectual tradition which, although not naturalistic, is grounded in experience. Such an analysis may help to reveal why globalisation has meant the worldwide spread not only of modern scientific medicine, but of religious healing. An especially useful form of religious healing to contrast with scientific medicine is Sufi healing, as practised by the Naqshbandi-Haqqani order, which has become remarkable for its spread in the “West” and its adaptation to vernacular cultures. / Research questions: (1) How is knowledge generated and transmitted in the NaqshbandiHaqqani order? (2) How is healing understood and done in the Order? (3) How does the Order find a role in the modern world, and in the West in particular? / Methods: Anthropological analysis of psychiatry as religious healing; review of previous studies of Sufi healing and the Naqshbandi-Haqqani order; ethnographic participant observation in the Naqshbandi-Haqqani order, with a special focus on healing. Ethnography was done at many sites, over a period of 11 years. / Findings: (1) Knowledge is generated by means of the individual’s contact with Shaykh Nazim, who, in turn, is said to be in contact with the Prophet. Knowledge is therefore personalised, situational, and ever-changing. Purification of the nafs (psyche, soul) is held to increase the capacity for knowledge. (2) Discourse in the Naqshbandi-Haqqani order centres around healing of the soul, which is held to be a salvific and intellectual exercise. Activities and intellectual disciplines are subsumed into soul-healing. Healing techniques are eclectic and universally applied, ultimately under the perceived direction of Shaykh Nazim. (3) The Order attracts followers through charisma and personal contacts; adapts to local vernaculars; creates alternative social networks; makes everyday activities part of soul-healing; provides low-cost personalised healing; and reflects postmodern concerns and ecumenism. / Implications: Healing that reflects pre-modern, religious models of the intellect, and a medical science that is not merely naturalistic, has encompassed scientific narratives and gained adherents in the postmodern world.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: From madness to eternity: Psychiatry and Sufi healing in the postmodern world
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2020. All rights reserved.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10094782
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