Sufi healing: a case study of the Naqshbandi-Haqqani

Sarwar, Shafina (2021). Sufi healing: a case study of the Naqshbandi-Haqqani. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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The thesis is an overview of the practice and approaches to health and healing of the Haqqani Naqshbandi tariqa of Shaikh Nazim al Haqqani (d.2014). The Haqqani tariqa has had a significant impact on global Sufism in contemporary times and is perhaps one of the most well-known Sufi movements in the West. The thesis seeks to primarily explore the teachings of Shaikh Nazim, together with other shaikhs and members of the tariqa, regarding alternative and Islamic medicine and whether it is possible to identify a specific Haqqani approach or whether these teachings reflect wider traditions of alternative medicine that are practised amongst contemporary Muslims, particularly in the West. Using a frame of reference based on the phenomenological approach to the study of religion, and a methodology which utilises both published and unpublished primary texts, including books and online materials from websites and forums, and empirical field research, the thesis aims to address the following primary research questions: Do Shaikh Nazim’s teachings on health and healing embody a system which is particular to the tariqa? Are the teachings of Shaikh Nazim augmented with wider approaches to alternative medicine amongst other key members of the tariqa? To what extent are these teachings founded upon established understandings of Islamic medicine?

The thesis concludes that the key source of the practice of alternative health and healing within the Haqqani tariqa, is based on the teachings of Shaikh Nazim in his Natural Medicines text. This text is a compilation of references to health that appear throughout his verbal discourses and may be described as a ‘canon’ of his teachings on health and practical treatments, given the range of conditions that it addresses. Additionally, there is evidence of a range of other alternative therapies which members of the Haqqaniyya practice and use, which complement the teachings of Shaikh Nazim. These can be summarised as being in keeping with the ‘spirit’ of Shaikh Nazim’s approach rather than necessarily embracing the ‘letter’ of his practice. Finally, it is difficult to ground Shaikh Nazim’s teachings as being wholly based in the Unani Tibb and hakim tradition, with which it has affinities. The sources of his system, such as it is, are not documented but it is possible to identify parallels in treatments that concur in some detail with Unani Tibb, such as the use of foods, herbs, hijama, and the contextualising of health within a religious and spiritual perspective.

It can be concluded, therefore, that there is a system of health and healing embodied by the Haqqaniyya, as exemplified by the teachings of Shaikh Nazim, which although influenced by established modes of alternative medicine and treatment based in what can be broadly described as ‘Islamic medicine’, is nonetheless unique to the shaikh.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion, Department of Theology and Religion
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BP Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy, etc


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