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Spiritual wayfarers in a secular age: the Tablighi Jama'at in modern Britain

Timol, Riyaz ORCID: 2017. Spiritual wayfarers in a secular age: the Tablighi Jama'at in modern Britain. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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The Tablighi Jama'at (TJ) is widely regarded as the largest movement of grassroots Islamic revival in the world yet remains significantly under-researched. This thesis examines the British branch of the movement based on sustained ethnographic fieldwork conducted over 18 months. Intensive participant observation was combined with 59 semi-structured interviews to present a detailed typology and topography of the movement's organisational structure in Britain. Further, the issue of intergenerational transmission is explored – based on an analysis of the cultural identity markers of language, clothing and food – with clear shifts identified between the first-generation 'Old Guard' and the British-born 'Avant-Garde.' The thesis argues that TJ should best be characterised as a movement in transition located within broader processes of indigenisation operative within British Islam more generally. Theoretically, the thesis augments Berger and Luckmann's sociology of knowledge with insights derived from Bhaskar’s critical realism to propose the twin 'generative mechanisms' of secularity and spirituality from which empirically accessible social phenomena emerge. These are used to anatomise the process of 'intra-religious conversion' which emerges as a key motif of contemporary TJ experience. Turner's concept of liminality and Schutz's phenomenology of consciousness are further deployed to examine ritual and semantic dimensions of conversion that see the neophyte’s attachment to religion transition from a nominal to a passionate state. Generic theories in the sociology of religion are also consulted to explore issues of retention and post-conversion strategies of commitment-maintenance. Finally, utilising insights from Peter Berger’s vast oeuvre, the thesis explores the intersection of 'Islamic Revival' with secularisation theory in Europe. It argues that, in the context of contemporary ‘Eurosecularity,’ the willed and conscious exercise of agency in ways which publicly affirm faith is intrinsically imbued with a disconcerting ‘debunking’ potential for those who have unthinkingly imbibed into interior consciousness the taken-for-granted suppositions of a secular nomos.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BP Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy, etc
Uncontrolled Keywords: Tablighi Jama'at, Tabligh; Deoband, Deobandi; British Islam; British Muslims; British Muslim identity;Conversion, intra-religious conversion; Islamic revival; Islamic movements; Secularism, secularity, secularisation thesis; Peter Berger; Islam in Europe
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 21 September 2017
Last Modified: 03 Nov 2022 09:27

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