New book by German Sufi expert Wasim Frembgen: We are Lovers of the Qalandar
‘We are Lovers of the Qalandar’. Piety, Pilgrimage, and Ritual in Pakistani Sufi Islam
This book is about Pakistan’s most popular Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar whose shrine in Sehwan Sharif is one of the most fascinating sanctuaries in the Muslim world. At the time of pilgrimage, this flourishing cult centre becomes a vibrant place of ecstatic religiosity marked by intense forms of devotion. The present study is the fruit of ethnographic field-research between 2003 and 2015 in Sindh and Punjab, and aims to contribute to a ‘Sufism observed’, a facet of Sufi Islam often neglected in mainly text-based Sufi studies. It is an academic companion to Frembgen’s earlier narrative At the Shrine of the Red Sufi (OUP, 2011) and is, in fact, published in the 40th year of his annual visits to Pakistan, thus a kind of jubilee volume.
It is organized around three themes: piety, pilgrimage, and ritual. Thus, its focus is first on visual culture and ‘material religion’ as well as various aspects of religious aesthetics which highlight how sacred spaces are constructed and shaped. Secondly, it deals with the year-round pilgrimage, mainly investigating pilgrims from Punjab (including a unique life history of a female ‘Sufi lineage’ from Lahore), but also discussing remarkable ritual agents in the cult. The third theme is the spectacular trance dance known as dhamāl. On February 16, 2017, a suicide bomber executed a horrible massacre among the dancing devotees.