Circuits of Faith

Michael Farquhar

Published by Stanford University Press

Published in print November 2016 | ISBN: 9780804798358
Published online May 2017 | e-ISBN: 9781503600270 | DOI:
Circuits of Faith

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This book considers efforts undertaken by the Saudi political and religious establishments to widen the sphere of Wahhabi influence beyond the kingdom’s borders from the mid-twentieth century. It focuses on the history of the Islamic University of Medina (IUM), founded in 1961 to offer fully-funded religious instruction to mostly non-Saudi students. It demonstrates that this Saudi state-backed missionary initiative built on political, cultural, and social transformations tracing back to the late Ottoman period. It goes on to show that, just as the IUM sought to extend the authority and influence of the Wahhabi religious establishment into distant Muslim communities, its own operation was both enabled and influenced by migrants from across the Islamic world who came to work and study on its campus. Moreover, the university’s missionary project was further complicated insofar as it was refracted through the agency of the itinerant students who were expected to convey its Wahhabi-inflected message. The book argues that the complex history of such projects of Wahhabi “religious expansion” is best understood as involving a series of unequal transactions within the terms of a transnational religious economy, comprising flows of spiritual capital, material capital, religious migrants and social technologies. This analytical framework suggests new ways of thinking about the evolution of Wahhabism, the rise of Salafism in locations around the world, and the forms of power and agency at stake in border-spanning struggles to steer the future course of the Islamic tradition.

Keywords: Saudi Arabia; Salafism; Wahhabism; Islamic education; transnational religion; transnational history; transnationalism; migration; spiritual capital; religious economies

Book.  288 pages. 

Subjects: Islam

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