The Calls of Islam
Sufis, Islamists, and Mass Mediation in Urban Morocco
Publication Year: 2013
The sacred calls that summon believers are the focus of this study of religion and power in Fez, Morocco. Focusing on how dissemination of the call through mass media has transformed understandings of piety and authority, Emilio Spadola details the new importance of once–marginal Sufi practices such as spirit trance and exorcism for ordinary believers, the state, and Islamist movements. The Calls of Islam offers new ethnographic perspectives on ritual, performance, and media in the Muslim world.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
It is the gift of cultural anthropology to demand a researcher’s commitment of body, heart, and mind. I am grateful to the many institutions and individuals in Morocco and the United States who supported my research and this book. Moroccan acquaintances, colleagues, and dear friends in Rabat and Fez set the gold standard for hospitality and collaboration. I am especially grateful to the extended...
Note on Transliteration
Over the past decade in Fez, Morocco, and throughout the Muslim ecumene, young Islamist activists have produced and distributed videos of spirit exorcisms as part of an ongoing revivalist call to Islam. The videos are formulaic but nonetheless dramatic; a well-known video circulated by an Islamist association in the old city of Fez shows two leaders of the group performing an “Islamic exorcism” to cure...
1. Competing Calls in Urban Morocco
Much colonial and postcolonial scholarship on Islam in Morocco emphasizes “Moroccan Islam,” a national veneration of Sufi authorities and pious exemplars (Geertz 1968; Michaux-Bellaire 1926; Eickelman 1976). Historically, Sufi “saints” or “friends of God” (awliyaʾ, sing. wali; in colonial literature, marabouts) have ranged from urban and rural bearers of divine blessing...
2. Nationalizing the Call: Trance, Technology, and Control
The emergence of the modern reformist call to Islam, centered in Middle Eastern and South Asian Muslim communities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, came to fruition in North Africa and Morocco decades later in the early 1920s and 1930s. Similar issues and conditions marked the movement’s immediate prehistory and subsequent spread: anger precipitated by European economic...
3. Our Master’s Call: The Apotheosis of Moroccan Islam
Colonial-era Moroccan nationalists reinterpreted the powers of popular Sufi (sharifian) rituals to foreground their material properties as media. More precisely, placed in the context of mass-mediated communications by which national subjects could be summoned, Sufi rites appeared in new light as the call of competing media, generating demonstrably different forms of piety and society: on the one hand, exploited masses...
4. Summoning in Secret: Mute Letters and Veiled Writing
A television advertisement for Morocco’s state-owned telecommunications network, Maroc Telecom, during the month of Ramadan, 1424, centered on the familiar Muslim scholar and authority figure, the fqih (Ar. faqih), in his local role as a Qurʾanic schoolteacher. The advertisement opened with the fqih, plump and avuncular in white robe and red fez, strolling through a luminous...
5. Rites of Reception
The exorcism rites of the fqih, his talismanic writing and acts of summoning, had done nothing to quell Zuhur’s pain, but rather provoked the jinns’ ire. Her turn toward another solution was imminent, but seeing another fqih for more writing and more exorcism was out of the question. As Janice Boddy describes a Zar initiate’s journey from a faki’s talismans to trance...
6. Trance-Nationalism, or, the Call of Moroccan Islam
Following the May 16 terror attacks in Casablanca, the 2003 Moroccan summer of sacred music, dance, and cultural heritage festivals promised a return to normalcy. State-sponsored press and high-society magazines celebrated the Essaouira Festival of Gnawa and Trance Music in particular for demonstrating Morocco’s “modernity” and rejection of...
7. “To Eliminate the Ghostly Element Between People”: The Call as Exorcism
Let us return to the Islamic exorcisms with which I opened this book and to the cultural politics of communication and piety it embodies. I began with Islamic exorcisms, with one of Aisha in particular, because the practice vividly captures the social currents and political conflicts around the competing calls of Islam, from the dominant national influences of sharifian Sufism...
The period in which I carried out this ethnographic study was pivotal in Mohammed VI’s consolidation of control over the religious field. In the terms repeatedly offered in the decade following May 16, 2003, the king recuperated and enforced the “the spiritual security of the nation” (Arif 2008; cf. Kaitouni 2010). In practice “spiritual security” meant the state’s reassertion of control over the calls of Islam—the domestication...