Sufism Without Boundaries: Pluralism, Coexistence, and Interfaith Dialogue in Bangladesh


  • Sarwar Alam University of Arkansas



pluralism, Sufism, interfaith dialogue, Bangalee Nationalism


Most scholars believe that the majority of the population of Bangladesh embraced Islam through the influence of the Sufis (mystics, holy men). A large majority of Bangladeshi Muslims perceives Sufis as sources of their spiritual wisdom and guidance, viewing Sufi khanqahs [hospices] and dargahs [mausoleums] to be the nerve centers of Muslim society. It has been argued that the greatest achievement of the Sufis of Bengal is the “growth of cordiality and unity between the Hindus and the Muslims.” Yet, Sufism is a contested phenomenon in Bangladesh. Islamic reform movements in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries preached against some Sufi rituals and practices, and Sufism as a whole. This article analyzes how the concept of “Bangalee Nationalism” emerges, among others, from various Sufi ideologies that recognize the authenticity of another’s faith. This article will also analyze how these traditions have hitherto been engaged in establishing a pluralistic society as well as in developing a culture of tolerance and interfaith dialogue.

Author Biography

Sarwar Alam, University of Arkansas

Dr. Sarwar Alam teaches at the King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies of University of Arkansas. He received his doctorate from the same university in 2006. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia between 2007 and 2010. He is currently preparing a manuscript for publication entitled Jewels of Honor: the Perception of Power, Powerlessness, and Gender Among Rural Muslim Women of Bangladesh.


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How to Cite

Alam, S. (2015). Sufism Without Boundaries: Pluralism, Coexistence, and Interfaith Dialogue in Bangladesh. Comparative Islamic Studies, 9(1), 67–90.



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