Spiritualism and Faith Traditions in Modern Iran: The Case of Rituals

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 09:15
Location: Hörsaal 42 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Hossein GODAZGAR, Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education, United Kingdom
Shiva VELAYATI, Nabi Akram University, Iran
It is tempting for sociologists of religion to regard the terms ‘spiritualism’ and ‘individualised religion’ in ways that are consistent too often with ‘Christianity’ and to use ‘Islam’ in ways that imply too much homogeneity, which is also far from spiritualism. It is as if ‘Islam’ is a single concept the adherents of which have all passed the same process and have no familiarity with anything other than the strict language and rules of shari’a. The reasons for attributing excessive homogeneity and shari’a-oriented views to ‘Islam’ lie partly in the media coverage of some Muslim groups in Europe and the Middle East and partly in the lack of good empirical research in Muslim countries.  Taking inspiration from a social constructionist approach, participant observation and thirty semi-structured interviews in three Maqbarahs and cities in north-west Iran, this paper aims to report the results of an empirical research that reveals the very spiritualistic, esoteristic and individualistic version of ‘Islam’ in the context of modern Iran. It will also narrate the changes in the meaning of ‘Islam’ that have occurred in Iran during last thirty years. Far from institutionalised religion, each of informants reports their own views of ‘religion’ and reasons for choosing different venues for the practice of rituals: mosque (mainly local one), Imams’ shrines, Imamzadehs’ shrines, Hosseiniyehs, the faithful’s houses, university mosque, streets or their private rooms. Indeed, ‘Islam’ in Iranian context is more associated with spiritualism, diversity and individual orientations, rather than firm shari’a guidelines, homogeneity and universalism.