Volume 2, Issue 2, 2014
Invoking Religion in Violent Acts and Rhetoric
Sufi Lovers as Sufi Fighters: Militant Piety in Muhammad ibn Yaggabsh al-Tāzī’s Book of Jihād
Even though Sufism (Islamic mysticism) is often characterized in Western scholarship and discourse as an esoteric, tolerant, non-violent dimension of Islam, historically some Sufis have practiced and justified violence as an ethical form of struggle in the world. This essay analyzes the representations of violence in the fifteenth-century Book of Jihād by the Moroccan Sufi Muḥammad ibn Yaggabsh al-Tāzī (d. 1505), which advocates defensive jihād against Portuguese imperial expansion in Morocco. In particular, it focuses on the way in which al-Tāzī’s text stages violence for a popular audience while it simultaneously promotes
communal transformation through a rhetoric of love, where righteous fighters become God’s lovers. Furthermore, the essay examines the role of Jesus as a defender of the Muslim community in the Book of Jihād, and explores the physical, legal, and religious boundaries that al-Tāzī’s portrayals of violence help cross and inscribe. Finally, this article reflects on the implications of the broader tradition of politically engaged Sufism upon the aforementioned reductionist
portrayals of Sufis as fundamentally opposed to violence.