Intuitive Instructional Speech in Sufism: A Study of the Sohbet in the Naqshbandi Order

The Sufi tradition remains one of the most mysterious and least understood systems of self-realization. This book demystifies the practice of the sohbet—an ad hoc discourse—as the central instructional tool in the globally influential Naqshbandi-Haqqani Order.

It approaches the practice using categories of improvised music to establish a framework for analyzation. Its ritualized formal structure, illustrated via selected talks of Shaykh Nazim Adil al-Haqqani, discloses the underlying—and assumingly primary—function to provoke prolonged states of raised awareness in listeners and condition their sympathetic nervous system.

In an extensive discussion based on several years of field research in Cyprus, the book relates this intention to similar practices in other traditional knowledge systems by proposing psychophysical interpretations based on psychology, biochemistry, neuroscience, or quantum physics. It will appeal to scholars and students of Sufism, Islamic studies, and comparative religion, as well as those interested in performance studies and improvised music, interpersonal communication, and education.

Martin Abdel Matin Gansinger studied Communication Science and Political Science at the University of Vienna. He conducted ethnographic research on improvised music in Ghana and among the Bobo Shanti Mansion of Rastafari, as well as at the convent of the Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi Order in Cyprus, where he worked at the European University of Lefke and Girne American University, serving as Head of the Radio, TV, Cinema and PR Department. He currently holds the position of Assistant Professor at Al Akhawayn University, Morocco. His recent publications include “From Ghetto to Gods: The (Pro)Creative Transformation of Self in Five Percenter Rap and Its Analogies to Sapiential Traditions in Islamic Theology”, “The Five Percenter Model of Self-Realization as Hybrid Gnosticism and Its Commonalities to Taoist Inner Alchemy and the Pythagorean Tetractys”, and “The Influence of Islam on Black Musical Expression and Its Re-Contextualization as Hybrid Gnosticism in Hip Hop Culture”.

“Gansinger’s study makes a significant contribution to the vast scholarly literature on the influential Sufi Naqshbandi brotherhood. It relies on a decade-long participatory observation that focuses on the practice of sohbet (the shaykh’s accompaniment) at the headquarters of the globally-spread Haqqani branch in Cyprus. [With the help of improvised music categories,] Gansinger further demonstrates how traditional modalities of mystical practice may help strengthen contemporary pedagogical methods that stress spontaneity and student participation.”
Professor Itzchak Weismann
Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Haifa University, Israel

“In this book, Gansinger captures the special experience of being in the presence of a living Sufi shaykh while he delivers his speeches, or sohbets. This type of free-flowing, intuitive speech is dependent on the relationship between speaker and audience—in a way similar to improvisational music. The book will help people understand the particular appreciation and attraction that seekers on the Sufi path feel towards the physical presence and direct oral communication of their shaykh.”
Simon Stjernholm,
Associate Professor, Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen

“This is a valuable study of Naqshbandi sohbet practices through the prism of communication studies that helps us understand why and how oral discourse plays such a powerful role in the world of modern Sufi circles.”
Brett Wilson
Associate Professor, Department of History, Central European University, Budapest

“With this well-researched book highlighting the central role of the sohbet in the Sufi tradition, Martin A. M. Gansinger offers a very welcome and innovative contribution to the study of Sufism, particularly Naqshbandi Sufis. The book’s originality lies in Gansinger’s exploration of parallels between improvised music and the type of inspirational and exploratory knowledge that the Sufi sohbet unveils. Gansinger succeeds in achieving a scholarly analysis of the sohbet while still giving the reader a flavour of this knowledge’s intuitive quality that ultimately transcends the academic form.”
Dr Lili Di Puppo
Faculty of Social Sciences, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia

“Gansinger’s innovative study focuses on the Naqshbandi method of spiritual discourse or sohbet, as practiced by a contemporary Sufi master in Cypress. Based on extensive ethnographic research, Gansinger’s analysis draws parallels to jazz improvisation and considers the broader pedagogical value of sohbet. His work makes an original and valuable contribution to the growing field of contemporary Sufism, shedding light on an under-studied aspect of the tradition.”
Associate Professor Rory Dickson
Chair of Religion and Culture, University of Winnipeg, Canada

“Dr Gansinger provides a compelling interpretation of the Naqshbandi sohbet ritual, understanding its functioning and meaning through an original comparison with improvised music, and demonstrating the affinities between Sufi ritual and disparate cultural traditions around the world. Far from cold scholarly deconstruction, his analysis and vivid ethnographic accounts take the reader to the heart of the ritual, and effectively convey its transcendent quality.”
Dr Stefano Barone
School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Central Lancashire, UK

Buy This Book

ISBN: 1-5275-8570-0

ISBN13: 978-1-5275-8570-6

Release Date: 22nd August 2022

Pages: 200

Price: £64.99


ISBN: 1-5275-1732-2

ISBN13: 978-1-5275-1732-5

Release Date: 3rd June 2023

Pages: 200

Price: £32.99