Departmental Bulletin Paper <Articles>English as an Islamic Cosmopolitan Vernacular: English-Language Sufi Devotional Literature in Singapore

Lin, Hongxuan

6 ( 3 )  , pp.447 - 484 , 2017-12 , Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University
ISSN:2186-7275
NCID:AA1256533X
Description
The key question this paper addresses is why Sufi devotional literature has been published and consumed in English, and the implications of this phenomenon. The material examined here focuses on literature that is consumed in Singapore: available in bookstores, in institutional archives, online, distributed at Sufi events, and in the private possession of practicing Sufis. I argue that English is used as both a Singaporean vernacular and a cosmopolitan lingua franca, allowing Sufis across the world to communicate with one another. I also argue that the adoption of English is necessarily tied to the rise of digital media and the perception of English as a "modern" marker of prestige and sobriety. This paper is organized in three parts. First, it traces the evolution of a reading public for Sufi devotional literature in Muslim Southeast Asia. Second, it investigates how and why producers of such literature have expressed themselves in English. Third, it analyzes how English operates in conjunction with Arabic in Sufi literature consumed in Singapore. I conclude that Sufi print culture's adoption of English is a response to both the opportunities and the challenges of the present, constituting a reflection of Sufis' pedagogical needs as well as an active appropriation of a loaded language.
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