Piety, Poetry, and Politics: Sufi Muslims in
South Asia

April 28–30, 2011
Washington, D.C.

April 28: Johns Hopkins University SAIS
April 29: Library of Congress
April 30: Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution

Present wherever there are Muslims, Sufis seek to personally experience the divine through art, music, poetry, self-discipline, and contemplation. This interdisciplinary conference explores the religious, political, and cultural manifestations of Sufism in South Asia, home to a third of the world’s Muslim population, where Sufis have had a strong presence for almost a millennium.

Though it is often described monolithically as Islamic mysticism or spirituality, Sufism is remarkably diverse. Its definition has been debated both within and outside Islamic circles for centuries. The conference speakers—Sufis, scholars, and policymakers—enter this debate by presenting new perspectives on Sufi identities, their social roles in South Asia and worldwide, and issues confronting Sufis today.

The conference was free and open to the public.


An Ascetic

An Ascetic
India, Deccan Plateau, 17th century
7.1 x 4.3 cm
Watercolor, ink, and gold on paper
Gift of Charles Lang Freer F1907.762