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Muhammad’s Heirs: Sufis and Shooting along the Modern Straits of Malacca


May 17, 2016
3:45 pm - 5:00 pm
Event Category:


Encina Hall West, Room 219

Lecture by Terenjit Sevea (University of Pennsylvania). Co-sponsored by the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, the Department of Religious Studies, and the Center for South Asia. Free and open to the public.

This talk focuses upon two nineteenth century Malay compendiums of the orally-transmitted instructions of peripatetic Sufis who served as direct ‘technological’ heirs of the prophet Muhammad, and as gurus of hand-held firearms along the modern Straits of Malacca.  Particular attention is paid to how these gurus and their texts serve as microcosms of broader Malay social worlds wherein guns and their metals had attained distinctly religious definitions, and wherein Sufis were venerated and professionally employed for their esoteric firearms expertise, miracles, charms and supernatural negotiations. Minangkabau heirs of the prophet Muhammad, as a range of extant Jawi manuscripts tell, were pivotal to the propagation of gun expertise, to the employment and domestication of ‘foreign’ metal and American, European and indigenously-produced guns. Moreover, these Sufis who were plugged into circuits connecting them to gun-makers, smugglers, hunters and revolutionaries, were employed for their arts of bullet craftsmanship, Islamic marksmanship and hunting ‘kafirs’. This talk presents facets of my explorations into the economics of colonization, tapping and guns, and the performance of Sufi sainthood, across the early modern and modern Straits of Malacca.

Terenjit Sevea is Assistant Professor of history and religion in modern South and Southeast Asia in the Department of South Asia Studies and the University of Pennsylvania. His research interests include the history of Muslims in modern South and Southeast Asia and the history of religion and Islamic connections in the Indian Ocean. For an interview with Prof. Sevea, click HERE.