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“Third Force Sufism” by Prof. Paul Heelas, Erasmus University, Rotterdam

The Centre for the Study of Contemporary Muslim Societies at the University of Western Sydney (UWS) invites you to attend the Public Lecture:

“Third Force Sufism” by Prof. Paul Heelas, Erasmus University, Rotterdam

Date: Thursday 29 September, 2011

Time: 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Venue: UWS Bankstown Campus , Building 5 Lecture Theatre 15

Opening address by Prof. John Ingleson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, UWS

Performance by The Huzur Ensemble, Tasawuf (Sufi) Music and Ottoman Classical Music

The Centre’s Public Lectures are free and everyone is welcome.


To argue that Sufism serves as a third force means showing that it differs from two other ‘sources of force’. On the one hand Sufism in general is not secular. On the other hand, a great deal of Sufism is not ‘strongly’ theistic-cum-traditionalized. It diverges from the Islam of forceful dualistic, conservative, theistic tradition-cum-God-on-High. A great deal of Sufism, in other words, lies between, is an alternative to, the secular and conservative/radical Islamic tradition/s. Regarding the term ‘neo-Sufism’, although it arguably provides a useful interpretative perspective for helping understand what is happening to Sufism today, Prof. Heelas engages in critical reflection in connection with the interpretative perspective provided by the notion of ‘third force’ Sufism. What is the value, the utility of ‘neo-Sufism’ in face of the notion of ‘third force? Regarding ‘cosmopolitan piety’, what is to be made of the term in connection with the argument that a great deal of Sufism is arguably best characterized as a spiritual humanism of humanity?  In this address, Prof. Heelas will use illustrative examples and focus on the Islamic country where he lived and researched for around one-and-a-half years, and which is thus the one which he know bests – Pakistan.

Destroy the mosque!

Destroy the temple!

Destroy whatever you please.

Do not break the human heart,

For God

Dwells therein!

                 Bulleh Shah

Paul Heelasclip_image002 is currently Senior Research Professor in the Sociology of Contemporary Spirituality at Erasmus University Rotterdam. He is a member of the research group CROCUS (The Centre for Rotterdam Cultural Sociology), a group which aims to continue to develop the study of spirituality, value-politics, and religion in a distinctive way. Paul has been studying spirituality since the ‘sixties’, always with an eye on broader cultural change.