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God’s Name is not a Game: Performative Apologetics in Sufi Dhikr Performance in Senegal
This article examines debates surrounding the proper performance of communal dhikr, or reciting God’s name, within the Fayḍa Tijāniyya Sufi community in Senegal. The controversial practice of yëngu (‘moving oneself’), or dancing and drumming during dhikr, has become popular among some Fayḍa youth. Although some Fayḍa leaders condemn yëngu for allegedly mixing God’s sacred name with the profane, yëngu practitioners remain integral to the Fayḍa community. Academic discussions of controversies over Islamic practice have often framed disagreements in terms of competing interpretations of Islamic law (sharī‘a). This article examines several other methods of religious convincing that yëngu proponents invoke, such as mystical experiences and truths that transcend law. Perhaps more than any explicit argument, yëngu’s continuation within the community depends on ‘performative apologetics,’ or demonstrations of exemplary knowledge, piety, and devotion through which one incorporates a potentially controversial practice into one’s self-presentation as a pious Muslim.