Sufism in Sindh: a critical review of “Historical dictionary of the Sufi culture of Sindh in Pakistan and India”

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Book Review

Publication Date



First published in 2015 by the Oxford University Press in Karachi, Pakistan, “Historical Dictionary of the Sufi Culture of Sindh in Pakistan and India”, is a publication of ‘Centre of Social Studies in Karachi series’, developed by the ‘Centre of Social Sciences in Karachi (CSSK)’. Authored by a published writer and editor, Michel Boivin, it is a commendable contribution to a field of study that has hitherto received less academic attention: Ṣūfī culture and traditions of Sindh. Based on 359 pages, the book is easy to follow and can easily grasp the attention of both laymen readers and scholars. Structurally, the book is arranged as follows: acknowledgements, list of entries, transliteration scheme, illustrations, maps, author’s note on transliteration, chronology, introduction, dictionary and bibliography.

Spending a considerable number of pages on writing the introduction of the book—68 pages to be exact—has allowed Boivin to spell out the complex social, religious, political and cultural contexts in which Ṣūfīsm, as found in Sindh, must be comprehended. Generally speaking, Ṣūfī concepts, many a time, differ in scholarly discourse and laymen practice. A Ṣūfī in theory will not be exactly indistinguishable to a Ṣūfī in practice. Irrespective of incommensurable similarities between the two, the former will, on several counts, differ from the later. Although this is not absolutely surmountable—giving convoluted practices, that can best be understood through experience only, certain linguistic attire, is in itself a mighty fallacy—however, Boivin’s academic training as a historian and an anthropologist helps to bridge this gap, evidence of which is thoroughly experienced while examining the book. This is to say, entries in the book have been elucidated using a dense framework of historical, linguistical and ethnographic research methods.

Citation/Publisher Attribution

Damani, AJ. 2021. Sufism in Sindh: A critical review of “Historical Dictionary of the Sufi Culture of Sindh in Pakistan and India”. Ancient Asia, 12: 18, pp. 1–3. DOI: https://doi. org/10.5334/aa.249