And Then We Work for God: Rural Sunni Islam in Western Turkey

And Then We Work for God: Rural Sunni Islam in Western Turkey

And Then We Work for God: Rural Sunni Islam in Western Turkey

And Then We Work for God: Rural Sunni Islam in Western Turkey

Synopsis

Turkey's contemporary struggles with Islam are often interpreted as a conflict between religion and secularism played out most obviously in the split between rural and urban populations. The reality, of course, is more complicated than the assumptions. Exploring religious expression in two villages, this book considers rural spiritual practices and describes a living, evolving Sunni Islam, influenced and transformed by local and national sources of religious orthodoxy.

Drawing on a decade of research, Kimberly Hart shows how religion is not an abstract set of principles, but a complex set of practices. Sunni Islam structures individual lives through rituals-birth, circumcision, marriage, military service, death-and the expression of these traditions varies between villages. Hart delves into the question of why some choose to keep alive the past, while others want to face a future unburdened by local cultural practices. Her answer speaks to global transformations in Islam, to the push and pull between those who maintain a link to the past, even when these practices challenge orthodoxy, and those who want a purified global religion.

Excerpt

I climb out from under a load of heavy quilts and pull on my şalvar, brightly colored baggy trousers made from cloth I bought in an open market in Manisa, sewn by a friend in the village. I tie my headscarf tightly around my face, knotting it on the top of my head. This way, my hair is protected from the dust and flies but more importantly, I show respect for women’s Islamic clothing. I feel in context, ready to spend the day sitting on the floors of village homes, on layers of kilims woven for dowries decades ago or from machine-made textiles bought more recently. I spend my days in conversation with women over glasses of tea. They persuade me to add sugar as they tell me about the discipline of prayer, the cost of a sheep for the sacrifice holiday, their memories of Mecca while on pilgrimage, the rigors of the fast during Ramazan, and their children attending Qur’an schools. Ezan, the call to prayer, rings out from the mosque loudspeaker. We can hear the call in the next village faintly echo ours. They pause. Young women turn down the sound on the television. The older ones, who have no TV or simply are not immersed in it, fall silent. They listen. When the call is over, they whisper a prayer, wiping their hands down their faces, sighing deeply.

The mountainous Yuntdağ region in western Turkey is close to the big city of Manisa, only an hour away by bus, but far in spirit from the bustling urban world. In the city, open markets are a draw; students dominate the streets in their uniforms, mothers clothed in urban-style mantos, or enveloping rain-

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