Digital Connections of the Naqshabandi Nazimi in Indonesia

Moh Yasir Alimi (Universitas Negeri Semarang)

Abstract

New media have changed radically the way people practice and experience religion. One of the most influential religious groups that use the internet massively for its religious activities, communication and building a “spiritual community” are Naqsabandi Nazimi, a Sufi group having its centre in Michigan, United States. This sufi group has worldwide influence through the spiritual training it provides to more than 100.000 followers across the world, including Indonesia. Through the internet, the Naqsabandi sufi group—traditionally based upon face-to-face relations — has successfully recruited new members, created spiritual bonds among its Sufi corners, and spread the tolerant and peaceful voice of Islam across the world. The unique use of the internet by this Sufi group as well as their traditional emphasis on face-to-face gathering allow us to see a practice of “global communication” and “new form of sociality” through which this group places technology of communication in their faith and in their struggle to re-spiritualize the Islamic world and challenge the global dominance of Wahhabist Islam on the web. Examining this sufi group—with their unique emphasis on internet and face to face communication —will also give nuance to our existing theories about religious communication and practice on the web (for example Stephen O’Lears’ “cyberspace as sacred space” 1996 and Derrickson’s “virtual pilgrimage” 2008) and other theoretical initiatives methodologically centered upon online communication. The Naqsabandi Nazimi largely has a middle class and young following in Indonesia; and that is partly the case because the middle class and the young are better connected to the internet than the elders and the lower classes, which makes the Naqsabandi Nazimi a suitable example for examining their digital connections and disconnections, including possible Islamic digital divides in Indonesia.