Shadows of the Prophet
Martial Arts and Sufi Mysticism
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About the author
Dr. Douglas Farrer earned a doctorate in social anthropology from the National University of Singapore in the Department of Sociology in 2006. His thesis focused upon the Malay martial art, silat. Dr. Farrer has practiced martial arts since 1975 and is a qualified instructor in kung fu and silat. Dr. Farrer resided in Singapore and Malaysia from 1998 to 2007; he is currently Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Guam.
This is the first in-depth study of the Malay martial art, silat, and the first ethnographic account of the Haqqani Islamic Sufi Order. Drawing on 12 years of research and practice in Malaysia, Singapore, and England, social anthropologist and martial arts expert D.S. Farrer considers Malay silat through the transnational Sufi silat group called Seni Silat Haqq, an off-shoot of the Haqqani-Naqshbandi Sufi Order. This account combines theories from the anthropology of art, embodiment, enchantment, and performance to show how war magic and warrior religion amalgamate in traditional Malay martial arts, where practitioners distance themselves from "becoming animal" or going into trance, preferring a practice of spontaneous bodily movement by summoning the power of Allah. Silat and Sufism are revealed through the social dramas of 40-day boot-camps where Malay and European practitioners endeavor to become shadows of the Prophet, only to have their faith tested through a ritual ordeal of boiling oil. The unseen realm and magical embodiment is further approached through an account of Malay deathscapes where moving through the patterns of silat summons the spirits of ancestral heroes. Those interested in Malaysia, Sufism, transnational Islam, and the study of religion, conversion, magic, sorcery, theatre and martial arts will find this book indispensable. "the eagerly awaited monograph on the practice of silat" Joel S. Kahn "No other work on silat has achieved this level of inside understanding" Roxana Waterson
; June 2009
322 pages; ISBN 9781402093562Read online
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Title: Shadows of the Prophet
Author: Douglas S. Farrer
In the press
"Shadows of the Prophet is the eagerly awaited monograph on the practice of silat - the Malay art of self defence - based on extended ethnographic research by anthropologist, and silat adept, Douglas Farrer. This is a genuinely pathbreaking work which returns the ethnography of the Malay World to some of its traditional concerns, at the same time revealing the formative influence of so-called 'mystical' Sufi traditions on the religious life of modern Malays. A must read for anyone with an interest in modern forms of religious mysticism, 'traditional' martial arts in the contemporary world and the Sufi undercurrents in Southeast Asian Islam at the turn of the 21st century".
Joel S. Kahn, La Trobe University, Australia
"This book exemplifies the potentials of performance ethnography. Being himself a dedicated practitioner of martial arts there is no doubt that Farrer has achieved insights into his subject that have not been available to other researchers. No other work on silat has achieved this level of inside understanding of the phenomenon or of its remarkably transnationalised context today, nor has there been one that at the same time has so much new to say about Islam, art, embodiment and performance."
Roxana Waterson, National University of Singapore