Informal religious leadership in a Bangladeshi Village
Kemp, Jeffrey William John.
This thesis examines concepts of Islamic informal religious leadership, focusing on one particular village in Bangladesh and suggesting a framework within in further research could usefully be conducted. After reviewing the entry of Islam (both in terms of political rule and infiltration of ideas) into the region, and examining the concept of `formality /informality' as it pertains to localised religious leadership, such leaders in Rosulpur are reviewed. A classification of leadership, based on apparent rôles, is suggested. Some parallels between the Bengali village practice of Islam and foundational ideas of the faith are then detailed. Such parallels are not made by the villagers themselves, despite it being theoretically possible and it therefore seems that villagers' sense of identity does not rest on what are supposedly foundational Islamic beliefs and practices (such as ritual prayer). It is suggested that informal leaders, including singers, healers and (perhaps most importantly) pirs, are ceded leadership partly because they tacitly validate common practices and beliefs as being acceptable forms of Islam.Because leadership is such a key concept throughout the thesis, three appendices review this topic. The `Mirrors of Princes' genre of literature was an attempt to merge theory and practice in the exercise of power by several Islamic dynasties. A more contemporary and descriptive glimpse of Islamic leadership is given with the varied functions of the sheikh in various societies. The need to acknowledge unseen beings (such as jinn) and varied means of doing this in the wider Indian subcontinent is finally examined.