Piety, Poetry, and Politics:

Sufi Muslims in South Asia


April 28-30, 2011

Washington, D.C.


April 28: Johns Hopkins University SAIS

April 29: Library of Congress

April 30: Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution


Present wherever there are Muslims, Sufis seek to personally experience the divine through art, music, poetry, self-discipline, and contemplation. This interdisciplinary conference explores the religious, political, and cultural manifestations of Sufism in South Asia, home to a third of the world's Muslim population, where Sufis have had a strong presence for almost a millennium.


Though it is often described monolithically as Islamic mysticism or spirituality, Sufism is remarkably diverse. Its definition has been debated both within and outside Islamic circles for centuries. The conference speakers--Sufis, scholars, and policymakers--enter this debate by presenting new perspectives on Sufi identities, their social roles in South Asia and worldwide, and issues confronting Sufis today.


Please see the conference schedule for more information on times, locations, and speakers.


The conference is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Please email Rahul S. Madhavan at to register.




Sufi Music from South Asia: Salman Ahmad and the Chishty Sufi Sama Ensemble*

Saturday, April 30, 7:30 PM | Freer, Meyer Auditorium

Free tickets required*

Don't miss this rare opportunity to hear one of South Asia's leading ensembles of Sufi qawwali music, made famous in the U.S. by the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The Chisty Ensemble appears regularly at major Sufi shrines and festivals in India. For this occasion, the ensemble is led by guest artist Salman Ahmad (vocals and harmonium), founder of the South Asian rock band Junoon. He performed for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and was profiled in the PBS special The Rock Star and the Mullahs. Joining him are Dhruv Sangari, Ashlam Hussain, and Asraf Hussain, vocals; Amjad Hussain, dholak (double-headed drum); and Akhtar Hussain, tabla.


Image caption:

An Ascetic, India, Deccan Plateau, 17th century, 7.1 x 4.3 cm, Watercolor, ink, and gold on paper, Gift of Charles Lang Freer F1907.762; Image of guest artist Salman Ahmad.



*Free tickets are required. Up to four tickets per person can be reserved (for a service fee of $2.75 per ticket and $1.25 per order) beginning 10 am on Monday, April 18. Contact Ticketmaster at (202) 397-7328, (410) 547-7328,or (703) 573-7328; at; or at Ticketmaster walk-up locations. Tickets will also be distributed at the Meyer Auditorium beginning at 6:30 pm on the night of the concert.