Dervishes and Islam in Bosnia
By Ines Aščerić-Todd
Leiden: Brill, 2015, 198 pages, $145, ISBN: 9789004288447
The Revival of Islam in the Balkans: From Identity
Edited by Olivier Roy and Arolda Elbasani
New York, Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2015, 257 pages, $110, ISBN: 9781137517838
Rediscovering the Umma: Muslims in the Balkans between Nationalism and Transnationalism
By Ina Merdjanova
New York: Oxford University Press, 2013, 216 pages, $85, ISBN 9780199964031
Yearbook of Muslims in Europe (Volume 6)
Edited by Jørgen Nielsen, Samim Akgönül, Ahmet Alibašić and Egdūnas Račius
Leiden: Brill, 2014, 648 pages, $285, ISBN: 9789004277540
The study of European Islam is now experiencing an unprecedented revival. While most of its attention is dedicated to Islam as a minority in ‘Christian’ Europe, countries such as Bosnia and Albania have not lost their importance in Westerner’s eyes, much of it due to the region’s political upheavals, fueled by the ever-lurking danger of terrorism, both in the Balkans and by people of the Balkans abroad. Three of the four books reviewed here discuss Southeastern Europe, and the fourth one is a collection of papers covering the entire spectrum of European Islam.
In Dervishes and Islam in Bosnia, Ines Aščerić-Todd returns to post-medieval Bosnia to trace the impact of Sufism in the Islamization (a term she rightfully prefers over ‘conversion to Islam’) of the region. Even though the role of the warrior-dervishes in the Islamization or Ottomanization of these provinces is a relatively well-researched phenomenon, this book presents a nuanced argument that successfully challenges the traditional explanations hitherto posed. In her introduction, the author outlines the extant historiographical approaches to the role of dervishes in the Ottoman expansion, and to Bosnia’s conversion to Islam, showing how their insufficient explanations demand a thorough investigation of the role of the dervish tekke in filling the functions that the weak religious institutions failed to fulfill (partly due to their flight to Austria). In eleven chapters, Aščerić-Todd carefully analyzes myriad primary sources (written mainly in Turkish and Arabic) and secondary sources (in both local and European languages).