A.Z. (Alexandra) Nieweg

PhD Candidate
Islam and Arabic
Religious Studies

Alexandra Nieweg is a PhD candidate for the ERC Advanced Grant Project “Beyond Sharia: The Role of Sufism in Shaping Islam” and does research on ‘Literary Qalandars’. This project will explore antinomian motifs, metaphors, imagery, and stories, which are meant to challenge the religious hierarchy and orthodox Islam, in Persian poetry from the 12th century onward. To this day, this poetry has had a great appeal to Muslims in the Persian world and far beyond. Alexandra in particular analyses how qalandari (Sufi saints at a high level of spirituality) themes in this poetry impacted social, political, and religious developments in subsequent centuries. In Alexandra’s view, the special value for contemporary society of studies on antinomian and qalandari Sufism, as expressed in classical Persian poetry, lies in their potential to help counter today’s common misconception of Islam as exclusively orthodox and Sharia-centred. By showing that Islam for many centuries in the past included entirely different ways to be a pious Muslim, thus emphasizing its pluriformity, this dissertation aims to contribute to a more complete and accurate understanding of Islam.