Charismatic authority is shaped in the encounter between a follower and a leader through their social interactions and is characterized by a particular emotive quality. While focusing on this relationship, the paper explores practices in the context of religious inspirational talks that enhance and strengthen these bonds in Europe. The concept of charisma is often used with positive connotations in the twenty-first century, but it can equally refer to questionable religious movements and cults that can lead followers to violent acts. This study approaches the existing literature on charismatic authority through several lenses of Islamic authority. It highlights why prospective followers become interested in religious movements, how a charismatic bond is shaped, and under which circumstances it is likely for followers to believe in and shape the charisma of a leader. The definition of charisma as a “gift of grace” was first coined by Max Weber who focused on its religious motivation. While the term developed in the 1920s, it has been retroactively applied to cases such as Jesus, the Prophet Mohammad, or Buddha. Charismatic authority was unpacked by Weber in relation to legal and traditional authority. Today charismatic authority has found its place as an intersection between traditional and legal authority. This study looks into the context of the recent emergence of religious leaders in Europe through the lens of individual charisma and routinization developed by Weber, as well as that of collective charisma developed by Durkheim.
Soraya Afzali, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland