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Repeating the formulas to the rhythm of drums and religious songs, they line up in several rows and move around a pole set up in the center of the space. The ritual lasts until the sunset maghrib prayer. Dhikr rituals, like visits to the shrine, can be carried out at any time. They are, however, enthusiastically conducted on a grand scale on the occasion of the annual festival of the saint.

The yearly celebration in honor of a saint has several different names in Arab countries. In Egypt it is called a mawlid ; the word mawsim season, i.

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These festivals vary greatly in the way in which they are held, the number of participants, and the rituals performed; we will concentrate on the Egyptian cases. The time when these rites are held is an interesting issue. Many mawlid s for famous holy people, including the Prophet and his family, do occur on or about the days of their birth according to the Islamic lunar calendar, although the feasts themselves generally start several days or weeks before the birthday: By contrast, the dates of some mawlid s are fixed according to the solar calendar and may change according to historical and social conditions.

The largest of these was held a month after the summer solstice, which was then the slack season for the peasants in the area. In the second or third decade of the twentieth century, the date of this mawlid was moved to the latter half of October. The development of the irrigation system in the intervening period had resulted in fundamental changes in the annual agricultural cycle of the Nile Delta. Thus October in the Gregorian calendar became the slack season for the peasants, many of whom were enthusiastic devotees of the saint.

The space around the shrine of the saint being celebrated naturally becomes a center for the feast and is crowded with visitors to the tomb. There are a number of stands for food and drinks, amusements, and sideshows. The number of visitors hoping to receive divine blessing increases remarkably during this period. Members of some orders used to demonstrate their miraculous powers in front of crowds in performances involving eating live serpents or piercing their bodies with spikes. This kind of bizarre performance has often been criticized for deviation from orthodox belief and proper Sufism.

Recently they have tended to disappear, especially in the large cities. They perform dhikr and other rituals in their own styles, as a demonstration to the local people. Saintly families in the High Atlas also arbitrate disputes among Berber tribesmen.

Moreover, a collective oath, which is a customary legal procedure for judging the truth or falsity of an accusation, has to be made at a saint's shrine if it relates to a serious issue. The shrine is also the place where a special ritual alliance between two tribes is contracted. Because of the divine blessing saints have been granted by God, shrines can become holy places where people are subjected to mystical authority. Some of them have become not only asylums where killers involved in tribal feuds can come to ask for relief, but also sanctuaries where all bloodshed is prohibited.

Because people continually come and go, and the area around the shrine is relatively peaceful, the place may develop as a market center for the area; or, conversely, an existing market may also become a center for religious training, so that a saint's shrine is eventually built there.

While the regular weekly market held in these towns has prospered, the annual saint's festival has become an occasion on which the town bustles with massive crowds and a large-scale fair is held, so that the festival has considerable economic effect. The saint and his family may be able to maintain the economic importance of their town by emphasizing their mystical power. They ensured safe travel for the tribesmen and consequently contributed to the prosperity of towns other than their own.

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Similar cases exist in other areas. He stressed that the veneration of a saint would probably lead to the worship of a divine being other than God—to loathsome polytheism—and that showy attractions during feasts were definitely contrary to Islamic law and should therefore be prohibited. In the end they conquered the Hejaz and gained control of Mecca and Medina by Even the dome erected on the spot where the Prophet was born was destroyed. They insisted that a saint could not intercede with God for people in earthly matters and therefore did not have the mystical power to grant good fortune.

Not only strict fundamentalists but also secular modernists have intensified their opposition to it.

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Generally speaking, the more widespread public education has become, the more general has been the criticism of shrine cults as mere superstition. Most contemporary devotees of the cult of saints are recruited from the less-educated urban and rural masses. Chicago Voll, John O. Sufism [ This entry contains four subentries: Sufism in the Modern World. Bibliog raphy Chittick, William C. Views from the Islamic Tradition. The Shambhala Guide to Sufism. A fine introduction to the study of Sufism. Translated from the Arabic by Timothy Winter.

Thirteen Centuries of Controversies and Polemics. Past and Present, East and West. Lewisohn, Leonard, et al. The Heritage of Sufism. A selection of scholarly studies originally published in London in by Khaniqahi Nimatullahi.

Introduction to Sufism - Belief - Oprah Winfrey Network

University of California Press, An insider's view of basic teachings. Mystic and Martyr of Islam. Scholarly investigations by one of the most insightful historians of Sufism.

Articles in this section

Chinese Gleams of Sufi Light. The Vision of Islam. Translated from the Persian by Hamid Algar. Nasr, Seyyed Hossein, ed.

An overview of Sufism's teachings and historical vagaries. A handy reference book including a sixty-page bibliography of Western language sources in twenty-one categories. A fine selection of early texts, translated and introduced. Excellent introduction to the great diversity of Muslim expressions of the quest for God. The Ocean of the Soul. Mystical Dimensions of Islam. University of North Carolina Press, A fine selection of texts. Bibliography Awn, Peter J.

Edited by Lindsay Jones. Bennigsen, Alexandre, and S. Sufism in the Soviet Union. Saint and Sufi in Modern Egypt.

Sufism, Mystics, and Saints in Modern Egypt. Careful and detailed discussion of Egyptian orders and their relations with the state. A comprehensive presentation with emphasis on the earlier centuries, using many important articles from the Encyclopaedia of Islam. A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century: Sympathetic presentation showing the basis for the continuing appeal of Sufism in the modern era. Malik, Jamal, and John Hinnells, eds. Sufism in the West.