Sufis and Saints' Bodies
Mysticism, Corporeality, and Sacred Power in Islam
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: The University of North Carolina Press
Title Page, Copyright
Why make Islamic civilization and Muslim networks the theme of a new series? The study of Islam and Muslim societies is often marred by an overly fractured approach that frames Islam as the polar opposite of what "Westerners" are supposed to represent and advocate. Islam has been objectified as the obverse of the Euro-American societies that self-identify as "the West." ...
I have had the good fortune of learning from many profound teachers. Some have been teachers about Sufism in Western universities, while others have been Sufi teachers far from any university. One such sitting was especially memorable though brief and I never learned the name of this custodian of the Sufi shrine at Borabanda, on the outskirts of Hyderābād, India. ...
Note on Transliteration
This book discusses Islamic images of the human body from the distinct perspective of Sufi understandings of Islam. In particular, it examines the role of saints and their bodies in Sufi communities, stressing that in pre-modern times saints were figures central to religious life in Islamic societies, in which they often played the role of political leaders and moral exemplars. ...
1. Body Enshrined: The Bones of Mawlay Idrīs
The Qur'an insists that there is life after death, announcing the inevitability of resurrection in ways that inspire both awe and dread. In the verses above, an unnamed man passes by a ruined city and cries out in despair, "How will God bring this to life after its demise?" God causes him to fall into a deathlike state for a century and then revives him to give him firsthand knowledge of God's power ...
2. Body Politicized: The Belly of Sayyida Āmina
The Qur'an speaks of creation in different levels through diverse metaphors. Whether addressing the creation of the expansive universe or a tiny human life, the Qur'an illustrates the creative dynamic through contrasting pairs: as light from darkness, heaven above earth, water beyond land, spirit within matter, the seen emerges from the unseen. ...
3. Body Refined: The Eyes of Muḥammad Ghawth
It is often argued that vision is the strongest sense that connects us with the world beyond our bodies. Certainly in every human culture, metaphors centered upon the eyes are central to defining the essence of human beings, such as our saying in English, "The eyes are the window on the soul." ...
4. Body Enraptured: The Lips of Shāh Ḥussayn
The Qur'an chides the human being for falling into despair in situations of apparent danger, material loss, or emotional distress. Why do we spin so quickly into despair? Don't we realize that the One who created us still watches over us? The sensory organs through which we grasp at the world and cling to its pleasures lock us into a prison of false perception. ...
5. Body Revived: The Heart of Ḥājji Imdādullah
The Qur'an gives us moral guidance and advice: be fair, be honest, deal with others truthfully and generously. It uses marketplace imagery of weights and measures as standard themes to speak of justice, but it also links this moral advice to surprising images. Each individual bears absolute responsibility for everything sensed by ear, eye, and heart. ...
Conclusion: Corporeality and Sacred Power in Islam
The Qur'an returns insistently to the human body to remind us of our frailty yet also reminds us of its resilience. The body that we take for granted and hold autonomously upright was once not so strong—it was just a spermazoid, requiring many further acts of empowerment to even grow into anything approaching a powerful human body. ...
Page Count: 368
Illustrations: 9 illus., 4 figs., 1 map
Publication Year: 2007
Series Title: Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks
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