EASA2012: Uncertainty and disquiet

Nanterre University, France, 10/07/2012 – 13/07/2012

(W133)

Muslim saints, dreams, and veneration of shrines

Location V502
Date and Start Time 13 Jul, 2012 at 11:30

Convenors

Iain Edgar (Durham University) email
Pedram Khosronejad (Oklahoma State University) email
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Short Abstract

This workshop will study the phenomena of true dreams being experienced at Muslim saints' shrines, involving the convergence of personal pilgrimage and intention, cultural context, and external and internal geographies of dreaming.

Long Abstract

Throughout the history of Islam, the night dream is thought to offer a way to metaphysical and divinatory knowledge, to be a practical, alternative and potentially accessible source of imaginative inspiration and guidance, and to offer ethical clarity concerning action in this world. Moreover dreaming seems to be similarly important across all Islamic groups, Sunni, Shia, Salafi and particularly amongst the various Sufi orders.

Such an ethical mandate for the occasional divine significance of dreams however does not explain why Muslims often practice pilgrimage to Saints' tombs to facilitate the phenomena of a true dream. Why then this historical and contemporary regard for spatial and geographical convergence of the outer body and self with the enhanced possibility of inner dream vision? This workshop will consider at least the following questions:

- The historical and contemporary extent of dream pilgrimage to Saints' shrines,

- Perceptions of hierognosis within reported dream imagery at Saints' tombs,

- Comparisons between pilgrimage and hajj per se and dream quests to Saints' tombs,

- Interior and exterior geographies of Baraka as experienced in dreams and through pilgrimage,

- Experiencing and defining the sites of selfhood and Sainthood,

- Anthropological typologies and ethnographies of such performances,

- The psychology and cultural context of the dream vision quest: the preparation for, experience of, and interpretation of dream events at saints' tombs,

- Islamic accounting for wisdom transmission across the visibly alive: visibly dead binary opposition,

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Dream visions of the saints In Khōjā kahaṇī literature

Author: Iqbal Akhtar (University of Edinburgh)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper will explore communion with the Imāmī Shīʿī saints in dream visions within Khōjā Gujarati kahaṇī literature. It is a study in how Shīʿī outwith the central Islamic lands, such as southwestern India and eastern Africa, envisioned and venerated the Shīʿī saints of the Near East from afar.

Long Abstract

The kahaṇīō were popular narrative prayers of the Khōjā related to specific saints of the Imāmī Shīʿī. This literature was primarily employed by Khōjā women and commonly featured a female protagonist who comes to a point in her predicament where there appears to be no hope or clear answer. The night dream, which entails a metaphysical pilgrimage to a shrine or meeting with the saint corporeal, then, reveals the solution.

Night visitations figure prominently in the kahaṇī for according to Muslim tradition the spirit escapes the body with sleep. This allows a literal spiritual encounter with and obeisance to the saints. For Asian and African Shīʿī Muslims in the geographical periphery of the physical Near Eastern shrines, the dream state allowed an egalitarian opportunity for all to make pilgrimage. Pilgrimages in dreams were based on religious merit, rather than the physical journey which required wealth. The dreams of saints allowed devout Khōjā women of modest means to circumvent modalities of communal religious institutions to achieve spiritual gnosis.

The kahaṇī, originally of South Asian origin, provides and deeper understanding of how Imāmī Shīʿī, in the periphery of Islamic civilization, envisioned and related to the saints of the Near East in a localized context while retaining the Indic legends and narrative structures of their indigenous devotional literature.

Dreaming Baba, Restituting Memory: Popular Sufi Shrines in Contemporary East Punjab

Author: Yogesh Snehi (Ambedkar University, Delhi (AUD))  email
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Short Abstract

Why and how does popular memory reconfigures itself in the form of dreams? Taking a clue from veneration at popular Sufi shrines, this paper underlines the role played by memory and dreams in restitution of the practice of saint veneration in contemporary (East) Punjab.

Long Abstract

The partition of Punjab in 1947 divided the province into a Muslim-majority Pakistani Punjab and Sikh-Hindu dominated Indian Punjab. This happened after the catastrophic sharing of populations on the either side of Radcliffe line and irreparably divided the region on communal lines, seriously undermining those traditions of shared popular veneration of Sufi shrines, which had over the centuries since the arrival of Sufism in medieval South Asia, emerged as the dominant element of Punjabi society. What began as a social reform movement in the late nineteenth century led to a sustained onslaught of the reformers on the popular veneration of Pirs in the early twentieth century and Sikh militancy in the late twentieth century.

Thus, it becomes significant to probe the ways in which such practices reconfigured themselves in East Punjab when the larger centers of Sufism were left behind in the West Punjab. It is also important to underline that the practice of saint veneration continues to exist among non-Muslim population in East Punjab. Taking an account of selected popular Sufi shrines in contemporary (East) Punjab, this paper seeks to foreground the role played by dreams in recovering the popular memory of pre-partition Punjabi society, the centrality of saint veneration in its social formation. Significantly, this process has translated in the emergence of a new set of shrines in contemporary Punjab, particularly in the post-militancy phase, which have been constructed through donations from non-Muslims. This process has also led to the emergence of new forms of dissenting associative (popular) identities based on the rejection of caste and religious hierarchies. These narratives appropriate and interweave the medieval liberal discourse of the Chishtis with the Nath and Bhakti tradition, and emphasize the continued relevance of these articulations in contemporary social formation.

Encountering Hizir and Elijah: dreaming and healing in the Muslim and Alawi Traditions of Hatay

Author: Jens Kreinath (Wichita State University)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper presents a local account of this tradition in the worship of Saint George (Hızır or Khiḍr) as commonly practiced at various pilgrimage sites in Hatay, Turkey. It aims to demonstrate how Muslims and Alawis visit these pilgrimage sites for purposes of healing, praying, and wish-making.

Long Abstract

Healing in conjunction with dream and vision quests at sacred sites is well-documented and play a major role in the Muslim tradition. This paper presents a local account of this tradition in the worship of Saint George (Hızır or Khiḍr) as commonly practiced at various pilgrimage sites in Hatay, Turkey. It aims to demonstrate how Muslims and Alawis visit these pilgrimage sites for purposes of healing, praying, and wish-making. I argue that the dream request as a key element in visiting these sites is viewed as a reshaping of reality and transformation of agency. By engaging in the work of Bakhtin and and Deleuze, I ponder upon how concepts such as the 'chronotope' and 'virtuality' can allow analyzing the interrelatedness of the visits at these sacred pilgrimage sites in conjunction with oral traditions blending encounters with Hizir as well as Elijah and with personal accounts of those who visit these sites and experience dreaming and healing. By way of conclusion, I contrast these accounts with the veneration of other Muslim saints in that area.

Flashes of ultimate reality: dreams of saints and shrines in a contemporary Pakistani Sufi community

Author: Robert Rozehnal (Lehigh University)  email
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Short Abstract

Drawing on ethnographic and textual analysis, this paper explores the importance of dreams of Sufi masters and sacred shrines as models for Muslim selfhood and sainthood, tools for spiritual development and markers of spiritual attainment among a dynamic group of Sufis in contemporary Pakistan.

Long Abstract

In today's Pakistan, Sufi ritual practice takes place at diverse times and in myriad locations—from private homes to large, public tomb-shrines. It even extends into the dream world of sleep. For Muslims both past and present, dreams are much more than nocturnal hallucinations. As a medium for both revelation and inspiration, they impart vital ontological, epistemological and spiritual truths. Sufi dream theory draws on a rich premodern heritage. Even so, its logic and practice diverges sharply from the classical science of Islamic dream interpretation (ta'bir). As flashes of ultimate reality (bushra), Sufis view dreams as a litmus test of a seeker's spiritual potential.

In twenty-first century Pakistan, the Chishti Sabiri order (tariqa) is a living Sufi tradition that traces its teachings and lineage back to the Prophet Muhammad. Grounded on the intimate relationship between a master (shaykh) and disciple (murid), the order's pedagogy rests on a detailed and disciplined routine of ritual practices. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and textual analysis, this paper explores the importance of Sufi saints and sacred shrines in Chishti Sabiri dream work. I argue that dreams and dream interpretation serve as models for Muslim selfhood and sainthood, tools for spiritual development and markers of spiritual attainment. My analysis examines Sufi dream theory, the ritual use of dreams in both private and public spaces (including Sufi tomb complexes), and the techniques for interpreting dreams as both a sign of individual psychology and a window to the realm of divinity.

Sacred sites, severed heads and prophetic visions

Author: Claire Norton (St Mary's University College)  email
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Short Abstract

My paper will examine the convergence of sacred geographies and prophetic visions in early modern Ottoman gazavatname (campaign narrative) accounts of the sieges of Nagykanizsa castle.

Long Abstract

My paper will examine the convergence of sacred geographies and prophetic visions in early modern Ottoman gazavatname (campaign narrative) accounts of the sieges of Nagykanizsa castle. In these narratives Tiryaki Hasan Pasha experiences a prophetic vision at the grave site of a martyred Muslim soldier. The martyrdom of the soldier was itself an unusual and heterodox mystical event. While fighting valiantly against the infidel, the soldier was beheaded by the enemy who fled with his head. The martyred soldier's body cried out and gave chase killing the infidel and reclaiming his head. The martyred solider is subsequently buried and his grave becomes a site where mystical dreams occur. Both a local judge and another soldier dream that they see the inside of the tomb filled with light and huris congratulating the martyr on his bravery. Seventy years later Hasan Pasha, while at the grave site, experiences a strange natural phenomena - flocks of birds whirl and fight - and he interprets this as providing divinatory knowledge of a future Habsburg attack on nearby Nagykanizsa castle which will end in defeat for the Habsburgs. Somewhat later Hasan Pasha has another dream in which the four 'choice friends' appear and help the Ottomans defend the castle. This congruence of spiritually significant external spaces and inner prophetic visions helps to create a cultural and spiritual map that reinforces the depiction of Hasan Pasha as spiritually powerful while also figuring him as a religiously-liminal mystic with supernatural powers akin to those possessed by some dervishes.

Sufi shrines and dreams in Palestine

Author: Aref Abu Rabia (University of the Negev)  email
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Short Abstract

to follow

Long Abstract

This paper will describe the common Sufi beliefs regarding dreams and shrines. These beliefs developed during joint and private seasonal visits (ziara) during the twentieth century in Palestine. Gaining insight into the sociology of the Sufi cult of saints can enrich our understanding of similar cults in other places and shed light on the reasons for their absence in other societies. I will examine the phenomenon of true dreams at saints' shrines, particularly among the various Sufi orders in Palestine, and explore the historical and contemporary extent of dream pilgrimages to these shrines.

Ceremonies that involve visiting saints' shrines have encouraged a relationship of socio-cultural and psychological-therapeutic dependence of the pilgrims with regard to these shrines. This dependence is deeply rooted in their collective psyche and reinforced and legitimized through Palestinian folklore. This paper will be based on primary and secondary sources, interviews with Sufis, including their leaders, and, key people who have been active in participating in these rituals, as well as archival and documentary material, a review of published and unpublished materials, books, and scientific journals.

The "sleeping women", the dead and the saints: dreaming, dreamsharing and dream interpretation as women´s power in northern Morocco

Author: Araceli Gonzalez-Vazquez (Universidad del País Vasco/Basque Country University)  email
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Short Abstract

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the qabila Ghzawa (Western Rif, Morocco), we examine two types of oneiric experiences: those of the “sleeping women” (er-reqqada), and dream incubation (istikhara) at the shrine of Sidi Belghassem, a significant place for the Sufi tariqa Baqqaliyya.

Long Abstract

In Magie et religion dans l´Afrique du Nord, Edmond Doutté writes on the figure of the «sleepers»: "(…) dans le Rif il y avait des individus appelés er reqqada, c´est-à-dire les dormeurs qui tombaient en léthargie, restaient plusiers jours dans cet état, puis è leur réveil, faisaient les plus étonnantes prophéties". Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Ghzawa (Western Rif, Morocco), we examine two types of oneiric experiences. On one side, we reflect on the figure of "the sleeping women" (er-reqqada) and their uses of dreams as forms of divination. We also study the roles of peasant women as interpreters of dreams. On the other side, we analyse the quest for visionary dreams and dream incubation (istikhara) in the shrine of Sidi Belghassem al-Hajj (Ghzawa), a significant place for the Baqqaliyya Sufi brotherhood.

In peasant women and in the "sleeping women"´s dreams and visions, we usually find human selves interacting with the dead and the saints (awliya) in very specific ways, some gender-specific. Dreaming, dreamsharing and dream interpretation become a significant source of power for women, as long as they make possible a feminine management of the dead and the saints´ actions. Sleeping at Sidi Belghassem´s shrine makes possible the transmission of the saint´s Baraka in dreams, particularly with therapeutic purposes. In examining contexts of dreaming, dreamsharing and dream interpretation, we will take into account issues related to the gender and rank of the dreamer. We will also try to reflect on the fluidity of the different forms of being.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.