Sufis, Saints, and Shrine: Piety in the Timurid Period, 1370-1507
Salikuddin, Rubina Kauser
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CitationSalikuddin, Rubina Kauser. 2018. Sufis, Saints, and Shrine: Piety in the Timurid Period, 1370-1507. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation is a study on piety and religious practice as shaped by the experience of pilgrimage to these numerous saintly shrines in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Timurid Iran and Central Asia. Shrine visitation, or ziyārat, was one of the most ubiquitous Islamic devotional practices across medieval Iran and Central Asia, at times eliciting more zeal than obligatory rituals such as the Friday congregational prayer. This dissertation makes use of a broad source base including city histories, shrine visitation guides, compendiums of religious sciences, court histories, biographies of Sufis, endowment deeds, ethical or moral (akhlāq) treatises, and material culture in the form of architecture and epigraphical data. This work contributes to a better understanding of how Islam as a discursive tradition informed and was informed by the piety and religious practice of medieval Muslims of all classes. It challenges a vision of a monolithic Islamic orthopraxy by showing how the very fabric of Islam in medieval Iran and Central Asia represented both continuity with an Islamic past and a catering to local and contemporary needs.
The aim of this study is three-fold. First, it argues that the forms of ritual prescribed in the Timurid shrine manuals largely coalesced into a coherent program in this period and reflect a vernacular understanding of shrine visitation found in the more scholarly Islamic literature. It also demonstrates how the performance of the physical practices and oral litanies of the ziyārat formed part of the habitus of a pilgrim. Second, the hagiographic stories of the holy dead revered at these shrines represent tangible ideals of pious living for society to imitate. They point to the centrality of esotericism, miracle-working and a rigorous adherence to the Sharia in constructing this template. For example, a major part of the saintliness of Abū Yūsuf Hamadānī, an important saint buried in Samarkand, stems from his extreme religious observance. He is said to have made the Hajj thirty-three times, finished the Qur’an over a thousand times, memorized over seven hundred books on the religious sciences, received over two hundred and sixteen scholars and spent most of his life fasting. On the other hand, the patron saint of this same city, Shāh-i Zinda, is revered for his supernatural powers and his relation to the Prophet Muḥammad. This amplified reverence for the Prophet Muḥammad and his family demonstrates the increasing precedence of shrines of people genealogically linked to the Prophet Muḥammad as objects of veneration by the largely Sunni populations in the Timurid period.
The third and final aim of this dissertation is to provide a map of the actual places of pilgrimage and establish the importance of the “locality” of saints in creating a shared identity and history using the methods of Geographical Information Systems (GIS). It traces the ways that pilgrims would move through their cities to visit the various shrines scattered across the landscape. The journey to some shrines fell well within the normal daily movements of an inhabitant of a particular city, while other journeys proved more arduous, pointing to the possibility of a varied ziyārat experience. While many shrines were presented as single locations, there are instances when a pilgrim is advised to make a circuit of many important shrines in a certain area or of a certain type of holy person (e.g. prophets). The routes and spaces, along with mosques and madrasas, are embedded in a sacred geography of the city.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41129127
- FAS Theses and Dissertations 
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