Recentering the Sufi Shrine: A Metaphysics of Presence
CitationKhan, Irfan M. 2019. Recentering the Sufi Shrine: A Metaphysics of Presence. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThe religious character of Indus Sufism is marked by its devotion to the living presence of Sufi saints at their tombs. In much previous scholarship on Sufism, the tomb has not figured prominently. This has inadvertently marginalized the worship of the saints at their shrines (ziyāra) into a kind of ethnographically rich yet still epiphenomenal element in the history of Sufism, a view that sees it as much more a matter of “discourse” than a lived experience.
This dissertation addresses the problem of how most authentically to interpret popular religious devotion at Sufi saints’ tombs; I argue that we need to begin by re-centering these shrines in our studies.
In the case of Pakistan, the state has carried out a systematic program of reform to gradually suppress the devotional energy generated at the Sufi shrines of the Indus valley. In line with a particular trajectory of religious thinking, the state has sought to fashion the hagiographic identities of Indus Sufi saints into more normative models of piety: directly regulating Sufi shrines, promoting specific ritual interventions, and treating the saint’s body as that of a deceased mortal rather than a posthumously powerful channel of the Divine.
Since the 19th century, reformist groups such as the Deobandīs and Barelwīs were theologically at odds with one other regarding the ritual of supplication (du‘ā) at saints’ shrines. Despite this disagreement between Deobandīs and Barelwīs, both schools insist that all mystical experience must be subservient to strictures of Islamic law. This legal discourse was exported to Pakistan, and there it has led many religious scholars to push the state to encourage the recitation of the fātiḥa, a Qur’ānic verse commonly employed in sending merit to the dead, as the correct way of observing ziyāra at Sufi shrines and graves. This ritual intervention is aimed at reversing the metaphysics of posthumous divine union achieved by the saint by stressing that the departed Sufi saint is dead. Through legal reasoning, religious scholars have sought similarly to negate other ritual practices that celebrate the power of deceased saints to communicate with their followers.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42029822
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