Ernst-Saints and Sainthood

Ernst-Saints and Sainthood - 59 «N5 r - 51nk tTi...

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Unformatted text preview: 59 «N5 r - 51nk tTi Jatk"cl 3 SaIN¡s aNd SaIN¡hood The friends of God-for them ¡here is nO fear, neither do grIeve. -QUR'AN 10:63 O NE OF THE CENTRAL categories in the development of Islamic tHought has been that of the "friends of God¡ (awliya' allah), proba- bly best translated in English as ¢saints.£ ¤ere, perhaps more than in anY other subject¥ the tensions within European CHristianity have been projected onto tHe language that is used to describe the ¦slamic tradition§ The notion of sainthood¨ which was one of the pillars Catholicism, was utterly rejected by tHe Protestant 'Hen British Protestants traveling in the Middle East or India saw religious phenomena that re©inded tHem of Catholic saintªvenera- tion« tHey applied to it the same contemptuous language previously reseRed for what they thought of as the superstitious practices of Catholicism¬ Curiously¨ Muslim fundamentalists use a si­®Lilar lan¯ guage of outrage when describing the idolatry of SAin¡hOOD is tHus° like SuF¢m£ a contested term in modern Islamic tHought± despite the ²onsiderable importance of saints in ³uslim religious life over most of the previous ©illenium´ The Arabic tµrm wali (plural awliya¡) cO®­¶monly means a friend· a ²lient¸ or one wHo is protected by a kin relationship§ It is a name 58 ¹eformersº saint»worship§ tion to ¤aint¥ and ¦a§ntHOod applied to God in the Qur¼an½ wHere he is referred to as ¢the friend of tHe faithful¾ ¿3:68)« and frequently tHe Muslim is called upon to realize that God is the only real friend and helper§ Those who are regarded as the friends of God would therefore be people with a very special status§ This relational or functional meaning contrasts the term saint¢ which implies intrinsic holiness or sanctity as a per¯ sonal qualityÀ The Islamic tradition has no formal equivalent of tHe Catholic process of canonization of saintsÁ a quasi»lµgal procµdure that is only undertaKen after thµ death of a saintly person WHile ³uslims place a comparable stress on the saintly deadà they acknowledge ÄsaintsÅ wHo are very much aliVeÆ wHo deal directly with the problµms of social and political lifeÀ The historian of Chris- tianity Peter Brown Has described several important characteristics of saints in Çatin Christianity¥ which can also be seen in Islamic contµxts§ According to BroÈÉÊ Christian saints enjoy the special pro¯ tection of GodÊ replace angels as thµ intermµdiaries between God and humanity¥ and Have a relationship with God that reduplicates the patronage networK of society; tHis raises the possibility that can intervene with God on behalf of the believerË1 From a structural point of view¥ these same features can be found in the Muslim awliya£. SoÌ leaving aside the juridical aspect of canonization¥ tHe term sainT can usefully des²ribe holy persons in Islamic societiesÍ Early SuÎ writers insisted that sainthood (walaya¤ was the essenÏ tial principle of SuÎsm´ The handbook of Qushayri givµs us a fairly...
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This note was uploaded on 09/08/2010 for the course CLIT 124 at San Jose State University .

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Ernst-Saints and Sainthood - 59 «N5 r - 51nk tTi...

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