Wali
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Wali
A Persian miniature depicting the medieval saint and mystic Ahmad Ghazali (d. 1123), brother of the famous al-Ghazali (d. 1111), talking to a disciple, from Meetings of the Lovers (1552)

Wali (Arabic: ‎, wal?y; plural ?, ?awliy) is an Arabic word whose literal meanings include "custodian", "protector", "helper", and "friend".[1] In the vernacular, it is most commonly used by Muslims to indicate an Islamic saint, otherwise referred to by the more literal "friend of God".[2][3][4] In the traditional Islamic understanding of saints, the saint is portrayed as someone "marked by [special] divine favor ... [and] holiness", and who is specifically "chosen by God and endowed with exceptional gifts, such as the ability to work miracles".[5] The doctrine of saints was articulated by Islamic scholars very early on in Muslim history,[6][7][5][8] and particular verses of the Quran and certain hadith were interpreted by early Muslim thinkers as "documentary evidence"[5] of the existence of saints. Graves of saints around the Muslim world became centers of pilgrimage -- especially after 1200 CE -- for masses of Muslims seeking their barakah (blessing).[9]

Since the first Muslim hagiographies were written during the period when the Islamic mystical trend of Sufism began its rapid expansion, many of the figures who later came to be regarded as the major saints in orthodox Sunni Islam were the early Sufi mystics, like Hasan of Basra (d. 728), Farqad Sabakhi (d. 729), Dawud Tai (d. 777-781), Rabia of Basra (d. 801), Maruf Karkhi (d. 815), and Junayd of Baghdad (d. 910).[3] From the twelfth to the fourteenth century, "the general veneration of saints, among both people and sovereigns, reached its definitive form with the organization of Sufism ... into orders or brotherhoods".[10] In the common expressions of Islamic piety of this period, the saint was understood to be "a contemplative whose state of spiritual perfection ... [found] permanent expression in the teaching bequeathed to his disciples".[10] In many prominent Sunni Islamic creeds of the time, such as the famous Creed of Tahawi (c. 900) and the Creed of Nasafi (c. 1000), a belief in the existence and miracles of saints was presented as "a requirement" for being an orthodox Muslim believer.[11][12]

Aside from the Sufis, the preeminent saints in traditional Islamic piety are the Companions of the Prophet, their Successors, and the Successors of the Successors.[13] Additionally, the prophets and messengers in Islam are also believed to be saints by definition, although they are rarely referred to as such, in order to prevent confusion between them and ordinary saints; as the prophets are exalted by Muslims as the greatest of all humanity, it is a general tenet of Sunni belief that a single prophet is greater than all the regular saints put together.[14] In short, it is believed that "every prophet is a saint, but not every saint is a prophet".[15]

In the modern world, the traditional Sunni and Shia idea of saints has been challenged by movements such as the Salafi movement, Wahhabism, and Islamic Modernism, all three of which have, to a greater or lesser degree, "formed a front against the veneration and theory of saints."[3] As has been noted by scholars, the development of these movements has indirectly led to a trend amongst some mainstream Muslims to resist "acknowledging the existence of Muslim saints altogether or ... [to view] their presence and veneration as unacceptable deviations".[16] However, despite the presence of these opposing streams of thought, the classical doctrine of saint-veneration continues to thrive in many parts of the Islamic world today, playing a vital role in daily expressions of piety among vast segments of Muslim populations in Muslim countries like Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, Senegal, Iraq, Iran, Algeria, Tunisia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Morocco,[3] as well as in countries with substantive Islamic populations like India, China, Russia, and the Balkans.[3]

Names

A Persian miniature depicting Jalal al-Din Rumi showing love for his disciple Hussam al-Din Chelebi (ca. 1594)

Regarding the rendering of the Arabic wal? by the English "saint", prominent scholars such as Gibril Haddad have regarded this as an appropriate translation, with Haddad describing the aversion of some Muslims towards the use of "saint" for wal? as "a specious objection ... for [this is] - like 'Religion' (din), 'Believer' (mu'min), 'prayer' (salat), etc. - [a] generic term for holiness and holy persons while there is no confusion, for Muslims, over their specific referents in Islam, namely: the reality of iman with Godwariness and those who possess those qualities."[17] In Persian, which became the second most influential and widely-spoken language in the Islamic world after Arabic,[3] the general title for a saint or a spiritual master became p?r (Persian: ‎, literally "old [person]", "elder"[18]).[3] Although the ramifications of this phrase include the connotations of a general "saint,"[3] it is often used to specifically signify a spiritual guide of some type.[3]

Amongst Indian Muslims, the title p?r baba ( ?) is commonly used in Hindi to refer to Sufi masters or similarly honored saints.[3] Additionally, saints are also sometimes referred to in the Persian or Urdu vernacular with "Hazrat."[3][3] In Islamic mysticism, a p?r's role is to guide and instruct his disciples on the mystical path.[3] Hence, the key difference between the use of wal? and p?r is that the former does not imply a saint who is also a spiritual master with disciples, whilst the latter directly does so through its connotations of "elder."[3] Additionally, other Arabic and Persian words that also often have the same connotations as p?r, and hence are also sometimes translated into English as "saint", include murshid (Arabic: ?‎, meaning "guide" or "teacher"), sheikh and sarkar (Persian word meaning "master").[3]

In the Turkish Islamic lands, saints have been referred to by many terms, including the Arabic wal?, the Persian s?hh and p?r, and Turkish alternatives like baba in Anatolia, ata in Central Asia (both meaning "father"), as well as eren or ermis?h? (< ermek "to reach, attain") or yati?r ("one who settles down") in Anatolia.[3] Their tombs, meanwhile, are "denoted by terms of Arabic or Persian origin alluding to the idea of pilgrimage (maz?r, ziy?ratg?h), tomb (?abr, ma?bar) or domed mausoleum (gunbad, ?ubba). But such tombs are also denoted by terms usually used for dervish convents, or a particular part of it (tekke in the Balkans, langar, 'refectory,' and rib in Central Asia), or by a quality of the saint (p?r, 'venerable, respectable,' in Azerbaijan)."[3]

History

A Mughal miniature dated from the early 1620s depicting the Mughal emperor Jahangir (d. 1627) preferring a Sufi saint to his contemporary, the King of England James I (d. 1625); the picture is inscribed: "Though outwardly kings stand before him, he fixes his gazes on saints."

According to various traditional Sufi interpretations of the Quran, the concept of sainthood is clearly described.[19] Some modern scholars, however, assert that the Quran does not explicitly outline a doctrine or theory of saints.[3] In the Quran, the adjective wal? is applied to God, in the sense of Him being the "friend" of all believers (2:257). However, particular Quranic verses were interpreted by early Islamic scholars to refer to a special, exalted group of holy people.[5] These included 10:62:[5] "Surely God's friends (awliy?a l-lahi): no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow,"[5] and 5:54, which refers to God's love for those who love Him.[5] Additionally, some scholars[3] interpreted 4:69, "Whosoever obeys God and the Messenger, they are with those unto whom God hath shown favor: the prophets and the ?id?q?na and the martyrs and the righteous. The best of company are they," to carry a reference to holy people who were not prophets and were ranked below the latter.[3] The word ?id?q?na in this verse literally connotes "the truthful ones" or "the just ones," and was often interpreted by the early Islamic thinkers in the sense of "saints," with the famous Quran translator Marmaduke Pickthall rendering it as "saints" in their interpretations of the scripture.[3] Furthermore, the Quran referred to the miracles of saintly people who were not prophets like Khidr (18:65-82) and the People of the Cave (18:7-26), which also led many early scholars to deduce that a group of venerable people must exist who occupy a rank below the prophets but are nevertheless exalted by God.[3] The references in the corpus of hadith literature to bona fide saints like the pre-Islamic Jurayj?,[20][21][22][23] only lent further credence to this early understanding of saints.[3]

Collected stories about the "lives or vitae of the saints", began to be compiled "and transmitted at an early stage"[3] by many regular Muslim scholars, including Ibn Abi al-Dunya (d. 894),[3] who wrote a work entitled Kit?b al-Awliy (Lives of the Saints) in the ninth-century, which constitutes "the earliest [complete] compilation on the theme of God's friends."[3] Prior to Ibn Abi al-Dunya's work, the stories of the saints were transmitted through oral tradition; but after the composition of his work, many Islamic scholars began writing down the widely circulated accounts,[3] with later scholars like Ab? Nu?aym al-I?fah?n? (d. 948) making extensive use of Ibn Abi al-Dunya's work in his own ?ilyat al-awliy (The Adornment of the Saints).[3] It is, moreover, evident from the Kit?b al-Kas?h?f wa 'l-bay?n of the early Baghdadi Sufi mystic Abu Sa'id al-Kharraz (d. 899) that a cohesive understanding of the Muslim saints was already in existence, with al-Kharraz spending ample space distinguishing between the virtues and miracles (kar?m?t) of the prophets and the saints.[3] The genre of hagiography (manib) only became more popular with the passage of time, with numerous prominent Islamic thinkers of the medieval period devoting large works to collecting stories of various saints or to focusing upon "the marvelous aspects of the life, the miracles or at least the prodigies of a [specific] f? or of a saint believed to have been endowed with miraculous powers."[24]

In the late ninth-century, important thinkers in Sunni Islam officially articulated the previously-oral doctrine of an entire hierarchy of saints, with the first written account of this hierarchy coming from the pen of al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi (d. 907-912).[3] With the general consensus of Islamic scholars of the period accepting that the ulema were responsible for maintaining the "exoteric" part of Islamic orthodoxy, including the disciplines of law and jurisprudence, while the Sufis were responsible for articulating the religion's deepest inward truths,[3] later prominent mystics like Ibn Arabi (d. 1240) only further reinforced this idea of a saintly hierarchy, and the notion of "types" of saints became a mainstay of Sunni mystical thought, with such types including the ?idd?q?n ("the truthful ones") and the abd?l ("the substitute-saints"), amongst others.[3] It should be noted, however, that many of these concepts appear in writing far before al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Arabi; the idea of the abd?l, for example, appears as early as the Musnad of Ibn Hanbal (d. 855), where the word signifies a group of major saints "whose number would remain constant, one always being replaced by some other on his death."[25] It is, in fact, reported that Ibn Hanbal explicitly identified his contemporary, the mystic Maruf Karkhi (d. 815-20), as one of the abdal, saying: "He is one of the substitute-saints, and his supplication is answered."[26]

An Indian miniature of A Discourse between Muslim Sages (ca. 1630), thought to be executed by the court painter Gov?rdhan

From the twelfth to the fourteenth century, "the general veneration of saints, among both people and sovereigns, reached its definitive form with the organization of Sufism--the mysticism of Islam--into orders or brotherhoods."[10] In general Islamic piety of the period, the saint was understood to be "a contemplative whose state of spiritual perfection ... [found] permanent expression in the teaching bequeathed to his disciples."[10] It was by virtue of his spiritual wisdom that the saint was accorded veneration in medieval Islam, "and it is this which ... [effected] his 'canonization,' and not some ecclesiastical institution" as in Christianity.[10] In fact, the latter point represents one of the crucial differences between the Islamic and Christian veneration of saints, for saints are venerated by unanimous consensus or popular acclaim in Islam, in a manner akin to all those Christian saints who began to be venerated prior to the institution of canonization.[10] In fact, a belief in the existence of saints became such an important part of medieval Islam[11][12] that many of the most important creeds articulated during the time period, like the famous Creed of Tahawi, explicitly declared it a requirement for being an "orthodox" Muslim to believe in the existence and veneration of saints and in the traditional narratives of their lives and miracles.[14][11][12][2] Hence, we find that even medieval critics of the widespread practice of venerating the tombs of saints, like Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1328), never denied the existence of saints as such, with the Hanbali jurist stating: "The miracles of saints are absolutely true and correct, by the acceptance of all Muslim scholars. And the Qur'an has pointed to it in different places, and the sayings of the Prophet have mentioned it, and whoever denies the miraculous power of saints are only people who are innovators and their followers."[27] In the words of one contemporary academic, practically all Muslims of that era believed that "the lives of saints and their miracles were incontestable."[28]

In the modern world, the idea of saints has been challenged by the movements of Salafism and Wahhabism, whose influence has "formed a front against the veneration and theory of saints."[3] For the adherents of Wahhabism, for example, the practice of venerating saints appears as an "abomination", for they see in this a form of idolatry.[3] It is for this reason that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which adheres to the Wahhabi creed, "destroyed the tombs of saints wherever ... able"[3] during its expansion in the Arabian Peninsula from the eighteenth-century onwards.[3] As has been noted by scholars, the development of these movements have indirectly led to a trend amongst some mainstream Muslims to also resist "acknowledging the existence of Muslim saints altogether or ... [to view] their presence and veneration as unacceptable deviations."[16] At the same time, the movement of Islamic Modernism has also opposed the traditional veneration of saints, for many proponents of this ideology regard the practice as "being both un-Islamic and backwards ... rather than the integral part of Islam which they were for over a millennium."[29] Despite the presence, however, of these opposing streams of thought, the classical doctrine of saint-veneration continues to thrive in many parts of the Islamic world today, playing a vital part in the daily piety of vast portions of Muslim countries like Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, Senegal, Iraq, Iran, Algeria, Tunisia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Morocco,[3] as well as in countries with substantive Islamic populations like India, China, Russia, and the Balkans.[3]

Definitions

Detail from an Indian miniature depicting the Mughal prince Dara Shikoh (d. 1659) seeking the advice of a local saint named Mian Mir (d. 1635), undated but perhaps from the late seventeenth-century

The general definition of the Muslim saint in classical texts is that he represents a "[friend of God] marked by [special] divine favor ... [and] holiness", being specifically "chosen by God and endowed with exceptional gifts, such as the ability to work miracles."[5] Moreover, the saint is also portrayed in traditional hagiographies as one who "in some way ... acquires his Friend's, i.e. God's, good qualities, and therefore he possesses particular authority, forces, capacities and abilities."[3] Amongst classical scholars, Qushayri (d. 1073) defined the saint as someone "whose obedience attains permanence without interference of sin; whom God preserves and guards, in permanent fashion, from the failures of sin through the power of acts of obedience."[30] Elsewhere, the same author quoted an older tradition in order to convey his understanding of the purpose of saints, which states: "The saints of God are those who, when they are seen, God is remembered."[31]

Meanwhile, al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi (d. 869), the most significant ninth-century expositor of the doctrine, posited six common attributes of true saints (not necessarily applicable to all, according to the author, but nevertheless indicative of a significant portion of them), which are: (1) when people see him, they are automatically reminded of God; (2) anyone who advances towards him in a hostile way is destroyed; (3) he possesses the gift of clairvoyance (fir?sa); (4) he receives divine inspiration (ilh?m), to be strictly distinguished from revelation proper (wa?y),[3][32][33] with the latter being something only the prophets receive; (5) he can work miracles (kar?m?t) by the leave of God, which may differ from saint to saint, but may include marvels such as walking on water (al-mas?h?y ?al? 'l-m) and shortening space and time (?ayy al-ar?); and (6) he associates with Khidr.[34][3] Al-Tirmidhi states, furthermore, that although the saint is not sinless like the prophets, he or she can nevertheless be "preserved from sin" (ma?f?z) by the grace of God.[3] The contemporary scholar of Sufism Martin Lings described the Islamic saints as "the great incarnations of the Islamic ideal.... spiritual giants with which almost every generation was blessed."[35]

Classical testimonies

The doctrine of saints, and of their miracles, seems to have been taken for granted by many of the major authors of the Islamic Golden Age (ca. 700-1400),[3] as well as by many prominent late-medieval scholars.[3] The phenomena in traditional Islam can be at least partly ascribed to the writings of many of the most prominent Sunni theologians and doctors of the classical and medieval periods,[3] many of whom considered the belief in saints to be "orthodox" doctrine.[3] Examples of classical testimonies include:

  • "God has saints (awliy?) whom He has specially distinguished by His friendship and whom He has chosen to be the governors of His kingdom... He has made the saints governors of the universe... Through the blessing of their advent the rain falls from heaven, and through the purity of their lives the plants spring up from the earth, and through their spiritual influence the Muslims gain victories over the truth concealers" (Hujwiri [d. 1072-7]; Sunni Hanafi jurist and mystic)[3]
  • "The miracles of the saints (awliy?) are a reality. The miracle appears on behalf of the saint by way of contradicting the customary way of things.... And such a thing is reckoned as an evidentiary miracle on behalf of the Messenger to one of whose people this act appears, because it is evident from it that he is a saint, and he could never be a saint unless he were right in his religion; and his religion is the confession of the message of the Messenger" (al-Nasaf? [d. 1142], Creed XV; Sunni Hanafi theologian)[36]
  • "The miracles of saints are absolutely true and correct, and acknowledged by all Muslim scholars. The Qur'an has pointed to it in different places, and the Hadith of the Prophet have mentioned it, and whoever denies the miraculous power of saints are innovators or following innovators" (Ibn Taymiyya [d. 1328], Mukhtasar al-Fatawa al-Masriyya; Sunni Hanbali theologian and jurisconsult)[37]

Seeking of blessings

The rationale for veneration of deceased saints by pilgrims in an appeal for blessings (Barakah) even though the saints will not rise from the dead until the Day of Resurrection (Yawm ad-D?n) may come from the hadith that states "the Prophets are alive in their graves and they pray".[38] (According to the Islamic concept of Punishment of the Grave -- established by hadith -- the dead are still conscious and active, with the wicked suffering in their graves as a prelude to hell and the pious at ease.) According to Islamic historian Jonathan A.C. Brown, "saints are thought to be no different" than prophets, "as able in death to answer invocations for assistance" as they were while alive.[9]

Types and hierarchy

A drawing of The Two Poet Saints Hafez and Saadi Shirazi (ca. 17th century), thought to be executed by a certain Muhammad Q?sim

Saints were envisaged to be of different "types" in classical Islamic tradition.[3] Aside from their earthly differences as regard their temporal duty (i.e. jurist, hadith scholar, judge, traditionist, historian, ascetic, poet), saints were also distinguished cosmologically as regards their celestial function or standing.[3] In Islam, however, the saints are represented in traditional texts as serving separate celestial functions, in a manner similar to the angels, and this is closely linked to the idea of a celestial hierarchy in which the various types of saints play different roles.[3] A fundamental distinction was described in the ninth-century by al-Tirmidhi in his S?rat al-awliy (Lives of the Saints), who distinguished between two principal varieties of saints: the wal? ?a All?h, on the one hand, and the wal? All?h on the other.[3] According to the author, "the [spiritual] ascent of the wal? ?a All?h must stop at the end of the created cosmos ... he can attain God's proximity, but not God Himself; he is only admitted to God's proximity (mu?arrab). It is the wal? All?h who reaches God. Ascent beyond God's throne means to traverse consciously the realms of light of the Divine Names.... When the wal? All?h has traversed all the realms of the Divine Names, i.e. has come to know God in His names as completely as possible, he is then extinguished in God's essence. His soul, his ego, is eliminated and ... when he acts, it is God Who acts through him. And so the state of extinction means at the same time the highest degree of activity in this world."[3]

Although the doctrine of the hierarchy of saints is already found in written sources as early as the eighth-century,[3] it was al-Tirmidhi who gave it its first systematic articulation.[3] According to the author, forty major saints, whom he refers to by the various names of ?iddn, abd?l, uman, and nu?a,[3] were appointed after the death of Muhammad to perpetuate the knowledge of the divine mysteries vouchsafed to them by the prophet.[3] These forty saints, al-Tirmidhi stated, would be replaced in each generation after their earthly death; and, according to him, "the fact that they exist is a guarantee for the continuing existence of the world."[3] Among these forty, al-Tirmidhi specified that seven of them were especially blessed.[3] Despite their exalted nature, however, al-Tirmidhi emphasized that these forty saints occupied a rank below the prophets.[3] Later important works which detailed the hierarchy of saints were composed by the mystic ?Amm?r al-Bidl?s? (d. between 1194 and 1207), the spiritual teacher of Najmuddin Kubra (d. 1220), and by Ruzbihan Baqli (d. 1209), who evidently knew of "a highly developed hierarchy of God's friends."[3] The differences in terminology between the various celestial hierarchies presented by these authors were reconciled by later scholars through their belief that the earlier mystics had highlighted particular parts and different aspects of a single, cohesive hierarchy of saints.[3]

Regional veneration

The amount of veneration a specific saint received varied from region to region in Islamic civilization, often on the basis of the saint's own history in that region.[3] While the veneration of saints played a crucial role in the daily piety of Sunni Muslims all over the Islamic world for more than a thousand years (ca. 800-1800), exactly which saints were most widely venerated in any given cultural climate depended on the hagiographic traditions of that particular area.[3] Thus, while Moinuddin Chishti (d. 1236), for example, was honored throughout the Sunni world in the medieval period, his cultus was especially prominent in the Indian Subcontinent, as that is where he was believed to have preached, performed the majority of his miracles, and ultimately settled at the end of his life.[3]

North Africa

The veneration of saints has played "an essential role in the religious, and social life of the Maghreb for more or less a millennium";[3] in other words, since Islam first reached the lands of North Africa in the eighth century.[3] The first written references to ascetic Muslim saints in Africa, "popularly admired and with followings,"[3] appear in tenth-century hagiographies.[3][39] As has been noted by scholars, however, "the phenomenon may well be older,"[3] for many of the stories of the Islamic saints were passed down orally before finally being put to writing.[3] One of the most widely venerated saints in early North African Islamic history was Ab? Ya?z? (or Ya?azz?, d. 1177), an illiterate Sunni Maliki miracle worker whose reputation for sanctity was admired even in his own life.[3][40][41] Another immensely popular saint of the time-period was Ibn ?irzihim (d. 1163), who also gained renown for his personal devoutness and his ability to work miracles.[3] It was Abu Madyan (d. 1197), however, who eventually became one of the Awliya Allah of the entire Maghreb. A "spiritual disciple of these two preceding saints,"[3] Ab? Madyan, a prominent Sunni Maliki scholar, was the first figure in Maghrebi Sufism "to exercise an influence beyond his own region."[3] Ab? Madyan travelled to the East, where he is said to have met prominent mystics like the renowned Hanbali jurist Abdul-Qadir Gilani (d. 1166).[3] Upon returning to the Maghreb, Ab? Madyan stopped at Béjaïa and "formed a circle of disciples."[3] Ab? Madyan eventually died in Tlemcen, while making his way to the Almohad court of Marrakesh; he was later venerated as a prime Awliya Allah of Tlemcen by popular acclaim.[3][42][43]

One of Ab? Madyan's most notable disciples was ?Abd al-Sal?m Ibn Mas?hs?h? (d. 1127),[3] a "saint ... [who] had a posthumous fame through his being recognised as a master and a 'pole' by" Abu 'l-?asan al-S?hd?h?il? (d. 1258).[3] It was this last figure who became the preeminent saint in Maghrebi piety, due to his being the founder of one of the most famous Sunni Sufi orders of North Africa: the Shadhiliyya tariqa.[3] Adhering to the Maliki rite in its jurisprudence, the Shadhili order produced numerous widely honored Sunni saints in the intervening years, including F?s? A?mad al-Zarr?q (d. 1494),[3] who was educated in Egypt but taught in Libya and Morocco, and Ab? ?Abd All?h Mu?ammad al-Jaz?l? (d. 1465), "who returned to Morocco after a long trip to the East and then began a life as a hermit,"[3] and who achieved widespread renown for the miracles he is said to have wrought by the leave of God.[3] Eventually, the latter was buried in Marrakesh, where he ended up becoming of the city's seven most famous Awliya Allah for the Sunnis of the area.[3] Some of the most popular and influential Maghrebi saints and mystics of the following centuries were Mu?ammad b. Nir (d. 1674), A?mad al-Tijn? (d. 1815), Ab? mid al-?Arab? al-Darq?w? (d. 1823), and A?mad b. ?Al?w? (d. 1934),[44] with the latter three originating Sufi orders of their own.[3] Famous adherents of the Shadhili order amongst modern Islamic scholars include Abdallah Bin Bayyah (b. 1935), Muhammad Alawi al-Maliki (d. 2004), Hamza Yusuf (b. 1958), and Muhammad al-Yaqoubi (b. 1963).[3]

The veneration of saints in Maghrebi Sunni Islam has been studied by scholars with regard to the various "types" of saints venerated by Sunnis in those areas.[3] These include:

  • (1) the "pure, ascetic hermit,"[3] who is honored for having refused all ostentation, and is commemorated not on account of his written works but by virtue of the reputation he is believed to have had for personal sanctity, miracles, and "inward wisdom or gnosis";[3]
  • (2) "the ecstatic and eccentric saint" (mad?j?d?hb),[3] who is believed to have maintained orthodoxy in his fulfillment of the pillars of the faith, but who is famous for having taught in an unusually direct style or for having divulged the highest truths before the majority in a manner akin to Hallaj (d. 922).[3] Famous and widely venerated saints of this "type" include Ibn al-Mar?a (d. 1214), ?Al? al-?anh?j (ca. 16th-century), ?Abd al-Ra?m?n al-Mad?j?d?hb (literally "?Abd al-Ra?m?n the Ecstatic", d. 1569);[45]
  • (3) the "warrior saint" (pl. mur?bin) or martyr;[3]
  • (4) female saints, who may belong to one of the aforementioned three categories or some other.[3] It has been remarked that "Maghrebi sainthood is by no means confined to men, and ... some of the tombs of female saints are very frequently visited."[3]
  • (5) "Jewish saints", that is to say, venerable Jewish personages whose tombs are frequented by Sunni Muslims in the area for the seeking of blessings[3]

Regarding the veneration of saints amongst Sunni Muslims in the Maghreb in the present day, scholars have noted the presence of many "thousands of minor, local saints whose tombs remain visible in villages or the quarters of towns."[3] Although many of these saints lack precise historiographies or hagiographies, "their presence and their social efficacity ... [are] immense"[3] in shaping the spiritual life of Muslims in the region. For the vast majority of Muslims in the Maghreb even today, the saints remain "very much alive at their tomb, to the point that the person's name most often serves to denote the place."[3] While this classical type of Sunni veneration represents the most widespread stance in the area, the modern influence of Salafism and Wahhabism have challenged the traditional practice in some quarters.[3]

Turkey, the Balkans, the Caucasus and Azerbaijan

Scholars have noted the tremendously "important role"[3] the veneration of saints has historically played in Islamic life all these areas, especially amongst Sunnis who frequent the many thousands of tombs scattered throughout the region for blessings in performing the act of ziy?ra.[3] According to scholars, "between the Turks of the Balkans and Anatolia, and those in Central Asia, despite the distance separating them, the concept of the saint and the organisation of pilgrimages displays no fundamental differences."[3] The veneration of saints really spread in the Turkish lands from the tenth to the fourteenth centuries,[3] and played a crucial role in medieval Turkic Sunni piety not only in cosmopolitan cities but also "in rural areas and amongst nomads of the whole Turkish world."[3] One of the reasons proposed by scholars for the popularity of saints in pre-modern Turkey is that Islam was majorly spread by the early Sunni Sufis in the Turkish lands, rather than by purely exoteric teachers.[3] Most of the saints venerated in Turkey belonged to the Hanafi school of Sunni jurisprudence.[3]

As scholars have noted, saints venerated in traditional Turkish Sunni Islam may be classified into three principal categories:[3]

  • (1) The g?hz?s or early Muslims saints who preached the faith in the region and were often martyred for their religion. Some of the most famous and widely venerated saints of this category include the prophet Muhammad's companion Ab? Ayy?b al-Anr? (d. 674), who was killed beneath the walls of Constantinople and was honored as a martyr shortly thereafter,[3] and Sayyid Bal G?hz? (d. 9th-century), who fought the Christians in Anatolia during the Umayyad period.[3]
  • (2) Sufi saints, who were most often Sunni mystics who belonged to the Hanafi school of Sunni jurisprudence and were attached to one of the orthodox Sufi orders like the Naqshbandi or the Mevlevi.[3]
  • (3) The "greats figures of Islam", both pre-Islamic and those who came after Muhammad, as well as certain sainted rulers.[3]

Reverence of Awliya Allah

Reverence for Awliya Allah have been an important part of both Sunni and Shia Islamic tradition that particularly important classical saints have served as the heavenly advocates for specific Muslim empires, nations, cities, towns, and villages.[46] With regard to the sheer omnipresence of this belief, the late Martin Lings wrote: "There is scarcely a region in the empire of Islam which has not a Sufi for its Patron Saint."[47] As the veneration accorded saints often develops purely organically in Islamic climates, the Awliya Allah are often recognized through popular acclaim rather than through official declaration.[46] Traditionally, it has been understood that the Wali'Allah of a particular place prays for that place's wellbeing and for the health and happiness of all who live therein.[46] Here is a partial list of Muslim Awliya Allah:

The shrine of Nim al-D?n Awliy? (d. 1325) in Delhi, India, where he is honored as an Awliya Allah of the city; the shrine is the most popular site of Muslim pilgrimage in the Indian Subcontinent
The shrine of A?mad Yesew? (d. 1166) in Turkistan, Kazakhstan, where he is honored as an Awliya Allah of the country; the shrine was commissioned by Timur in 1389
Country Awliya Allah
 Algeria Ab? Madyan (d. 1197-8; Sunni mystic of Maliki jurisprudence) [city of Tlemcen; in the words of one scholar, "the city has grown and developed under the beneficent aegis of the great saint, and the town of al-?Ubb?d has grown up round his tomb"][48]
?Abd al-Ra?m?n al-T?h?alib? (d. ca. 1200; Sunni mystic of Maliki jurisprudence) [city of Algiers][49]
 Bangladesh Shah Jalal (d.1347; Sufi saint and mystic of the Suhrawardiyya order, born in modern-day Turkey he travelled to the Indian subcontinent and settled in the North-East Bengal and Assam spreading Islam across the area and became the main guide to the new Muslim population of Eastern Bengal.
Khan Jahan Ali (d.1459; born in modern Uzbekistan, he travelled to southern Bengal to spread Islam, he built the Mosque city of Bagerhat and cleared the Sunderbans for human settlement. He developed southern Bengal by linking Bagerghat to the trade city of Chittagong and Sonargaon and introduced Islamic education there.
Akhi Siraj Aainae Hind (d. 14 century; A Sufi saint (born in Gaur, West Bengal) of the Chishti order, he spread Islam across Northern Bengal and Western Bihar, he was also the administrator of Northern Bengal under the Sultan Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah developing the area. His dargah in Malda is one of the largest in South Asia and gathers thousands a year.
 Egypt Abu'l-?asan al-S?hd?h?il? (d. 1258; Sunni mystic of Maliki jurisprudence and founder of the Shadiliyya tariqa) [in many parts of Upper Egypt, but particularly among the ?Ab?bda tribe][50]
Ab? l-?ajj?j of Luxor (d. 1244; Sunni mystic of Maliki jurisprudence) [city of Luxor][51]
?Abd al-Ram of Qena (d. 1196; Sunni mystic of Maliki jurisprudence, and famous defender of orthodoxy in the area) [city of Qena][51]
 Ethiopia Ab?dir ?Umar al-Ri (d. ca. 1300; Sunni mystic of Shafi'i jurisprudence) [city of Harar; according to one scholar, "Harar later came to be known as Mad?nat al-Awliy ('the city of saints') for the shrines of hundreds of saints in and around Harar"][52]
 India Nim al-D?n Awliy? , 3rd caliph of Revered Sufi Saint Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti who established Chishti order in the sub-continent (d. 1325; Sunni mystic of Hanafi jurisprudence) [city of Delhi][53]
S?hh al-?am?d ?Abd al-dir (ob. 1600; Sunni mystic of Shafi'i jurisprudence) [town of Nagore][54]Peer Mohamed Shah Khadiri (mystic of Hanafi[55] jurisprudence) [city of Thanjavur[56]]
Sal?m Chis?h?t? disciple of disciples of Revered Sufi Saint Muinuddin Chishti who established Chishti order in sub-continent (d. 1572; Sunni mystic of Hanafi jurisprudence and the Chishti tariqa) [city of Fatehpur Sikri][57]

Shah Ali Ganj Gowher (mystic of Hanafi jurisprudence) [city of Valudavur - Villupuram Dist][58]
B?b? N?r al-D?n Ris?h (d. 1377; Sunni ascetic and mystic) [town of Bijbehara][59][60][61]

 Iran Daniel (d. 600 BCE; famous Hebrew prophet who is venerated in Islamic tradition) [city of Shush, where the most popular shrine devoted to him is located]
 Iraq Husayn ibn Ali (d. 680; grandson of Muhammad and Third imam for Shia Muslims) [all Iraq for both Shia and Sunni Muslims, but especially the city of Karbala]
?Abd al-Q?dir al-J?l?n? (d. 1166; Sunni mystic and jurist of Hanbali jurisprudence and founder of the Qadiriyya tariqa) [all Iraq in classical Sunni piety, but especially the city of Baghdad][62]
 Kazakhstan A?mad Yesew? (d. 1166; Sunni mystic of Hanafi jurisprudence and founder of the Yesew?yya tariqa) [whole Kazakhstan; additionally, venerated as the Wali of all the modern nation states comprising the pre-modern Turkestan][63]
 Morocco Ab? S?h?u?ayb Ayy?b b. Sad al-?inh?j (in the vernacular "M?l?y B?s?hb"; d. ca. 1100; Sunni mystic of Maliki jurisprudence) [city of Azemmour][64]
?m?d u-M?s? (d. 1563; Sunni mystic of Maliki jurisprudence and the Shadiliyya tariqa) [region of Sous][65]
A?mad b. Ja?far al-?h?azraj? Abu 'l-?Abb?s al-Sabt? (d. 1205; d. Sunni mystic of Maliki jurisprudence) [city of Marrakesh]
Sidi Belli?t (d. ca. 1500 [?]; Sunni mystic of Maliki jurisprudence) [city of Casablanca][66]
Ibn s?h?ir (d. 1362-3; Sunni mystic of Maliki jurisprudence) [city of Salé][67]
Ab? Mu?ammad li? (d. 1500 [?]; Sunni mystic of Maliki jurisprudence) [city of Safi][68]
M?l?y ?Al? B? G?hlem (d. 1200 [?]; Sunni mystic of Maliki jurisprudence) [town of Alcazarquivir)
Idris I of Morocco (d. 791; first Islamic ruler and founder of the Idrisid dynasty) [city of Fez][69]
?Abd al-dir Mu?ammad (d. ca. 1500 [?]; Sunni mystic of Maliki jurisprudence) [town of Figuig][70]
Mu?ammad b. s? (d. 16th century; Sunni mystic of Maliki jurisprudence) [city of Meknes][71]
 Pakistan ?Abd All?h S?hh G?hz? (d. ca. 800; early Muslim mystic and preacher) [city of Karachi][72]
Huj?w?r? (d. 1072-77; Sunni mystic of Hanafi jurisprudence; often referred to as D?t? Ganj?bak?h?s?h? by Pakistanis) [city of Lahore][73]
Bah al-D?n Zakar?y? (d. 1170; Sunni mystic of Hanafi jurisprudence and the Suhrawardiyya tariqa) [vast areas of South-West Punjab and Sindh]
L?l Sh?hb?z ?alandar (d. 1275; Sunni mystic of Hanafi jurisprudence) [city of Sehwan Sharif in Sindh]
 Syria Arsl?n of Damascus (d. 1160-4; Sunni mystic) [city of Damascus][74]
 Tunisia Mu?riz b. K?h?alaf (d. 1022; Sunni mystic of Maliki jurisprudence) [city of Tunis][75]
S?d? al-M?zar? (d. 1300 [?]; Sunni mystic of Maliki jurisprudence) [city of Monastir][76]
?Abd All?h Abu 'l-Jim?l (d. 1500 [?]; Sunni mystic of Maliki jurisprudence) [city of Khroumire][77]
Boulbaba (d. 7th-century; according to tradition, a companion of Muhammad) [city of Gabès]
 Turkey jj? Bayr?m Wal? (d. 1429-30; Sunni mystic of Hanafi jurisprudence) [city of Ankara][78]
Em?r Suln (d. 1455; Sunni mystic of Hanafi jurisprudence) [city of Bursa][79]
Miskin Baba (d. 1858-9; Sunni mystic of Hanafi jurisprudence) [island of Ada Kaleh, which was at one time under the control of the Ottoman Empire; island was submerged in 1970 during the construction of the Iron Gate I Hydroelectric Power Station][80]
 Uzbekistan Qutham b. ?Abb?s (d. 676; early Muslim martyr) [city of Samarkand][81]
Zang? ?t? (d. 1269; Sunni mystic of Hanafi jurisprudence) [city of Tashkent][82]
 Yemen Mu?ammad b. ?Al? B? ?Al?w? (d. 1255; Sunni mystic of Shafi'i jurisprudence and founder of the ?Al?wiyya tariqa in Hadhramaut) [region of Hadhramaut][83]
S?h?aik?h? ?ad?q (d. 1500 [?]; Sunni mystic) [city of Al Hudaydah]
?Al? b. ?Umar al-S?hd?h?il? (d. 1400 [?]; Sunni mystic of the Shadiliyya tariqa) [port-city of Mokha]
Ab? Bakr al-?Aydar?s (d. 1508; Sunni mystic of Shafi'i jurisprudence) [city of Aden][84]

See also

References

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Further reading

Primary

  • Ibn Abi 'l-Duny?, K. al-Awliy, in Mad?j?mat rasil, Cairo 1354/1935
  • Ab? Nu?aym al-I?bah?n?, ?ilyat al-awliy, Cairo 1351 ff./1932 ff.
  • Ab? Sad al-K?h?arr?z, K. al-Kas?h?f wa 'l-bay?n, ed. ?. al-S?marr, Bag?h?d?d 1967
  • al-?ak?m al-Tirmid?h, K. K?h?atm al-awliy, ed. O. Ya?y?, Beirut 1965
  • idem, K. S?rat al-awliy, ed. B. Radtke, in Drei Schrijten, i, 1-134, Beirut 1992
  • idem, al-Far? bayn al-?y?t wa 'l-kar?m?t, ms. Ankara, Ismail Saib i, 1571, fols. 152b-177b
  • idem, Bad? s?h?a?n Ab? ?Abd All?h, ed. Ya?y?, in Tirmid?h, K?h?atm, 14-32, facs. and German tr. in Radtke, Tirmid?iana minora, 244-77, Eng. tr. in Radtke and O'Kane, Concept of sainthood, 15-36. Handbooks.
  • B?dis?, "al-Maad", tr. G. Colin, in Archives marocaines, xxvi-xxvii (1926)
  • G?h?ubr?n?, ?Unw?n al-dir?ya, Algiers 1970
  • Hud?j?w?r?, Kas?h?f al-ma?d?jb, ed. V. Zhukovsky, repr. Tehran 1336/1958, 265 ff., tr. Nicholson, The Kashf al-mahj?b. The oldest Persian treatise on Sufism, Leiden-London 1911, 210-41
  • Kal?b?d?h, al-Ta?arruf li-mad?h?hab ahl al-ta?awwuf ed. Arberry, Cairo 1934, tr. idem, The doctrine of the Sufis, 2, Cambridge 1977, ch. 26
  • Sarr?d?j?, K. al-Luma? fi 'l-ta?awwuf, ed. Nicholson, Leiden-London 1914, 315-32, Ger. tr. R. Gramlich, Schlaglichter über das Sufitum, Stuttgart 1990, 449-68
  • Ab? lib al-Makk?, t al-?ul?b, Cairo 1932, Ger. tr. Gramlich, Die Nährung der Herzen, Wiesbaden 1992-95, index, s.v. Gottesfreund
  • ?us?h?ayr?, Ris?la, many eds., Ger. tr. Gramlich, Das Sendschreiben al-Qu?ayr?s, Wiesbaden 1989, index, s.v. Gottesfreund
  • ?Amm?r al-Bidl?s?, Zwei mystische Schriften, ed. E. Badeen, forthcoming Beirut
  • Ibn al-?Arab?, al-Futt al-makkiyya, Cairo 1329-1911.
  • idem, R al-?uds, Damascus 1964, Eng. tr. R.W. Austin, The Sufis of Andalusia, London 1971, Fr. tr. G. Leconte, Les Soufies d'Andalousie, Paris 1995
  • F. Meier, Die Vita des Scheich Ab? Isq al-K?zar?n?, Leipzig 1948
  • Mu?ammad b. Munawwar, Asr?r al-tawd f? mam?t al-S?h?ayk?h? Ab? Sad, ed. Mu?ammad S?h?af-i Kadkan?, Tehran 1366-7, Eng. tr. J. O'Kane, The secrets of God's mystical oneness, New York 1992
  • ?Az?z al-D?n Nasaf?, K. al-Ins?n al-k?mil, ed. M. Mole, Tehran-Paris 1962, 313-25
  • Ibn Taymiyya, al-Furn bayna awliy al-Ra?m?n wa-awliy al-S?h?ayn, Cairo 1366/1947
  • idem, ?aat mad?h?hab al-ittidiyy?n, in Mad?j?mat al-Rasil wa 'l-masil, iv, Cairo n.d., 1 ff.
  • Ibn ?A All?h, Laif al-minan, Fr. tr. E. Geoffroy, La sagesse des maîtres soufis, Paris 1998

Secondary

  • Henri Corbin, En Islam iranien, esp. iii, Paris 1972
  • Michel Chodkiewicz, Le sceau des saints, Paris 1986
  • Jahrhundert Hidschra. Eine Geschichte des religiösen Denkens im frühen Islam, i-vi, Berlin-New York 1991-7
  • B. Radtke and J. O'Kane, The concept of sainthood in early Islamic mysticism, London 1996
  • Radtke, Drei Schriften des Theosophen von Tirmid?, i, Beirut-Stuttgart 1992, ii, Beirut-Stuttgart 1996
  • R. Mach, Der Zaddik in Talmud und Midrasch, Leiden 1957
  • Radtke, "Tirmid?iana minora", in Oriens, xxxiv (1994), 242-98
  • Gramlich, Die Wunder der Freunde Gottes, Wiesbaden 1987
  • idem, Die schiitischen Derwischorden Persiens, Wiesbaden 1965-81, ii, 160-5 (on the hierarchy of saints)
  • C. Ernst, Ruzbihan Baqli, London 1996
  • Radtke, "Zwischen Traditionalisms und Intellektualismus. Geistesgeschichtliche und historiografische Bemerkungen zum Ibr?z des A?mad b. al-Mub?rak al-Lama", in Built on solid rock. Festschrift für Ebbe Knudsen, Oslo 1997, 240-67
  • H.S. Nyberg, Kleinere Schriften des Ibn al-?Arab?, Leiden 1919, 103-20
  • A. Afifi, The mystical philosophy of Muhyid-din Ibnul-?Arabi, Cambridge 1939
  • W. Chittick, The Sufi path of knowledge, Albany 1989
  • Jamil M. Abun-Nasr, The Tijaniyya. A Sufi order in the modern world, London 1965
  • Radtke, "Lehrer-Schüler-Enkel. A?mad b. Idr?s, Mu?ammad ?Ut?m?n al-M?r?an?, Isml al-Wal?", in Oriens, xxxiii (1992), 94-132
  • I. Goldziher, "Die Heiligenverehrung im Islam", in Muh. Stud., ii, 275-378
  • Grace Martin Smith and C.W. Ernst (eds.), Manifestations of sainthood in Islam, Istanbul 1993
  • H.-Ch. Loir et Cl. Gilliot (eds.), Le culte des saints dans le monde musulman, Paris 1995.

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