Academic journal article South Asian Studies

Peoples' Perceptions about Visiting Sufi Shrine in Pakistan

Academic journal article South Asian Studies

Peoples' Perceptions about Visiting Sufi Shrine in Pakistan

Article excerpt

Abstract

Sufi shrines hold great importance in Pakistani society. Followers of the shrines consider it sacred place and they perform different rituals there. The role of Sufis has been considered as intermediary who lead towards the path of God and success. Present study deployed qualitative research technique whereby data was drawn from 19 in-depth interviews at the Hazrat Mian Mir's Shrine in Lahore. Findings of the study revealed that majority of the people have strong belief upon the blessings of Sufis and they visit shrine to fulfill their social, economic, physical, and spiritual needs. They believed that the late Sufis of shrine could listen, correspond and help them in multiple ways. However, some people thought otherwise. They believed the Sufi of shrine as pious ones but they did not believe upon the intermediary role of Sufis between human beings and Allah. Perceptions about myths and superstitions varied with regard to gender and level of education but majority of visitors did not believe in myths and superstitions.

Key Words: Sufi Shirens, Sufism, marginalized segment of society, superstitions.

Introduction

Sufism, which was developed by the twelfth century from a small movement of ascetics emphasized spiritual over the legal, and closeness to, rather than remoteness from Allah (Hatina, 2007). The Sufi traditions and shrines are closely associated (Bashir, 2011) and their relationship is backed into history (Sabra, 2013). In Pakistan Sufi shrines have traditionally been maintained by hereditary saints (Pirs), who often command a large number of people (Ewing, 1983). Sufi shrines in Pakistan are the common public places of religious rituals which followers consider to be righteous by virtue of being pious (Platteau, 2011). Followers of Sufis exhibit deep emotional attachment to their shrines. (Manzo, 2003). With their emotional fellowship, Sufi shrines remain a significant aspect of religion and social structure in Pakistani society (Farooq & Kiyani, 2012).

Historically, Sufism has been described as a "pathway to God" whereby it helps eliminate all the barriers between man and God through changing patterns of life (Pirani, Papdopoulos, Foster & Leavey, 2008). Etymologies of the term "Sufi" are various but in practice the term "Sufi" was reserved for ideal usage and Sufi referred to themselves in other terms such as devotee, ascetic, impoverished, and spiritual traveler (Hassanali, 2010; Sabra, 2007). Most of the Pakistanis view Sufi saints as the embodiment of Islamic virtue and consider them true Faqirs (impoverished ones) characterized by a life of piety, self-sacrifice and public service (Rozehnal, 2006).

Sufi shrines work in multidimensional ways thus their political, social, cultural and economic implications have always been, and will continue to be, substantial (Kreiner, 2010; Malik, 1990; Platteau, 2011). Since time immemorial, the tradition of visiting sacred places to attain religious merit, washing off the sins and accomplishment of desires has been a common practice across the world (Frembgen, 2012). Visiting of sacred spots, places, and building has traditionally been regarded as noble and often equated with purification of body and mind, and achievement of merits (Brewster, 2011).

Over the time, Sufi shrines assimilated the aspiration of the local people and cultural traditions became the part of many religious rituals at Sufi shrines (Pirani et al. 2008). Followers of Sufi shrines engage themselves in different rituals and religious practices (Malik, 1990) which include prayer, attending mosque, Quranic study, Langer (feast), Mannat (divine intercession), Qawwali, Sufiana Kalam, Drumming and Dhamal (ritual trance dance) etc. (Wolf, 2006; Abbas, 2010). Moreover, other religious ritual performed by the people at Sufi shrines are Bayat or having oath in the Pirs, touching the tomb, tasting/licking the salt and other sacred items placed at shines, knotting the thread, offering prayers, blowing and taking round, taking Ta'weez (amulet) (Chaudhary, 2010). …

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