The Powerful Ephemeral: Everyday Healing in an Ambiguously Islamic Place

By Carla Bellamy | Go to book overview

Introduction
Ambiguity

Ḥusain Ṭekrī and Indian Dargāḥ Culture

This book is a description and interpretation of the everyday and ritual life of the collection of Muslim saint shrines that bear the name Ḥusain Ṭekrī; its primary texts include pilgrims’ narratives as they have unfolded over many years, the shrines’ major rituals, the bodies of pilgrims, local histories of Jaora state, and mass-produced pamphlets and books–on Islam, dargāḥs in general, and Ḥusain Ṭekrī in particular-written in Hindi and Urdu. Read carefully, I believe these texts help explain the cross-tradition popularity, power, and efficacy of Muslim saint shrines in India. As these shrines are places where psychological, physical, financial, and familial problems are resolved, their study can offer insight into South Asian perceptions of sickness, health, death, violence, justice, and personhood. Further, because elements of Ḥusain Ṭekrī’s hybrid geography and ritual life are shared not only with many different types of Islamic memorial structures but also with non-Muslim sacred spaces, and because Muslim saint shrines in general are patronized by individuals of all religious backgrounds, ethnographic study of Ḥusain Ṭekrī in particular can provide a new, and I hope useful, vantage point for reconsidering debates about the nature of selfhood, religious identity, religious difference, and the nature of religion itself in contemporary India.

Because the act of naming reflects assumptions, observations, and conclusions, let me first explain some of my terminology and contextualize it in relation to previous historical and ethnographic study of dargāḥs. While it is certainly true that venerated Muslim teachers and healers are known

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