Gender, Sainthood, and Everyday Practice in South Asian Shi’ism

Gender, Sainthood, and Everyday Practice in South Asian Shi’ism

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 240
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    Gender, Sainthood, and Everyday Practice in South Asian Shi’ism
    Book Description:

    In this study of devotional hagiographical texts and contemporary ritual performances of the Shi'a of Hyderabad, India, Karen Ruffle demonstrates how traditions of sainthood and localized cultural values shape gender roles. Ruffle focuses on the annual mourning assemblies held on 7 Muharram to commemorate the battlefield wedding of Fatimah Kubra and her warrior-bridegroom Qasem, who was martyred in 680 C.E. at the battle of Karbala, Iraq, before their marriage was consummated.Ruffle argues that hagiography, an important textual tradition in Islam, plays a dynamic role in constructing the memory, piety, and social sensibilities of a Shi'i community. Through the Hyderabadi rituals that idealize and venerate Qasem, Fatimah Kubra, and the other heroes of Karbala, a distinct form of sainthood is produced. These saints, Ruffle explains, serve as socioethical role models and religious paragons whom Shi'i Muslims aim to imitate in their everyday lives, improving their personal religious practice and social selves. On a broader community level, Ruffle observes, such practices help generate and reinforce group identity, shared ethics, and gendered sensibilities. By putting gender and everyday practice at the center of her study, Ruffle challenges Shi'i patriarchal narratives that present only men as saints and brings to light typically overlooked women's religious practices.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0298-1
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Notes on Transliteration
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    The young widow who has broken her bangles and removed her nose ring in grief, and the youthful groom whose hands and feet have been decorated with blood rather than the traditional bridalmehndī(henna)—such images are repeatedly invoked in the everyday practices and hagiographical literature of the Shiʿi Muslim community in the South Indian city of Hyderabad. On the seventh day of the Muslim month of Muharram, Indian Shiʿa traditionally observe the tragic battlefield wedding at Karbala, Iraq, in 680 C.E. of eleven-year-old Fatimah Kubra, the daughter of the third Imam, Husain, and her thirteen-year-old cousin, Qasem, son...

  6. chapter one Saints Are “Real” People IMITABLE SAINTHOOD IN SHIʿISM
    (pp. 23-58)

    Each month, the Shiʿi students’ association at Osmania University sponsors a mourning assembly (majlis-eʿazā) to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Husain, his family members, and his supporters at the Battle of Karbala in 680 C.E. Each month a differentmajlisorator (zakir) is invited to deliver the discourse; in early June 2005, Dr. M.M. Taqui Khan spoke. A retired professor of chemistry at the university and a popular majlis orator, Khan sat in the mourning assembly and listened to the invocatory poems (salāmandmarṡiya) commemorating the wedding and martyrdom of Qasem before deciding that it was more appropriate to...

  7. chapter two God’s Strong Women FEMALE & FEMININE IN SHIʿI SAINTHOOD
    (pp. 59-84)

    I met Sabiha Asghar in February 2005, during the days leading up to Muharram. Asghar is the principal of the Solar School, an English-medium institution located in Hyderabad’s Old City. She is also the daughter of Sayyid Maulana Reza Agha, Hyderabad’s most senior Shiʿi religious scholar and a popularmajlisorator (zākir). I met with Asghar on several occasions to learn more about the meaning of themehndīmourning assembly and other votive rituals dedicated to Qasem and Fatimah Kubra as well as to ascertain people’s understanding of Fatimah Kubra’s role and meaning in the embodiment of ḥusaini ethics–imitable...

    (pp. 85-120)

    Beginning in the 1860s, Sayyid. ʿAbbas Sahib moved from Madras (Chennai) to the princely state of Hyderabad, the capital of the Sunni Asaf Jahi dynasty. He was a renowned writer ofmarṡiyapoems commemorating the Battle of Karbala. ʿAbbas Sahib came to Hyderabad seeking the patronage of the fifth Asaf Jahi Nizam, Afzal al-Dawlah Bahadur (r. 1857–69 C.E.). The observance of Muharram has flourished in Hyderabad since the establishment of the Shiʿi Qutb Shahi dynasty in 1512 C.E. Themehndīmourning assembly has been celebrated with much enthusiasm in Hyderabad since the reign of ʿAbdullah Qutb Shah (r.1626–72...

    (pp. 121-144)

    In the Yaqutpura neighborhood in Hyderabad’s Old City, Dr. M. M. Taqui Khan’s family has been hosting themehndīmourning assembly for nearly sixty years.¹ In the early 1950s, this area was comparatively sparsely populated. The members of the Khan family had relocated from their residence on the banks of the Musi River to their current location near Nawab Shawkat Jang’s palace. One year, Khan’s grandmother remarked, “We have such a big house and this open space. Why don’t we host the seventh of Muharrammajlishere?”² Around 1955, the Khan family began sponsoring an annualmehndīmourning assembly. The...

  10. chapter five Who Could Marry at a Time Like This? DEBATING THE MEHNDĪ KĪ MAJLIS IN HYDERABAD
    (pp. 145-170)

    I arrived in Mashhad, Iran, in October 2004 to conduct research and visit the tomb of the eighth Shiʿi Imam, Reza. It was the middle of the fasting month of Ramadan, and the pilgrimage scene in the city was quiet, unlike most of the rest of the year, when the bazaars, hotels, and restaurants surrounding the shrine/tomb complex burgeon with pilgrims from all over the Shiʿi world. It was much quieter in Mashhad than it had been when I went to Qom to visit the tomb of Imam Reza’s sister, Fatimah Maʿsumeh, Iran’s second-holiest site. In 925 A.H./1519 C.E., Shah...

  11. Glossary
    (pp. 171-176)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 177-188)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-206)
  14. Index
    (pp. 207-222)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 223-223)