Groupe SociÃ©tÃ©s, Religions, LaÃ¯citÃ©s
GSRL – UMR 8582 – CNRS
Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes – Sorbonne Department of Social Anthropology, University of St Andrews, Scotland Centre dâ€™Ã‰tudes sur lâ€™Inde et lâ€™Asie du Sud CEIAS – UMR 8564 – CNRS â€“ EHESS
59-61, Rue Pouchet, 75849 Paris
Salle de conference – RDC
Tel. : 33 (0)1 40 25 10 94
From the early beginning of Islam, the saints have never ceased to play an essential role in popular piety. As an intermediary between the believers and God, the saint is supposed to serve, thanks to his miracles and his blessing, the destiny of the world and to answer to the spiritual and day-to-day needs of every Muslims, whether kings or humble people. The cult of saints reflects however very diverse and varied aspects due to the influence of the cultural and geographical milieu into which the saints has emerged. In addition, the veneration of saints and the pilgrimage to their tombs have neither disappeared, nor they have declined at modern times, despite the pressure of the reformist governments who fought superstitions. On the contrary, no even the veneration of saints has continued in the whole of the Muslim world (with the exception of Saudi Arabia where radical Islam – Wahhabism – has fiercely eradicated it), but it has in the course of time became dominant in some areas, while in other places it has regenerated itself and gave birth and is still giving birth to new saintly figures. It is worth mentioning here the names of Shaykh Alawi (1869-1934) in Algeria who has converted Europeans to Islam, of Ahmadou Bamba (m. 1927) in Senegal of whom devotees called â€œmuridâ€ have erected a mausoleum and built a sacred city named Touba in 1928 (now the second city in the country), and of Said Nursi (d. 1960) who got thousands of devotees in Turkey. New saintly figures exist also in the Indian subcontinent and in the Indonesian archipelago. Similarly, saint veneration has experienced a revival in the former Soviet Republic of Central Asia since 1991, and in the Muslim provinces of China (Xinjiang, Gansu) after the Cultural Revolution.
The making of the new saintly figures, however, poses many problems to which this conference will try to answer.
â€“ What means sainthood and saint in contemporary Muslim world? Is there a new definition of sanctity, wider that those used until now? For example, in Iran, the â€œnational saintâ€ is a new phenomenon, reflecting a certain â€œsecularisationâ€ of sanctity, as is the martyr in the Iran-Irak war who has became a saint with the support of the Islamic Republic.
â€“ Is the typology of the new saintly figures distinct from the classical typologies which distinguish: 1. Biblical and Quranic prophets, and Shiâ€Ÿi imams; 2. propagators of Islam, i.e. martyrs and heroes; 3.
Mystics or Sufis; 4. kings?
â€“ Under which conditions the new saintly figures are emerging, given that the social and political context in the Muslim world have changed and were transformed by the reforms: Nation-States and/or secular Republics; Islamic states; Communist states? Is the veneration of saints still associated to a pilgrimages at a tomb, following a specific ritual? And is this ritual inherited or reconstructed, not to say entirely recreated?
â€“ What is the spiritual, social and political role played by these new saintly figures?
â€“ What is the link of the new saintly figures with the past and how the devotees write the history of these saints in the â€žshort termâ€, i.e. in the press and journals, and in the â€œlong termâ€ (longue durÃ©e), i.e. on books? Is the history of all these saintly figures put down on the paper, and in which way: neo-hagiography? Does it exist also a â€œmoving hagiography,â€ i.e. a film/documentary where the life of the saint is â€œput downâ€ on an audio-visual support?
Besides, all these questions which have until now rarely drawn the attention of the researchers, will help us to define what is Islam nowadays, considering the fact that saint veneration and pilgrimage to the tombs of saints were and are still today one of the most notable forms of devotion in the Muslim world, from Morocco to China and Indonesia, and that it is also quite influential in spirituality as much as in society and politic.
FRIDAY 2 DECEMBER
9:45 About the topic of the conference:
Session 1: Africa and the Middle East
Chair: Pedram Khosronejad
10:00 Cheikh ANTA BABOU (University of Pennsylvania) The making of a saint: an exploration of the foundations of Amadou Bamba’s religious authority
10: 40 Mark SEDGWICK (Aarhus University, Denmark) The Making of a Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century: Shaikh Ahmad al-Alawi and the European Construction of Sufism
11:20 Morning Coffee
11:45 Paulo PINTO (Universidade Federal Fluminense, Rio de Janeiro) The Metamorphosis of Baraka: Ritual, Sainthood and Charismatic Succession in Syrian Sufism
12:25 Questions and discussion
13:00 Lunch Break
Session 2: Shiâ€™ite World and Turkey
Chair: Michel Boivin
15:00 Pedram KHOSRONEJAD (Department of Social Anthropology, University of St Andrews – Scotland) Immortal Spirits: Materiality and Immateriality of Iran-Iraq War Martyrs
15:40 Pierre-Jean LUIZARD (CNRS-GSRL/EPHE) The two Sadr in Iraq : from political activism to sanctification or how martyrdom leads to sainthood
16:20 Afternoon Tea
16:45 Thierry ZARCONE (CNRS-GSRL/EPHE)
The Making of Saints in Republican Turkey: Sufi shaykhs versus Sufis
17:25 â€“ 18:00 Questions and discussion
SATURDAY 3 DECEMBER
Session 3: India Subcontinent and Central Asia
Chair: Pierre-Jean Luizard
10:00 Iqbal AKHTAR (University of Edinburgh) A modern reimaging of the medieval KhÃ´jÃ¢ saint
10:40 Michel BOIVIN (CNRS/CEIAS)
The â€˜hidden Sufiâ€™ of India: building sainthood among the Hindu followers of Sufi pir-s
11:20 Morning Coffee
11:45 Alexandre PAPAS (CNRS-CETOBAC/EHESS) Deconstructing saints: The anti-hagiographic literature in Xinjiang
12:25 Questions and discussion
13:00 Conclusion and Closing