Folk Islamic Rituals

These posts seek to describe the worldview of folk Muslims by describing their worldview and rituals. These folk rituals describe South Asian folk Islam. Each of these readings gives hints in how to best engage South Asian folk Muslims with the gospel of Jesus. 

Ritual #1 – Na’at, devotional singing to Sufi saints.

Ritual #2 – Veneration of Pirs at Dargahs. Dargahs are the tomb complexes of deceased Pirs. Pirs are Sufi mystics who act as mediators between Allah and men.

Ritual #3 – Muhammad’s Birthday (Eid Milad-un-Nabi). Because of the special place of Muhammad as an ever-present mediator, folk Muslims give special respect to Muhammad in ways that offends some orthodox Muslims.

Ritual #4 – Urs Festivals. Urs is the Persian word for “marriage.” Folk Muslims see the Urs of a Sufi as when they die and pass into union with Allah. The Urs of noteworthy Sufis are celebrated every year.

Ritual #5 – Tawiz (Amulets). Muslim religious leaders make tawiz to protect their followers for evil spirits and to provide blessings for specific purposes.

Ritual #6 – Zikr and the 99 Names of Allah. A key practice in Sufism is to remember Allah through zikr. Reciting the 99 names of Allah are one way that Muslims practice zikr.

Ritual #7 – Mystical Uses of the Qur’an. Many folk Muslims use the Qur’an more as a mystical spell book than a revelation from God.

Ritual #8 – The Evil Eye. The Evil Eye is a curse that is caused by the covetousness of others for a person or thing. Folk Muslims use many rituals to avoid and dispel the Evil Eye.

Ritual #9 – Devotional Images. Folk Muslims display pictures of saints, the Qur’an, or places of pilgrimage in their homes. They often hope that these images will bring blessing and protection to their homes.

Ritual #10 – 786 and Bismallah. Folk Muslims use Bismallah as a kind of magical and protective speech. They write 786 as a short form for the Bismallah.

Ritual #11 – The Hand of Fatimah. In Shia belief, Muhammad, Ali, Fatima, Hasan, and Hussein were perfect individuals created by Allah before creation from his perfect light. Today, they use the Hand of Fatima as a symbol to remember these five figures. The Hand of Fatima is a powerful protective symbol among Shia Folk Muslims.

Ritual #12 – Taziah and Muharram. South Asian Shias build special places of worship called imambaras which house taziah. Taziah are replicas of the tomb of Hussein in Karabala, Iraq and act as conduits of his power.

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