Author: Scott Alan Kugle
Publisher: Indiana University Press (2006)
Pages: 305 Binding: Hardcover
Description from the publisher:
From the Introduction:
This book addresses the issue of religious authority in Islamic societies, specifically the authority generated by the overlapping fields of spirituality and law. Political crises and social tensions in fifteenth-century North Africa raised the issue of authority, as have contemporary tensions after the September 11, 2001, attacks, in different but comparable ways. This book explores what comparative insights into our present might be gained from a detailed study of a creative life in the past. It will explore the question of religious authority in the interstices between spirit and law through the intriguing figure of Shaykh Ahmad Zarruq, a Sufi jurist from late medieval Morocco. Though his reformist aspirations failed in his immediate historical context, Zarruq’s ideas resound through the present and echo through the discourse of Sufi leaders who are taking on an increasingly vocal role as social critics and religious reformers in the contemporary situation after September 11, 2001, in Islamic communities, even in North America.
By focusing on Zarruq, this book addresses a particular kind of religious authority, the authority of saints and their ability to build communities among Muslims in North Africa. It analyzes the power generated in religious communities through their allegiance to saints, a power usually identified with the term “Sufism.” It analyzes the special power generated in religious communities through their allegiance to saints, and how this religious authority supports more mundane exercises of social and political power. This inquiry will take us on a journey with many resting places: tombs of saints, institutes of religious learning, courts of law, marketplaces in popular rebellion, and even trenches in the midst of military conflict. At times the journey will take on the expectant color of the pilgrimage, at others the bitter taste of exile, and occasionally it will adopt the heady fragrance of an interior journey through spiritual disclosures.
More specifically, this book is about a distinct concept of juridical sainthood that fuses Islamic legal rectitude and devotional piety. A community of Sufis in Fes, Morocco, advocated this particular paradigm of sainthood (along with colleagues in a network of juridical Sufis in other urban centers across North Africa) at a time of intense political and religious crisis in the late fifteenth century C.E. Juridical sainthood was the center of their reformist agenda; it was also a form of social critique against other Sufi communities whose rhetoric of jihad encouraged their active participation in military and political struggles. For this reason, the figure of the jurist saint stirred great controversy in its time; the ideal of the jurist saint raised powerful questions of political loyalty and dynastic legitimacy, even though on the surface it might appear concerned mainly with legal training and religious values.