Journal Article

The Emergence of the Holy Man in Early Islamic Mysticism: The Myrtle in a Muslim Woman’s Dream and its Late Antique Echoes

Sara Sviri

in Journal of Semitic Studies

Published on behalf of The University of Manchester

Volume 61, issue 2, pages 463-495
Published in print October 2016 | ISSN: 0022-4480
Published online August 2016 | e-ISSN: 1477-8556 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jss/fgw025
The Emergence of the Holy Man in Early Islamic Mysticism: The Myrtle in a Muslim Woman’s Dream and its Late Antique Echoes

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This paper brings together an account of an early Muslim woman’s dream with texts relating to the ‘holy man’ and the spiritual hierarchy in early Islam. Both dream account and the holy men texts were authored by the dreamer’s husband, the third/ninth century mystic al-Ḥakīm al-Tirmidhī, in whose oeuvre the holy man, al-walī, the ‘friend of God’, occupies a central position. His writings had a significant impact on the teachings on wilāya in Islamic mysticism early and late. The dream and the texts reveal a historical and religious setting in which the God-Man communication was seen as bequeathed from the prophets to the ‘friends of God’, the awliyā’. Al-Tirmidhī’s writings offer an early vision of a non-sectarian ideology of the awliyā’, which allowed for people with specific qualities to be heralded as carriers of divine inspiration and authority. The veneration of the holy men in early Islam, be they the awliyā’ or Shīʽite Imāms reflects the beliefs, traditions and images which pervaded the religious scene in Late Antiquity prior to the rise of Islam. In Judaism, Christianity, Manichaeism and other Gnostic schools such as Mandaeism, notions and depictions of the ‘holy men’ were widespread and pervasive. Similar notions and depictions in early Islam are neither sheer borrowings nor an entirely independent and original development. They continue and confirm spiritual trends and patterns which had persisted for centuries in the rich religious and cultural sphere, while forging a distinctive theological environment and formulating an indigenous religious vocabulary.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Middle Eastern History ; Middle Eastern Languages ; Literary Studies - World ; Biblical Studies

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