Accepted Paper:

Dream visions of the saints In Khōjā kahaṇī literature  


Iqbal Akhtar (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will explore communion with the Imāmī Shīʿī saints in dream visions within Khōjā Gujarati kahaṇī literature. It is a study in how Shīʿī outwith the central Islamic lands, such as southwestern India and eastern Africa, envisioned and venerated the Shīʿī saints of the Near East from afar.

Paper long abstract:

The kahaṇīō were popular narrative prayers of the Khōjā related to specific saints of the Imāmī Shīʿī. This literature was primarily employed by Khōjā women and commonly featured a female protagonist who comes to a point in her predicament where there appears to be no hope or clear answer. The night dream, which entails a metaphysical pilgrimage to a shrine or meeting with the saint corporeal, then, reveals the solution.

Night visitations figure prominently in the kahaṇī for according to Muslim tradition the spirit escapes the body with sleep. This allows a literal spiritual encounter with and obeisance to the saints. For Asian and African Shīʿī Muslims in the geographical periphery of the physical Near Eastern shrines, the dream state allowed an egalitarian opportunity for all to make pilgrimage. Pilgrimages in dreams were based on religious merit, rather than the physical journey which required wealth. The dreams of saints allowed devout Khōjā women of modest means to circumvent modalities of communal religious institutions to achieve spiritual gnosis.

The kahaṇī, originally of South Asian origin, provides and deeper understanding of how Imāmī Shīʿī, in the periphery of Islamic civilization, envisioned and related to the saints of the Near East in a localized context while retaining the Indic legends and narrative structures of their indigenous devotional literature.

Panel W133
Muslim saints, dreams, and veneration of shrines