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Gender, Sainthood, & Everyday Practice in South Asian Shiʿism$
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Karen G. Ruffle

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780807834756

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807877975_ruffle

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(p.1) Introduction
Gender, Sainthood, & Everyday Practice in South Asian Shiʿism

Karen G. Ruffle

University of North Carolina Press

This book is a multidisciplinary ethnographic study of how hagiographical texts and performance commemorating the Battle of Karbala shape both spiritual and everyday life and practice in an Indian Shi'i community. Devotional texts and ritual performances are integrally entwined, producing the desired effects of grief. More important, these performances also dynamically embody the social, ethical, and religious powers of the heroes of Karbala, transforming them into imitable exemplars. The hagiographical texts and ritual performance of the mourning assembly are forms of moral communication in which the imagination of Karbala and the family of Imam Husain generates shared sensibilities and an ethical worldview that orders the life of South Asian Shi'a. Both poetry and prose commemorating the sacrifice of Imam Husain and his family at the Battle of Karbala hold central places in the spiritual and everyday lives of the Shi'a in India and throughout the Islamic world.

Keywords:   multidisciplinary ethnographic study, hagiographical texts, Battle of Karbala, Indian Shi'i community, ritual performances

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