From Arab Poet to Muslim Saint

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Through a detailed examination of a renowned Arab mystical poet, Th. Emil Homerin provides one of the first case studies to illustrate an obscure aspect of popular Islamic faith... more on AUC Press

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Through a detailed examination of a renowned Arab mystical poet, Th. Emil Homerin provides one of the first case studies to illustrate an obscure aspect of popular Islamic faith—the sanctification of saints and the creation of shrines in medieval times. Despite the fact that Muslims have venerated saints for more than a thousand years, Islam has never developed a formal means of canonization, and the process of sanctification remains an important but largely neglected dimension of Islamic scholarship. In From Arab Poet to Muslim Saint, Homerin explores this uncharted territory by following the fortunes of a single Sufi saint over seven and a half centuries. Regarded as a saint within a generation of his death, ‘Umar Ibn al-Farid (1181–1235) is still venerated at his shrine in Cairo. Contemporary religious singers and writers, including Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, continue to cite the poet’s verse. Using biographies, hagiographies, polemics, legal rulings, histories, and novels, Homerin traces the course of Ibn al-Farid’s saintly reputation. He relates the rise and fall of Ibn al-Farid’s popularity to Egypt’s changing religious, cultural, and political environment. This systematic study of a premodern and, now, modern saint focuses on specific issues of sainthood that exist within a network of competing modes of authority. Homerin’s historical narrative reveals the different lenses through which people have read Ibn al-Farid’s writings, the influence such readings have had on the practice and literature of Islam, and the varying viewpoints individuals have held regarding the importance of this holy man. In addition to addressing a largely ignored aspect of Islam, From Arab Poet to Muslim Saint contributes an Islamic perspective to the study of sainthood within the broader field of religion. ‘’Invaluable in showing the intricate relationship between the poet and the mystic in Sufism’’ —Michael A. Sells

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