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Mazar culture in Bangladesh

Hossain, Amzad (1995) Mazar culture in Bangladesh. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Abstract

This is an original dissertation on Mazar (Sufi shrine) culture in Bangladesh, emphasising its socio-religious dimensions. Mazar culture is a dominating force in Bangladeshi culture. It is comprised of history, myths, mystical powers, social roles and religious significance. Currently, Mazar culture is an issue of religious debate between the Sufi (Muslim saints) and non-Sufi traditions in Bangladesh. Controversy centres on the religious validity of devotional intensity with regard to veneration of Sufis and their Mazars, the two key factors of Mazar culture. In this regard, the unlettered Baul Fakirs (mystic singers belonging to Sufi tradition) have received prominence for violating the Shariat and their oral discourses on socio-religious issues.

This thesis notes that the Mazar culture of Bangladesh inherits the cultural traits of immigrant Sufis who converted many indigenous non-Muslims to Islam in the medieval period. To establish a new tradition, the Sufis illustrated Quranic declarations about the super human power of the Auliya (sages), alive or departed. History reveals that Sanatan (indigenous) esotericism had semblances with Islamic mysticism. The Sufis took advantage of this by mingling the two cultures and projecting miraculous power, which made them the object of veneration similar to the earlier prevalent Guru Bhakti (veneration).

It is also observed that the spirit of Sufi mysticism is still manifest widely in Bengali culture. Diverse Sufi teachings gave birth to the traditions of Shariati (eso-exoteric) Pirs, or Ulama (learned), and the Marifati (esoteric) Pirs or mystic Baul Fakirs. These two groups have different views of Mazar veneration. They have produced an unending polemical discourse between them in regard with the illustrative approaches to Mazar veneration. Moreover, "The Tablig Jamaat", a preaching society and reformist group hostile to some aspects of Islamic mysticism, has aggravated the situation. The Jamaat is mainly concerned with the Shariat (outward Islamic law) and regards traditional Mazar culture as leading to Shirk (associating God with phenomena) and Bidaat (innovation). Both heresies according to orthodox Islam.

Finally, evidently in recent years, many corporate bodies and elites from different social strata within Bangladesh have supported Baul Fakirs and Mazar culture in various ways, including financial and political aid. This support has strengthened the credibility of Mazar culture despite opposition and its modernising context.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Law
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: repository@murdoch.edu.au. Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Stange, Paul, George, David and Sen, Krishna
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/50560
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