Week 4: Stories of Sufi Saints

Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images

Background Reading

Depending on the week's assignment, you may have several pages of Background Reading. This week, you have THREE PAGES of Background reading.

  1. Islam and Sufism
  2. Attar's Lives of the Saints
  3. Terms and Definitions

Make sure you have a basic familiarity with these names and terms before you begin this week's readings:

Azrael. Azrael is the name given to the angel of death in both Judaism and in Islam.

caravanserai. A caravanserai is a roadside inn where caravans could stop for the night and get provisions (the word caravan is a Persian word that was borrowed by many European languages, including English).

dervish. A dervish is an Sufi religious figure, in some ways equivalent to a "monk" in Christianity. In particular, the word is associated with the "whirling dervishes" whose mystical practice includes a dance in which they whirl around in a circle.

Haman and Pharaoh. The Koran ("The Believer") contains a story about Haman and an Egyptian king who is simply called "Pharaoh" (Firon). Pharaoh, the enemy of Moses, is boastful and proud, and he tells Haman to build him a tower that will reach up to the heavens.

Harun al-Rashid. Harun (or Haroun) al-Rashid, the Caliph of Baghdad, was born in 764 and died in 809. The time of his rule in Baghdad (768-809) marked the height of what is called the "Abbasid" period of Arabic history (named for "Abbas," the uncle of Mohammad).

Iblis. This is the name given to Satan in the Islamic tradition.

Joseph and Zoleikha. In the Islamic tradition, the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife is told in much greater detail than in the Jewish or Christian traditions. Zoleikha is the name given to Potiphar's wife, who is anonymous in the Christian and Jewish traditions.

Kaaba. The Kaaba, also known as the "House of God," is a black stone within the Great Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The area around the Kaaba is called the "haram," and it is strictly restricted to Muslims only. The veneration of the Kaaba is a central part of the rituals associated with the great pilgrimage to Mecca, the hajj.

Khezr (often spelled: al-Khidr). The name al-Khidr means "the Green Man." He is a supernatural characters who appears prominently in Islamic literature in general, and Sufi literature in particular, as a kind of spiritual guide. He also makes an appearance in the Koran (18 "The Cave") as a the companion of Musa (Moses).

muezzin. The muezzin announces the call to prayer, standing in the minaret or in the courtyard of the mosque.

raka. The ritual of prayer in Islam, called salat, consists of a sequence of prayer cycles, called rakas. A raka consists of the recitation of prayers and passages from the Koran, along with ritual postures.

shaikh. The Arabic term shaikh (or sheikh) refers to an old man or chief in general, and in particular it is used to refer to a religious leader.

tasbih ("rosary"). Beads are sometimes used for counting out prayers and litanies. In the Catholic tradition, these beads are known as the rosary. In Islam, the prayer beads are referred to by the term tasbih.

wuzu (ablutions). Islamic prayer is preceded by a ritual series of ablutions, or washings, called wuzu.

Zemzem. This is a holy well, located next to the Kaaba in Mecca. The well is also known as the "Well of Ismail (Ishmael)," since it is where the angel Jibril (Gabriel) brought Hagar and her son so that they would not die of thirst in the desert.

Zoroastrianism. An ancient religion of the Iranian region, in which fire worship played a central role. There are only a very few people today who practice Zoroastrianism, most notably the Parsees of India who live mostly in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

  1. Islam and Sufism
  2. Attar's Lives of the Saints
  3. Terms and Definitions

Modern Languages MLLL-2003. World Literature: Frametales. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:48 PM