A major reason in the link between official and popular Islamic belief and practice is provided in the person of Muhammad. The Qur’an condemns veneration of saints in other religions, where priests and ascetics were often deified.
By the seventh century, however, foes expected of Muhammad supernatural acts, miracles and transcendental knowledge, if his claim to prophet-hood was to be believed. Ibn Ishaq himself passed on stories of miracles, such as those in which Muhammad melted a rock with a drop of water, or produced water from a dried water-hole with an arrow.
Within a few generations of his death, Muhammad had acquired many special names by which he could be invoked, several of them the same as names applied to God Himself — Nur al-Nur (the Light of Light), al-Rauf (the Merciful) and others. Muhammad is especially venerated in two festivals of the Muslim year – Mawlid al-Nabi and Laylat al-Miraj.
Relics of the Prophet are highly revered by Muslims. On the wings of such veneration of Muhammad himself, the theme of sainthood and pir worship has more generally flown undeterredly into the accepted historic and orthodox expression of the faith.
Unwilling host at times, orthodox religion has usually yielded to the imagination and needs of the ordinary Muslim’s heart about an object of devotion, a mediator with God, and a powerful answer-er of prayer.