Some said he was deli (insane), some said he was veli (a saint)
Most Muslim cultures accommodate in their peoples’ worldview a bewildering contrast between fatalistic, passive dependence and individualistic, active aggression. People are what they manage to become — some even make it to sainthood.
Submission is the basic ‘ought’ of most Muslim cultures. What’s written in God’s book is what his lot on earth will be.
Inheritance laws, marriage regulations, divorce proceedings and the broad outlines of the kinship system with its emphasis on the paternal line and its stress on the division of the sexes, thus have religious sanction.
If final responsibility lies with God or fate, why need the human agent worry so much about safety rules at work, seat-belts in cars or smoking in the bedroom?
Control over the future is thus projected away from people. After all, ‘God is with the patient’.
The cosmological map of most Muslims, however, is not limited to an understanding of God or fate ‘up there’, with humanity ‘down here’ acting out the destinies imposed from above. He instead pursues with his energy and money whichever powers or beings might potentially work in his favour.
A dichotomy therefore exists. Changing his destiny is his goal, though he wouldn’t express it thus.
Two opposing concepts – submission to, and manipulation of , the supernatural with the assertion that God is the ultimate revealer. In orthodox circles, such meddling with the supernatural is of course strenuously deprecated.
Pilgrimages to shrines and the making of vows are common preoccupations of ordinary Muslims. Women especially, though by no means exclusively, visit shrines on a massive scale throughout the Muslim world.
The primary purpose in making a vow is to get what, in the ordinary run of events, is not obtainable. Vows could involve small or large commitments such as making regular offerings at a shrine, building a mausoleum in memory of a saint concerned, or going on pilgrimage.
Fulfilling a vow is of extreme importance though often no fixed time is set. If a person has made a vow and not fulfilled it, nightmares or accidents tend to be interpreted as reminders of the need to make good what has been promised.
Rites of vow making often involve a prayer, a reading or reciting of Qur’anic verses, the tying of pieces of rags or threads to the railing or doors of a shrine, or the lighting of candles. The candles and rags are reminders to the saint of the favour asked.
Motivations for vow making are many. They are, in descending order of priority — bearing a child, marriage for oneself or a member of the family, recovery from sickness, return of a relative from a visit to the city, success in school examinations for a family member and well-being of one’s animals.
After fulfilment of the request by the saint’s mediation, various expressions of thanks are made. Larger gifts for bigger requests, included the sacrifice of a goat or even a sheep, and the whitewashing of the shrine.
Different saints are approached for help with different problems. Yacoub is a popular saint sought for his help in healing barrenness in women.
Sickness is a common condition leading to shrine visitation. In the absence of help from the remote God of formal faith, any help from a proven source of blessings (baraka) will be appropriated if possible.
The pragmatism of Muslims in their search for sustained equilibrium in life outweighs the theological niceties of ‘submission’. Muslims are rampant manipulators as much as they are humble submitters.