In Praise of Shahul Hamid Historicizing an Islamic Tamil Hagiographical Tradition, 1650–1950

Samira Junaid, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

This dissertation analyzes the emergence and development of a Islamic Tamil venerative tradition surrounding the figure of Shahul Hamid and the site of the Nagore dargah, the most important Sufi shrine in South India, over the course of the sixteenth to twentieth centuries. Based on an examination of history of Islamic Tamil literary production, it identifies the growing prominence of Shahul Hamid within the pantheon of figures venerated by the Muslims of South India. However, with the meagre attention having been paid by scholars of Tamil literature and historians being wont to engage with their seemingly fantastical content, the popularity and significance of this literary hagiographical corpus remains unexamined. Indeed, second only to the Prophet Muhammad and ‘chief among the sufis’ Abdul Qadir Jilani, Shahul Hamīd thus enjoys the distinction of being chief among the Sufis of South India. His life and works, re-constructed in the form of stories of miraculous deeds, or karāmāt, attributed to him, thus, came to be the subject of numerous literary works composed in virtually the entire array of ‘major’ and ‘minor’ genres of Tamil verse, song and prose. Using a portmanteau perspective informed by such scholarly ‘sub-fields’ as literary history, intellectual history, Islamic cosmology, and Sufi soteriology, I attempt to read these texts, simultaneously, as historically situated, literary works, that play an important role in the articulation of Sufi’s spiritual power and authority, his baraka and wilāyat. What these texts offer, thus, is a window into complex and multilayered cultural construction of Sufi’s spiritual, social and political stature, that confounds expectations of a legitimatory narrative seeking to ‘localize’ Islam in an ‘alien’ Tamil context.

Subject Area

South Asian Studies|Islamic Studies

Recommended Citation

Junaid, Samira, "In Praise of Shahul Hamid Historicizing an Islamic Tamil Hagiographical Tradition, 1650–1950" (2019). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI27543491.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI27543491

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