Crafting Sacrality from the tensile life of objects: learning about the material life of prayer beads from a Khaksari Sufi Murshid

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Abstract

Sufi mystical experiences and practices are populated with objects. Objects exist among masters as well as disciples and followers regardless of the meanings and significations that practices impose on them. The life of these objects begins before they are enacted into sociocultural and religious relationships, as they are crafted or traded before they take on the overwhelming semiosis ascribed to them by religious-cultural codes or social networks. This article presents an apprenticeship ethnographic journey in which I follow an Iranian Sufi master and, along with him, the tensile life of Sufi prayer beads, or tasbihs. I address prayer beads as an object prior to their gaining of any religious meaning in the networks of everyday life. Tracing the material life of prayer beads reveals how the “objectness” of the rosary preexists the material practices that give it meaning in the Sufi order. Through the approach of speculative realism I examine what it means to study a religious-object-in-itself. I follow the religiously loaded object and its spiritual emergence by way of object-oriented ontology to forgo the meanings and relationships that shadow the objects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39–55
Number of pages17
JournalContemporary Islam
Volume12
Issue number1
Early online date10 Nov 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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