(Last Updated on : 30/08/2010)
Concept of Saints in Islam holds that a reputation as a saint may be got in many ways. A man may become renowned as a saint by means of miracles, ecstasy, hereditary holiness, charity, asceticism, mendicancy, the foundation of a dervish order, or even lunacy. Saints receive their power from God, and do not acquire it by their own merits. The hierarchy of the saints is much the same as that of the mystics- some are revered throughout the world while others are local. The power of a saint is called Baraka, blessing, and this is imagined as almost tangible. By kissing the saint's hand or tomb, this power passes to the worshipper who will be helped by it. Like all holy things it may be dangerous to those who would misuse it. Orthodoxy recognizes saints who work wonders, but these are not called miracles but charismatic gifts. It not the man who works but God who works through him, A common form of praise is "his prayers were answered", in other words, he could be relied on to get from God what he asked. Sainthood is endured after death so worship at shrines became popular.
It is believed that since no one dares to violate the sanctity of a saint's tomb, anything left under his protection is safe. The peasant leaves his plough there, secure that none will touch it. Usually a saint has an annual festival. There may be a procession, prayers in the mosque, and a fair. All tastes are catered for and all enjoy themselves.
Closely connected with saints are the Sayyids and Sharifs. It is usually said that a Sayyid is a descendant of Hasan and a Sharif a descendant of Husain, the two grandsons of the Prophet Muhammad
. However, this is not always right. In South Arabia, Sharif is the feminine of Sayyid. In South Arabia the Sayyids do not carry arms (there are exceptions) and hold a position above the warring tribes which enables them to act as arbitrators and peacemakers. In Morocco some of them, like the Sharif of Wazzan, are saints and are almost worshipped. There are also whole tribes of Sharifs, real and so-called. In South Arabia are persons and clans called Mashaikh (the plural of shaikh) who are usually descendants of local saints and so are natives of the country as opposed to the Sharifs who, if genuine, must be immigrants. The holiness of their ancestor still clings to them and gives them great religious influence. In India Khadir is connected with water and is invoked when there is too much or too little, in drought and flood. He rides on a fish which became the arms of the rulers of Oudh. He has no shrines but it is customary to make little rafts carrying a lamp, flowers and sweetmeats and set them adrift on the river at the end of the rains.
Thus discussed is the concept of saints in Islam.