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Muslim Preaching in the Middle East and BeyondHistorical and Contemporary Case Studies$
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Simon Stjernholm and Elisabeth Özdalga

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781474467476

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474467476.001.0001

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Preaching and the Problem of Religious Authority in Medieval Islam

Preaching and the Problem of Religious Authority in Medieval Islam

(p.67) 4 Preaching and the Problem of Religious Authority in Medieval Islam
Muslim Preaching in the Middle East and Beyond

Jonathan P. Berkey

Edinburgh University Press

Popular preachers, known by various terms including qāṣṣ (storyteller) and wā`iẓ (admonisher), played an important role in medieval Islamic society as conveyors of religious knowledge to the common people. Their prominence, and what their critics viewed as their unreliability and corruption, provoked an effort by the `ulamā’ (religious scholars) to restrict their activities. The scholars’ campaign against the popular preachers was part of their larger struggle against what they viewed as illicit innovation (bid`a). The popular preachers, however, had their defenders, including some prominent Sufis. The preachers were able to take advantage of the persistent informality of religious authority in medieval Islam, and so remained influential figures in shaping Islam as it was experienced by the general Muslim populace.

Keywords:   authority, preacher, qāṣṣ, Sufis, Sufism, `ulamā’, wā`iẓ

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