How We Think About Shared Religious Spaces: Collective or Ambiguous?

By Summar Shoaib

In a blog entry re-posted here on Religion Nerd, Amina Wadud discusses issues of accessibility to sacred spaces in India, expressing her surprise and disappointment at the apparent lack of encouragement or interest from members of different religious groups in visiting the sacred spaces of others. Wadud emphasizes that they are often even prohibited from doing so.

However, as a student specifically focused on, to borrow from Joyce Flueckiger’s In Amma’s Healing Room, South Asian “vernacular Hussain TekriIslam,” Wadud’s posting recalls to mind sacred spaces in India such as saints’ shrines which encourage visitation and use from varying religious groups. Indeed, this may be why Carla Bellamy refers to such a space as “ambiguously Islamic” in her work The Powerful EphemeralBellamy claims that the authority of Hussain Tekri (the shrine of focus in her work) is not rooted in “historically Islamic forms of authority and sources of legitimacy,[1]” citing recitation as an example of this type of authority.

I would argue that such a space is not ambiguous in its religious orientation, that an audience and context which may be “equally at home in both the greater Islamic and greater Hindu traditions” does not render it ambiguous.

What spaces such as Husain Tekri and Amma’s courtyard often have in common is their function as spaces of healing or courts through which practitioners may present their case to a higher authority. Whether or not these qualify as ‘collective sacred spaces’ defined by Wadud as “constructed in such a way as to both acknowledge religious particulars and yet not to have those particulars overcome the space where they might be a problem for person from other faiths,” remains a topic of discussion.


[1][1] Bellamy 18.

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