By Amyn B. Sajoo
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Extra resources for A Companion to Muslim Cultures
The evil eye is a belief that the culture has negative powers inherent in it. These forces can be destructive to the child’s wellbeing. Steps must be taken to protect that child, and those steps are the subject of local lore. Boys may be dressed as girls to throw evil portends off their tracks; girls may be protected by the hanging of verses from the Quran in tiny containers around their necks, and so on. Moreover, representations of the eye of Horus from ancient Egypt may be placed on the walls as an effective means to protect the child, especially until the child is old enough for its parents not to fear its early death.
Living by the ethical principles and traditions that form the sharia is at the heart of Muslim identity. How does this square with the secular idea of the state, in which diverse identities and cultures co-exist? Is the presence of public religion a barrier to political modernity? This chapter will discuss the nature of the relationship among the sharia, the state and the individual Muslim today, mindful of what history tells us about the lived experience of Islamic societies. We will see how the interface of sacred and secular drives the quest for a civic pluralism that can accommodate the legitimate aspirations of all citizens.
The rhythmic recitation of the Quran, the minaret call of the muezzin, the chants of the faithful while on pilgrimage to Mecca, the Sufi chanters who use song and incantation, all reflect a wider range of expression than the usual spoken word. These pious expressions have a musical content and shape, and they follow traditions of recital that have been specifically adopted for spiritual purposes. In all of them the goal is to carry the deeper messages of the heart in a medium that will appeal to the ordinary believer, whether Sunni or Shia.