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Muslim and Jewish Saints
April 9th, 2013 by corbettr

In this past week’s readings in particular, I was struck by the analysis of the authors when comparing Jewish and Muslim saints. The main difference between the two is that, although there are certainly outliers, Muslim saints are typically venerated during their lifetimes while Jewish saints are typically venerated and recognized posthumously. Authors that we have discussed and classmates during discussion have discussed several differences between Jewish and Muslim saints that stem from this one main difference.
If Muslim saints are venerated and recognized during their lifetimes, of course they will have miracles attributed to them more often than Jewish saints. If Jewish saints are typically not recognized until after their deaths, of course they will not usually be a part of their own hillulah or yearly celebration. Of course Muslim saints will be more involved with dispute resolution and providing a sort of alternate government with him or her as the head.

All of these differences can be traced back to one real difference: Muslim saints are typically venerated during their lifetimes and Jewish saints are typically recognized and venerated after their deaths. Certainly there are outliers to this general rule, including sources we’ve read, but outliers do not refute a general rule or principle. To extrapolate all of these differences from the time when saints are recognized, I believe, is to misunderstand how the saint functions in each of these communities. Differences arise out of the recognition time of the saint, which are certainly important, but which must be understood as resulting from this time of recognition.

I think these differences can be observed in the types of communities around these saints of different religions. The communities we encountered in Morocco were certainly different and there was a different sort of feel to each of them. The Jewish saint community, Rabbi Avram, was more of a tribute to a great man who did miraculous things after his death. The community was centered on a grave and the most important happenings went on there. The Muslim saint community that we looked at were more interested in taking about the great things the saint did during his lifetime and how he changed the community for the better.


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