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Sayeda Fahmida
Nat of Religion 110
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Lame Deer’s narration does use the same terminology for the sacred or holy. But the
notion of sacrifice and search for the divine is evident. In the same matter, Lame Deer is advised,
“You’ll know it if you get the power...If you are not given it, you won’t lie about it, you won’t
pretend. That would kill you, or somebody close to you, somebody you love”, (Lame Deer, Pg
4). The test of the vision makes it so not only will Lame Deer get advice on being a medicine but
validated his status as a religious leader in the community.
Lame Deer’s narration of his vision quest makes very clear of what is profane and what is
sacred within his journey. Viewed under them lens od Durkheim's concept of “sacred-profane
dichotomy” Lame Deer present’s his experience to be a prime example of the concept itself. He
describes his physical state of isolation and the vision he searches for is the experience of the
holy, the sacred. This vision becomes the most prevalent way to impact his profane life by aiding
his community as a medicine man. Lame Deer’s vision consisted of past medicine men who
advise him in this present to build a greater and more impactful as his future being a medicine
man. Along with his “sacred space” which is not necessarily only the made ditch he lays in but
the spiritual mental space in where he received his vision. The lonesome ditch is the sacred space
Lame Deer has found in the profane world where he is able to connect with the cosmos and
become center of the world, where time is no longer linear. In other words, what the Sioux would
call it, “nagi”, described as a soul, spirit, or essence (Lame Deer, Pg 6).
“Munajat” is a supplication made in hopes of speaking to the Almighty; unlike most
supplications in the Islamic tradition, a “munajat” is not prescribed specifically to any prophet or
learned by other religious leaders. Rather a munajaat is the bridge of the sacred and the profane
in supplication. The physical practice of the munajat is to converse privately with the Almighty.
One cups their hand similar to qu’noot and whispers through the “conversation”. Often times in
hadith, munajat is referred to as ​nida'-an khafiyy-an, the secret cry. In the average lives of
Muslims the short duas, prayers they make through their everyday lives are all prescribed.
Munajat does not hold such a format of ordained supplication; Making this the bridge between
the profane life and sacred being. ​Words of the fallible are not deemed sacred in this tradition but
once they invoke the name of God as a call for assistance, gratitude, or mercy the profane is
transformed in a sacred.
The transformation of the secret cries or whispered talks are conversations that have no
outlined structure in theology nor have been mentioned in the Qur’an. Munajat holds its
existence as man attempts to connect with God without the command of God. This specific
inscription of call for God is written by Ali ibn Abi Talib, a revered leader amongst all Muslims
and an infalliable amongst Shiite Muslims. As described in the exhibition display, “​The munajat,
or "confidential talks," of the first Shi‘a imam, ‘Ali b. Abi Talib, take the form of prayers to God.
Along with the forty sayings of Imam ‘Ali, similar to the traditions, or hadith, of the Prophet
Muhammad, books of munajat provided doctrinal guidance to medieval Shiites. The first page
gives the chain of transmission of the prayers in this book as well as the genealogy of the twelve
Shi‘a imams, followed on subsequent pages by the prayers themselves.” (Canby, Beyazit, and
Rugiadi 2016). As this supplication is created and practiced by the first Shiite Imam it sacred
itself before the attempt to connect it to God. According to Shiite belief, Muhammad and his
progeny, (his daughter Fatima, his cousin Ali, and 11 of their progeny) are infallible due to their
connection to God, their practices and livelihoods are believed to be those of God’s most
favorable. So through correlation, production of an infallible is connected to the omnipresent
greater than works of the profane.
The eloquence of the physical appearance of the work is on par with the manifestation
that it bridges in the spiritual realm between the sacred and the profane. Across many
calligraphic traditions, it is common to can have intricately detailed bordered heading on the top
on copies of the Quran. Ali ibn Abu Talib’s munajaat is displayed in a similar presence. Because
this ties into the physical perception of what Muslims more commonly tie with their holy text, it
invokes a mental connection to this munjaat, accepting it is sacred as well. Focusing further into
the heading, the traces of gold ink are unevenly placed and flowery aestheics are not symmetrical
and very human-like. While munjaat creates a pathway from the profane to the sacred it is still
very evident that it is a creation of a human rather than God. While that bridge exists, there are
hints of imperfection on a beautiful calligraphy. This showcases the attempt to invoke a call to
God; in other words, the profane or human in this example reaching towards the sacred, God.
The unique attribute of munajaat, as mentioned previously, is that it serves as a spiritual
bridge. It transforms from profane to sacred as it is practiced and observed. The words
themselves are rooted in human thought yet it voluntarily invokes God separate from any
prescribe supplications. Much like Lamedeer’s physical separation from society to connect with
the holy, munajaat creates a mental separation from the “outside”. The separation, physical and
mental is the symbol of the attempt to reach the sacred. Once the outward search for the sacred is
accomplished it bridges the human life to the holy. In the case of munajaat, it is both man’s
creation and attempts to construct that link towards God.
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