How Do Shrines Fit Into the Practice of Islam in Azerbaijan?
Eurasianet has just put up a nice profile of a feature of Islam in Azerbaijan, called pir (pronounced peer). A pir is a local holy man or “elder”. Around Azerbaijan and in other Shi’a Islam-dominated countries, you can find these shrines devoted to the memory of these local holy men, often an imam. Separate from mosques, these shrines serve as another feature of spirituality in the region. During our hike in the Lerik mountains a few months back, we had a lovely lunch break at the site of a pir shrine in a remote part of the mountains. Since the Eurasianet article covers it well, I’ll just point you there:
In Bash Shabalid, a mountain village bordering the Russian region of Dagestan, stories abound about the locally revered Sheikh Ehmed, his grandson, Mullah Mustafa, and the shrine devoted to them. Legend has it that Mustafa organized a rebellion of 30,000 people in the 1930s and subsequently eluded exile and execution.
Local farmer Shamil Salmonov recounted a story about how a mysterious stranger ordered two boys during Stalin’s purges of the 1930s to go to the shrine. “It was Mullah Mustafa. With a banquet laid out for the brave believers,” asserted Salmonov. “In the morning, there was no trace of the mullah. Not even the ashes of the fire could be found.”
Read the full article here.