Piri Muridi and Belief System

By Sana Younas & Dr.Anila Kamal

The present study explored the role of socio-demographic factors with Piri Muridi within indigenous context of Pakistan. Participants were taken from Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Azad Kashmir, and Mansehra. Their age ranged from 18-73 years. Results revealed that women are more inclined towards Piri-Muridi and have more perception of negative change in Piri-Muridi as compared to men.

Married individuals scored significantly higher as compared to single individuals on the facets of belief system about Piri-Muridi. Non-believers of Piri-Muridi have more negative perception of change in Piri-Muridi as compared to strong believers and Murids. Ahly hades sect showed strong negative perception regarding Piri-Muridi as compared to Ahly sunnat brelvi. Piri-Muridi relationship is widely been practiced in Indo Pak region (Pinto, 1995; Younas & Kamal, 2019). The relationship has its origin in religion but in order to know the psycho-social perspective of Piri-Muridi, it is necessary to understand the yet to understand its psychosocial perspective, there is a need to understand the views of various social scientists.

The sociological study of Piri–Muridi by Turner (as cited in Deflam, 1991) raised few queries;would belief in any supernatural being (Pir) be made part of religious studies. If the answer is yes then how this PiriMuridi relationship should be explained in perspectives of religion, how it could be theoretically explained and what about the interaction between common man and super human beings which we call as Pir.


For finding the answers to these queries, Turner conducted various sociological studies on religious perspectives, religious beliefs, and religious rituals. He reached to the conclusion that the studies on religious perspectives does not merely require understanding the religious teachings but its main focus is to understand and explain the role of religion in one’s life and to compare the conditions and effects religion has on different people with different beliefs.

Another viewpoint was given by Spiro, (as cited in Pinto, 1995) that focuses on influence of Pir in one’s socio emotional life.Similarly, Horton (as cited in Pinto, 1995) put effort in understanding the dynamics of relationship of man with God and interaction between human beings which he named as Piri-Muridi relationship. He was of the opinion that superhuman beings (Pirs) and God have huge differences as God is the divine power while there also exist some similarities between God and man’s traits which are indeed blessed by God to super human beings (Pirs). These traits include submission, guidance and support for people, anger, wrath etc. Hence, the theories and assumptions used to explain the relationship of God with man can also be used to explain the relationship of master and disciple or Pir (super human being blessed with divine traits) and Murid (who have taken bait from Pir and is follower of Pir).

The Piri-Muridi relationship is deeply rooted in Pakistani society and culture. It is the central concept in religious life and Sufism (Alario, 2003). The belief in Piri-Muridi relationship is central to consider because some people strongly belief in this whereas other strongly disagree and consider it sin and bid’at(unnecessary additions in religious practices) in religion. It is the belief system that directs one’s strong affirmations towards a certain phenomenon (Zinnbauer et al., 2015). The present research is an endeavor to explore the belief system and role of one’s demographic characteristics in attitudes towards beliefs provide a vertical framework for explaining how things should beand areresistant to change.

Thoughts, behavior, feelings, attitudes, and decision of people are greatly influenced by widely held beliefs (Pechey & Halligan, 2012).Beliefs may provide an explanatory framework for understanding attitudes, processing incoming information, and interpreting the world (Wyer & Albarracín, 2005). When people face such situations that threaten their shared beliefs, then people attempt to resolve inconsistencies by seeking to restore the underlying sense of meaning. The consistency and coherence in people’s beliefs remains same even if they listen anything contradictory to their belief system, they will try to quickly reconcile and integrate new observations with already held previous observations and may try to give alternative explanations for their beliefs and affirmations.

This adaptive function of beliefs allows them to adjust in their environment in greater capacity (Connors & Halligan, 2014). Same is the case with people that they had widely held belief system regarding PiriMuridi practices. Those who strongly believe in Piri-Muridi have belief about Pir as a positive figure and if they are provided with any information that is contradictory to their positive beliefs about Pirs, they attempt to resolve that inconsistency by seeking to restore the underlying sense of meaning. Moreover, people were categorized as strong believers of Piri-Muridi, situational believers of Piri-Muridi, and non-beliebers of Piri-Muridi just on the basis of their belief system. Bhatti, (2013) found that people belonging from Shia have more favorable attitude towards Piri-Muridi and along that also have strong belief on Piri-Muridi as compared to people belonging from Ahlay-Hadees sect.

A study by Sadique, Gaho, and Bukhari, (2015) found that the Shia sect strongly believes in the Imamat (leadership) of Hazrat Ali (A.S) Qadam Gah Moula Ali (k w). In order to get spiritual healing, many of the devotees stayed at the shrine. They had a firm belief that Hazrat Ali (kw) was the Auliya (friend) of Allah. After they had finished the Mannats, these spirituality seekers presented Nazrana (xenium) in the form of twinkling flowers, sweets, Daigs (caldron), Bakras (billy goats), etc. They present the gifts to the Mutawali (Pir) with utmost devotion as they considered that it will add more blessings to their life and they will make their way to Paradise. Furthermore, the study also found that most of the rituals are performed at Qadam Gah to gain mental and spiritual satisfaction and the followers are of the view that Imams of the shrine is the best way to reach God.

In other words, the study revealed that people consider Pir as a mediator between them and Allah, the Almighty. Another study found that people belonging from Shia sect who used to visit Sufi shrines more often and in large amount as compared to people of other sects. Moreover, the study found that among the major rituals performed at shrines were touching the tomb, kissing the tomb, tasting the salt, touching the oil lamp, not Influence of Socio-Demographic Features on Piri-Muridi: An Experiential Study 6 turning back towards the tomb and Chadar charhana. Among belief system of people, it was found that participants had perception that God listen to their (Pir’s) prayers more than ordinary people. Pir’s are mediator between God and us and Pir can change their fate (Khan & Sajid, 2011).

Ahly-Sunat and Ahly-Hadees. People belonging from Deoband sect of Islam, in the province of Punjab, are not small in number but also different from the Pakhtoon people. Contrary to Pakhtoons, they are more welcoming for Sufis and their shrines. Sometimes, even the traditional mullahs who were trained in Deoband madaris in Punjab adopt typical practices of Brailvi sect to save their jobs (Metcalf, 1984).

These mullahs call themselves as Ahly-Sunnat which in Punjabi villages is viewed as brailvis while deobandi are perceived as Ahly-Hadees. Hence, the division between DeobandiPakhtoon axis and that of Sufi Punjabi axis is not clear. Rural Punjab has also some influence of Deobandi sect. There also exists non Pakhtoon population among the Pakhtoons, a number of Pakhtoons also stick to the Sufis mainly the Deoband Sufi (Choudhry, 2010).

It is clearly evident that people of AhlySunnat brelvi, and Shia sect have more favorable attitude towards Piri-Muridi(Younas, 2017)but here itis also essential to know the gender differences other than the religious sect that whether women are more inclined towards Piri-Muridi or men.

As far as gender differences are concerned on the construct of Piri-Muridi within Pakistani context, it was found that men were more inclined towards praying and performing different rituals for getting job, promotion in job, and increase in the business whereas women visited Sufi shrines for other purposes. These included domestic issues including children education, marriage proposals, domestic disputes and family conflicts. In this regard, Farooq and Kiyani (2012) also found that women visit Sufi shrines for mannats (asking of favors through medium of Pirs) and other reasons including marriage proposals of their daughters, treatment of medical illness, pregnancy, elimination of conflicts, getting good grades etc.

George and Sreedhar (2006) found that gender had a great impact on the belief system towards superstitions variable with women showing more illogical and irrational beliefs as compared to men. With gender, marital status also holds significant importance which needs to be explored and our study is a step forward to analyze the differences across marital status on Piri-Muridi for the first time. Marital status. Married people were found to have more favorable attitudes towards Piri-Muridi as compared to unmarried and single (Bhatti, 2013; Malik, 2007).

Married participants have more responsibilities as compared to single individuals, they face more problems related to fertility issues, children, economic resources etc. for which they seek more services of Pirs more often as compared to unmarried people who do not have such problems. Influence of Socio-Demographic Features on Piri-Muridi: An Experiential Study 8 With matrimonial status, age is also linked that is explored in our study. Though recent research (Younas & Kamal, 2017 a, b; Younas & Kamal, 2018) provides enough grounds that how Piri Muridi acts as medium between a common man and God yet there is much to be explored specifically in our cultural context with reference to Piri-Muridi. The scope of the present study is based on demographic data. As it is a well-known fact that demographic characteristics can provide often valuable descriptions of social issues yet the accurate numerical figures are often very difficult to achieve especially in relation to sensitive issues like Piri Muridi and demographic understandings of social patterns and structures are continuously shifting with respect to the availability of better measurement tools and more accurate data (Micklin & Poston, 2006).

Our study is a step forward towards understanding the demographic factors will give possible explanations for a psycho-social issue of Piri-Muridi and pave way towards building complex theories to explain this sociological phenomenon particularly at the societal levels. Demographic analysis is a powerful tool that can explain a number of sociological phenomena. The present research in sequel to previous researches on belief system and role of demographic factors with Piri-Muridi will add valuable information that how one’s beliefs explain people attitude towards Piri-Muridi and what role psychosocial characteristics play among various categories of religious people. Specifically, the objective of the study was to assess the role of various demographic characteristics (belief system, religious sect, gender, marital status, and age) with attitudes toward Piri-Muridi.

Believers of Piri-Muridi think that they get spirituality and bonding with God through karamaat and blessed waseela (intercession) of Pirs. The results are also supported by Bhatti, (2013). This case is quite obvious as non-believers totally negate the phenomenon of Piri-Muridi and consider it fake practices and show strong perception of changes in Piri-Muridi institute. While situational believers may have belief that they are spiritual healers may help in removing negativity from their life and Murids have taken ba’it from Pirs and are quiet dependent on Pirs (Aziz, 2001). They consider them their guidance, role model, teacher, and healer.

Editor’s Note:  This is an abridged version of the full research paper titled “Influence of Socio-Demographic Features on Piri-Muridi: An Experiential Study” that can be downloaded here. The researcher can be contacted at sana_y15@nip.edu.pk.

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