In surat, an industrial city in Gujarat, a multiplicity of meanings is attached to the cult of the Rifa'i saint by different groups of Muslims, such as the holy man (pir) and his family, his lay followers, the Rifa'i faqirs, and the Tablighis (Reform Muslims who are the main opponents of the cult), as well as by Hindus. It is argued that none of these meanings have come to dominate and entirely marginalize the others. This article will describe a local arena in which debate about Muslim ritual practice is largely an “internal” one among Muslims about such Islamic issues as the relation between God and believer and the sources of authoritative knowledge and behavior. The concept of hereditary, saintly power is paramount in shaping the Rifa'i forms of celebration or “playing” on the saint's day. In discourse about Rifa'i ritual, it is contrasted with “praying” to God.

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