Language Issue
Asa Zawiyah Religious Season: Rituals and Semantics
Asa Zawiyah Religious Season: Rituals and Semantics
Issue 52

By Ham Sharkawi, Morocco

The religious experience is a human practice that appears to be unique in most elements, and it is difficult to define it and understand its various dimensions. The difficulty in defining this practice is a result of its spiritual nature; in many aspects, it is subjective to the person who practices it and related to his unique personality. René Girard recognises the characteristics of sacred practices, but states that they becomes objective through ritual forms and social practices. Religious rituals and myths are manifestations of beliefs and perceptions, so beliefs cannot be studied without examining these manifestations at a certain level of research. Their observable and measurable nature is the basis for research methodologies that use the findings of the natural sciences. These research methods exclude all factors related to the observer in the findings. Luc De Heusch explained that rituals are linked to movement as a basic manifestation (without excluding speech).

This study aims to interpret the change in religious rituals and myths within the framework of Islam’s religious strictures throughout Morocco. The study uses Claude Lévi-Strauss’ principles of structural analysis and concept of structure, while relying on de Saussure’s analyses. I also take into account some distinctions and modifications suggested by Paul Ricoeur, who “revolutionized the methods of hermeneutic phenomenology, expanding the study of textual interpretation to include the broad yet concrete domains of mythology, biblical exegesis, psychoanalysis, theory of metaphor, and narrative theory”.

The concept of the ‘zawiyah’ (Sufi circle) played a very important role in social, cultural, religious and political structures. This concept reflects the role of a social group rather than a religious group within society.

In his book ‘Al Badiyah’, Muhammad al-Mami says, “As for the etymology of zawayah (the plural form of zawiyah), originally zawiyah refers to the corner of a house or mosque. In cities, people used zawayeh as places to hold classes for specific types of study, they called them ‘the places that embrace studying and prayer’. Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo is a good example of this.”