Memorials of the Faithful:
Hagiography and Models to Set Examples in a Religious Community

By Iscander Micael Tinto

Presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #132
Center for Bahá'í Studies: Acuto, Italy
July 2–5, 2015
(see list of papers from #132)

published in Lights of Irfan, volume 17, pages 325-345
under new title
"Hagiography: The Art of Setting Inspirational Examples for a Religious Community"
© 2016, ‘Irfán Colloquia

    This paper presents a mode of suggesting examples of life to a religious community, which is that of hagiography: the story of the lives of the saints. In the Christian world, the life of Jesus was the example against which saints were measured, and the lives of saints were the examples against which the general population measured itself. In the Middle Age hagiography became a literary genre par excellence for teaching a largely illiterate audience.

    An example of Muslim hagiography is Tadhkirat al-Awliya, Muslim Saints and Mystics: Episodes by the famous poet Attar (c. 1145 —c. 1221). This paper will propose a brief comparison between the two works, using the example of a two biographies in Attar's work Rbi'a Al-'Adawiyya and Shaykh Bayazid al-Bistami and two from 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Memorial of the Faithful, that is Mishkín Qalam, and Shams-i-Ḍuhá, to show that hagiography offers examples for people to imitate.