ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Aristocratic to the Ordinary: Democratisation of Ritual – Healing Knowledge Among Muslims of Malabar Region.


A V Muhammed Hussain - Indian Institute of Technology Indore, Humanities and Social Sciences, Indore, India


23 – Engaging the world through contemporary South Asian tantric and shamanic traditions


 Since the advent of Islam to Malabar, the northern region in the state of Kerala, the traditional practices of ritual healing have continued to be a significant aspect of the everyday lives of the Muslims of the region, as evidenced by the multitude of ritual healers present in the area. The Muslim public of Malabar has been subjected to significant transformations in the last few decades as a result of various changes in the socio-political and cultural dynamics. These changes subsequently paved the way for the process of democratisation and an attempt at institutionalisation of ritual healing which was once controlled and sustained by a handful of elite Muslim families, such as the Thangals and Sayyids. The nature of the ritual structure, epic narratives in praise of divinities, their healing miracles, and the impact of saint cults on the Muslim culture of the area facilitated this democratisation. In addition, the underlying migratory pattern of ritual healers across the region and their organisational attempts to resist diverse challenges, for instance, political Islam, have further led to the creation of a solid basis for ritual healing in Malabar. Therefore, this paper will map out the trajectory, cultural practices, and process of democratisation and institutionalisation of faith healing in Malabar based on ethnographic insights collected from the field.

Keywords: Political Islam, Faith Healing, Malabar, Thangal.