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Barakah

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The Islamic World: Past and Present What is This? Accessible coverage of Islam from the seventh century to the twenty-first century

    Barakah

    Barakah refers to the “blessing” of humans by God. Barakah is believed to be granted by God to holy persons such as mystics or saints. In the Maghrib (coastal region of North Africa), and elsewhere from the 1400s onward, barakah was believed to be a hereditary trait passed along certain family lines, usually those descended from the Prophet Muhammad. In Morocco, for example, the sultans of the Alawid dynasty were believed to be endowed with barakah, which gave them unprecedented political wisdom.

    Barakah was also believed to survive death so that the tombs of saints became shrines where people could pray for favors. Thus, saints came to be regarded by many as intermediaries of God. The person having barakah, living or dead, had to be able to transmit it to ordinary people, giving them good health, material gain, or spiritual rewards. This confirmed a blessed person's special relationship with God. The most visible proof of barakah was the ability to perform miracles.

    Some Muslim saints are known for their specialized barakah. A female holy person might be sought out to help women to become fertile or settle domestic problems. In Islamic folk traditions, barakah is also associated with certain foods, animals, plants, and even words and gestures. Folk medicine and healing are also associated with barakah. The qualities of barakah often existed in charms and amulets used to ward off evil spirits. See also Health Care; Saints and Sainthood.

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