It is unlikely that this material reects the world of the lower classes, but they may reect dilemmas of the urban middle class, not necessarily of the ulamå. Al-Sulam’s collection of fatwås contains some twenty questions on issues such as the renunciation of all created things (tark al-khalåiq), devotion to worship (lazm al-ibåda), and solitude (khalwa), supererogatory devotions and scrupulous care in the consumption of ªalål food (‘kosher’ in the moral sense). This last category includes the query of a man who exercised such caution with regards to the consumption of food that he practically starved himself, and became too frail to attend the Friday noon-prayer and fulll other religious duties. Al-Sulam expresses his disapproval of the foregoing of religious duties ( faråi ) for the sake of excessive acts of piety (wara).36 His contemporaries, the mufts al-Nawaw and al-Shahraz¨r, were asked for their opinion about asceticism (zuhd) within the world, by men torn between the ideal of seclusion (in the desert, in the wilderness of Mt. Lebanon, in a remote village, or in a minaret) versus combining righteous behavior with life in society. Both mufts encourage the devout to choose a time that combines sincere devotion to God with the fulllment of one’s obligations towards family and other dependants. Al-Shahraz¨r insists that the study of the law supplement, or even precede the ascetic way.37 Even if the above-mentioned learned authors had formulated the questions they deal with by themselves, the dilemmas must have been real and relevant. In both cases, the mufts defend the primacy of the middle road and try to keep all expressions of piety, including those of fervent seekers, under control. Biographical literature also points to dilemmas that ensued from the tension between contrasting models of piety: reclusive versus socially oriented, concentrated upon learning versus dedicated to asceticism. It portrays some men and women not afliated with the scholarly vocation, who at an older age, or at a phase in life that presumably freed them from earlier responsibilities (such as widowhood, manumission, illness, or resignation from service), chose to retreat to a sanctuary and devote their whole time to the service of pilgrims and to devotional practices. Some did so after having undergone repentance (tawba), which moved them to change their habitual ways.38
36 Al-Sulam, Fatåwå, 267–268, and 194–195, 258, 282, 346, 392, 425, 440, 509; al-Shahraz¨r, Fatåwå, 29–31, 235. 37 al-Shahraz¨r, Fatåwå, 169. 38 See ch. 4.