In premodern Moroccan Sufism, sainthood involved not only a closeness to the Divine presence (walaya) but also the exercise of worldly authority (wilaya). The Moroccan Jazuliyya Sufi order used the doctrine that the saint was a "substitute of the prophets" and personification of a universal "Muhammadan Reality" to justify nearly one hundred years of Sufi involvement in Moroccan political life, which led to the creation of the sharifian state.
This book presents a systematic history of Moroccan Sufism through the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries C.E. and a comprehensive study of Moroccan Sufi doctrine, focusing on the concept of sainthood. Vincent J. Cornell engages in a sociohistorical analysis of Sufi institutions, a critical examination of hagiography as a source for history, a study of the Sufi model of sainthood in relation to social and political life, and a sociological analysis of more than three hundred biographies of saints. He concludes by identifying eight indigenous ideal types of saint that are linked to specific forms of authority. Taken together, they define sainthood as a socioreligious institution in Morocco.