THE ASSEMBLY OF EXHORTATION (MAJLIS AL-WA ) Towards the end of the chapter on the physical and human geography of Syria, in his AÂŞsan al-TaqĂĽsm f Marifat al-AqĂĽlm (The Best Divisions for the Knowledge of the Regions, rst published in 375/985), al-Muqaddas comments: Learned men are rare, non-Muslims are numerous, as are lepers. There is no respect for preachers (wa-lĂĽ khaâ€ ar fhi li-l-mudhakkirn). Mudhakkirâ€”literally a reminder, was one of three largely overlapping terms used by medieval authors of the rst centuries of Islam to designate the occupation of admonishing, especially commoners, to pious behavior, on occasions other than the ocial Friday sermon. Later in the passage al-Muqaddas adds, with more than a hint of contempt: The preachers (al-mudhakkirÂ¨n) are usually story-tellers (quâ€šâ€šĂĽâ€š).1 Two centuries later, authors as learned as al-Muqaddas present Syrian preachers as reputable pious scholars, and g as and highly respectable - Was al-Muqaddas uncommonly disparaging, or had standards of preaching in Syria changed between the late tenth and the late twelfth centuries? My impression is that the latter is true, namely, that popular preaching was indeed upgraded to become a decent scholarly occupation with established norms. The term used for this type of preaching, or exhortation, in the later medieval sources is usually wa;2 the term used to designate the preacher is wĂĽi.3
1 Muqaddas, AÂŞsan, 179, 182; trans. in Collins, The Best, 150, 153. For a short surveys of types of Islamic preachers, see Meisami, oratory and sermons; and Berkey, Popular Preaching, 14â€“15. On the negative image of the qĂĽâ€šâ€š, see Berkey, Storytelling; al-Athamina, Al-Qaâ€šaâ€š; and see, for example, al-urâ€ Â¨shs quotation of Umar b. al-Khaâ€ â€ ĂĽb referring to the impure motivations of storytellers (al-urâ€ Â¨sh, KitĂĽb al-Bida, 76â€“77). 2 The root w*** appears many times in the QurĂĽn; see for example 11:46 (attributed to God), 26:136 (to prophets), 34:46 (to MuÂŞammad), 3:138 (referring to the QurĂĽn itself). 3 For other works on this topic, see Radtke, WĂĽi, 56; Pedersen, The Islamic Preacher, 1:226â€“251; ibid., Criticism of Preacher, 215â€“231.