shaped religious tradition and custom in the arenas of the mosque, the assembly of popular exhortation and the cemetery—this chapter will demonstrate how those forces worked simultaneously, and in varied ways, in the arena of the holy shrine. 6.1. Ziyåras (visitations) The belief in the purifying effect of pilgrimage was a central factor in its popularity in medieval western Christendom. Hence, as J. Sumption has demonstrated, in periods of religious tension, obsession with sin and fear of nal judgment, western pilgrimage thrived.7 Brouria Bitton-Ashkelony, in a study of Christian pilgrimage in late antiquity, nds another common denominator of pilgrimages: the quest to see and touch the sacred.8 The available Arabic sources, as opposed to the sources employed by Sumption and Bitton-Ashkelony, do not allow a detailed reconstruction of the religious beliefs, personal circumstances and psychological motivation of people who undertook a ziyåra. It is possible, however, to glean a list of objectives that medieval Muslims hoped to achieve through their visits to tomb-sanctuaries. Some of the practical benets sought after were a cure from disease,9 the undertaking of a vow, or the fulllment of one,10 pleading for mercy before God, and praying for rain.11 In Yåq¨t’s understanding, people visited venerated sites because they expected that the prayers (duå) they offer there have a better chance of being answered.12 There were pilgrims who sought to become more intimate with the person whose burial place they visited, while others hoped for a deep and meaningful religious
7 Sumption, Pilgrimage, 94–136. Christian pilgrims would impose upon themselves special hardships (refrain from riding beasts of burden, wearing shoes, eating properly, etc.) in order to intensify the penitential aspect of the journey. 8 Bitton-Ashkelony, Encountering, 6. 9 Al-Haraw mentions a sanctuary (mabad) in the village of Buråq in northern Syria, that attracted the chronically ill and the sick (Meri, Lonely Wayfarer, 14–15), and the thermal baths of Tiberias, attributed to Solomon the son of David (ibid., 40–41). 10 See, for example, Ibn al-Adm, Bughya, 1:463 and 9:4062. 11 Two explanations for the Jewish custom of going out to the cemetery in times of drought are given by Talmudic scholars: “One says: we are as the dead before Thee [i.e. it constitutes a symbolic act]; another: that the dead should intercede for mercy on our behalf” (Bavli, Taanit 16/1; Lichtenstein, “Ritual Uncleanness,” 181, 197). 12 He lists seven such “noble places (al-mawåi al-sharfa)” in Damascus, in addition to many graves of Companions (Yåq¨t, Mujam, 2:589–590). For a long list of graves of ‚aªåba in Damascus, see al-Haraw’s chapter on Damascus.