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for many hundreds of years in order to worship and ask for help in need. Popular tradition does not forget the help which they sought and believed they obtained at these places. The temple becomes the grave of a saint, the god a wal. Syria and Palestine have many notable examples of this process.”53 Syria was indeed saturated with Jewish and Christian memories and holy sites,54 many of which were adopted by the Muslims. Naturally, there was continuity with earlier traditions, and a ‘preservation’ of some aspects of their heritage in the evolving Islamic medieval cult. But—keeping in mind Brown’s wonderful simile according to which “to explain the Christian cult of the martyrs as the continuation of the pagan cult of heroes helps as little as to reconstruct the form and function of the late-antique Christian basilica from the few columns and capitals taken from classical buildings that are occasionally incorporated in its arcades”55—change is at least as important to track and explain. A complete ‘conversion’ of a site, such that entails the narration of a coherent Islamic sacred history of the place, the exclusion of members of other faiths and the establishment of a distinctly Islamic ritual, may have lasted centuries, if it ever took place. In most cases, the Islamic reinterpretation (or: narrative) of the source of the sanctity of a place, and the adoption of visitation to the place were built upon an existing cult, that were superseded and replaced only very gradually, if at all.56 Even the erection of a distinctly Islamic architectural feature, such as a minaret or miªråb did not necessarily imply the immediate elimination of non-Muslims from a site that they held to be holy. Some medieval historians openly admit that the aura of sanctity of quite a few pilgrimage sites in Syria originated in pre-Islamic times. A big marble seat from Óammåm Mughån in Northern Syria, revered as the chair of Jesus, is one example. The geographer Ibn Shaddåd explains that in antiquity it was part of a pagan re-sanctuary (mabad


Goldziher, Muslim Studies, 2:303. About the Christian creation of holy places see Markus, “How on Earth,” esp. p. 265. 55 Brown, Cult of Saints, 6. 56 ‘Reinterpretation’ is the term used by Goldziher; see his Muslim Studies, 2:300– 305. For examples of the perpetuation of Christian cults alongside Muslim cults see Elad, Medieval Jerusalem, 134–136; Meri, The Cult, 207, 212. For the Islamization of the landscape, see Tamari, “Arabization,” 761–781; Luz, “Aspects of Islamization”; Frenkel, “Baybars,” 153–170. For the appropriation of saints as atrigger for conversion, see Elliott, “Speaking,” 316. 54

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Jsrc 007 talmon heller islamic piety in medieval syria mosques, cemeteries and sermons under the zan  

Jsrc 007 talmon heller islamic piety in medieval syria mosques, cemeteries and sermons under the zan