SHRINES (MASHHADS AND MAQÅMÅT )
li-ubbåd al-når). Later, it was sanctied by the Jews, and then by Christians (who claimed that Jesus, or, according to another version, the apostles, had visited the place, as well as the later monk Bar‚aumå). Finally, the Muslims appropriated the sanctuary.57 Of the history of Mashhad al-Khair, Ibn Shaddåd tells us that it was an ancient sanctuary, which served as a meeting place for pious Aleppans in pre-Islamic times.58 The chronicler Ab¨ al-Fidå (the last Ayy¨bid prince) relates the line of succession of worshippers at the site of the great mosque of Damascus, from the time of the Sabians to the ascent of Islam.59 A much shorter genealogy is connected to Mt. Samån in northern Syria: Ibn Shaddåd cites anonymous historians (ahl al-tarkh) who said that while the mountain was in the hands of “the Christians and Franks,” a large Christian crowd would go up there every spring. When the Muslims regained control of the shrine on its summit (in 529/1135), they began to venerate the place “twice as much as the Christians,” (while the Christians venerated it “as if it were Jerusalem,” the Muslims celebrated there “like in Mecca”) and turned it into a popular pilgrimage site.60 An enigmatic case of lingering pre-Islamic sanctity may be spotted in a quotation of Shaykh Abd Allåh al-Mazan of Damascus. Al-Mazan says that his father warned him not to enter the courtyard of Masjid alabbåkhn when in need of anything, so that he would not be tempted (that is the gist of the story) to address a stone pillar that stood on the precincts of the mosque, as that pillar actually was a broken idol (‚anam maks¨r). Apparently, some Damascenes believed that it was a talisman for fullling needs in their own days as well.61 In this case, the attitude of the learned Muslim towards ‘the principal of continuity of sacred space’ is clearly negative, and understandably so, as the cult is highly reminiscent of idol worship. But regarding the earlier examples, the rather ‘neutral’ reports of the Muslim authors may reect approval and
57 Ibn Shaddåd, al-Alåq, 1:142. Barsauma is probably Bar-Íomå, an Archimendrite and saint of the Syrian church, who died in 458 C.E. Paul Cobb points to the similarity of rhetorical techniques employed by Jewish and Muslim authors to make places sacred (Cobb, “Virtual Sacrality,” 53)—an intriguing phenomenon that certainly merits more research. 58 Ibn Shaddåd, al-Alåq, 1:143. 59 See translation in Meri, The Cult, 39. 60 Ibn Shaddåd, al-Alåq, 1:163–66. See also Sourdel, “R¨ªn,” 93, n. 2, 100–101. 61 Ibn Asåkir, Tarkh, 2:281.