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CHAPTER SIX

a sandal of the Prophet. Al-Malik al-Ashraf, who is described by his contemporaries as a God-fearing man of simple faith, and a great admirer of ascetics and ͨfs, was deeply moved by this relic when he rst saw it. According to the historian al-Y¨nn, the sultan invited his father, Taq al-Dn Muªammad (d. 617/1220), to come to Damascus and have a look at the relic. Al-Y¨nn’s grandmother, who had heard all about it, expressed her desire to see it as well, and al-Malik al-Ashraf granted her wish by sending the relic temporarily to Balabakk. He is said to have yearned to keep the sandal, or at least part of it, in his possession (to be buried with it, according to al-Y¨nn). Virtuously, he changed his mind, in order to preserve its integrity, and decided to make it accessible to all believers. Only after the former custodian of the sacred relic—a traveler by the name of Niåm al-Dn ibn Ab al-Óadd (scion of a family of Damascene notables), who probably made his living displaying the relic in various places and collecting gifts in return133—formally bequeathed it to him upon his death (in 625/1228), did al-Malik al-Ashraf deposit the sandal in the newly built college.134 While the combination of the cult of the Prophet as a saint with the ‘academic’ study of his lore may seem somewhat surprising to us, in the eyes of medieval observers it must have been natural.135 By the construction of the sanctuary for the sandal, al-Malik al-Ashraf undoubtedly strengthened his prestige and popularity in Damascus for generations to come. Until carried away by Tamerlame in 803/1401, the sandal was one of the main tourist attractions of Damascus. People used to visit it and copy its form on paper or leather for talismanic use.136 Its twin sandal was placed in the Madrasa Dammåghiyya, founded by Aisha—the widow of Shujå al-Dn Maªm¨d b. al-Dammågh, a boon companion of Sultan al-Malik al-Ådil—in 638/1240–41. How she obtained it, and who authenticated it for her, remain a mystery.137 The Andalus traveler Ibn Rushayd al-Fihr, who visited Dår al-Óadth

133 For the earlier history of the sandal see al-Munajjid, Madnat Dimashq, 200. For Chamberlain’s intepretation of al-Ashraf’s gets see his Knowledge, 49. 134 In this case (see Dickinson, “Ibn al-Íalåª,” 481–483), and in the consecration of a sanctuary in honor of al-Khair in the district of Manbij (see Meri, “Re-appropriating,” 257–58), the accounts are quite detailed. Yet, we cannot but envy historians of the European Middle Ages for the signicantly richer accounts of the translation of relics, their authentication, shrine building and shrine-consecration in their sources. 135 For a reminiscent case in fteenth century Cairo, see Berkey, “Tradition,” 38–39. 136 Dickinson, “Ibn al-Íalåª,” 484. 137 Humphreys, “Women,” 38.

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