SHRINES (MASHHADS AND MAQÅMÅT )
al-Ashrayya in Damascus during 684/1285, left a detailed description of the richly decorated niche that sheltered the relic. It was located in the southern wall of the building, on the left hand side of the miªråb; while copies of the Qurån were kept in the niche on the right hand. The door of the niche was made of gold-colored brass, with three silken drapes—green, red and yellow—hanging from it. The sandal rested in a special box made of ebony and held together by silver nails. A salaried custodian was in charge of exposing the sandal to the public twice a week—on Mondays and Thursdays. Visitors used to touch it, in the hope of acquiring some of its baraka. Ibn Rushayd, perhaps unaware of this particular arrangement, arrived on the wrong day. Nevertheless, in his eagerness to touch the relic, he managed to persuade the professor of the madrasa to order the custodian to make a special concession and open the place for him. Ibn Rushayd reports happily that his health was indeed restored thanks to the blessings of the sandal.138 6.6. Discussion and Conclusions To conclude this part, we must account for what seems to have been a signicant growth and expansion of the veneration of tombs and relics, both Sh and Sunn, in twelfth-thirteenth century Syria. Peter Brown, one of the great authorities on the cult of saints, suggests that its rise in the Christian world of late antiquity occurred as a result of the appropriation of a deep-rooted early cult by high-ranking church authorities, who vigorously orchestrated and mobilized it in accordance with their needs.139 In light of the stories presented above, it seems as if in our case, the initiative did not, regularly, originate with religious or secular authorities; rather, it came from laymen: military and civilian functionaries, men and women of their households, common folk in towns and villages. Rulers were sometimes responsible for the translation of relics and their proper housing in Syrian centers. Once erected, sites continued to develop thanks to awqåf dedicated by rulers or members of the elite, as well as contributions of goods and labor offered by local artisans and farmers, amongst them Muslims of relatively marginal groups, who played only a minor role in the institutions
138 Ibn Rushayd al-Fihr, as quoted by al-Maqqar. See al-Munajjid, Madnat Dimashq, 198–199. 139 Brown, Cult of Saints, 8–10, 33–49.