MOSQUES IN SOCIETY
1.4. The Mosque as Reliquarium In early Islam, the cult of relics was considered to be a despicable bida,131 but in the Ayy¨bid period, relics of the Prophet and of saints of sorts, as well as loci with traces of their activities, were cherished as repositories of baraka, probably no less than their graves. Relics were displayed in mosques and their cult was openly practiced in public. Yåq¨t lists a whole inventory of relics, tombs and hallowed spots in his passage in praise of the congregational mosque of Damascus: it contains the prayer niche of the Companions (maqs¨rat al-‚aªåba),132 the nook (zåwiya) of al-Khair,133 the head of Yaªyå b. Zakariyyå,134 and the Qurån of Uthmån b. Aån, and the graves of the prophet H¨d135 and Åisha, Muªammads wife.136 Al-Haraw adds to the list also a piece of the stone from which Moses had drawn water during the Exodus.137 Eschatological traditions contributed another layer to the sanctity of the Umayyad Mosque: Ûså was expected to descend onto the white minaret (the eastern minaret of the great mosque), to take lead of the forces that will assemble to combat Dajjål (Antichrist), and thus prepare the way for the mahd.138 A footprint of Moses (or his grave, according to another tradition) was exhibited in Masjid al-Qadam (or al-Aqdåm) in Damascus.139 The mosque of al-Ghawth in Aleppo boasted of an inscription in the handwriting of the fourth caliph, Al b. Ab ålib, brought from
formulation of the doctrine regarding awliyå, see Makdisi, Ibn Qudåma, 23 (Arabic text). For its criticism, see Knysh, Ibn Arab, 72–73. 131 Goldziher, Studies, 2:322–32; idem, The Cult of the Saints, 302–305. 132 A reminder of the mosque erected by the Arab conquerors of Damascus, against the southern wall of the Church of St. John, which existed until 86/705 (see Elissée, DimashÀ, 280). 133 Supposedly, on the spot where al-Khair, known as a harbinger of the Messiah in both Islamic and Jewish traditions connected with Damascus, prayed (Meri, The Cult, 37). 134 Meri, Lonely Wayfarer, 15 (trans., 34); Sourdel-Thomine, Anciens lieux, 75. 135 The prophet H¨d is regarded as the builder of the southern wall of Damascus (Meri, The Cult, 38). 136 Yåq¨t, Mujam, 2:589. He contests some of those traditions, as does al-Haraw (Meri, Lonely Wayfarer, 34–35). 137 Meri, Lonely Wayfarer, 34–35; Sourdel-Thomine, Anciens lieux, 75. 138 Ibn Jubayr, Riªla, 282; Ibn Kathr, al-Bidåya, 13:204. See also Von Grunebaum, The Sacred Character, 26. 139 Ibn Asåkir, Tarkh, 2:339; Sadan, Le tombeau, 73.