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CHAPTER ONE

Íin.140 A part of the skull of Yaªyå b. Zakariyyå (John the Baptist), discovered in 435/1043–4 in Balabakk, was kept in Maqåm Ibråhm, on the spot where Abraham allegedly used to sit and milk his ock, inside the mosque of the citadel of Aleppo.141 The authenticity of this relic was proven, according to Ibn al-Adm, when it emerged intact from a re that had consumed the citadel in 609/1212. The sanctuary that sheltered the relic was renovated by al-Malik al-åhir, and it remained there for some fty years, until the next re—one provoked by the Mongols. The skull survived it thanks to two of the commanders of the citadel, who transferred it to a safe haven in the great mosque of Aleppo, and it continued to draw visitors to its new abode.142 Unfortunately, no chronicler took the trouble to describe in detail the relocation of those relics. Christopher Taylor is probably right in his observation that the ceremonial translation of relics—an essential component of Christian saint worship—as well as the dismemberment of saints, were unknown in Islam.143 I do not think, however, that his assertion that the baraka of Muslim saints was not made portable through the translation of their relics . . . and remained closely linked to the actual site of the grave is equally accurate.144 The sources do tell us about the purchase and translation of relics by those who could aord it, and of the successful implementation of their cult in their new abodes. While most of those cases will be dealt with in section 6.5, that of the Uthmån codex (Mu‚ªaf Uthmån) belongs here. A special copy of the Qurån known as Mu‚ªaf Uthmån was kept in the Great Mosque of Damascus. People believed that it had been written at the command of the third caliph, and that he was reading it when the assassins killed him in 35/656, so that it became

140 Ibn Shaddåd, al-Alåq, 1:131–32; Ibn al-Adm, Bughya, 1:461. See also Eddé, Alep, 450–51. 141 As acknowledged by Jews, Christians and Muslims (see Meri, The Cult, 198–199). The whole skull, according to another account, was discovered during the transformation of the former Byzantine Cathedral of St. John into the Umayyad Mosque of Damascus. The caliph al-Wald (r. 705–715) returned it to its grotto, and marked the spot with a special column (Cobb, Virtual Sacrality, 49–50). 142 Meri, Lonely Wayfarer; 12–13; Ibn Shaddåd, al-Alåq, 1:122–23; Ibn alAdm, Bughya, 1:459–60; RCEA, 10:91. For the earlier history of this relic, see Meri, The Cult, 200. 143 See, however, Ibn ¨l¨ns description of the procession of the Prophets relics from Jerusalem to Damascus in 921/1515 (Meri, The Cult, 116–117). 144 Taylor, In the Vicinity, 54–55.

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

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