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SOCIETY IN MOSQUES

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may God protect it, and the rest of the cities of Islam, busy reading the Holy Qurån, teaching and learning it, studying and lecturing it; singly and in groups; exerting themselves day and night . . . and that has moved me to write a short essay about the proper rules of conduct for those who know the Qurån by heart, and for those who learn it and study its words.”37 A fellow Damascene, a contemporary of al-Nawaw, also attests to the frequent reading of the Qurån in the city, but less romantically. He reports, in a query posed to the muft Izz al-Dn al-Sulam, that “when a party ( jamåa) assembles for the recitation of the Book of God, may He be exalted, each person reads in his turn a juz (the thirtieth part of the Qurån), and the others—well, some of them listen, and the rest chat.”38 Qurån recitation (qiråa, or tilåwa, to be differentiated from the closely related talm—study), and the attendance at sessions of recitation, were undoubtedly extremely popular liturgical activities, and a key component of Islamic personal piety, and of the communal liturgical calendar. Both were thought to secure individual and collective rewards. Recitations were held daily in mosques; according to al-Nawaw, the mosque is the favored place for reading as it is the cleanest and most honorable of places.39 But the Qurån was recited in many other locations, and on occasions: as a prelude to ceremonies and assemblies, on graves and during funerals, as means of coping with a crisis, on festivals and special nights (such as Ni‚f Shabån). Public recitation was performed spontaneously, or in organized routine sessions, with or without the supervision of professional reciters. The performance of an expert reciter could evoke a profound religious experience, as well as aesthetic pleasure.40 Ibn Jubayr asserts that the glory of the Umayyad mosque of Damascus derives from the constant recitation of Qurån on its precincts. Every day, immediately after the morning-prayer, a recitation of the

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Al-Nawaw, al-Tibyån, 11. Al-Sulam, Fatåwå, 485–486. Quite expectedly, he remarks that chatting is bad manners. For more fatwås on Qurån recitation, see ibid., 258, 272, 353, 414, 429–430; al-Nawaw, Fatåwå, 93–94. 39 Al-Nawaw, al-Tibyån, 37. 40 See Ibn Jubayr’s ecstatic reaction to Qurån recitation at majålis al-wa in Baghdad (Ibn Jubayr, Riªla, 221–222). On the many aspects of Qurån recitation in Islamic culture, see Nelson, The Art. 38

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

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

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