Medieval Jerusalem and Islamic worship: holy places, ceremonies, pilgrimage

Medieval Jerusalem and Islamic worship
  • Book Title:
 Medieval Jerusalem And Islamic Worship
  • Book Author:
Amikam Elad
  • Total Pages
226
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MEDIEVAL JERUSALEM AND ISLAMIC WORSHIP – Book Sample

A. THE NATURE OF THE SOURCES

1. Arabic Sources

The nature of the sources at the historian’s disposal provides the main difficulty of presenting a detailed and complete history of Jerusalem in the early Islamic period.

The politico-religious status of Jerusalem in the Muslim world was established at the beginning of the 2nd/8th century. However, from the middle of the 8th century, and even prior to it, Jerusalem lost its central political, though not its religious, status, and throughout most of the Middle Ages was an outlying city of diminished im­portance.

Thus, little information on Jerusalem is found in the rich Arabic literature in all its variations, particularly respecting the early Muslim period (638-1099).

The information on Jerusalem in this literature is scattered and brief, and great patience is required to gather it. But even after such painstaking work, the results are disappointing because the bits of information cannot be crystallized into a comprehensive (certainly not exhaustive) study on the city.

Only towards the end of the 10th century, for the first time, does the native Jerusalem geographer, al-Muqaddasi, give a little economic, social and cul­tural information about Jerusalem. 1

However, not even from his book, and certainly not from other geographical works of the 9th to the 12th centuries2 can an inclusive picture of this or any other aspect of the history of the city be crystallized, i.e., certainly not a comprehensive and complete picture of its political, economic, so­cial, cultural and religious aspects.

As opposed to other important cities throughout the Muslim Caliphate, there are no comprehensive historical books on Jerusa­lem in the early medieval period.3 The first work in which there is actual reference to topographic-historical aspects of the city are from the 14th and 15th centuries, i.e., the later “Literature in Praise of Jerusalem”.

However, even in this literature the point of depar­ture is not generally an historical one. For that Jerusalem had to wait until the end of the 15th century, and the time of the Jerusa­lem qii(ii, Mujir al-Din (d. 1521), who wrote a comprehensive book on the city. in his introduction, Mujir relates to the problem, explaining:

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What motivated me to write this [i.e., book] is that the majority of cities in the Islamic world gained the interest of the scholars, who wrote about matters related to their history, helpful things that are instructive of their true events in olden times. Though with respect to Jerusalem, I did not come across any writing of this kind about it, devoted only to it …

 I saw (therefore) that people yearn for some­thing of this type, an example of which I turned to do; for a few [or one] of the scholars wrote something connected to praise [of Jerusa­lem] only; several of them deal with a description of ‘Umar’s con­quest and the construction of the Umayyads;

 a few of them note Şaliil} al-Din’s conquest, found it sufficient, and did not mention what occurred after it; and some of them wrote a history in which they discussed some distinguished Jerusalemites, which is not of much use.

And lo, I wish to gather all the notations on the construction, the praise, the conquests and the biographies of the esteemed persons and to mention some of the famous events in order to construct a complete history. 4

From Mujir al-Din’s words it can be understood that his work does not enable reconstructing the history of the city for the period predating the Crusades either.

For this period Mujir depends mainly on the “Literature in Praise of Jerusalem”. For the later Ayyübid and Mamlük periods, and especially for the period of his own life­time, his sources increase and the information he presents is thus

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