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Re-Appropriating Sacred Space: Medieval Jews and Muslims Seeking Elijah and Al-Khadir1

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This study suggests a number of ways in which Jews and Muslims venerated the Prophet Elijah and his Islamic counterpart al-Khadir in the Near Eastern context from the twelfth through seventeenth centuries. In invoking the Prophet, devotees sought to reclaim and rediscover the sacred in tradition and physically and ritually represent it. The discussion first focuses on the depiction of the shrines of Elijah in Jewish travel itineraries. The profound experience of the fourteenth-century Karaite scribe and poet Moses b. Samuel at a shrine of the Prophet is testament to his widespread veneration among Damascene Jews. This is followed by a discussion of a number of Muslim shrines of al-Khadir and two unique thirteenth-century biographical accounts. The first is of the Sufi saint Abu Bakr b. Fityan al-Arawdakis (d. 672/ 1273 C.E.) grandfather Ma'bad who sometime during the twelfth century encounters the Prophet in his sleep. The second is of Khumartash 'Abd Allah al-Bajanī al-Turkī, an Aleppan soldier who renounces his evil ways after seeing al-Khadir in a series of dream encounters. Both these men's visions result in the construction of shrines dedicated to the Prophet in Syria.


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Affiliations: 1: University of California, Berkeley


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