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Between Istanbul and Gujarat: Descriptions of Mecca in the Sixteenth-Century Indian Ocean

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In 1543, a quarter century after the Ottoman conquest of the Holy Cities, the Meccan jurist, hadith scholar, and chronicler Jar Allah Muhammad Ibn Fahd (d. 1547) completed a short work devoted to the construction projects undertaken in the city by the Ottoman sultans Selim I (r. 1512–20) and his son Süleyman (r. 1520–66). The work is highly unusual from the perspective of the Arabic historiographical tradition and constitutes the first comprehensive response by an Arab chronicler to the emergence of an Ottoman imperial architectural idiom around the turn of the sixteenth century. The article situates Ibn Fahd and his work in three interrelated contexts: (a) the incorporation of Mecca and Medina into the Ottoman domains; (b) the emergence of an Ottoman architectural idiom and visual interest in the description of the Holy Sanctuaries across the Indian Ocean, from Istanbul to Gujarat; and (c) the competition between the new Custodians of the Two Holy Sanctuaries and other Islamic rulers, past and present. In particular, the article focuses on the challenges posed by the sultans of Gujarat, who were also quite interested in the Holy Sanctuaries. This interest is captured in Muhyi al-Din Lari’s (d. 1526–27) description of the pilgrimage and the Haramayn, which was written for the Gujarati sultan Muzaffar Shah II (r. 1511–26).

Affiliations: 1: The Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, New York University

I would like to thank the editors and the reviewer for their invaluable comments and suggestions. I would also like to thank Finbarr Barry Flood, Brinkley Messick, Ünver Rüstem, Dagmar Riedel, the participants of Columbia University’s Seminar on Religion and Writing, and the participants of Columbia’s Ifriqiyya Seminar for their comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this project.

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