Journal of Islamic Archaeology, Vol 1, No 1 (2014)

Relics of the Prophet and Practices of His Veneration in Medieval Cairo

Iman R. Abdulfattah
Issued Date: 18 Aug 2014

Abstract


The acquisition, trade and confiscation of relics of the Prophet Muḥammad during the Medieval period is well documented in the primary sources. Such relics, from the impression of his feet in stone to artifacts believed to be his personal possessions, are prominently displayed in Egypt. The purpose of this paper is to examine the history of footprints and other relics of the Prophet Muḥammad associated with three buildings in Cairo that date to the Mamluk period: Ribāṭ al-Āthār (707 H/1307 CE); the Funerary Complex of Qaytbāy (877-79 H/72-74 CE); and the Funerary Complex of al-Ghurī (908-11 H/1503-05 CE). The functions associated with these buildings vary, yet in all cases the main purpose of the foundation is to commemorate a deceased person and/or the relics of the Prophet. Although the Prophet never traveled to Egypt during his lifetime, the presence of his footprints and other effects in Cairo raises several questions. First, how and when did these artifacts arrive in Cairo? Second, does their arrival several centuries after the Prophet's death, and subsequent collecting and displaying, raise questions of intent and motivation? Third, were there specific events that precipitated their arrival during the Mamluk period? Finally, what, if any, is the significance of the placement of Prophet's relics in these buildings?

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DOI: 10.1558/jia.v1i1.75

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