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ELPENOR - Home of the Greek Word

Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Nadia Maria El-Cheikh


From : “Byzantium through the Islamic Prism from the Twelfth to the Thirteenth Century”, included in The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World, ed. Angeliki E. Laiou and Roy Parviz Mottahedeh, Dumbarton Oaks © 2001 - Here published with title and subtitles by Elpenor.

Historiography ||| The twelfth and thirteenth centuries ||| al-Rum ||| Byzantine skills ||| General character ||| Constantinople ||| Constantinople and Jerusalem ||| 1204 ||| Symbols of Constantinople ||| Islamic monuments of Constantinople 


Page 14

Islamic monuments of Constantinople

In addition to all these typically Byzantine monuments, the geographers of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries mention the Islamic monuments of the city. They reproduce the legend of Abu- Ayyub al-Ansari, a Companion of the Prophet, who participated in the expedition against Constantinople in the year 48–49/668–9. Al-Qazwini mentions his tomb, beneath the walls of Constantinople, and says that its soil is venerated by the Byzantines, who go there in their prayer for rain during drought. Ibn al-Athir and al-Dimashqi also mention the tomb of Abu- Ayyub who fought in Badr and was with the fourth caliph, ‘Ali b. Abi Talib, in Siffin.

The second important Islamic monument mentioned in our sources is the mosque connected with the name of Maslama, the leader of the most important expedition against Constantinople, in 97–99/715–717. This mosque is also mentioned in conjunction with the restoration of Constantinople to the Byzantines in 660/1261. Ibn Jubayr states that the Byzantine emperor rebuilt Maslama’s mosque in 455/1263. Ibn ‘Abd al-Zahir (d. 692/1291) states that while the ambassador from Egypt was touring Constantinople with al-Ashkari, the Laskarid, they came to the mosque built by Maslama. Saladin had wanted at one time to reconstruct this mosque, but the Byzantines had refused. According to Ibn ‘Abd al-Zahir, God postponed this deed, so that it would be God’s reward for al-Zahir, and a glory for his state.

Thus, as late as the late thirteenth century, and despite the recent destruction of the city by the Latins, Constantinople’s symbolic importance had not diminished. Rebuilding this mosque in Constantinople brought glory and prestige to the Muslim ruler and symbolized the extent of his power and influence. Equally important is the development of amicable relations between the restored Byzantine Empire and the Egyptian state. Faced with the same enemies, the Byzantine-Egyptian alliance served as a counterweight to Western, Mongol, and Turkish threats. The good relations extended into the reign of Sultan Qalawun, who exchanged sworn undertakings in 1281 with Emperor Michael VIII (1259–82) in which they agreed to maintain love and friendship without limit of time.

A few sources refer to two additional Muslim tombs in Constantinople. Both al-Dimashqi and al-Harawi mention a tomb for a descendant of al-Hussayn, son of ‘Ali b. Abi Talib and grandson of the Prophet Muhammad,while al-Zuhri mentions the tomb of Abu- ‘Ubayda b. al-Jarrah, a Companion of the Prophet, who played a pivotal role in the history of early Islam and who, furthermore, belongs to al-‘ashara al-mubashshara, the ten believers to whom paradise was promised. Al-Zuhri states that Abu ‘Ubayda b. al-Jarrah. died during Maslama’s expedition and was buried in front of the walls of Constantinople and that to the present day the Rum light candles at his tomb. Although Al-Zuhri may be confusing the tombs of Abu- Ayyub and Abu- ‘Ubayda,the proliferation of the names of such prominent and revered personalities around Constantinople testifies to the high esteem and quasi-veneration in which Constantinople was held in our sources. Manuela Marin has mentioned the importance of the presence of Islamic monuments in Constantinople in providing a symbolic possession of the city. The existence of Islamic monuments linked to major figures of Islamic mythology Islamizes and sacralizes the Byzantine capital, providing Constantinople with the semblance of a Muslim genealogy. It is in fact the presence of these burials within the walls of the city that permitted the inclusion of Constantinople in a repertoire of places of pilgrimage like that of al-Harawi.

Cf.  Christianity and Islam - Two related, yet different religions * Koran – the invention of an artificial religion * Turkey * The Orthodox Church * Byzantine history * On the Byzantine Military Strategy * Greek Language

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