Sharing the Holy Land: Islamic Pilgrimage to Christian Holy Sites in Jerusalem during the Late Medieval and Early Modern
Special Feature: 
Holy Land
Islamic Jerusalem
Islamic pilgrimage
Fada'il al-Quds
Arabic travelogue literature
shared sacred spaces

The Holy Land was the destination for many Muslim pilgrims during the late medieval and early modern period. In addition to worshipping in Jerusalem’s Haram al-Sharif, Muslim pilgrims in the Holy Land also visited important Christian holy sites, such as the Mount of Olives, the Tomb of the Virgin Mary, the Church of the Ascension, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. With a genre of medieval Islamic pilgrimage texts known as Fada’il al-Quds (Merits of Jerusalem) serving as their guide, Muslims visited these places and joined Christian worshippers in contemplating the sacred. Fada’il alQuds texts informed Muslim pilgrims of the blessings (fada’il) of Christian holy sites by citing Islamic traditions, such as Qur’anic verses, hadith literature, and Companions’ sayings (athar), to sanctify each Christian site and to command Muslims to perform certain Islamic prayers and rituals there. Despite the debate on the legality of Muslim pilgrimage to churches and protestations against the practice by some conservative ‘ulama’, the Fada’il al-Quds corpus, along with travelogue literature, reveals that Muslims increasingly visited churches, shared sacred spaces, and even participated in Christian ceremonies into the Ottoman period. Using Fada’il al-Quds and travelogue literature from the medieval and early modern period, this study1 demonstrates that Muslims in the Holy Land shared sacred spaces with Christians in Jerusalem for centuries before the onset of the modern era.

Author biography: 

Fadi Ragheb served as assistant professor, Teaching Stream (C.L.T.A.), at the University of Toronto’s Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, where he taught courses on Islamic history, classical Arabic, and modern Arabic. A recipient of Canadian federal, provincial, and university awards and scholarships, he has published studies on Mamluk Jerusalem, Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi, and the Crusades, and is currently completing a longer study on the history of Islamic pilgrimage to Mamluk Jerusalem during the era of the Crusades.