The Merits of Jerusalem with Fadi Ragheb

The Holy Land was the destination for many Muslim pilgrims during the late medieval and early modern period. In addition to worshipping on 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 Mary, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. With fada’il al-Quds (“Merits of Jerusalem”) pilgrimage texts serving as their guide, Muslims visited these places and joined Christian worshippers in contemplating the sacred. Fada’il al-Quds 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 there. While fada’il al-Quds texts extolled Christian holy sites, they simultaneously debated whether Muslims were permitted to enter churches in the Holy Land. 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. Fadi in this interview and his work provides a broad historical sketch of Islamic pilgrimage to Christian holy sites and demonstrates that Muslims in the Holy Land shared sacred spaces with Christians in Jerusalem for centuries before the onset of the modern era.

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