Skip to content Skip to navigation

The Glories of Jerusalem and Syria-Palestine



The Bible and Isrā’īliyyāt in  Faḍā’il   (Excellences)  and  associated works.

Stephen Lambden UC Merced.

1980s - under revision 2016-7.

Islamo-Biblica or Biblical references and Isrā’īliyyāt traditions can be found within certain works that fall within the wide‑ranging lauditory literary genre Fāḍil  (pl. Faḍā’il  `Excellences ’) (Sellheim EI2 II:728‑9).  In particular those texts relating to the historical, natural and spiritual merits of sacred places, cities or  provines and such prophets, worthies and saints as have been  associated with them (Sivan, IOS1:263). As Goitein observed in describing one aspect of this literature, "there exists a vast mass of literature on the faḍā’il al‑Quds, the religious importance of Jerusalem and Palestine" (1968:141). These works are especially associated with the `Holy Land’ (al‑arḍ al‑muqaddas  cf. Q. 5:21 Zech 2:12[16]) or with al‑Sha`m  (Syria, incorporating, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria). Traditions contained within works entitled Faḍā'il bayt al‑madqis [al‑quds]  ("The Excellences of the Sacred House [Jerusalem]") occasionaly include traditions which have an apocalyptic Sitz im Leben  in a pre‑`Abbasid religio‑political situation when Syria‑Palestine was an important centre of the `Umayyad Caliphate. Regional stability was partly dependent upon the compilation and circulation of traditions upholding and delighting in the sacredness of Jerusalem and other cities such as Askelon and Acre (`Akkā’). Exhortations to dwell in these wondrous sacred places, blessed by the presence or resting places of prophets are evident in these literatures. 1

1. Lists of major faḍā’il works can be found in several Arabic and English works including, for example, Hasson, 1979:9‑10 (fourteen Arabic Faḍā’il and associated works listed). See further the anthology of prophetic ḥaḥādīth , Faḍā’il bayt al‑maqdīs wa’l‑khalīl faḍ ā’il al‑Sham  compiled in the 430s/1130s by Abū al‑Ma`ālī al‑Maqdīsī (ed. Livne‑Kafri, 1995) and  Eliad’s, Medieval Jerusalem .. (1995).

See further the anthology of prophetic aḥādīth, Faḍā’il bayt al‑maqdīs wa’l‑khalīl faḍ ā’il al‑Sham  compiled in the 430s/1130s by Abū al‑Ma`ālī al‑Maqdīsī (ed. Livne‑Kafri, 1995) and  Eliad’s, Medieval Jerusalem .. (1995).

 Containing ancient tradition sometimes partly reworked or engendered by the crusades Faḍā’il   works flowered in the early 5th/11th‑12th  centuries. They continued to be rich in Jewish and  Christian texts and legends (Sellheim, `Faḍīlā’  EI2:II:728f; cf. Goldziher,1971:123f). The Faḍā'il  bayt al‑madqis   texts abound in Isrā’īliyyāt often especially those messianic and apocalyptic traditions (often transmitted by Ka`b al‑Aḥbār and Wahb b. Munabbih) that associate Jerusalem, eschatological events and the Day of Judgemnent. Hasson has stated that "so pronounced is this [Faḍā’il] phenomenon that it could only have resulted from a steady incorporation of the traditions of the Peoples of the Book (Jews and Christians) over a long period of time until they formed an integral part of the ḥadīth   literature, stories of the prophets and even history books" (Hasson, 1981:170‑1). Only a few examples of this literary genre  can be registered here (see further Sellheim EI2 II:728f; Hasson ed. Al‑Wāsiṭī, Faḍā’il, 9‑10). 

 The Faḍā’il bayt al‑maqdīs wa’l‑Khalīl wa faḍā’il al‑Shām  (The Excellences of the sanctified House [Jerusalem], Hebron and Syria)  of Abū al‑Ma`ālī al‑Musharraf  b. Ibrahīm al‑Maqdisī (5th/11th cent.) is laden with Isrā'ī līyāt and citations from the Bible. Here Deut. 33:2 which allegedly predicts the advent of Muhammad is cited as transmitted by Ibn Qutayba (d.276/889). According to Hasson "whole sections of the Bible appear here in Arabic translation"  including "quotations from Isaiah and Jeremiah, as well as traditions about Joshua, King David, King Solomon and others" (1981:171; GALS1:567; Livne‑Kafri [ed.] 1995).

 A preacher (khāṭib)  at the Aqṣā mosue in  Jerusalem, Abū  Bakr Muhammad b. Aḥmad  al‑Wāsiṭī (d. 12th cent. CE) was the author in the 430s/1130s of the  Faḍā’il bayt al‑maqdīs (The Excellences of the sanctified House [Jerusalem], Hebron and Syria), a compilation of over 500 items of prophetic ḥadīth (ed. Hasson,1979; cf. GALS1:565). It contains such traditions as that from Ṣafw ān b. Amr asserting that it says in the Torah that "Jerusalem is a golden goblet, full of scorpians" and another from Ka`b al‑Aḥbar to the effect that "Those buried in Jerusalem are held to have crossed the "bridge of Hell" (ṣirāt ) (tr. Hasson 1981:179, 181).

 Abū’l‑Farrāj  Ibn al‑Jawzī ( 597/1201) in his Faḍ ā`il al-quds al-sharīf  (Excell‑ ‑ences of Noble Jerusalem) also cites Deut 33:2 as a proof text and registers traditions about Jerusalem and the "holy land* (al‑arḍ al‑muqaddas), its foundational Sakhrā ("rock") and, among other things, its  association with Muhammad during his Mi`rāj (al‑Jawzī, Faḍā’il, 67ff). 

 There a few obvious relationships between Bābī‑ Bahā’ī literature and the Islamic  Faḍā’il  texts. The best examples are those which contains traditions about Acre (`Akkā’) and which were cited by BA* most likely from an early unpublished Acre located mss. of the Faḍā’il work of Abū’l‑Ḥasan b. al‑Shughā’ al‑Raba`ī al‑Mālikī (d.435/1043), entitled K. al‑I`lām fī  faḍā’il al‑sha`m wa dimashq.. (The Book of the Information regarding the Excellences of Syria and Damascus) which includes traditions about the excellences of Askenlon and Acre (`Akkā’) (GALS1:566). The contents of traditions contained therein were very  probably made known to BA* through a copy existing in the library of the 18th century mosque of  Aḥmad al‑Jazzār  Pāsha in Acre (=  Saint‑Jean‑d’Acre, `Akkā’ ; cf. Hasson, 1979:24; GAL 1:330‑1; GALS1:566; AOr.  VI:95). In the library associated with this  mosque there are certainly mss.  of important  early Faḍā’il   works. 1 BA* spent some of the last period of his life close to the al‑Jazzār mosque and its adjacent library. Such  citations as are found in his L.  Dhi’b  (ESW., c. 1891)  most likely come from this collection. It may have been read by AB* who often frequented this mosque and communicated information to his father.

The Glories of Jerusalem and Syria-Palestine





Little, Donald P.

Fada'il Bayt al-Maqdis wa al-Khalil wa-fadal'il al-Sham. Reviews the book `Fada'il Bayt al-Maqdis wa al-Khalil wa fada'il al-Sham,' by Abu al-Ma ali al-Musharraf Ibn al-Murajja Ibn Ibrahim al-Maqdis, edited by Ofer Livne-Kafri. in Journal of the American Oriental Society; Jul-Sep 1999, Vol. 119 Issue 3, pp. 549.

Morray, David

 Review of  `Fada'il Bayt al-Magdis wa-al-Khalil wa-fadal'il al-Sham,' edited by Ofer Livne-Kafri  in  Journal of Semitic Studies; Autumn 96, Vol. 41 Issue 2, pp. 360,-3. 
ISSN: 0022-4480

Kennedy, Hugh (Review)

Abu 'l-Ma'ali al-Musharraf b. al-Murajja b. Ibrahim al-Maqdisi

  • Fada'il bayt al-maqdis wa al-khalil wa-fada'il al-sham by Ofer Livne-Kafri,  Review in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London), Vol. 62, No. 1 (1999), p. 206.