Friday, January 11, 2019

18. Muslim shrines in Palestinian Authority

Maqam nabi Yaqin
مقام النبي ياقين
המקאם נבי יקין

The fact that a maqam is not obligatory a burial place of a saint, but also can be dedicated to any historical or biblical event, is proved by the maqam of nabi Yaqin in the Palestinian village Bani Na'im, to the east from Hebron.

Village Bani Na'im and its suburbs since the very beginning are connected with tales about a Quranic prophet Lut (Biblical Lot). In the center of the village there is a tomb of nabi Lut (nowadays a mosque), mentioned even by Blessed Jerome in the 4th century and well-known for Middle age geographers. A tomb of Lut's daughters is located not far away.

The maqam of nabi Yaqin (i.e. the True Prophet") is located 2 km to the south from the village on a high mountain with a picturesque view to the Hebron Plateau and the waters of the Dead Sea. A local legend has it that nabi Lut prayed in this place, leaving his footprints on top of the cliff. In the Middle Ages, the Arabs called the Dead Sea Buhayrat Lut.

View from the north

View from the east

Another tradition connects this place with the Quranic prophet Ibrahim (Biblical Abraham), who in Islam is often called the brother of Lut. According to the Arab geographer al-Maqdisi, it was in this place that Ibrahim stood and watched from the top of the mountain the death of “the cities of Lut,” Sodom and Gomorrah, and this is his feet imprinted on a rock. Then Ibrahim admitted Divine justice, saying: “This is an undeniable truth” (hàdhà huwa al-haqq al-yaqin) (Sharon, CIAP II 15), 18. Hence the name of the shrine: the maqam of nabi Yaqin.

"It was in this place that Abraham begged the Divine Grace to have mercy on Sodom,” says Victor Guérin, “from here, the day after Abraham held this mysterious conversation with the Lord, this patriarch from afar witnessed the fire of Sodom and Gomorrah, whom devoured fire from heaven” (Judée, III 158).

View from the north-east

The maqam includes a rectangular courtyard 31 x 22 m, surrounded by a low stone wall, which is entered from the northern side through an arched passage. To the left of the entrance to the courtyard is a water header. In the south-western corner of the courtyard there is a small building without a dome, which is entered on the eastern side. The building is well restored, but apparently, it has a fairly respectable age. Above the entrance to the building in a hollow flaunts an Arabic inscription of the Ottoman period, which reads:

«In the name of Allah the Merciful the Gracious!” We find help in Him. My success (luck) is only in Allah. There is no god but Allah, and our Lord [Muhammad] is the Apostle ("more than the prophet") of Allah. In the name of Allah; what Allah wants. My lord Lut is the apostle of Allah. There is neither power nor power except Allah» (Sharon, CIAP II 18).

This is probably a prayer or part of a prayer, which is prescribed for incoming pilgrims.

The Arabic inscription

View from the east

In the interior of the building there is a mihrab in the southern wall, in front of which there is a shrine — a small sink fenced with an iron grid in the floor, stretched from north to south. Inside the sink, a part of the rock opens, on which the gaze appears in the form of prints of human feet, more precisely — a boot, somewhat large for an ordinary person. These are the traces ascribed to the Biblical patriarch Abraham.

The mihrab

These are the traces ascribed to the Biblical patriarch Abraham

It is strange that these feet are facing south, towards Mecca, and not east, as one would have expected to stand watching the destruction of the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah on the Dead Sea. Tawfiq_Canaan also drew attention to this circumstance: «On the height of the mountain el-Martum, near the ruins of Beni Dar, and to the south of the village Bani Na'im, a maqam is built for the supposed prophet Yaqin. In the room we notice a rock encircled with an iron frame. This rock shows the impressions of two feet and of two hands. It is related that Abraham was ordered by God to come to this place, where he could observe the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is curious that although Abraham is known to be a pre-Islamic prophet the impressions show that he performed his prayer with the face turned to Mecca» (1927: 78).

On the plastered walls of the room there are many Arabic inscriptions left by the pilgrims, but there are also inscriptions in English and Russian. In the walls and above the mihrab, grooves are sawn in the plaster, apparently for electrical wires. But there is no electricity in the room yet.

A small building adjoins the northeast corner of the courtyard from the outer wall, which is entered through the door from the northern side and then descends into the cave chamber. The purpose of this cave is not entirely clear.

A building with a cave

The cave chamber

Forty meters westwards from maqam is located framed by stones huwetiyeh — part of the rock, on which another pair of prints of human feet is preserved. Tradition attributes them to the prophet Lut (Canaan 1927, 78). These footprints are also facing south, towards Mecca.

These are the traces ascribed to the prophet Lut

The entire sacred site, including the maqam with a courtyard, a building with a cave and rock with the feet of Lut is surrounded by a low fence of folded stone boulders.

Route: turn off from Highway 356 onto Road 3333 leading to the Israeli settlement of Ma'ale Hever or Pnei Hever and after 2 km we see the Israeli military post. We go round the dirt road and on the northern side we get to the maqam of nabi Yaqin.

Visited: 21.10.19
Coordinates: 31°29'55.5"N 35°09'29.0"E
Location of the object on Google Maps

Video of 2019

Maqam sheikh Sheiban
مقام الشيخ شيبان
קבר שייח' שיבאן

The maqam of sheikh Sheiban is marked on the PEF map (Sheet XVII). Until nowadays it has been an active Muslim shrine, as it is located on the territory of the Palestinian Authority, the people of al-Bireh visit it. Recenly some reconstruction works have been proceeded in the maqam: the inner rooms have been whitewashed, the dome — painted green and topped with a small spire with a crescent. At the entrance there appeared an Arabic inscription “Maqam Sheiban”, and also a traditional Shahada.

Photo of 2012

View from the north

View from the west

The domed room is 8.05 x 7.10 m. The dome has an octagonal base. In front of the mihrab there lies a big carpet for prayers. The sheikh's cenotaph is located in a little domed annex on the eastern side of the maqam. First, the cenotaph might be in the main building, in front of the mihrab.

A small Muslim cemetery borders with the maqam; there are a few recent burials.

The mihrab

View from the west

Route. Turn from Route 466 to the asphalt road which the Israeli use to get to settlement Psagot, located to the south from Beit El. In a kilometer you see mountain Sheiban topped with the maqam to the west from the road. You can reach it taking quite a steep path, which is hardly visible among stones and bushes.

Visited: 14.08.15
Coordinates: 31°54'27.1"N 35°14'11.1"E
Location of the object on Google Maps

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