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This paper studies the genitive alternation in British English and Sri Lankan English on the basis of more than 4,000 annotated cases of of- and s-genitives from the British and Sri Lankan components of the International Corpus of English. Specifically, we explore the effects of a variety of language-internal and language-external effects, focusing in particular on how these factors affect genitive choices both on their own, but also in interaction with each other and, a first in this kind of variety research, with the gender of the speakers. Our results corroborate previous findings regarding the language-internal factors, but we also obtain a variety of statistical effects representing interactions of those with variety and gender: for instance, animacy effects are stronger in Sri Lankan English, but animacy and length/weight effects are moderated by speaker gender; we discuss these and other findings with regard to processing, language contact and gender (in-)equality. Methodologically, we are developing two innovations for variationist research, namely a principled way to identify and then also visualise the effect of interactions in random forests.
Recently, artificial intelligence-powered devices have been put forward as potentially powerful tools for the improvement of mental healthcare. An important question is how these devices impact the physician-patient interaction.
Aifred is an artificial intelligence-powered clinical decision support system (CDSS) for the treatment of major depression. Here, we explore the use of a simulation centre environment in evaluating the usability of Aifred, particularly its impact on the physician–patient interaction.
Twenty psychiatry and family medicine attending staff and residents were recruited to complete a 2.5-h study at a clinical interaction simulation centre with standardised patients. Each physician had the option of using the CDSS to inform their treatment choice in three 10-min clinical scenarios with standardised patients portraying mild, moderate and severe episodes of major depression. Feasibility and acceptability data were collected through self-report questionnaires, scenario observations, interviews and standardised patient feedback.
All 20 participants completed the study. Initial results indicate that the tool was acceptable to clinicians and feasible for use during clinical encounters. Clinicians indicated a willingness to use the tool in real clinical practice, a significant degree of trust in the system's predictions to assist with treatment selection, and reported that the tool helped increase patient understanding of and trust in treatment. The simulation environment allowed for the evaluation of the tool's impact on the physician–patient interaction.
The simulation centre allowed for direct observations of clinician use and impact of the tool on the clinician–patient interaction before clinical studies. It may therefore offer a useful and important environment in the early testing of new technological tools. The present results will inform further tool development and clinician training materials.
Conventional cotton production has been associated with the extensive use of agricultural chemicals, leading to environmental and health problems, decreased effectiveness of pesticides and higher costs of production. Organic bans the use of most pesticides while providing premiums for growers, and therefore may be a beneficial alternative for growers. Unfortunately, there has been a paucity of research examining the specific practices used by organic cotton growers and the environmental aspects of those practices. This study surveyed organic cotton producers and processors to document specific approaches and techniques used in organic cotton production and processing, the environmental impacts of those techniques and challenges facing organic cotton growers. We discuss the environmental impacts of organic management techniques and methods for conserving water and reducing dependence on irrigation. We also highlight the challenges to organic production identified in the survey, including management for weeds, insects and diseases, genetic contamination of organic crops from genetically modified cotton, organic seed availability, climate change, chemical drift and marketing of organic cotton. Finally, we suggest that investing in research to produce higher-yielding organic varieties, improved methods for organic weed management, and supporting carbon-sequestering practices will improve conversion to organic production.
Background: Suspicion of urinary tract infection (UTI) is the most common justification for prescribing antibiotics in nursing homes. More than half of antibiotic prescriptions for treatment of UTI in nursing homes are either unnecessary or inappropriate. Achieving a better understanding of the factors that underlie UTI treatment decisions is necessary to improve the quality of antibiotic prescribing in nursing homes. An ongoing hybrid type 2 effectiveness-implementation cluster randomized trial of a recently developed nursing home UTI recognition and management tool kit provided us with an opportunity to explore the influence of organizational, clinical, and staff attributes on UTI antibiotic prescribing practices in nursing homes. Methods: Data on antibiotic starts for suspected UTIs were collected in 29 nursing homes over a 9-month period. Antibiotic practices evaluated included total antibiotic starts per 1,000 resident days, % antibiotic starts with treatment duration >7 days, % antibiotic starts in which the initial antibiotic choice was a fluoroquinolone, and % antibiotic starts meeting UTI tool-kit criteria of appropriateness. Prior research and bivariate analyses were used to select clinical and organizational attributes as well as individual nursing staff-level retention rates for inclusion in a stepwise linear regression model for each antibiotic practice outcome. Results: In total, 602 UTI antibiotic events were evaluated. Four associations were identified for antibiotic starts including nursing home urine culture rate, ICP status, nonprofit and part-time LPN retention. Nursing homes with higher full-time LPN retention had a lower rate of antibiotic treatment duration >7 days. Full-time CNAs and part-time LPNs retention and for-profit status was associated with the proportion of fluoroquinolone antibiotic starts. No attributes influenced the proportion of antibiotic starts meeting appropriateness criteria (Fig. 1). Urine culture rates are driving overall nursing home antibiotic prescribing. Conclusions: Urine culture practices was strongly associated with UTI treatment rates in nursing homes. A variety of organizational characteristics were also associated with UTI treatment rates as well as other UTI antibiotic prescribing practices. Some of these associations appear paradoxical but may reflect increasing resident acuity and increased capacity to standardize practices through organizational centralization.
Funding: Support for the project provided by the Wisconsin Partnership Program.
Tracing the evolution of Brontëan Gothic into sensation fiction between the late 1840s and mid-1860s, this chapter explores the dialogue between Victorian Gothic novels with a domestic setting and contemporary debates about gender known as the Woman Question. Representing the home as the site of violence, infidelity and dysfunction rather than as the tranquil refuge envisioned by domestic ideology, the fiction examined here is informed by, and even explicitly alludes to, topical controversies regarding marriage and gender roles sparked by such events as Caroline Norton’s campaign to reform child custody law, the passage of the Matrimonial Causes Act and the establishment of the civil divorce court. Yet, while their representation of women’s domestic entrapment has feminist undertones, these ideologically conflicted works also echo anxieties about the breakdown of separate spheres reminiscent of the period’s conservative discourses. These anxieties are most evident in the portrayal of the sexually deviant woman, a highly controversial figure in Victorian culture, and one depicted in these examples of domestic Gothic with pronounced, and often aesthetically complex, ambivalence.
Bovine trypanosomosis has been spreading in Brazil. In the present study, we evaluated the spatial distribution, prevalence and risk factors of this disease in the state of Goiás, Brazil, and performed both molecular and phylogenetical analyses of Trypanosoma vivax. A total of 4049 blood samples were collected from cattle for a period of 2 years. The parasitological diagnosis was performed using the Woo method and a questionnaire was administered to the farmers to document risk factors associated with the disease in the herd. Positive samples were DNA sequenced and compared to GenBank codes. The prevalence of T. vivax was 8.84%, occurring on 24 ranches only in dairy cattle and mainly in the central and southern portions of the state. The acquisition of new animals infected with T. vivax and the administration of exogenous oxytocin to cows using the same syringe and needle were the main associated factors (P ≤ 0.05). After an outbreak, milk production decreased by 39.62%. The presence of biting flies (tabanids, Haematobia irritans and Stomoxys calcitrans) was not a risk factor (P > 0.05) for the occurrence of T. vivax. The epidemiological data demonstrate the importance of restricting the practice of auctions as well as eliminating the use of exogenous oxytocin in animals during milking. The samples tested by polymerase chain reaction were positive for T. vivax and were genetically homologous with T. vivax found in different states of Brazil and west Africa based on the 18S rRNA gene.
Al-Harawi, the author of a pilgrim's guide to Muslim sacred places (Kitāb al-Ishārāt ilā Maʿrifat al-Ziyārāt), visited Ascalon in 570/1174. He writes that the frontier town (thaghr) of Ascalon was renowned for Abraham's well, a strong fort and a shrine for al-Husayn's head, which the Muslims had delivered to Cairo in 549/1154. For readers wondering how a Muslim could have entered the Latin-ruled town, it bears to cite another twelfthcentury traveller, Ibn Jubayr. The latter notes that each side promised the other a secured status upon payment of a tax, and he concludes: ‘the soldiers engage themselves in their war, while the people are at peace …’ Movement between Frankish and Muslim territory was prevalent. And yet, the roads throughout the land, and especially in the vicinity of Ascalon, were teeming with warriors and brigands from both sides.
Al-Harawi dreams, both figuratively and literally, of the return of Ascalon to Muslim hands. He notes that he spent a night in the city's ‘shrine of Abraham’. By this he must have meant Mashhad al-Husayn, where an apparition of Muhammad promised him that Ascalon ‘will be for Islam, and a sign unto mankind’. Upon awakening, al-Harawi shared his dream with others by scribbling a graffiti message on the southern wall of the shrine, which – he was happy to note – was seen by soldiers and passers-by when the city had indeed returned to Muslim hands. As for the dream, it is worth noting that dreams induced by staying at a holy place were a known and seriously regarded occurence, probably from times immemorial until today, as contemporary anthropologists make note of this phenomenon as well. Some sites were, and still are especially visited in the hopes of triggering such a vision.
Al-Harawi's choice to spend the night in the shrine, however, may have been induced also by his confidence that no one would dare harm him in such a sacred place. A taboo on violating the sanctity of shrines and upsetting their patron-saint by theft or vandalism in ‘their’ abode, although not mentioned in the medieval sources I know, is repeatedly observed in ethnographies of Palestine from the late Ottoman period until today.
Ascalon was the last city to fall to the Crusaders, who after seizing Jerusalem in July 1099 captured the remainder of Palestine one city at a time. Ascalon's resilience may have stemmed from the massive walls that the Fatimids had built around it, especially during the vizierate of al-Maʾmun al-Bataʾihi. The latter also commissioned shipyards for improving the Egyptian fleet and its ability to protect the empire's coastal regions. The thirteenth-century geographer Ibn Shaddad seems to undermine the effect of this project on Ascalon, explaining that the Franks could not capture the city for such a long time simply because of the lack of a harbour in which their ships could dock. Still, the later al-Qalqashandi (d. 820/1418) praises the Fatimids for the protection of their coastal borders and their concern with jihad; he lists Ascalon as one of the six cities that had been assigned fleets of nearly a hundred military ships and regiments of more than 5,000 registered well-paid warriors. Other contributing factors to Ascalon's late conquest by the Franks may have been the ethos of the ribāṭ and thughūr (that is, the religious merit of defending Islamic fortresses and garrison towns), which had been fostered in Ascalon for centuries; the frequent changing of the city's guards; and perhaps even – who knows? – its patron saint, al-Husayn ibn ʿAli.
In any event, as the gateway to Egypt, Ascalon was of considerable strategic importance to the Fatimids, and they held on to the city in the face of recurrent attacks on the part of the Latins. The latter were also well aware of the advantages of controlling the town, even though it lacked a proper port. Moreover, Ascalon's population had swelled with retreating soldiers and refugees, Muslim and Jewish, fleeing from places threatened or already captured by the Franks. According to William of Tyre, the Crusader historian, all these newcomers, even the children, were added to the military payroll with the objective of encouraging them to stay and defend the city. A Genizah letter, written shortly after the conquests of 1099, mentions that Jews from Fustat and Ascalon had raised money to ‘redeem the Scrolls of the Torah and … ransom the people of God who are in [Latin] captivity’ (in this order!).
The veneration of saints and pilgrimage to their shrines – one of the concerns of this book – has been at the centre of a number of works since Goldziher's pioneering study of 1911. Gustave von Grunebaum explored the sacrality of Islamic cities (1962), suggesting a typology of Muslim holy places arranged in hierarchical order: localities whose sanctity stems from the blessing (baraka) of a tomb of a prophet or a saint, or the erstwhile presence of descendants of Muhammad or religious sages; a location that is destined to play a role at the end of days; and a place of cosmological import (determined by the order of creation or the site's proximity to heaven). Von Grunebaum emphasises that those sources of sanctity are in no way mutually exclusive and that combinations between them give rise to various cults. We will return to those typologies in our discussion of Ascalon and its surroundings.
Cohen's typology of pilgrimage centres, described above, suggests a useful middle ground between the models of Eliade and Turner. I find it especially helpful for the characterisation of a shrine's different historical phases on the spectrum between ‘central’ vs ‘peripheral’, and ‘formal’ vs ‘popular’ (with all the problematics that these terms carry), enabling us to avoid unwarranted dichotomies and to be more sensitive to variability.
The ‘spatial turn’ of the 1990s in geography, anthropology, sociology and the study of religion – and to a lesser extent, in Islamic studies and Middle Eastern history, too – has nurtured endless discussions on place and space as social constructs, rather than simply ‘locations’. An awareness that a single place may have multiple meanings for different ‘users’ based, among other characteristics, on their gender and position in the social hierarchy was articulated by Margaret Rodman (1992). In 2010, Kim Knott identified two major tendencies in the scholarship on religion and space: one focusing on the pilgrim's embodied experience in their place of destiny (including the ‘poetics’ and aesthetics of the sacred place); the other, focusing on the representation and production of sacred space, as well as practice therein, as expressions of knowledge and power.
The number of months with God is twelve in accordance with God's decree on the day he created the heavens and the earth’, declares verse 9: 36 of the Qurʾan, subjugating time to its Lord, and adds: ‘four of them are sacred (ḥurum)’. While Ramadan is explicitly designated in the Qurʾan as the sacred month of the fast and an unspecified sacred month or ‘well-known months’ (Q. 2: 197) as the time of the hajj, the other sacred months remain unnamed. The Prophet's ‘farewell sermon (khuṭbat al-wadāʿ)’, which Muhammad purportedly delivered from atop his shecamel on his last hajj, reveals the names of those months. Filling in the lacuna in the Qurʾan, the Prophet explains: ‘The year is made up of twelve months, four of them are sacred, three of which are sequential – Dhu al-Qaʿda, Dhu al-Hijja and Muharram, and Rajab Mudar between Jumada and Shaʿban’.
Over the ages, Muslim jurists and Qurʾan exegetes have wrestled with the meaning of and relation between these passages. They all acknowledge that the pagan Arabs considered as sacred Dhu al-Qaʿda, Dhu al-Hijja, Muharram and Rajab (the eleventh, twelfth, first and seventh months), and that they marked their special status by abstention from warfare and the performance of various religious devotions.
With the transition to Islam and the abolishment of many customs of the Jāhiliyya, a new purely lunar, rather than lunisolar calendar was established, and two new annual festivals were instituted. Several years after the Prophet's death the year-count was also re-set: year one of the hijri era was declared by the caliph ʿUmar ibn al-Khattab to have begun on 1 Muharram (16 July) of 622 CE. Despite those dramatic transitions, at least some pre-Islamic notions concerning time's division into units, the differentiation between sacred and profane time, and the means for distinguishing between these realms were preserved.
The standing of the four holy months, Rajab included, was called into question under Islam, demonstrating that the classification into sacred and profane is specific to every faith-based community and an important means for distinguishing between them.
Saladin's dethronement of the Fatimid imam-caliph and his occupation of power in Egypt in 567/1171 were declared a historic Sunni victory over the Shiʿa. It was followed by a quick and heavy-handed abolishment of Ismaʿili customs and celebrations (see Chapter One), entailing a rupture in Egyptian court culture and religious life. In the words of the later al- Qalqashandi, ‘when the Ayyubid overcame the Fatimid and succeeded them in ruling Egypt, it altered much of the state regulation and changed most of its features’. Still, Ibn Taymiyya, writing more than a century after the demise of the Fatimids, laments what he regards as the lingering effect of Shiʿism in Egypt (see p. 113, above). Yaacov Lev and Devin Stewart similarly argue that Shiʿi customs and Fatimid traditions were preserved by the masses, implying that the Fatimids had left a lasting mark on local culture after all. Marion Katz also suggests that continuities can be discerned in post-Fatimid popular, possibly Sufi forms of devotion.
Having consolidated the empire by wresting control over Fatimid Egypt, establishing rule over most of Syria and the Jazira, and eliminating the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, Saladin bequeathed it to seventeen of his sons, brothers and nephews. Upon his death in 589/1193, these successors became princes in a confederation made up of autonomous principalities of varied size and importance. In the process, Cairo lost some of its prestige as the exclusive ruling centre, although the sultan residing in Cairo usually had some control over his kin. In contrast to the imam-caliphs of the late Fatimid period, who concealed themselves from their subjects behind the walls of their elegant abodes, legions of attendants and highly formalised ceremonial procedures, Ayyubid princes had much less of a royal establishment and cursus honorum. They lacked any inherent religious authority, although some of them were quite accomplished in religious studies, and they had no pretensions to royal charisma or baraka. While the Fatimid court fulfilled a conspicuous role in promoting the special status of Rajab, I have found no evidence of the involvement of the Ayyubid (or earlier Zangid) court in the organisation or funding of festivities during that month. Throughout the decades of Zangid and Ayyubid rule in Syria, Egypt and the Hijaz, Rajab seems to have been mostly venerated informally.
A shrine in the peripheral town of Ascalon, on the Mediterranean coast of Palestine, has for the past millennium marked the burial place of the head of al-Husayn b. ʿAli, the martyr of Karbala. It was venerated by Ismaʿili, Imami and Sunni Muslims, despite disagreements over the itinerary and whereabouts of al-Husayn's severed head, al-Husayn's role and the meaning of his martyrdom, and the very sanctification of tombs and relics.
The narrative claiming the head's burial or reburial in Ascalon is outlined in a long inscription from 484/1091, commissioned by the Fatimid vizier Badr al-Din al-Jamali. Whether mainly intended to promote the vizier's own reputation, strenghthen the Fatimids’ hold on the Syrian littoral, bolster Ismaʿilism, or advance an ecumenical religious program revolving around the beloved grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, the ‘discovery’ of a relic of the son of Fatima – the purported ancestor of the Fatimids – served the dynasty's claim to spiritual leadership and imperial rule. The (re-)burial of the head entailed the construction of a grand new mosque-shrine in extra muros Ascalon. It was designed to host both formal Friday prayers and ziyāras by admirers of al-Husayn. Whether it was actually at the time regarded as an institution that represents the hegemonic religious system and its formal ‘great tradition’ (à la Mircea Eliade and Robert Redfield), or as a place rooted in the local lore of the periphery and an outgrowth of its popular tradition (à la Victor Turner), or somewhere on the continuum between the two (à la Erik Cohen), is impossible to say.
Notwithstanding the lack of evidence as to the prior existence of a Husayni mausoleum or cult in Ascalon, the reception of Badr al-Jamali's ‘invented tradition’ may be tied to the fact that the shrine was built on what was already hallowed ground in several respects. First, Ascalon was known as a thaghr (garrison town) from the era of the great conquests. Residing in the city for the sake of defending Muslim territory was a prestigious and rewarding religious undertaking known as murābaṭa under the Umayyads and early Abbasids. Second, the new mashhad stood on the site of a fourthcentury Byzantine sanctuary similarly dedicated to beheaded saints.
Twentieth-century Palestinian historians and publicists attribute to Saladin not only the liberation of Muslim land from the yoke of the Shiʿi Fatimids and the Christian Crusaders, as well as the return of its mosques and pulpits to their true purpose, but also the establishment of rites which would protect its borders against further intrusions. Despite an apparent lack of evidence grounded in medieval texts, Palestinian histories and ethnographies – such as those written by ʿUmar Salih al-Barghuthi and Khalid Tutakh (1923), ʿArif al-ʿArif (1943), Mahmud Saliha (1999) and Salim Tamari (2009) – either surmise, or proclaim as historical fact, that Saladin was the founder of at least five (and up to ten) shrines in the territory he had liberated. He is also considered the architect of their attendant annual festivals (mawāsim). By rendering strategic locations into pilgrimage destinations, so these writers posit, Saladin rallied enthusiastic young men to these vulnerable places, especially around Eastertime, for the sake of deterring Christian pilgrims from harassing Muslims and, if necessary, resorting to jihad. The visitation of Maqam al-Husayn and Wadi al-Naml over the course of a two-and-a-half-days-long mawsim in mid-April, on the last Thursday of the Greek-Orthodox Lent, is sometimes listed among those festivals. Fixing the date of the mawsim according to the Christian rather than the hijri calendar was typical of such popular celebration, as it ensured its recurrence in the same season every year.
In the 1930s and 1940s the mawāsim evolved into hotbeds of Palestinian patriotism and nationalism. At that time, the festival would begin on a Wednesday, with the imam of the Friday mosque of the near-by town of Majdal raising a banner in honour of al-Husayn. He led the way to Maqam al-Husayn, sitting atop a horse, followed by a long procession of men, women and children in their best clothes. They were accompanied by members of Sufi orders and derwishes, musicians and marching scouts. At some point they all gathered around the maqām to listen to sermons delivered by preachers assembled from other parts of Palestine; to participate in Sufi dhikr and dance dabka; sing and recite patriotic tunes, love lyrics and local folk songs; chant anti-British and anti-Zionist slogans; and cheer politicians who repeatedly glorified Saladin for the liberation of the land. The flag of ‘Arab Palestine’ was hoisted next to the banner of ‘Sayyidna Husayn’.
In his succinct and definitely favourable description of the ethics of the people of Muhammad's tribe, the Quraysh, before the rise of Islam, the historian and geographer al-Yaʿqubi (d. 284/897) writes that they disapproved of immoral acts, severance of kinship bonds and mutual wrongdoing and that they punished crimes. As for their religious customs, they ‘made pilgrimage to the House, performed the rites [of the hajj], were hospitable to guests, and venerated the sacred months’. He names Rajab as one of the sacred months celebrated by the people of Quraysh.
The multiple, allegedly ancient appelations of Rajab listed in Islamic sources probably reflect some of the pre-Islamic convictions regarding the sanctity of the month. Those include the epithets al-a‚abb (‘the pouring [of mercy]’), al-rajm (‘the stoning [of Satans]’), al-muʿallā (‘the elevated’), al-ṣamm (‘the deaf [and silent]’, namely devoid of the sound of weapons), Rajab Mudar (the month of the Mudar, one of the leading Quraysh clans), and shahr al-ʿatīra (‘the month of the sacrificial slaughter’). Muslim scholars of the twelfth century list up to eighteen different appellations for Rajab. For obviously polemical purposes, Ibn Dihya al-Kalbi (d. 633/1235) stresses that they are all derived from the misguided convictions of pagan Arabs, especially from the tribes of Mudar. He attributes to them the idea that wrongdoing is graver if occurs on sacred grounds, preaching that sin is grave whenever it is performed. Another of their misconceptions, notes ʿAbd al-Qadir al-Jilani (d. 561/1166), was that it is permitted, as well as effective, to wish for your enemy's misfortune (al-duʿāʾ ʿalā al-ẓulma) during the month of Rajab.
Al-Biruni explains that ‘irjabūʾ’ commands abstinence from fighting and warlike expeditions. Bloodshed was strictly forbidden in pre-Islamic Arabia during the holy months. The ancient prohibitions on hunting, fighting and sexual relations ‘while in a sacral state’ are documented, among others, in an early south Arabian text and in a Greek text.
According to oft-repeated accounts of medieval Muslim historians, the Umayyad army attacked the encampment of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, al-Husayn ibn ʿAli, and his small entourage at Karbala (in southern Iraq) on the tenth day of Muharram 61/680. By the end of the day, al- Husayn was severely wounded or already dead. The victorious Umayyads then proceeded to cut off his head. Seventy-one other members of the Prophet's family – men, women and children – were killed in the assault. Al-Husayn's attempted revolt against the newly established ruling dynasty was nipped in the bud. While his body was interred on the battle ground, his head was carried off on the point of a spear in a triumphal procession, initiated by Kufa's Umayyad governor ʿUbayd Allah b. Ziyad. The procession exhibited also the heads of the other men killed at Karbala, as well as the survivors: mainly women, and only one of al-Husayn's sons, the young boy ʿAli Zayn al-Abidin, who in the years to come was recognized as the fourth imam, the spiritual leader of the ʿAlids (or proto-Shiʿis). They were paraded through several towns en route to Damascus. The inhabitants of Tikrit, Mosul, Qarib al-Daawat, Hims, Baalbek and Damascus are said to have rejoiced at the sight of the defeated insurrectionists, whereas their counterparts in Qinnisrin, Shayzar, Kafr Tab, Saybur and Hamah took offense at the killing and humiliation of the Prophet's kin. Along the way, the decapitated head allegedly performed various wonders. For instance, it recited from the Qurʾan and convinced monks and rabbis to embrace Islam. Blood that dripped from the head in different places affected miracles and consecrated the ground, generating new sacred spaces and cults.
When the procession of the defeated kin of the Prophet reached Damascus, al-Husayn's head was brought before the Caliph Yazid. According to several sources, the caliph cruelly revelled at the sight. Other sources claim that he was appropriately remorseful and moved to tears. In his multiple accounts of this episode, the renowned historian al-Tabari (d. 310/923) depicts Yazid as wavering between elation and anguish. On the one hand, he orders his wife to mourn for the Prophet's grandson; on the other hand, he insolently pokes a cane inside al-Husayn's lifeless mouth.
I implore by the sanctity (bi-aurmat) of the sacred month and the sacred house
(The Prayer of Umm Dawud)
Making the shift from the ‘microscopic’ investigation of the history of the shrine(s) of the head of al-Ousayn and the rites of the month of Rajab to ‘macroscopic’ observations of the medieval Islamic construction of the sacred, I found marked similarities between the understanding of holy days and holy places. From the etic perspective it may be said that there were common strategies for the consecration of places and times and for the ‘invention of tradition’, as well as a common Islamic vocabulary by which to describe them.
Both were imagined as channels of enhanced accessibility to God, wherein his mercy is exceedingly bountiful, or as settings that promise especially rewarding transactions: the remission of sins and the incredible multiplication of recompenses for the performance of a wide variety of religious devotions. Some medieval Islamic scholars warned that this increase was coupled with harsher divine retribution for sinning and desecration – typically associated with bloodshed, the ‘excessive’ presence of women, intermingling of the sexes, violation of a prescribed code of conduct and rowdy behaviour of sorts. Rarely, however, do we get an explicit emic view of the juxtaposition of the sanctity of places and time from the medieval sources. Ibn Taymiyya, who often voices singular views, stands out in this context as well, by distinguishing between rituals of place and time, and by defining the first as more offensive to the Islamic conception of tawhid (monotheism) than the latter (to the exclusion of the prescribed hajj), as they more closely resemble pagan rites. He is one of very few scholars to make such a comparison2 and to ciriticise so vehemently the very sanctification of times and places, other than those explicitly pronounced as sacred in the Qurʾan. Most Muslims of his generation held a very different view of sacred topography and of the religious calendar, identifying multiple noble and blessed settings in both.
Clearly, sacred place and time were not competing categories in the religious experience of Muslims in the medieval Middle East.