"Kufa is better": The sanctity of kufa in early islam and shi'ism in particular

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The article deals with the religious importance of Kufa, one of the first garrison towns created by the Muslim conquerors of Iraq in the 7th century. It suggests that the site of Kufa had a religious background combining Nestorian Christianity and Arab paganism. Medieval Muslim traditions attributed to Kufa are analyzed. Most of them are ascribed to the Great Mosque and the smaller Sahla mosque. Shi'i texts clearly indicate that the holiness of Kufa was equal to that of Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem in primitive Shi'ism and even surpassed their importance for two short periods. The article examines for the first time in research the genre of fada'il al-Kufa (the merits of Kufa) literature, written in order to glorify this holy site, probably during the same period as the fada'il Bayt al-Maqdis (merits of Jerusalem) literature. The fada'il al-Kufa were censored by the Sunni authorities but fragments are still to be found in Sunni sources, mainly in medieval geography books. Most of the genre survived in Shi'i sources. The analysis of the holiness of Kufa provides a solution to the unsolved question of why in the 10th century the Qarmatians stole the Black Stone from Mecca, and why they returned it to Kufa before returning it to Mecca.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-237
Number of pages35
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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