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Relics of Muhammad

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Part of a series of articles on

Muhammad callig
Prophet of Islam
Muhammad


Life
Family tree · In Mecca · In Medina · Conquest of Mecca · The Farewell Sermon · Succession


Career
Diplomacy · Family · Wives · Military leadership


Succession
Farewell Pilgrimage · Ghadir Khumm · Pen and paper · Saqifah · General bay'ah


Interactions with
Slaves · Jews · Christians


Perspectives
Muslim (Poetic and Mawlid) · Medieval Christian · Historicity · Criticism · Depictions

Some streams of Islam have a tradition of venerating the relics attributed to the prophet Muhammad. The most genuine relics are believed to be those housed in Istanbul's Topkapı Palace[1][2][3], in a section known as Hirkai Serif Odasi (Chamber of the Holy Mantle) at the start of the Twentieth century.[4] While there is little doubt about the Standard and the Mantle, some of the other relics have been suggested to have belonged to the Companions of the Prophet, rather than Muhammad himself.[4] The authenticity of these claims is debated.

The 17th-century French explorer Jean-Baptiste Tavernier wrote about his discussions with two treasurers of Constantinople, who described the standard, mantle and the seal.[5] Two centuries later, Charles White wrote about the mantle, the standard, the beard, tooth, and footprint of Muhammad, the last of which he saw personally.[6]

Standard

The battle standard of Muhammad, known in Turkish as Sancak-ı Şerif, was believed to have served as the curtain over the entrance of his wife Aisha's tent. According to another tradition, the standard had been part of the turban of Buraydah ibn al-Khasib, an enemy who was ordered to attack Muhammad, but instead bowed to him, unwound his turban and affixed it to his spear, dedicating it and himself to the prophet's service.[4]

Selim I acquired it, and had it taken to the Grand Mosque of Damascus where it was to be carried during the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Realising its political possibilities, Murad III had it sent to Hungary as an incentive to his army.

In 1595, Muhammad III had it brought to Topkapi, where it was sewn into another standard, alleged to be Umar's[4], and together they were encased in a rosewood box, inlaid with gems including tortoiseshell and mother of pearl. The keys to the box were traditionally held by the Kislar Agha.[4]

It became associated with the Ottoman Empire, and was exhibited whenever the Sultan or Grand Vizier appeared before the field army, at the 1826 Auspicious Incident and at the outset of Turkey's entrance into World War I.[4]

Tavernier reported that the Lance was kept outside the Sultan's bedroom in the 17th century[5], by 1845 White said he saw resting against a wall near the standard[6] and by 1920 its whereabouts were unknown.[4]

Holy Mantle

The Holy Mantle, or Hırka-i Şerif is an item of clothing that is believed to have been given by Muhammad to a pagan Arab named Ka'b ibn Zuhayr, whose children sold it to Muawiyah I, the founder of the Umayyad dynasty. After the fall of the Umayyads, the Mantle went to Baghdad under the Abbasids, and finally ended up in Cairo where Selim I took it and brought it to Topkapi in 1595.[4]

Tavernier described it as a white coat made of goat's hair with large sleeves[5], while others varyingly described it as green, black, or even striped.[4]

"The Grand Seignor having taken it out of the Coffer, kisses it with much respect, and puts it into the hands of the Capi-Aga, who is come into the Room by his Order, after they had taken the Impressions of the Seal. The Officer sends to the Overseer of the Treasury, for a large golden Cauldron, which is brought in thither by some of the Senior-Pages. It is so capacious, according to the description which they gave me of it, as to contain the sixth part of a Tun, and the out-side of it is gamish'd, in some places, with Emeralds, and Turquezes. This Vessel is fill'd with water within six fingers breadth of the brink, and the Capi-Aga, having put Mahomet's Garment into it, and left it to soak a little while, takes it out again, and wrings it hard, to get out the water it has imbib'd, which falls into the Cauldron, taking great care that there falls not any of it to the ground. That done, with the said water he fills a great number of Venice-Chrystl Bottles, containing about half a pint, and when he has stopp'd them, he Seals them with the Grand Seignor's Seal. They afterwards set the Garment a drying, till the twentieth day of the Ratnazan, and then his Highness comes to see them put [it] up again in the Coffer."[5]

Sacred Seal

The Sacred seal, or Mühr-ü Şerif, was reported by Tavernier, who said it was kept in a small ebony box in a niche cut in the wall by the foot of a divan in the relic room at Topkapi.[5]

The seal itself is encased in crystal, approximately 3"x4", with a border of ivory.[5] It has been used as recently as the 17th century to stamp documents.[5]

Beard of Muhammad

Known as the Sakal-ı Şerif, the beard was said to have been shaved from Muhammad's face after death, by his favoured barber Salman in the presence of Abu Bakr, Ali and several others. Individual hairs were later taken away, but the beard itself is kept in a glass reliquarium.[4]

Tooth of Muhammad

Muhammad lost four teeth at the Battle of Uhud, after being struck with a battle axe. Two of the teeth were lost, one went to Topkapi and another was held by Mehmed II.[4]

Footprint of Muhammad

This was actually seen by White. It is the impression of a foot upon a square fragment of calcareous stone. It is believed to be that of the prophet, indented by him at the moment he was assisting the masons to raise a heavy stone for the building of the Ka'aba. According to another tradition it was made when Muhammad placed his left foot in the stirrup to mount his famous horse Buraq.

See also

References

  1. Topkapi Web Page
  2. The 2002 Smithsonian Folklife Festival: Connecting Culture, Creating Trust
  3. Islamic Picture Gallery - Home > Islamic Relics
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 Penzer, Norman Mosley. "The Harem", Chapter XI
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Tavernier, Jean-Baptiste. "Nouvelle Relation de l'Intérieur du Sérail du Grand Seigneur", 1675
  6. 6.0 6.1 White, Charles. "Three Years in Constantinople", 1845

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