Vicissitudes of a Holy Place: Construction, Destruction and Commemoration of Mashhad Ḣusayn in Ascalon

Daniella Talmon-Heller, Benjamin Z. Kedar, Yitzhak Reiter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This article follows the transmutations of narratives, material structures and rituals focused on Mashhad Ḣusayn. It begins with the alleged discovery of the head of the martyred grandson of the Prophet by the Ismā'īlī Fāṫimids at the end of the eleventh century in Ascalon, spans the millennium and ends with the recent revival of pilgrimage to the site, dominated by tourists affiliated with the Bohra Dā'ūdiyya. It is based on medieval and modern historical, ethnographical and geographical accounts, hagiography, epigraphy, archaeology, travelers' and pilgrims' itineraries, state and military archives, maps, photographs and oral accounts. The establishment of the shrine in Ascalon, the transferal of the relic to Cairo and the visitation of the site under the Sunni Ayyubids, Mamluks and Ottomans are studied in their political and religious contexts. The final part of the article explores the development of a Palestinian popular celebration (mawsim) in the vicinity of the shrine in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, the demolition of the shrine by the IDF in 1950 and the establishment of a commemorative prayer dais in 2000 - the result of a joint initiative of the 52nd dā'ī muṫlaq of the Dā'ūdī Bohras from India and an Israeli entrepreneur of tourism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-215
Number of pages34
JournalIslam - Zeitschrift fur Geschichte und Kultur des Islamischen Orients
Issue number1
StatePublished - 30 Apr 2016


  • Ascalon
  • Bohra Dā'ūdiyya
  • Cairo
  • Fāṫimid
  • Ismā'īlī
  • Israel
  • Palestine
  • mawsim
  • relic
  • saint
  • shrine (mashhad)
  • Ḣusayn b. 'Alī


Dive into the research topics of 'Vicissitudes of a Holy Place: Construction, Destruction and Commemoration of Mashhad Ḣusayn in Ascalon'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this