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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter April 14, 2023

Early Mosques that have Never Been (Found): Literary Sources Versus Physical Remains

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From the journal Der Islam


Mosques are one main type of evidence to represent early Islam in the archaeological record. Dating mosques is crucial for pinpointing the earliest presence of the Muslim faith in a region and to test certain historical narratives known from the literary sources. Scholars, however, sometimes date medieval mosques in excavations and surveys relying on literary sources. Following these texts has led to dating several mosque remains to the seventh or eighth century. In contrast, archaeologically independent dating tools support only later or indefinite dates for these ancient structures. This article presents four sites that consist of a mosque each of which has been dated to the seventh or eighth century: Fusṭāṭ, Jerusalem, Wāsiṭ, and Ramla. Through these case studies, supplemented by similar examples, I demonstrate the gap between the literary sources and the material evidence. Interpreting relevant epigraphical data, as well as excavation results from many more sites, suggests that the spread of mosques beyond the Arabian Peninsula and Greater Syria occurred only in the ninth century. The literary sources, therefore, cannot be read at face value and can certainly not form the basis for interpreting and dating physical remains.

Online erschienen: 2023-04-14
Erschienen im Druck: 2023-04-04

© 2023 the author(s), published by De Gruyter.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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