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CHAPTER XVII.

On the Wondrous Supremacy of Syria. Upon the miracles,

tales, and traditions hereunto to be referred. Account of its boundaries. Traditions which the Prophet uttered regarding those who dwell therein. The pledge entered into by God on behalf of this land and her people. How this land is confirmed to be the Temple of believers, and how the corner-stones of the Faith exist herein. How that Syria is the precious choice land of God, beyond all lands, therein to fix for ever the chief blessings which he distributes among his adorers. Supplication of the Prophet that it might be blessed. Account of the building of the Mosque of Damascus. Account of its restoration and ornaments. Origin of the building. Of the relics of Martyrs and Confessors whereunto Pilgrimage is most commonly performed. Account of the favourable audience granted unto supplication herein offered, and the happy effects of meditation upon her.

As to its Wondrous Supremacy, we may refer not only to what has been already said of the Holy Abode, but also to the examination which the people of Islám have made of those ancient

words, in the verse, “Truly I will cause you two to sing praise in the lofty mound wherein is the sure dwelling-place.” This lofty mound is declared by one to be Damascus; by another, Jerusalem : another pointedly says that the Prophet himself interpreted it to mean Syria, the land called the Ghút, (watered, moist, and wooded,) and also one of its chief cities, Damascus. There is another verse—“I will cause you both-people who were regarded as weak-to sing praise in the Eastern Land, in the western part thereof, which we have blessed." This is referred to the western part of Syria.

Again, there is another verse :-“The children of Israël took up their abode in the unshaken mansion of truth.” The word truth is here spoken metaphorically, as beauty is; meaning good, advantageous, happy ; so called because this abode is full of religious blessings and all good gifts; which is the actual case of Syria and the Holy Land; they having most choice blessings, with the utmost possible abundance of all the necessaries for the support of life-fruits and trees. Some

Some say that the “ western part ” mentioned in the above tradition is Egypt. Some differ as to what may be called precisely the Holy Land. Some say only Mount Sinai and its neighbourhood ; some, Elía and the Baitu-l

Mukaddas; some, Ascalon and the river of Jericho; some, Damascus and Palestine ; some, Jordan; some, all Syria. None positively assert that the term “Holy Land” may not be applied unto Syria.

With regard to the reason of the name of Shám, or Syria, hereunto applied, writers upon idiomatic expressions remark, that the word is both masculine and feminine. It is either Mushám or Shám. It is so named, either because it lies to the left (or north) of the Kaaba, just as they call all the low-lying country, to the right of the Kaaba, by the name of Yemen; or because the companions of Noah, when they came out of the ark, took possession, some of the country right of the Kaaba, and some of the country left; whence the names Yemen and Syria (Shám.) Some say that the mountains here being white, the land is by contrariety called black (Sham). Some name it after Sám, son of Noah, who first dwelt here; and that the Arabians, who looked down upon it from their dwellings above, disliked to call it Sám, because that is a name of death (unlucky); so they called it Shám, on account of the number of villages therein, and their proximity to one another. Some say that a people, sons of Canaan son of Ham, came in bands, and blackened all over the country (by their

numbers) or took possession of the left or north side. Hence the name Sám. As to its boundaries :-On the west, the Salt Ocean, on whose coasts are many great cities, and on whose sides are Ramul Misr (sandy heap of Egypt) and Al Arísh; then the desert of the sons of Israël and Mount Sinai ; then Tabúk; then Dúmat-al-jandil, (Dumah the Stony). On the east, the Desert Samáwít (lofty, heavenly,) stretching unto Irák, inhabited by Syrian Arabs. On the north, the parts adjacent to the east; also the Euphrates, along the land of the Peninsula (Mesopotamia), extending in length from Al Arísh to Irák, twenty days, or more : in “ the Book of Roads and Possessions,” however, it is said to be twenty-five days, taking the whole extent of space between the two into account. As to the width of the country, its widest part is of eight days' journey in extent; and the narrowest, three. These boundaries are noted by the historian Shamsuddin-AlZaharí, in his publication “The Two Provinces."

Again, from other authors :— The first town in Syria is Báyas (all), and the last, Al Arísh. Syria is divided into five provinces, or sections :First, Palestine, so called because first inhabited by Philistin son of Kusín, son of Mutí, son of Yumán, son of Yafíth, son of Noah. Its first frontier town is on the Egyptian road Rafah, or

Al Arísh: next to this is Gaza, then Ramula, or Ramlat Phalistín. Of great cities in Palestine are, Elía, which is the Baitu-l-Mukaddas, eighteen miles from Ramlah (this holy city was the residence of David and Solomon), and Ascalon, and the city of Abraham, and Sebaste, and Neapolis. The whole extent of Palestine is, in length, two days' journey to one who rides at the rate of a slow-moving beast; and in width, from Japha to Jericho, about as much. Secondly, Húran, (Auranitis,) whose remarkable places are, the Great Tiberias and its lakes, which is mentioned in the tradition of Gog and Magog. A certain historian says, that in the time of Waládat, the lake of Tiberias had nearly dried up; and this lake is only its middle. The rivers of Palestine are, Al Ghúr, (the low-lying Netherland,) the Yarmúk, (Hieromax,) and Bísán (Pisan), from whose palm-trees pitch is sought; whence its name, Al Dijjálat (the Tigris). Also the Ordono, or Jordan, so remarkable in the Divine Law, and mentioned in the Word, “Your trial is the River.” Thirdly, Al Ghút (the irrigated land), wherein are many traces of sacred events. Its chief city is Damascus, said to be the Temple of Noah. On the coast is Terapolis. Damascus is said to be within the Holy Land. Fourthly, Emessa, wherein, it is said, no serpent

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