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the earth a building more beautiful, more splendid, more graceful than this. On whatever side, or area, or place, the spectator looked, he still thought that side or spot the most preferable for beauty. In this mosque were certain talismans, placed therein since the time of the Greeks; so that no venomous or stinging creature could by any means obtain entrance into this enclosure ; neither serpent, scorpion, beetle, nor spider. They say also that neither sparrows nor pigeons built their nests there ; nor was any thing to be found there which could annoy people. Most, or all, of those talismans were burnt by the fire that consumed the mosque; which fire took place in the night of Shabán, A. H. 461. Al Walid frequently prayed in this mosque. One night (it is related) he said to his people, I wish to pray tonight in the mosque: let not any one remain there whilst I pray therein. So when he came unto the Gate of the Two Moments, * he desired the gate to be opened, and, entering in, he saw a man standing between the Gate of the Two Moments and the Gate of St. George, praying. He was rather nearer to the Gate of St. George than to the other. So the Khalíf said unto his people, Did I not charge you that no one should
* See note.
remain whilst I was praying in the mosque ? Then one of them said, 0 Commander of the Faithful! this is St. George, who prays every night in the mosque. Again,-One prayer in this mosque equals thirty thousand prayers.
Again, a certain man, going out of the gate of the mosque which is near the Jírún, met Kaab the scribe, who said, Whither bound? He replied, To the Baitu-l-Mukaddas, therein to pray. Then said Kaab, I will show you a spot wherein whosoever prayeth shall receive the same blessings as if he prayed in the Baitu-l-Mukaddas. The man, therefore, went with him. Then Kaab showed him the space between the little gate from whence you go to. Abyssinia; that is, the space covered by the (arch of the gate), containing about one hundred (yards), to the west, and said, Whoso prayeth within those two points shall be regarded as praying within the Baitu-lMukaddas. Now this spot is said to be a spot fit to be sought by pilgrims. Here, it is asserted, is the head of John son of Zachariah (peace be: with him!). For Al-Walíd-Ibn-Muslim, being desired to show where John's head was to be found, pointed with his hand to the plastered: pillar--the fourth from the east corner. Zaid-IbnWákad says, At the time it was proposed to build the mosque of Damascus, I saw the head of John
son of Zacharias brought forth from underneath one of the corners of the chapel. The hair of the head was unchanged. He says, in another place, Being nominated by Al Walíd, superintendent of the building, we found a cave; of which discovery we informed Al Walíd. He came, therefore, unto us, at night, with a wax taper in his hand. Upon descending, we found an elaborately-carved little shrine, three within three (i. e. within the first a second ; within the second a third). Within this last was a sarcophagus, and within this a casket; within which was the head of John son of Zacharias. Over the casket was written, “Here is the head of John son of Zacharias. Peace be with him!” By Al Walid's command we restored the head to the spot whence it had been taken. The pillars which are above this spot are inclined obliquely to the others, to distinguish the place. There is also over it a pillar with a head in plaster. He asserts again, that when the happy event occurred of the conquest of Damascus, a certain person went up the stairs which led to the church, then standing where the mosque now stands. Here the blood of John son of Zacharias was seen to flow in torrents, and to boil up; nor did the blood sink down, and become still, until that seventy thousand had been slain over him. The spot where the head was found is now called
Al-Saka-Sak (perhaps, the Nail of the Narrow Cave).
In the days of Omar, the Christians requested that he would confirm their claim to the right of meeting in those places which Al Walíd had taken from them and converted into mosques. They therefore claimed the whole inner area as their own from Omar. The latter thought it right to restore them what Al Walid had taken from them; but, upon examination, he found that the churches without the suburbs were not comprehended in the articles of surrender by the Companions; such, for example, as the great church of the monastery of Observants or Carmelites, the church of the convent behind, the church of St. Thomas, and all the churches of the neighbouring villages. Omar therefore gave them the choice, either to restore them the churches they demanded, demolishing in that case all the other churches, or to leave those churches unmolested, and to receive from them a full consent to the free use of the open space by the Moslems. To this latter proposal they, after three days' deliberation, agreed; and proper writings were drawn up on both sides. They gave the Moslems a deed of grant, and Omar gave them full security and assurances of protection. Nothing was to be compared to this mosque.
It was said to be one
of the strongholds of Paradise; and it is said, that no inhabitant of Damascus would long for Paradise when he looks upon his beautiful mosque. Al Mamún came to Damascus in company with his brother Al Motasim and the Kádí YahyayIbn-Aktam. Whilst viewing the mosque, he said, What is the most wondrous sight here? His brother said, These offerings and pledges. The Kádí said, The marble and the columns. Then said Al Mamun, The most wondrous thing to me is, whether any other could be built at all like this.
A writer (on Sháfá’s authority) observes, There are five wonders in the world ; namely, first, the Steeple of the Two Pinnacles at Alexandria ; secondly, the Companions of the Cave at Rome; thirdly, a Watch-Tower by a gate of Spain,the gate of her chief city (here a man sitting, and looking down, can behold his comrade at a distance of five hundred parasangs); fourthly, the Mosque of Damascus, perfect in beauty, brightness, and grandeur; fifthly, the Marble and delicate Sculpture therein, the manner of placing which is not precisely known; but it is thought. that the marble was hammered, kneaded, and modelled, because it softens in the fire.
Now, with regard to all the traditions and excellent privileges pertaining to the mountain Ká