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Relics From The Islamic World On Display

Browsing through the albums, visitors can see Prophet Musa’s stick, sandals left behind by Prophet Muhammad, his letters to leaders, the first verse written by his companion Othman, a blouse that belonged to Fatima, Aisha’s veil among hundreds of other relics such as a cooking vessel used by Prophet Ibrahim.

The Turkish stall at Sharjah International Book Fair is displaying for the first time, published albums featuring sacred relics left behind by the prophets: Mohammed, Musa and Ibrahim (peace be upon them) and their companions as well as artifacts from the holy lands. These objects were photographed and or taken during the reign of the Ottoman Empire.

The albums are contained in books: The Sacred Trusts: Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul (written in Arabic and English and published for the first time) and Mecca-Medina: The Yildiz Albums of Sultan Abdul Hamid II.

“These are very rare collections, we got them from highly restricted places in the palaces,” said the Deputy Director of Dar Al Nile Publishers, Mustafa G.

He said the relics were “excavated from the most restricted rooms of the palace. The entire selection is compiled here for the first time, including those that are not on exhibit [in Topkapi Palace Museum] for daily visits.”

The photographs are accompanied by texts, making it an awe-inspiring album to see and read. It is more than the history of Ottoman “service” in the region; it is rather largely the history of Islam and the people of the Muslim world.

The contents of The Sacred Trusts album, for example, includes: The prophet’s footprint (pbuh); the bow of the Prophet; his letter to Musailamah the liar as well as to others such as Muqawqis, the leader of Copts in Egypt; the bottle which used to contain his water; the stone of tayammam; the holy tooth; the turban of prophet Yousuf (pbuh); scale model of prophet’s mosque; the robe of Imam Abu Hanifa, and the keys and locks of K’aba.

The list of the items range from those owned by several prophets through the companions to the Muslim leaders as well as objects from the holy sites and prominent Islamic centres and mosques.

The Arabic version of The Sacred Trusts costs Dhs350 “because of the book fair discount” whereas the English is at Dhs450. It is the same prices for the other album, Mecca-Medina. In The Sacred Trusts, the letters are no doubt was from Mohammed. They were summarized in not more than a paragraph yet detailed with quotations from the Holy Qur’an. They are masterpieces. The relics have their authenticity well explained.

Look at the Prophet’s (pbuh) letter to the leader of the Copts, Muqawqis. It was written in 627 AD in Cufic script on a piece of darkened parchment measuring 16x19cm. “It was discovered inside a Coptic Bible cover in a monastery at Ahmin, near Saide, Egypt in 1850 by the Frenchman named Bathlmy,” explains the introduction to The Sacred Relics. “After the letter had been cleaned and attributed to the Prophet (pbuh), it was sent to Istanbul to be presented to Sultan Abdulmecid (ruled between 1839-1861). The Sultan had it framed in gold and put in a beautifully embellished gold box measuring 42x30x10.5cm which was then placed among the Sacred Relics.”

According to Mustafa, “The middle section of the letter has disintegrated with age and has become difficult to read, but the content was preserved.”

The Mecca-Medina album is a journey of its own that makes the reader travel around Hijaz by Hijaz Railway; visit haramayn (Mecca and Medina) from any point where the Ottoman Empire stretched –all through pictures. Then the reader gets to see the haramayn of the old. One sees the tomb of Hamza (The old picture shows this grave housed like a small mosque).

“The holy Lands found in the Yildiz Albums are different from what you see today. This is so mainly because of the different forms of government, legal systems and ideological system and also because of commercial concerns,” reads the introduction of Mecca-Medina.

“There are few traces of the Ottomans left in Mecca and Medina today, therefore the album holds a special significance as a record of the four centuries of Ottoman service to Islam.”

The album first introduces Lebanon, the main port from which pilgrims disembarked to continue their pilgrimage by land. The governorship of Lebanon, the special administrative status of Mecca and Medina, the caravans, the Hijaz Railway are widely depicted in these albums.

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