Holy Land: Abraham: Mecca and Hebron

There is a detailed article about the Kaaba at Wikipedia, including a section on the legend of Abraham and Ishmael constructing the Kaaba out of a celestial Black Stone brought to Ibrahim by an angel.

Meanwhile, those of you who are familiar with Vergil's Aeneid will recognize the story of the "strips" enclosing a piece of land as being similar to the story of how Dido acquired the land of Byrsa in Carthage. You can read that legend at Wikipedia.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Holy Land Folklore unit. Story source: Folk-lore of the Holy Land: Moslem, Christian and Jewish by J. E. Hanauer (1907).

Abraham: Mecca and Hebron

After this, Ibrahìm had various adventures both in Egypt and at Bir-es-Seba, following which came events which I cannot do better than tell in the words of one of the sheykhs of the great Mosque at Hebron, who gave me the following account:

Having escaped from Nimrûd, El-Khalìl was commanded to go to Mecca and build the "haram" or sanctuary there. On reaching his destination, he received instructions first to offer up his dear son Ismaìn (Ishmael) as a sacrifice upon Jebel ’Arafat, the mountain where Adam had recognised Hawa (Eve).

Iblìs, hoping to make trouble between the Patriarch and his Friend, went to our Lady Hagar, on whom be peace, and implored her to dissuade her husband from the cruel deed. She snatched up a stone and hurled it at the tempter. The missile did him no harm, but the pillar against which the stone dashed is still shown to pilgrims. From this incident he has the name "Esh Sheytân er Rajìm," meaning "Satan, the stoned One," or "who is to be stoned."

Having finished the Ka’aba, Ibrahìm was directed to build another "haram" at El-Kûds. This he did, and was then ordered to build a third at Hebron. The site of this last sanctuary would, he was informed, be shown to him by a supernatural light which would shine over it at night. This is one account. Another account says that, three angels in human form having appeared to the Patriarch, he, supposing them to be men, invited them into his tent, and then went to slay a failing as a meal for them. In some way or other the calf eluded Ibrahìm, who followed it till it entered a certain cave. Going in after it, he heard a voice from some inner chamber informing him that he stood in the sepulchre of our Father Adam, over which he must build the sanctuary. A third story runs that a strange camel was to come and guide El-Khalìl to the appointed place. This time Iblìs succeeded in deceiving the Father of the Faithful, who began to build at Ramet el Khalìl, an hour from Hebron, but, after he had laid the few courses which are still to be seen there, Allah showed him his mistake, and he moved on to Hebron.

Hebron was then inhabited by Jews and Christians, the name of whose patriarch was Habrûn. Ibrahìm went to visit him, and said he wished to buy as much land as the "furweh" or sheepskin jacket which he was wearing would enclose if cut into pieces. Habrûn, laughing, said, "I will sell you that much land for four hundred golden dinàrs, and each hundred dinàrs must have the die of a different sultan." It was then the ’asr, and Ibrahìm asked leave to say his prayers. He took off his furweh and spread it on the ground for a prayer-carpet. Then, taking up the proper position, he performed his devotions, adding a petition for the sum demanded. When he rose from his knees and took up the jacket, there lay beneath it four bags, each containing a hundred gold dinàrs, and each hundred with the die of a different sultan.

He then, in the presence of forty witnesses, told the money into Habrûn's hand, and proceeded to cut his furweh into strips with which to enclose the land thus bought. Habrûn protested, saying that was not in the agreement, but Ibrahìm appealed to the witnesses, who decided that the size or number of pieces into which the furweh was to be cut had not been specified.

This made Habrûn so angry that he took the forty witnesses to the top of the hill south-west of the city, where the ruins of Deyr el Arba’ìn now stand, and there cut their heads off. But even that did not silence them, for each head, as it rolled down the hill, cried: "The agreement was that the jacket should be cut." El-Khalìl took their corpses and buried them, each in the place where the head had stopped rolling.

(700 words)

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