In April 1968 remarkable events began to unfold at the Church of the Holy Virgin in Zeitoun, Egypt. As first reported in the papers, late in the evening on Apr 2, a Muslim and a Xian man saw a girl dressed in white atop the church's dome and feared she wanted to jump...
They called the police who woke the doorkeeper, who exclaimed, "It's the Virgin!" and promptly notified a priest. Thus began the numerous sightings of one of the most extraordinary series apparitions of the Virgin Mary to be studied in modern times. We are quite fortunate that...
one of the first people to write about the events was Cynthia Nelson (1933–2006), a famed professor of anthropology at the American University in Cairo, who first visited the church in Zeitoun 2 weeks later and then repeatedly thereafter. Her account is a great read...
She combines vivid ethnographic description of Egyptians' responses to the events, Muslim and Christian, and even a striking account of her own encounter with the apparition. Read the full account here:
Pictures of the apparitions abound - most are blurry, poor, and open to interpretation to say the least. The best ones appear to be entirely doctored. I chalk it up to the usual pareidolia, but I must admit that I've never found a good explanation for the source of the lights.

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More from @shahanSean

11 Mar
A common Arabic word for a tall tale is خرافة|khurāfah. But according to a popular etymology, the word khurāfah derives from a man’s name, Khurāfah al-ʿUdhrī famous relating an uncanny and incredulous tale. Ḥadīth Khurāfah thereafter came to refer to an unbelievable tale ...
The earliest versions of the Tale of Khurāfah often appear in the form of ḥadīth from the Prophet Muḥammad. Here I translate a version found in al-Fākhir fī l-amthāl of al-Mufaḍḍal ibn Salamah (d. ca. 291/903) ...
but shorter versions may be found the like of Musnad of Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal (see below) and the Shamāʾil of al-Tirmidhī. The ḥadīth from Mufaḍḍal's Fākhir reads as follows:
ʿĀʾishah said to the Prophet, “Prophet of God, tell me the story of Khurāfah!”
Read 14 tweets
26 Feb
An truly amazing inscription bearing the name ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb. It reads:
[1] God, protect ʿUmar
[2] ibn al-Khaṭṭāb
[3] in the Here-and-now and the Hereaf-
[4] ter. There is no god but God

But is this by the 2nd caliph or someone fond of him? Was ʿUmar even literate?
Early stories of ʿUmar’s conversion to Islam certainly claim that he could neither read nor write. The story is famous: he discovers a copy of some verses from the Qurʾan with his sister, but he needs someone else to read to him what she had written down.…
However, other accounts claim just the contrary. According to the Medinan historian al-Wāqidī, ʿUmar was among the seventeen men of Quraysh who had learned how to read and to write.…
Read 5 tweets
16 Feb
According to a story attr. to Ibn ʿAbbās, one day he heard the Umayyad caliph Muʿāwiyah reading Q. Kahf 18:86, «when he reached the setting of the Sun, he found it setting in a hot spring (ʿayn ḥāmiyah)...» Ibn ʿAbbās objected, “Rather it’s «a muddy spring (ʿayn ḥamiʾah)»!”...
The two asked the Jewish convert Kaʿb al-Aḥbār to settle the matter, and Kaʿb sided with Ibn ʿAbbās saying, “The Sun disappears into ṯaʾṭ.” In another version of the story, Kaʿb says basically the same thing, but he claims that he found the answer in “al-kitāb” (the Bible?).
This word ṯaʾṭ is rare in Arabic – mostly I’ve encountered it as an exegetical gloss to ḥamiʾah (excerpts above are from Ṭabarī’s Jāmiʿ). Which makes ones wonder, is there really a biblical parallel to ṯaʾṭ? Maybe. Perhaps Heb. ṭîṭ|mud as in Isaiah 57:20?
Read 4 tweets
4 Feb
How many ḥadīth are there? Thousands, right?
As usual it depends on who’s counting and how. Abū Dāwūd al-Sijistānī (d. 275/889) lists two interesting early opinions in his letter to the Meccans about his famous Sunan...
The Meccan al-Ḥasan b. ʿAlī al-Khallāl (d. 242/856+) and Ibn Mubārak (d. 181/797) set the number at ~900. When asked why Abū Yūsuf al-Qāḍī placed the number at ~1,100, Ibn Mubārak retorted, “Abū Yūsuf adopts these defective ones from here and there like weak ḥadīths."...
Abū Dāwūd, of course, put the number higher: ~4,800. He regarded himself as having collected more than anyone else (he didn’t know abt Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal’s Musnad, which includes around 5,200). The editor of the letter, Abu Ghuddah, provides some other early opinions in a note:
Read 4 tweets
3 Feb
Ben Sirach 25:2 in the hadith literature.
Ex. 1 from Nasāʾī (sanad saḥīḥ)
"Four God despises: the seller given to making oaths, the boast pauper, the elderly adulterer, and the unjust Imam"
Ex. 2 from Muslim (sanad saḥīḥ)
"Three whom God will not address nor absolve on the Day of Resurrection" - Abū Muʿāwiyah said, "nor regard them"- "and shall have a painful torment: an elderly adulterer, a lying man of property, and boastful pauper."
[sorry that I deleted the original thread; i had accidentally not included my translation of the Nasa'i hadith]
Read 7 tweets
17 Jan
How to define a drink called nabīdh has come up multiple times on my feed recently. Nabīdh was an intoxicating beverage distinguished from khamr, grape wine, which the Qurʾan prohibits (Q. 5:90). But some say nabīdh wasn’t an intoxicating beverage at all. Why all the confusion?
Ibn Qutaybah (d. 276/889) already notes the confusion in his Kitāb al-Ashribah; he mentions two ways of defining nabīdh.
"One group says: 'It’s raisin water or date water before they ferment. If that becomes strong and sets, then its khamr. The forebears from ...
the Companions and Followers drank that, making it at the outset of their day and drinking it at its end, making it in the early evening and drinking it with their meals.' They say, 'It was called nabīdh because ...
Read 10 tweets

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