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Mecca and Eden

Ritual, Relics, and Territory in Islam

Nineteenth-century philologist and Biblical critic William Robertson Smith famously concluded that the sacred status of holy places derives not from their intrinsic nature but from their social character. Building upon this insight, Mecca and Eden uses Islamic exegetical and legal texts to analyze the rituals and objects associated with the sanctuary at Mecca. 

Integrating Islamic examples into the comparative study of religion, Brannon Wheeler shows how the treatment of rituals, relics, and territory is related to the more general mythological depiction of the origins of Islamic civilization. Along the way, Wheeler considers the contrast between Mecca and Eden in Muslim rituals, the dispersal and collection of relics of the prophet Muhammad, their relationship to the sanctuary at Mecca, and long tombs associated with the gigantic size of certain prophets mentioned in the Quran. 

Mecca and Eden succeeds, as few books have done, in making Islamic sources available to the broader study of religion.

288 pages | 2 halftones, 2 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2006


Middle Eastern Studies

Religion: Islam


"Wheeler is a masterful and thoughtful guide as he leads the reader through the rich and varied facets of the human religious expressions he presents back to his primary thesis."

Kathryn Kueny | Bulletin of the School of Oriental and Asian Studies

"In a marvelously creative and imaginative exploration of what makes spaces and places "sacred," Brannon Wheeler leads readers across a too-seldom traversed landscape. . . . Even hardcore Islamic studies specialists will learn a great deal from Mecca and Eden, not only because of its in-depth analysis of hard-to-access material, but because of its arresting method."

John Renard | Religion and the Arts

"Mecca and Eden is a textual study of Islamic pilgrimage, relics, and purity encyclopedic resource for further study."

Joyce Burkhalter Flueckiger | International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies

Table of Contents

Notes on Conventions
            Ritual and Social Order
            Ritual, Relics, and the Meccan Sanctuary
            Chapter Outline
1. Treasure of the Ka’bah
            1 Temple Implements and Treasure of the Ka?bah
            2 Swords and the Origins of Islam
            Conclusions Swords and the Origins of Civilization
2. Utopia and Civilization in Islamic Rituals
            1 Touching the Penis
            2 Adam and Eve’s Genitals
            Conclusions Taboo and Contagion
3. Relics of the Prophet Muhammad
            1 Relics of the Prophet Muhammad
            2 Relics and Civilization
            Conclusions Relics and Portable Territory
4. Tombs of Giant Prophets
            1 Long Tombs
            2 Giants
            Conclusions Technology and Human Size
Conclusions: The Pure, the Sacred, and Civilization
            Status and Power
            Symbol and Agency
            General Conclusions
Works Cited


American Academy of Religion: American Academy of Religion Awards for Excellence

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