Muslim Pilgrimage in the Modern World

By Babak Rahimi; Peyman Eshaghi | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
Jamkaran
Embodiment and Messianic Experience in the
Making of Digital Pilgrimage

BABAK RAHIMI

Located six kilometers south of the shrine city of Qum, Iran, the Masjid-e Moqaddas-i Jamkaran is a major Shi’I pilgrimage site near a village known as Jamkaran.1 The shrine mosque has been a leading ziyaratgah (place of visitation) for devotees of the “Hidden Imam”—Muhammad al-Mahdi (b. 869 C.E.), Twelfth Imam of Twelver Shiʿi (also known as Imami Shiʿism)— whose return before the Day of Judgment, it is believed, will bring an end to injustice on earth. Since his Major Occultation in 941 c.e., seventy years after his birth according to the lunar calendar, the concept of Minor Occultation has played a central role in the history of Shiʿi communities.2 Associated with Mahdi’s return is not only divine vengeance for the unjust treatment of the Prophet’s household (Ahl-i Bayt), in particular the martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson, Husayn, in 680 c.e., but also an eschatological posture in a final day of reckoning, bringing justice to all at the end of time.

Historically speaking, Shiʿi messianic traditions have been subject to changes in spiritual authority and popular understanding of sacred experience, along with material spirituality revolving around shrines. By material spirituality, I refer to devotional practices that are built around material ambience, wherein devotees seek a spiritual mode of life. Such material spirituality includes text and paper media, such as prayer books, designed for devotional practices. Shiʿi identity, as Najam Haider argues, has been closely connected to the growth of pilgrimage literature for shrine-specific devotional rites and the proliferation of mosques and shrines since the eighth century.3 The prominent Shiʿi scholar Shaykh al-Tusi (995–1067 c.e.) devoted separate sections of his Tahdhib al-Ahkam (Ordinance of Judgments) to ziyara, sites associated with the Mahdi. The al-’Askariyya Shrine in Samarra would become as popular as shrines in Karbala and Najaf.

With the institutionalization of clerical authority as state apparatus under the Safavids in the sixteenth century and the triumph of the rationalist school

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