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Call for prayer (du‘ā’) in funerary epigraphy at the eve of the Mongol invasion. Some fresh evidence from Ghazni (Afghanistan)

Abstract : Persian phrases seldom occur in funerary inscriptions retrieved from the Eastern Islamic lands and dating from the pre-Mongol period. Few exceptions have been recorded in Ghazni (Afghanistan), consisting of poetic texts or formulaic expressions. These latter usually appear in secondary epigraphic registers, alongside more ornamented Arabic epitaphs and Koranic quotes. They address the visitor of the tomb and promise divine mercy in return for a prayer (du‘ā). First attested in the early 12th century, such formulae seem to have crystallised by the turn of the 13th century, which was a period of political instability in the region. This paper presents an analysis of the content and context of these petitionary invocations, complemented by comparisons with inscriptions attested outside Ghazni, and with coeval theological texts dealing with the legitimacy of du‘ā. The simply constructed and intuitive formulae under review, most likely addressed to the Persian-speaking devotees, provide explicit instructions and attest to a well-defined performance meant to keep alive the memory of the deceased. Seemingly, they aim at guaranteeing the efficacy of prayer and at creating a bridge between the community of mortals and the ‘world of rewards’. Moreover, their phrasing raises questions concerning the actors involved in the ritual: is the first person narrative only intended to establish a dialogue between the deceased and the prayer? To what extent does the commemorative monument’s patron, or even the stone carver, play a role in this symbolic exchange? By exploring the gap between devotional practices as reflected in normative texts and in material culture, this investigation allows advancing some hypotheses about the actual significance of maintaining and visiting burial sites in Medieval Afghanistan.
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Contributor : Viola Allegranzi <>
Submitted on : Thursday, October 18, 2018 - 11:11:41 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, June 23, 2020 - 8:51:39 AM


  • HAL Id : halshs-01898225, version 1


Viola Allegranzi. Call for prayer (du‘ā’) in funerary epigraphy at the eve of the Mongol invasion. Some fresh evidence from Ghazni (Afghanistan). 14th Colloquium of the Ernst Herzfeld Society for Studies in Islamic Art and Archaeology. The History of Material Cultures and Visual Arts in Islamic Lands: Current State of Research and New Perspectives, Graduate students meeting, N. Ben Azzouna (Université de Strasbourg) et S. Johnson (PhD student, Freie Universität Berlin), Jul 2018, Strasbourg, France. ⟨halshs-01898225⟩



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