Monday, December 11

The History of The Tomb of Abu Sa’id Faḍl Allah in Turkmenistan

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The History of the Tomb of Abu Sa’id Faḍl Allah in Turkmenistan

Abu Sa’id Fadl Alla (born AbI ‘l-Khair) was an important figure in the history of Sufism in Khurasan, known for his influence in the development of the khanagah and the ruba’i (although the latter is of much debate amongst scholars).

His ruined tomb lies in the south of Turkmenistan, in the Tejen delta, near the border crossing with Iran at Sarakh. Mihna is the general spelling of the name for his tomb complex, although modern signposts sometimes call it Baba Meana. Various authors have also given it other variations, including Mayhani.

A significant amount of our knowledge on the tomb complex comes from literature sources. For example, his tomb is called a saray. “The word suggests something much more substantial than a mere house, rather a complex of buildings. There was clearly the need not only for a dwelling but also rooms for gatherings, prayer, ceremonies, etc. The climate of the region, especially in the winter, would have meant that such meetings etc. would not always have been in the open air. Considering the proximity of the tomb there seems to have been an embryonic shrine complex in the making. Saray is also a term used by Nasir-i Khusrau when referring to a visit he made to one of a number of mashhads in Basra; he went to the house of a wife of Ali, ‘Laili’.”

The tomb itself was constructed in the 11thcentury in the Ghaznavid period, and today it resembles a squat flat building with a square chamber supported on a dome. The entrance looks out to the north-west and encompasses an area of over 50 hectares. In the west of the grounds the ‘governor’s palace’ can be found. Near this palace a grave was found, believed to be that of Abu Sa’id’s father.

Since 2004, the tomb has received much attemntion, particularly with restoration. Under the direction of Ahmed Khulmuradov (Director of National Heritage, Kaka Region, Turkmenistan), the structure’s foundation was strengthened for the numbers of pilgrims coming to the site and in addition, has strengthened our knowledge on the building’s history and importance.

From looking at the interior, it is clear that the tomb complex underwent many phases of restoration and rebuilding; however, we are still unsure as to how many phases. The evidence suggests that it was partially destroyed the Ghuzz invasions and underwent restoration in the late 12thor early 13thcentury. The last phase of major restoration was in the 15thcentury during the Timurid period.

Bibliography:

Harrow, Leonard (2005) The Tomb Complex of Abu Sa’id Faḍl Allah b. Abiʾl-Khair at Mihna,Iran, British Institute of Persian Studies.

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