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Greece

Haris Skarlakidis

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Authors Summary

Haris Skarlakidis was born in the city of Drama in Greece in 1971. He is a graduate of the School of Architecture at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and holds a master’s degree in Τheology from the University of Nicosia. Ηe is the author of the book "Holy Fire – The Miracle of the Light of the Resurrection at the tomb of Jesus", which is the product of his on-going historical, archeological and theological research.

Covering a period of thirteen centuries, from the 4th to the 16th century, this book contains 85 historical testimonies about the descent of the Holy Fire at the Tomb of Christ every Holy Saturday.

In this short extract we present you with two historical accounts of the first millennium and two modern scientific experiments reveal the authenticity of the miracle of the holy fire.

Title

Holy Fire – The Miracle of the Light of the Resurrection at the tomb of Jesus Christ

The Arab jurist Ibn al-Qass (c. 940) and the Persian sage al-Biruni (c. 1000)

The Arab jurist Ibn al-Qass was born at the end of the ninth century and died in 946. He had excellent knowledge of Islamic law and was the author of many theological works. Among these is the work Kitab dala’il al-qibla in which is recorded, for the first time, a highly significant description of the rite of the Holy Fire. This work is preserved in five manuscripts[1] and was first published in 1913 by the Arab scholar and collector of manuscripts, Girqis Safa,[2] from a manuscript he owned, dated to the year 1389. After the death of Safa the manuscript disappeared and after a few decades it re-emerged in Egypt, in the Ahmad Taymur collection of the National Library of Cairo, where it remains to this day (MS Ahmad Taymur 103). This Arabic manuscript was also published in Frankfurt in 1987 by Professor Dr. Fuat Sezgin.[3] Ibn al-Qass mentions the following:

[1] MS Ahmad Taymur 103 & MS Miqat 1201. Cairo, National Library; MS Veliyuddin 2453. Istanbul, Beyazit Library; MS XXXIV. Madrid, Collection Gayangos; MS Oriental 13315, AD 1705. London, British Library. It is the only manuscript that contains the entire work (fols. 2v–57r). Three of the five manuscripts are analyzed by J.-C. Ducène in her article “Le Kitab dala’il al-qibla d’Ibn al-Qass: analyse de trois manuscrits,” ZGAIW 14 (2001), 169–87.
[2] Q. Safa, “Les Manuscrits de ma Bibliotheque,” Al-Masriq 16, Beirut 1913.
[3] F. Sezgin, “Kitab dala’il al-qibla li-ibn al-Qass”, Das Buch über die Orientierung nach Mekka von Ibn al-Qass, ZGAIW 4 (1987–88), 7–92.

On the Easter of the Christians, on Holy Saturday, the faithful exit from the place of the tomb in order to gather around the rock that is surrounded by railing. From there they look upon the tomb and all together they pray and kneel before the Almighty God, from the morning prayer until thesetting of the sun. The emir and the imam of the mosque are also present. The sultan locks the door to the tomb. They all remain still until they see a light similar to a white fire which comes from the interior of the tomb. The sultan then opens the door and enters holding a candle, which he lights with this fire and then emerges. The flame of this lit candle does not burn. He gives it to the imam who transfers it and lights the lamps of the mosque. Once this candle has passed to three hands, then it burns and is transformed into a [regular] flame. Then they compose and deliver to the sultan a report verifying that the fire had come on such an hour and day.

The report by Ibn al-Qass is very significant because it comes from a particu larly devout scholar of Muslim law. As he records, the Muslim leaders of Jeru salem have absolute control of the rite. Present are the imam of the mosque, the emir and the sultan, who is the only one who holds the keys to the tomb.
During the ceremony the faithful pray and the Orthodox patriarch embarks on the traditional invocation for the descent of the Holy Fire while remaining outside the tomb, before the entire mass of people.
Everything takes place in the open. The sepulchre is locked and empty. And suddenly a white light emerges from the interior of the tomb. It is the supernatural light that comes from the actual tomb itself. Then the sultan unlocks the tomb and enters to light his candle, and when he emerges he delivers it to the imam. The Muslims participate to such an extent and in such an official capacity, that one would think that the rite is theirs.
Of extreme significance is also the testimony that the holy flame does not burn. Ibn al-Qass fully distinguishes the light that appears in the tomb interior from the flame that is received by the faithful a few moments later on their candles. His report is exceptionally precise. He uses the word which means light and the word ( which means fire. When the Holy Light appears it is deemed by the Muslims to be a divine white light that is not at all related to earthly fire. When, however, this divine flame spreads from candle to candle, after “three hands” as he states, in other words within a few seconds, the heavenly light becomes earthly. It is transformed from divine light to earthly fire.

When the sultan exits with the lit candle from the interior of the Holy Sepulchre, the flame of his candle does not burn. Ibn al-Qass uses a phrase which means “is not burned” or “does not burn.” According to Gamal alTahir there is no doubt that the meaning of the phrase is “the flame of the candle does not burn.”

This is the familiar phenomenon that the Holy Fire does not burn, which is still observed to this day. The moment the vigil lamp ignites inside the sepulchre, the light has a bluish white colour and does not burn at all. A few seconds later it is transformed into a flame which, as ascertained by the author and thousands of faithful, obviously burns but not with the same intensity as a regular flame.

The acceptance of the miracle by the Muslim community of Jerusalem becomes even more apparent from the statement that with the Holy Fire the imam lights “the lamps inside the mosque,” meaning the Dome of the Rock, which is considered to be the third most sacred site in the Muslim world after Mecca and Medina. The Holy Fire is spread by the imam to the most sacred area of the Muslims of Jerusalem. All this took place in the first half of the tenth century, at a time when the Christian and Muslim worlds were in great conflict. Considering the austerity of the Muslim religion, it seems unbelievable that the most significant miracle of the Christian world, which is associated with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, was accepted by the Muslims of Jerusalem and celebrated with the official participation of the city’s political and religious leaders. The narrative of Ibn al-Qass conveys a very bright message that reveals much about the authenticity of the miracle, but also about the very resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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