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Cairo's Historic Cemetery of al-Suyuti Conflicting Claims.

SAYYIDI IBRAHIM AL-SA'IDI

A minor shrine that is no longer visited. Used to have a mawlid in conjunction with that of Sayyida A’isha and two hadras on Mondays and Thursdays. A pleasant smell is still said to emanate from the shrine.

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Identification

A sign above the door of this shrine may give some indication as to the identity of the religious figure in it, who is known as Ibrahim al-Sa’idi. The sign commemorates the burial of Imam Muhammad Ahmed, aka Imam al-Sa’id, who died in 1982. It could be safe to assume that his family from the Sa’id, or Upper Egypt, continues to bear a line of religious shaykhs and to bury them in this shrine in Cairo. While it has not been possible to contact the family for more information about their illustrious forebear Ibrahim, or their more recent cultic figure, Imam, we were told by the turabi of the area that Ibrahim was a shaykh in the Rifa’iyya tariqa and that his shrine used to be a popular venue for visitation, ritual and charity.

Myth and Ritual

The mawlid of this shaykh is said to have coincided with that of the mawlid of al-Sayyida ‘A’isha. Celebrations included the ritual slaughter of animals and the distribution of their meat to the poor. Furthermore, bi-weekly hadras used to be held on Mondays and Thursdays. None of this takes place any longer, although from the relative richness of the decorations of the shrine, one can assume that it was once fairly popular and well-cared for. There is also a belief that to this day, a pleasant smell emanates from the house Shaykh Ibrahim used to live in. While it has not been possible to find out when he died, one assumes that his story lives on through the continued burial and visitation of his descendants, some of which like the fore-mentioned Imam al-Sa’id, aspire to cultic status themselves.

Description

This shrine, which lies along Sayyidi jalal Street, is one of the area’s most interesting shrines. It is the same architectural type and date (late 19th century to early 20th century) as the shrine of ‘Abd al-‘Al al-Jili. It consists of a rectangular space, roofed in wood with a central shukhshaykha. Entrance is via a green wrought iron door in the chamfered south-western corner. The street façade has been recently clad with a mix of rusticated stone and terracotta brick.

A screen of turned wood in the north-eastern corner houses a cenotaph draped with white cloth and topped by a turban. Written above the screen door is the basmallah and the generic phrase from the Qur’an (27:40) hadha min fadl rabbi (this is of the Grace of my Lord). On the beam above the screen is another Qur’anic phrase that is partially illegible but seems to be one of many in the Qur’an that promises those who believe and act righteously a place in the gardens of heaven.

A second cenotaph opposite the entrance door has a plaque on the wall behind it commemorating the burial of Zaynab, the wife of Imam al-Sa’id in 1997.