Friday, April 15, 2011

Our Lady of Zeitun

John Calvert's biography of Sayyid Qutb mentions a fascinating case of apparent mutuality in Muslim and Christian religious practices in Egypt deep in the 20th century:
"Beginning on 2 April 1968, ten months after the defeat (in the Six Day War), tens of thousands of Egyptians, both Muslims and Copts, witnessed a vision of the Virgin Mary over the Church of the Blessed Virgin in Zaytun, the same Cairo suburb where, four decades earlier, Qutb had lived briefly with his journalist uncle. Spotted initially by two garage mechanics, the luminous figure of Mary appeared almost every night over the next two and a half years. Large crowds gathered to catch a glimpse of 'The Mother of the Light,' as Egyptians call the Virgin. According to one witness, the apparitions 'always took place at night and were generally preceded by mysterious lights, flashing and scintillating silently over the church like a canopy of shooting stars.' Many have explained the Marian vision at Zaytun as a collective psychological response to the trauma of the 1967 defeat. That may be the case. On the other hand, for those who witnessed the apparition and believed in it, the explanation was simpler: there is a divine truth, a rock of certainty constant over the ages that beckons man to liberation from human failing and the imperfections of the world.'"

Here is a detailed Coptic account of the events. This also explains why, in 2005, the Kefaya movement held a protest outside that church after one outside the mosque of Sayyida Zaynab, sister of Hussein and granddaughter of Muhammad who serves as the traditional Islamic patroness of the city.

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