Although the words and the deeds of the Prophet (al-Hadith, or the Tradition) were studied since the seventh century, a madrasa dedicated to this purpose was first built in Damascus by Zangid ruler Nur al-Din (1147-1174), as part of a larger building campaign in his newly conquered capital.
Nur al-Din's dar al-hadith is situated in the old city of Damascus facing Madrasa Adiliyya, in the Arsuniyya neighborhood. The building bears no epigraphic reference to its erection date, however, it is assumed to have been built between 1164 and 1174, when Nur al-Din ruled over Damascus.
Today the dar al-hadith is entirely destroyed except a portion of the qibla wall containing the mihrab, which is incorporated into a private residence. As studied by Jean Sauvaget in the 1930s, the walls of the dar al-hadith were built with heavy stone blocks and its arches were constructed with burnt bricks joined at a keystone.
The dar al-hadith forms almost a square, measuring 16.3 meters by 17.2 meters on the exterior, and is composed of spaces arranged around a courtyard with a fountain in its center. It is accessed from the north through a rectangular portal framed with classical moldings, which leads into a vaulted entry portico open to the courtyard. It is flanked on either side by small rooms that open onto the courtyard and to the portico. Across the courtyard to the south is the prayer hall covered with a pitched wooden roof. The mihrab is situated at the center of the qibla wall, facing the entrance. It is set in a round niche built with Greco-Roman carved in marble below the stone arch.
On the east and west sides of the courtyard are two identical halls extended with small square rooms to the north. The halls open onto the courtyard with a wide central arch flanked by two smaller arches, whose keystones are aligned with the springing line of the central arch. The arches are braced across with wooden lintels and the doorway is carved with motifs similar to those found on the mihrab. The four interior façades, as analyzed by Sauvaget, must have been all similar, making the courtyard symmetrical along the two axes.
Allen, Terry. 2003. "Dar al-Hadith of Nur al-Din". In Ayyubid Architecture. California: Solipsis Press. http://www.sonic.net/~tallen/palmtree/ayyarch/ch2.htm#alep.dhad
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