The Islamic pilgrimage site of Najaf, Iraq, is visited by more than a million pilgrims every year. Yet, with its burgeoning population, the city’s unique urban fabric and architecture are changing rapidly. The book highlights key aspects of the city’s history and culture and offers a unique perspective on this historic place. To understand its complex history and unique architectural qualities, you should first understand what Najaf is all about.
During the days of Saddam Hussein, Najaf suffered from political and religious repression. Iraqi military forces destroyed the golden dome of the shrine, murdered innocent people in the shrine, and failed to repair the damage to the city for years. Today, however, the city is thriving and has become an important center for Shia worship. But with the city’s religious significance, Najaf’s governor has a challenging job.
During the British occupation, Kadhimiya took an active stance against the British occupiers. In 914 H., notables in Basra enlisted the help of religious scholars from Kadhimiya, and they declared sacred defence a duty for every Muslim. A procession of Jihad led by Sayyid Mehdi al-Haydari was witnessed by many people in Kadhimiya, and he was followed by fighters. In addition, the city welcomed scholars from Kerbala.
The main mosque of Kadhimiya is built over the tombs of the Imam. The city is also accessible by car. The town has its own railway station, two kilometers (20 minutes) south of the town centre. The railway station is served by trains to Baghdad and towns along the Tigris. Kadhimiya’s railway station is located in the Al-Kazimiyyah district, one of the nine districts of Baghdad.
In Wadi-us-Salam, an Islamic cemetery near Baghdad, two hundred fifty bodies were buried on a single day, the second highest total in the world. This cemetery, located close to the holy shrine of Imam Ali, the revered seventh century founder of the Shi’a sect, is home to the remains of many prophets. The graveyard has been a contested area for years, and has been ravaged by violence. In the nineties, it was one of the worst areas of the Gulf War, and now has graves of soldiers.
The cemetery has become particularly adept at grave preparation, as Muslim bodies must be buried as soon as possible and on the same day they died. It is spread over 1,500 acres, but the Shia authorities are attempting to acquire more land to the east to increase their cemetery’s space. Meanwhile, the cemetery’s dwindling free space has also prompted some to repurpose older burial sites.
Shi’i pilgrimage to Najaf
For those who are devoted to the Islamic religion, a pilgrimage to the holy city of Najaf in Iraq may be the best way to show your love and support for the Imam. The city is located on the western bank of the Euphrates River about 100 miles south of Baghdad. It is a provincial capital and market center and is home to one of the largest cemeteries in the world. The city was a hub of Shia resistance to the Iraqi government and was a safe haven for Iranian dissident Shi’i clergy including Ruhollah Khomeini, who lived here for 15 years.
The Arbaeen pilgrimage, which ends a 40-day mourning period for the Imam’s death, is the most important event in the Shia faith. It is an annual gathering of millions of Shia Muslims. The Arbaeen festival has drawn pilgrims from all over the world. More than 2 million Iranians and other Shi’is from around the world attended the pilgrimage this year. As a result, militias patrolled the road leading to the city and escorted Iranian pilgrims from the border.