Arabic: ‘an-najaf







City of central Iraq with about 560,000 inhabitants (2005 estimate), lying on the western ridge of the Euphrates River. Najaf is the capital of the Najaf governorate with about 900,000 inhabitants (2003 estimate; 590,000 in the 1987 census).

Najaf’s main reason for fame, is the shrine of Ali, the 4th Caliph of Islam and the 1st Imam of Shi’i Islam. Ali is the actual spiritual founder of all Shi’i sects.

The shrine is a grand complex that much resembles the ones of other imams around Iraq. The dome is on top of a huge structure with one great gate, with two minarets on either side. Around the structure is a huge courtyard, then another square structure with several smaller gates towards the rest of the city.

Several religious histories are connected to Najaf. According to legends told within a Muslim context, it is said that it is the place where one of Noah’s sons died as a punishment when he didn’t want to enter the Ark.

It is said that Abraham and Isaac settled here, and bought a place called Valley of Peace, which Abraham claimed was a part of heaven. Moreover, it is said that 70,000 people will gain immediate entrance to Paradise following their visit to Najaf.

791: Najaf is founded by Caliph Harun ar-Rashid.
Around 1800: Najaf is besieged by Wahhabism / Muwahhidun.
1803: The Hindiyya canal is completed, allowing great economic growth for Najaf.
1915: People of Najaf revolt against their Ottoman lords, allowing the city to come under British control.
1918: A new revolt, this time against the British, is suppressed after that the British cut off the water supplies to Najaf.
1991: Mass revolt among the Shi’is in Najaf following the Gulf War, which is soon crushed by the Iraqi military. Many people are executed, many buildings are damaged but soon rebuilt.
1999 February: The religious leader in Najaf, Muhammad Sadeq al-Sadr, and two of his sons are killed by government troops.
2003 April: After having been encircled by US forces during the US/British-Iraq War and with the fall of Baghdad, Najaf surrenders.
— August 29: A car bomb explodes outside the Shrine of Ali killing more than 80 people, including Ayatollah Sayed Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim.
2004 April: Fighting between the al-Mahdi army of Muqtada al-Sadr and US troops.
— August: The al-Mahdi army takes control over Najaf, but soon faces an attack by US and Iraqi troops.
2007 January 28: Heavy fighting between a joint US/Iraqi force and an apocalyptic Shi’i sect under the leadership of Ahmed Hassani al-Yamani, leaving between 200 and 300 rebels dead.


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