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Najaf, al-

NAJAF, AL-

The capital of the Najaf Muhafaza (governorate) in central Iraq.

One of Iraq's two holy cities (the other is Karbala), al-Najaf (2003 pop. 500,000) lies on a ridge just west of the Euphrates River. The caliph Harun alRashid is reputed to have founded the city, whose growth occurred mostly in the tenth century, in 791 c.e. In the center of al-Najaf is one of Shiʿism's greatest shrines, the mosque containing the tomb of Ali ibn Abi Talib (c. 600661), cousin and sonin-law of the prophet Muhammad, who was the fourth Muslim caliph (leader) and the spiritual founder of the Shiʿite sect. Al-Najaf also has schools and libraries that are valuable repositories of Islamic theology, especially Shiʿite jurisprudence.

Al-Najaf Muhafaza is a flat region extending over 10,615 square miles from the Euphrates River in the northeast to the Saudi Arabian border in the southeast. The governorate's population is concentrated near the river; the rest of the region is sparsely populated. Established in 1976, al-Najaf Muhafaza was formed from areas of the governorate of Qadisiyya in the east and the governorate of Karbala in the west.

Al-Najaf has long been a hotbed of Shiʿite resistance against the Sunni rulers in Baghdad, and in the twentieth century this resistance has been a source of tension between the Sunni-dominated government of Iraq and the Shiʿite government in Iran. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein by invading U.S. forces in April 2003 led to the return of open Shiʿite worship in the city, but the assassination of some of Iraqi Shiʿism's most important clerics, including the returned exile Ayatullah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim (19392003), who was killed by a bomb in August 2003, marred the new era.

see also hussein, saddam; karbala; shiʿism; sunni islam.


Bibliography


Batatu, Hanna. The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978.

mamoon a. zaki
updated by michael r. fischbach

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An Najaf

An Najaf (än nä´jäf), city (1987 pop. 309,010), S central Iraq, on a lake near the Euphrates River. The city, one of Shi'a Islam's holiest, is also called Mashad Ali, after the tomb (in a mosque) of Ali, son-in-law of Muhammad the Prophet. The tomb is an object of pilgrimage by Shiite Muslims and a starting point for the pilgrimage to Mecca. An Najaf also is an important Shiite theological and educational center; Iraq's senior Shiite clergy reside there. The city was the center of fighting between U.S. forces and Shiite insurgents in 2004.

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Najaf, al-

Najaf, al-. Town of pilgrimage in Iraq, 6 miles west of al-Kūfa, the traditional burial-place of Adam and Noah, and site of the tomb of Imām ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib.

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Najaf

Najaf a city in southern Iraq, on the Euphrates, which contains the shrine of Ali, the prophet Muhammad's son-in-law, and is a holy city for the Shiite Muslims.

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Najaf

Najaf: see An Najaf, Iraq.

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Najaf

Najafcaff, carafe, faff, gaff, gaffe, naff, Najaf, piaffe, Taff •Piaf • chiffchaff • decaf • pilaf • Olaf •paraph • riffraff • Asaph

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