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Najaf, Iraq

Al-Najaf Al-Ashraf or Holy Najaf, 161 km south of Baghdad, is a site of great religious significance to Muslims being home of the sacred shrine of the 4th Caliph os Islam Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (kaw), cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). Beside being the center of Islamic theological teaching as well as jurisprudence and literature studies.

The shrine of Imam Ali is enclosed in a mosque in the city center named Al-Haidariya Shrine with resplendent golden dome made of 7,777 tiles of pure gold and two 35 meters high golden minarets each made of 40,000 gold tiles.

The mosque of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (kaw)

Great quantities of priceless objects, gifts of potentates and sultans, are treasured in the mosque which is visited by millions of pilgrims annually.

Historians say that the tomb of Imam Ali was first discovered around 750 AD (139 AH) by Dawood Bin Ali Al-Abbas, then built by Azod Eddowleh in 977; that it was burnt later and rebuilt by the Seljuk Malek Shah in 1086, and rebuilt yet again by Ismail Shah, the Safawid, in about 1500.

The tomb has the same style as those of Kerbala, Samarra and Kadhimain in Baghdad. It is a rectangular enclosure surrounding a two-storied sanctuary, containing the tomb, with a great dome over it.

The facade of Ali's tomb, seen from the main or northern gateway, is richly beautiful- the gold tiles have darkened handsomely with age. And through the doorway to the tomb itself you can see the glistening stalactite effect of mirrors and the harsh neon lights that are features of all the major shrines of Iraq.

Imam Ali Mosque Main Entrance

Pink, blue and yellow patterns of birds and flowers bedeck the archways into the courtyard floored with marble brought from northern Iraq. Heavy wooden and gold doors lead in from the street opposite the covered suq (bazaar), where you can buy 'worry-beads' (sibhas), finely worked gold ornaments, and ankle-length cloaks for winter or summer, some hemmed with gold braid.

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing in Najaf is the graveyard. How many Muslims over the centuries have been brought here for burial from all parts of Islamic world? Surely millions. So Najaf is embraced by a vast semi-circle of graves- by an immense City of the Dead- and still, day after day, people bring their loved ones to be interred here. The cemetery is called Al-Wadi Essalaam, the Vale of Peace.

Imam Ali, "A mathematical genius":

A person was about to die, and before dying he wrote his will which went as follows...

"I have 17 camels, and I have 3 sons. Divide my camels in such a way, that my eldest son gets half of them, the second one gets 1/3rd of the total and my youngest son gets 1/9th of the total number of camels".

After his death when the relatives read his will they got extremely perplexed and said to each other that how can we divide 17 camels like this?!!, so after a long and hard thought they decided that there was only one man in Arabia who could help them, so they all came to the door of Imam Ali and put forward their dilemma.

Ali said, "Ok, I will divide the camels as per the man's will.. I will lend one of my camels to the total which makes it 18 (17 + 1 = 18), now lets divide as per his will".

The eldest gets 1/2 of 18 = 9
The second one gets 1/3 of 18 = 6
and the youngest gets 1/9 of 18 = 2

The total number of camels (9 + 6 + 2) = 17, Ali said then, "Now I will take my camel back".


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