Najaf: Portrait of a Holy City examines the historical and social aspects of one of Iraq’s most important cities, a centre of religious learning and devotion for the Shi’i world since medieval times. Thirteen original contributions by leading Iraqi and international scholars present several key perspectives on the history and development of the city, its global spiritual and educational prominence and its modern role as an economic and political centre.
The essays in this book cover topics such as Najaf’s architecture and urban design
- including the spectacular Imam ‘Ali Shrine and the vast Wadi al-Salam Cemetery
- as well as the preservation of its built environment; the influence of political and social movements in the city (such as the 1920 revolt and the role of communism in the mid-twentieth century); the impact of pilgrimage to Najaf (which can rival that of the Hajj in Makkah) and the ‘Ashura commemoration; religious authority in the city, both historical and embodied in the present day by its ayatollahs, imams, maraji’ and the scholars of the hawza, Najaf’s famed seminary; and the city’s intellectual development through the ages, which has resulted in an abundance of libraries.
This remarkable book, the only edited academic volume available on the subject in English, fills a serious gap in the literature on this sacred site for the global Shi’i community – itself a subject of renewed interest amongst academics and the general public.