Najaf, Iraq

Emotional Journey to Najaf –The Gate of Wisdom.

Najaf, Iraq

Mohammed-Khaku Mohammed Khaku (Allentown, USA) is the past president of Al Ahad Islamic Center in Allentown. He is a Social and criminal justice writer and regularly writes for a number of international publications


ajaf – The Gate (door) of wisdom, history, heritage, and significance. Published by UNESCO in 2014. 201 pages of excellent sources of information with beautiful pictures. A must for any library.

The journey to Najaf is not just a physical one, but a spiritual one as well. Many pilgrims (Zawars) prepare for months in order to purify their hearts, minds, and souls.

The Gold-Plated Shrine of Imam Ali (as) in Najaf.

My favourite poetry I used to listen to before I left for Najaf.

If you get an opportunity to visit the Shrine of Asadullah, when entering (dhakal) the street (gully) of Najaf enter with etiquettes(Adhab) and when you reach the shrine (Zariah) of the commander of faithful – Shahan Shah of Ghadeer & Khandaq, shed few tears, kiss and hold tight & complain about the calamities which have fallen day and night on the Ummah of Prophet. O Abu Turab! Listen to the complaint (Faryad), I have brought my boat (Khasti) on your doorstep.

According to UNESCO Najaf is known as the city of wisdom and one of the most attractive and favorite places for tourists. Some want to see the ancient land of the prophets, and civilization and others seek to offer salutations to the commander of faithful Ali, the son of Abu Talib.

Najaf attracts people of many beliefs and it has remained part of the ancient civilizations and empires. It has historical and archaic value. Next few weeks of Muharram I will share my spiritual journey to Najaf and beyond. God willing it will be my third book endeavour.

Each link in this blog will open the gate of wisdom about the history and ancient story. Let’s explore Najaf

What do Ancient scriptures reveal great importance of Najaf

It is narrated that after the great flood, Noah’s ark stopped here in the land of Najaf and this is the place where Prophet Adam and Noah are buried in close proximity to the grave of Imam Ali.

Noah started the settlement here in Najaf. The famous well from where the great flood started is also located in the suburbs of Najaf in the ancient city known as Kufa.

The emergence of Islam in Najaf began in the 2nd century when many Shia migrated from persecution. Many kings including Shah Ismail, Shah Tahmasp and many Qajar kings contributed to the development of Najaf.

Najaf is located 165 km from Baghdad and 77 km from Karbala and 10 km south of Kufa

The deer hunting incident of Harun al-Rashid 

Harun ordered a tomb to be erected over the grave, and people soon began to settle down in its vicinity. The Shrine of Ali at Najaf from “The Shi’ite Religion” by Dwight M. Donaldson. An interesting read.

What does Najaf mean?

Najaf means “dry river.” How Najaf was given its name is explained in the tradition during Noah’s time when the Ark came to rest. At first, there was a mountain there, and with the flood coming, the sons of Noah refused to enter the Ark, he said that he would sit on this mountain and would be saved.

A revelation came therefore to the mountain, “Do you undertake to protect this son of mine from punishment?” And all at once the mountain fell to pieces and the son of Noah was drowned. In place of the mountain, a large river appeared, but after a few years the river dried up, and the place was called Nay-Jaff, meaning, “the dried river.”

There is the largest cemetery in the city of Najaf at walking distance from the shrine which is the burial place of many Prophets, like Prophet Adam, Nuh (Noah), Hud and Saleh.

Najaf has a staggering population of over 5 million. The Prophet Abraham had come to this place along with Isaac to purchase a valley called the Valley of Peace (Wadiu’s-Salaam)

Words cannot describe the feelings of a believer who finds himself lucky enough to be at this holy shrine.

I could see the large golden dome, in between two tall 35-meter golden minarets. The dome is made of 7,777 gold-plated bricks, handmade deep-sea blue, turquoise and white ceramic tiles pieced together with Quran verses lining the mosque’s walls.

The hospitality given by the volunteers and the custodian is one of the best with no rudeness like encountered during Hajj. You are left on your own to ponder, pray, and contemplate. The minute you step in tears follow over your cheeks and intense spirituality sinks in.

One thing you will notice is that there is a unique sense of peace and tranquillity in the air. You see friendly and hospitable people. The never-ending wars failed to lessen the passion and hospitality of the Iraqis.

As I entered the courtyard inside was crowded with people of all ages walking, talking or sitting down with their families. Million people make the pilgrimage every year.

Imam Ali’s influence extends beyond Islam. The United Nations declared Imam Ali the Just governor in all of human history in 2002. It is documented by UN Gen. Sec. Kofi Annan has been a model of good governance.

In its declaration, the U.N. cites six examples of a good governor as written by Imam Ali in a letter to Malik Ashtar who he appointed as Egypt’s ruler in 656 A.D.

As I approached the shoe stall, I stood in line with our shoes which we weren’t allowed to have inside. The man at the window gave me the tag and took my shoes.  

Inside, hundreds of men surrounded the tomb. Some sat down with opened Qurans in their laps and prayer beads in their hands as they recited verses with their eyes closed and tears rolled over their cheek. While others stood with their palms toward the sky.

As I approached the shrine, men standing on chairs waved green feather sticks to direct the crowd of visitors to move on. It took nearly half an hour to reach the shine, though it was 1:00 am in the morning.

Once my fingers and palm got a grip on the Shrine of Imam Ali’s tomb, I grasped it tight, broke down crying and quickly paid my respects, asked for my desires, passed salutations from my community of Al Ahad Islamic Center and then broke myself away regretting that I should have hold for few more minutes.

Imam Ali is absent today from our midst only physically. His soul even to this day is the greatest spiritual resort for everyone who seeks the help of God through his intercession.  

Thousands and thousands of people call out to him in their difficulties, and the word “Ya Ali Madad”, automatically comes out from their mouth. A famous prayer known as “NADEY ALI” (Call Ali) is recited wherever the lovers of Ali are in difficulties.

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