Al-Najaf city of churches and monasteries for Christians 1400 years ago
حيدر حسين الجنابي
byThe remains of 33 churches and monasteries are still standing and spread in the land of Al-Najaf.
Â These remains are scattered here and there and representing a physical evidence of the history of the city churches and the tunes of their bells those used to spread the Christian faith to the world. The city was representing the foremost authority for ancient Christians.
Perhaps, the treasures of the city of Al-Najaf, its importance and role that proved by the archaeological excavations that performed in the churches receive the attention of Vatican in order to help highlighting the features of the Christian city of Al-Najaf. This will represent a live message that could contribute to the dialogue of civilizations and religions and show that Al-Najaf city, throughout history, did not discriminate between people on the bases of religion and doctrine. The city embraced everybody, was and is still representing a city of peaceful existence between religions, because of its civilization (Al-Najaf Civilization).
Researcher Selma Husain: The most well-known Christian scientists in Al-Najaf were those in medicine, logic and means of persuasion and affecting the sols, such as, Marathelia, Saint Hanna Neshoa, Saint Youhanna (Hochagh), Shamoon and Shamoon bin Jabir.
Researcher Selma Husain said the city of Al-Heara had a major role in spreading Christianity, specially the Nestorius doctrine which is attributed to the Patriarch Nestorius, deceased in 450 AD. The main center of Christianity was Al-Heara and from there Christianity transferred to the Arabian Peninsula. The Christian people learned Syriac language and used it in their singing and writing. Then the Christianity spread to Persia, Al-Yamamah, Oman and from Al-Yamamah moved to Najran, Yemen and other areas.
About calling them Nasara, Selma said: Christian of Al-Heara called Abbad after they believed in Christian faith (Nestorian doctrine) in the 4th century. The first who believed and enter the Christianity religion was Al- Nuâ€™man bin Almundhir the first, or the biggest, who ruled at 403 â€“ 431 AD. In 420 Ad there was a rift between the Christians and the pagans, but Al-Nuâ€™man the first interfered supporting the Christians and protected them. This incident was an evidence for the freedom of Arabs in Al-Heara to enter Christianity. There is another story confirmed that Saint Simaan was able to healed Al-Nuâ€™man from neurological disease by driving out the devil from his body, therefore he entered the Christian religion.
Selma explained that there were many monasteries in the province of Al-Najaf and the archaeological excavations revealed the presence of a very large church on the back of Al-Kufa. The most known churches in Al-Najaf are: Der bishops, Der bin Mzaaouk, Der Al-Awar, Der of church Mzaaouk, Der Ablage, Der bin Barak, Der bin Waddah (Known as Mar Abda Maary) Der adhir mang (known as Adhirmang), Der Abi Musa, Der Bany Srinar, Der Bany Marina, Der Noma, Der Hareek, Der Hena (known as Al-Akerah), Der Al-Harka, Der Hind the little, Der Al-Jaraa (known as Der Abdul Messiah bin Bakeela), Der Al-Jamajim, Der Abd Jushua, Der Mazfanton, Der Mart Mariam, Der Muhrak, Der Hind the biggest (known as Om Omro) and Der Al-Akerah, as well as Der Al-Zernouk, Der Serges and Der Alaskon.
With regard to the constructions of monasteries and churches, Selma said: they used marble, bricks, plaster and tiles, which made them professionals in constructing masterpieces of art and architecture in their churches. She added, as the size of the monastery increase, the number of monks and religious people dwelling in it increased. Each monastery used to be fortified with strong high walls to protect them from evil attacks and shield them from the aggressors
Selma also mentioned that the most famous Christian scientists from Al-Heara city were: Marathelia, Saint Hanna Neshoa (from the Clan of Al-Heara king, Al-Nuâ€™man bin Almundhir), Saint Mar Youhanna (Hachog) who attended the Synods of Jathlique Isaac in 410 AD, Shamoon who attended the Synods of Behyala in 486 AD and Shamoon bin Jabir who christened King Al-Nuâ€™man IV in 594 AD who built the greatest churches. Among the notable Christian people was Abdul Messiah bin Bakeela. The Christian used to have special religious system, orders, leaders and religious leaders. Some of the leadership names which known at that time are: Alabil (Jesus son of Mary), Patriarch (head of Nasara), Jathlique (less than Patriarch), the bishop and pontiff (head of Nasara). Most missionaries were scholar in medicine, logic and means of persuasion and those who affect the sols. The monasteries used to have an important role in dissemination of culture and the teaching in various fields of sciences and knowledge.
Dr. Hassan Al-Hakim: I was able to count 33 churches and monasteries scattered in the area of Al-Najaf, Al-Kufa and Al-Heara Sea.
Â Dr. Hassan Essa Al-Hakim, the first professor in history at the University of Al-Kufa, Said: the people of Al-Heara converted to the Christian Religion after they were pagans. The Syriac language spread among the people in the city. As a result, monasteries increased in Al-Heara and at the suburbs. Mostly, the Christian people liked to live at the suburbs area of Al-Heara, because a monk and a religious Christian person wanted to stay away from other people for worship. Because Al-Najaf Sea was located outside Al-Heara city, which it was an empty area, therefore Christian clerics chose churches and other worship places in this area. In addition, the churches were spread near the city of Al-Kufa, such as Akola, which located between the cities of Al-Kufa and Al-Heara (occupied now by the International Al-Najaf Airport and cement factories). They built churches there; the Syriac lived in Akola and built the church of Hind the little on the Trench of Al-Kufa (known now as Bakery Saada).
In other area, on the edge of Al-Najaf Sea, the monastery of Hind the biggest located between Al-Najaf and Al-Heara, near Al-Khawarnak Palace.
Dr. Al-Hakim referred to a story of an event took place when the Muslim army leader, Khalid bin Al-Waleed wanted to invade Al-Heara, he camped in Al-Najaf land in the Al-grethem district near the Palaces located between Al-Najaf and Al-Heara. In addition to the occupation of the monasteries, bin Al-Waleed asked the Christians to choose the way to open the churches either by war or peacefully. The Christian used to pay Al-Jezia (tribute). Another incident happened was the conversation between the well-known monk, Abdul Messiah bin Bakeela, and Khalid bin Al-Waleed before the occupation of Al-Heara. The story added that bin Al-Waleed asked the monk Abdul Messiah of what he found in this place â€“ Al-Heara- the monk reply, he found that Indian and Chinese ships passing through this sea, referring to the Sea of Al-Najaf.
Dr. Al-Hakim talk also about the number of monasteries and said: I counted the churches which are given in my book â€œThe History of Al-Najafâ€ and in another book, â€œAl-Heara cityâ€. He added, I found 33 monasteries scattered among the triangle of Al-Najaf, Al-Kufa and Al-Heara. The monasteries spread further inside the monkâ€™s area in Al-Najaf Sea located near Alrehama district, 20 kilometer away from the city of Al-Najaf, where there are still remains of monasteries in the area.
Dr. Al-Hakim confirm that when Al-Heara role as a big state was over and the region occupied by Muslims, the Christians and their churches remains active. In an event for Imam Ali when he was the head of the Muslim state in Al-Kufa, once when he was passing one of the monasteries and the bells were ringing, he stopped and asked the people who were with him, he asked them whatâ€™s the bells saying? They replied to him that they ordering the believers, the Imam asked again do the bells speak, he replied to his question by saying yes they speak, and then he started to explain the tunes and beats of the bells and conforming that represent some sort of worship and unity to God.
Dr. Al-Hakim added, at the time of Imam Ali bin Abi Taleb, the monasteries use to perform their religious role, and when the Imam hited in19 Ramadan, they brought him the Christian doctor, Atheer Alskony from Ain Altamer to treat him. After checking the Imam Head, he said you are going to die, give your will; the strike reached your brain. This means that the Christian region included Al-Heara and its suburbs to Ain Altamer in Karbala.
Al-hakim continued and said: the Shabishty in Al-Diarat book explain the monasteries in Iraq, especially those located in the area of Al-Najaf Sea. He said, if we collect the poems written on these monasteries, we would get one book or more than one because poem discussions used to be carried out in these monasteries and churches in the province of Al-Najaf.
Dr. Al-Hakim also said we have text for poets from Al-Kufa, like Abo Nuaas who was from the poets of the Abbassy era. Those poets used to come out from the monasteries singing the poems and a lot of Arabic poems written in these monasteries who remained till the mid of the Abbassy era. He added, afterword the people started to migrate to Baghdad.
The Director of Archaeology in the province of Al-Najaf: Churches were spread from the region of the International Al-Najaf Airport to Al-Heara town, then Almanadhira till the Sea of Al-Najaf.
Mohammed Al-Maily, the Director of Archaeology in Al-Najaf province, confirmed that they did recent studies about the monasteries and churches, but the work not completed yet. However, he referred to the presence of churches located from the areas of the International Al-Najaf Airport till the Sea of Al-Najaf, such as Monkâ€™s springs and Athla Palaces. He added we have statistical reports of about 200 archaeological excavated regions in Al-Najaf. He also said, we think the number will increase when we finish our work about the Christian archaeology in the province. He added, the churches surrounded by Christian cemeteries and the recent excavation confirmed to us that the largest Christian cemetery in Iraq is located in the Province of Al-Najaf with an area of 1414 acres in a district called Om Khashim and contain a large number of graves of Al-Nasara.
Dr. Bahadly: Al-Najaf connected historically with Al-Heara and Al-Kufa where monasteries and palaces scattered near them.
Dr. Mohammed Bakre Al-Bahadly mentioned that the city of Al-Najaf connected historically and geographically with Al-Heara and Al-Kufa. The presence of Arabic tribal was stationed around Al-Najaf area during the era that preceded the Islam and the migration of the tribes to this area increased by the gathering of Almanadhira and Al-Heara Arabs. Also, it was a destination for princes and kings for the purpose of hunting and enjoying the pure air. Dr. Bahadly added, monasteries and palaces, like Al-Khawarnak palace and Alsadeer palace are scattered near the place of Al-Heara.
Researcher Hashim Al-Muhrak: monasteries are known by their wide farms and flowers.
The researcher Hashim Nasser Al-Muhrak added, the monasteries were scattered in Al-Kufa and the most famous are: Der Harka and Der Al-Jamajim, which they were built near the place of making wooden cups. These monasteries were known by their wide farms and flowers as they used to plant flowers like Aladhira, Alkhozame, Daisy and Albanafsage.
One of the oldest literary texts was the one written by Abo Farag Alasbahany describing the monasteries in Al-Najaf:
Passing Marian the biggest and the shadow of its yard stop
By Abi Alkhassib palace the overlooking on Al-Najaf
Al-Khawarnak and Alsadeer play yards of advances
To the palm trees of order and the doves over at high
Perhaps the age of Al-Najaf which extended to more than million years, as reported by the archaeological excavations, indicating that itâ€™s belong to the middle Pleistocene age and the following ages till the Old Stone Age. Thus, everything show us the importance of this holy city whose schools graduated thousands of Christians and Muslims scientists and millions of worshipers who did not kneel except for God