Babil’s Jewish shrine, mosque share space

Babil’s Jewish shrine, mosque share space
(Sunday, May 17, 2015) 12:50

There is a spot in the city of Babil that highlights the simultaneous overlap and struggle of religions. The Kifl area includes the tomb of the Prophet Ezekiel (Zul-Kifl), one of the prophets of Israel, as well as al-Nukhailah mosque, visited by Muslims. It is also the place where the fourth successor of the Rashidi Islamic era, Ali ibn Abi Talib (599-661), settled for a period.

Today, the Islamic Shiite Waqf is the official body overseeing both the Jewish shrine and the mosque. Israel Today reported in December that the tomb of the Prophet Ezekiel had been converted into a mosque.

Al-Monitor checked the official website of the Shiite Waqf Council, which categorized “the Ezekiel shrine” as a Shiite Islamic shrine and published a report that read, “Before their migration from Iraq in 1941, Iraqi Jews tried to obliterate Islamic writings from the mosque located in the same place to replace them with Hebrew phrases.”

However, the Jewish organization Nahum, which strives to return the properties and funds of the Jews who emigrated from Iraq, contradicts the viewpoint of the Shiite Waqf. In 2012, the organization called to halt the demolition of the tomb of the Prophet Ezekiel. The organization also called for the prevention or removal of Hebrew graffiti and inscriptions from the shrine.

According to historical documents, the Prophet Ezekiel had been in Iraq during the first Babylonian exile of the Jews in 597 B.C., and stayed in Babil until his death. Jews in Babil sanctify his grave, which was one of their major shrines before their emigration from Iraq.



Al-Monitor contacted writer and journalist Abdul Rahman al-Majedi, who visited the province of Babil during his participation in the Babylon Festival of Cultures and Arts in April 2014. Majedi said that witnesses from the area of the shrine told him that some of the Hebrew writings had already been removed from the minaret and replaced by Quranic verses and a picture of Mecca.

Sheikh Majid al-Kalabi, who lives near the Kifl area, told Al-Monitor, “The land registry records in the province of Babil confirm that most of the buildings and shops surrounding the Ezekiel shrine belong to Iraqi Jewish families.” According to Kalabi, “This is evidence that the authorities in Iraq did not manipulate the origins and history of the place.”

For his part, author Salah Hassan, who is interested in Iraq’s monuments and history, told Al-Monitor that during his visit to the site, he noticed that the Hebrew writing is still prominently visible on the walls of the shrine.” Hassan said, “The Prophet Daniel’s name was written next to the tomb of Ezekiel because he was a core supporter of his, and the adjacent popular market was named after the Prophet Daniel thousands of years ago.”

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