Sunday, February 14, 2016
Ezekiel's shrine is now a centre for Shi'a worship
The blue Koranic inscriptions and minaret have been recently added to Ezekiel's shrine, so that its former Jewish character has been completely erased (photo: Hajj.ir)
All hopes that the dilapidated Jewish shrine of al-Kifl, where the Biblical prophet Ezekiel is reputedly buried, might be restored to its original state, have been dashed. In spite of our petition, Point of No Return has seen photos which sadly show that the shrine looks to have been converted into a mosque and its Jewish character erased. We do not know the fate of its unique Hebrew inscriptions and floral decoration, but suspect the worst.
It is feared that the stunning decoration and Hebrew inscriptions have been painted over. (photo MS)
This report from 18 January 2016 by Adnan abu Zeed in Al-Monitor does not even mention that Ezekiel's tomb was an important Jewish pilgrimage site. Instead it harks back to when al-Kifl was, supposedly, a shrine to the Babylonian god Shamash, thus erasing 2,000 years of Jewish association with the shrine. To reinforce its legitimacy in Shi'a Islam, it is now claimed that 'the fourth caliph of Shi'a Islam prayed and stayed there in the 7th century'. (If ever Da'esh conquer the site, however, they would destroy it as surely as they have been doing to Christian and Shi'a sites in the north of Iraq.)
"It is traditional for visitors to frequent the historical shrine, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, and pray for God’s blessing. What is interesting about this particular place, however, is that it has not always been Islamic. The shrine once served as a temple of Shamash, the sun god, during the First Babylonian Dynasty. Based on the monotheistic principles of Islam, the shrine's prior history would ordinarily make it a symbol of idolatry and polytheism, which contradict the principle of oneness. The Arabic name “Mashhad al-Shams” means “emergence of the sun,” but otherwise, the monument lacks any traces of its Babylonian heritage. In fact, as far as many visitors know, the Hillah monument is purely Islamic.
“The monument is a rare, if not unique, case given the mixture it exemplifies between the pre- and post-Islamic eras,” Karim Saadi, a history teacher in Babil’s junior high school, told Al-Monitor. “This monument — which is about 3 kilometers [1.9 miles] away from the historic city of Babil — is not an Islamic shrine but an 'adad,' which is a Babylonian temple where spiritual rituals were conducted. While Babylonians worshiped the sun there, Muslims established a link between the temple and Islam after the fourth caliph of Islam, Ali ibn Abi Talib, prayed and stayed in it for a period of time during [mid-seventh-century] wars.” Ali, for whom Muslims also pray at the shrine, is considered by Shiites to be the rightful successor to the Prophet Muhammad.
Unlike many Iraqi monuments that today suffer from neglect and a lack of visitors, Mashhad al-Shams sits in a garden of grass and palm trees and is packed with tourists and locals praying for God’s blessing. As Babil province is majority Shiite, there are green flags throughout the site, and the entrance is lined with photos of Shiite imams and signs indicating that Ali had prayed here. Many women spend an entire day in the shrine praying, while youths might perform their noon prayers there.
After Ali al-Husseini, a college student, finished his prayers at the shrine, he spoke to Al-Monitor about its importance to him. “I am well-aware that this site is an extension of the monuments of Babil,” he said. “However, the space's sacredness, derived from the link it has with an Islamic event — the Shiite Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib’s stay there — has superseded its importance as a historic Babylonian monument.”
This video by Tsur Shezaf is photographic evidence that the shrine of Ezekiel was once a Jewish shrine
More about Ezekiel's shrine