An Najaf

An Najaf än nä´jäf [key], city (1987 pop. 309,010), S central Iraq, on a lake near the Euphrates River. The city, one of Shi'a Islam's holiest, is also called Mashad Ali, after the tomb (in a mosque) of Ali , son-in-law of Muhammad the Prophet. The tomb is an object of pilgrimage by Shiite Muslims and a starting point for the pilgrimage to Mecca. An Najaf also is an important Shiite theological and educational center Iraq's senior Shiite clergy reside there. The city was the center of fighting between U.S. forces and Shiite insurgents in 2004.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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