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definitions - Karbala

Karbala (n.)

1.a city of central Iraq to the south of Baghdad; a holy city for Shiite Muslims because it is the site of the tomb of Mohammed's grandson who was killed there in 680

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synonyms - Karbala

Karbala (n.)

Kerbala, Kerbela

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Karbala

                   
Karbala
كربلاء
Karbala al-Muqaddasah
Shi'a Muslims make their way to the Imam Husayn Mosque in Karbala, Iraq in 2008.
Karbala is located in Iraq
Karbala
Location in Iraq
Coordinates: 32°37′N 44°02′E / 32.617°N 44.033°E / 32.617; 44.033
Country  Iraq
Governorate Karbala
Government
 • Mayor
Population (2003)
 • Total 572,300

Karbala (Arabic: كربلاء‎; BGN: Al-Karbalā’; also referred to as Karbalā' al-Muqaddasah) is a city in Iraq, located about 100 km (62 mi) southwest of Baghdad. Karbala is the capital of Karbala Governorate, and has an estimated population of 572,300 people (2003).

The city, best known as the location of the Battle of Karbala (680), is amongst the holiest cities for Shia Muslims after Mecca and Medina. It is home to the Imam Hussein Shrine. Karbala is famous as the site of the martyrdom of Hussein ibn Ali (Imam Hussein), and commemorations are held by millions of Shias annually to remember it. Karbala is considered sacred by all Shias.[1]

Contents

  Etymology

There are several theories as to the origin of the name Karbala. One traditional hypothesis is Turkish geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi's belief that the name is an alternate Arabic feminine version of karbalah "soft earth".[2] Another theory is that the name came from the Aramaic root Karb or Qarb; meaning "Near", and Alah; meaning God. Hence, the word 'Karbala' signifies 'Near God'.[3] Alternatively, it has been said to be derived from the Aramaic word Kora, meaning place for making bricks, for the nearby ancient city of Babil, hence Karbabil, which became Karbala by contraction.

According to Shī‘ah belief, the true meaning of the name Karbalā was narrated to Muhammad by the archangel Gabriel as being, "the land which will cause many agonies (karb) and afflictions (balā)."[4]

  About the city

The city is one of Iraq's wealthiest, profiting both from religious visitors and agricultural produce, especially dates. It is made up of two districts, "Old Karbala," the religious centre, and "New Karbala," the residential district containing Islamic schools and government buildings.

At the centre of the old city is the Masjid al-Hussein, the tomb of Hussein ibn Ali, grandson of Muhammad by his daughter Fatima tuz-Zahra and ‘Alī ibn Abu Tālib. Hussein's tomb is a place of pilgrimage for many Shī‘ī Muslims, especially on the anniversary of the battle, the Day of ‘Āshūrā. Many elderly pilgrims travel there to await death, as they believe the tomb to be one of the gates to paradise. Another focal point of the Shī‘ī pilgrimage to Karbala is al-Makhayam, traditionally believed to be the location of Hussein's camp, where the death of Hussein and his followers is publicly commemorated. Many pious Shi'a ask to be buried in and around Karbala and a good portion of Karbala's economy is wrapped up in the corpse and funeral business.

The city's association with Shī‘a Islām have made it a centre of religious place as well as worship; it has more than 100 mosques and 23 religious schools, of which possibly the most famous is that of Ibn Fahid, constructed some 440 years ago.

The city sprang up around the two shrines of Hussein ibn Ali and his brother al-Abbas, and as such the layout of the city is centered around the shrines. In 1994, Saddam Hussein destroyed the houses between the shrines in order to created a huge concrete highway between the two.

  Climate

Karbala experiences a hot desert climate (Köppen climate classification BWh) with extremely hot, dry summers and cool winters. Almost all of the yearly precipitation is received between November and April, though no month is truly wet.

Climate data for Karbala
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 15.7
(60.3)
18.8
(65.8)
23.6
(74.5)
30.6
(87.1)
36.9
(98.4)
41.5
(106.7)
43.9
(111.0)
43.6
(110.5)
40.2
(104.4)
33.3
(91.9)
23.7
(74.7)
17.6
(63.7)
30.78
(87.41)
Average low °C (°F) 5.4
(41.7)
7.0
(44.6)
11.2
(52.2)
17.1
(62.8)
22.5
(72.5)
26.3
(79.3)
28.8
(83.8)
28.2
(82.8)
24.3
(75.7)
19.0
(66.2)
11.6
(52.9)
6.9
(44.4)
17.36
(63.24)
Precipitation mm (inches) 17.6
(0.693)
14.3
(0.563)
15.7
(0.618)
11.5
(0.453)
3.5
(0.138)
0.1
(0.004)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
0.3
(0.012)
4.1
(0.161)
10.5
(0.413)
15.3
(0.602)
92.9
(3.657)
Avg. precipitation days 7 5 6 5 3 0 0 0 0 4 5 7 42
Source: World Meteorological Organisation (UN) [5]

  Geography

To the west of Karbala is the Lake Milh (lake of salt), also known as Lake Razazah. A one hour car drive south takes you to Najaf. An hour car drive to the north-east takes you to Baghdad.

  History

  Battle of Karbala

Karbala's prominence in Shīa traditions is the result of the Battle of Karbala, fought on the site of the modern city on October 10, 680 AD (10 Muharram 61 AH). Both Hussein ibn Ali and his brother ʻAbbās ibn ʻAlī were buried by the local Banī Asad tribe at what later became known as the Mashhad Al-Hussein. The battle itself occurred as a result of Hussein's refusal to accept the Umayyad Yazid ibn Mu'awiya as caliph. The Kufan governor, Ubaydallah ibn Ziyad, sent thousands of horsemen against Hussein as he traveled to Kufa. The horsemen, under 'Umar ibn Sa'd, were ordered to deny Hussein and his followers water until Hussein agreed to give an oath of allegiance. On 9 Muharram, Hussein refused and asked to be given the night to pray. On 10 Muharram, Hussein ibn Ali prayed the morning prayer and led his troops into battle along with his brother al-Abbas. All of Hussein's followers, including all of his present sons, were slaughtered.[6]

In 63 AH (682 AD), Yazid ibn Mu'awiya released the surviving members of Hussein's family from prison. On their way to the Hijaz, they stopped at the site of the battle. There is record of Sulayman ibn Surad going on pilgrimage to the site as early as 65 AH (685 AD). The city began as a tomb and shrine to Hussein and grew as a city in order to meet the needs of pilgrims.

The city and tombs were greatly expanded by successive Muslim rulers, but suffered repeated destruction from attacking armies. The original shrine was destroyed by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mutawakkil in 850 but was rebuilt in its present form around 979, only to be partly destroyed by fire in 1086 and rebuilt yet again.

  Early modern

Like Najaf, the city suffered from severe water shortages that were only resolved in the early 18th century by building a dam at the head of the Husseiniyya Canal. In 1737, the city replaced Isfahan in Iran as the main centre of Shī'a scholarship. In the mid-eighteenth century it was dominated by the dean of scholarship, Yusuf Al Bahrani, a key proponent of the Akhbari tradition of Shī'a thought, until his death in 1772,[7] after which the more state-centric Usuli school became more influential. It suffered severe damage in 1802 when an invading Wahhabi army sacked the city.

After the Wahhabi invasion, the city enjoyed semi-autonomy during Ottoman rule, governed by a group of gangs and mafia variously allied with members of the 'ulama. In order to reassert their authority, the Ottoman army laid siege to the city and killed many of its inhabitants in January 1843. This prompted many students and scholars to move to Najaf, which became the main Shī'a religious centre.[8] Between 1850 and 1903, Karbala enjoyed a generous influx of money through the Oudh Bequest. The Shi'a ruled Indian Province of Awadh, known by the British as Oudh, had always sent money and pilgrims to the holy city. The Oudh money, 10 million rupees, originated in 1825 from the Awadh king Ghazi al-Din Haydar. One third was to go to his wives, and the other two thirds went to holy cities of Karbala and Najaf. When his wives died in 1850, the money piled up with interest in the hands of the British East India Company. The EIC sent the money to Karbala and Najaf per the wives' wishes, in the hopes of influencing the 'ulama in Britain's favor. This effort to curry favor is generally considered to have been a failure.[9]

  Mosque in Karbala (1932)

Karbala's development was strongly influenced by the Persians, who were the dominant community for many years (making up 75%[citation needed]of the city's population by the early 20th century). The Kammouna family (originally from Persians descendants) were custodians of the shrines for many years and effectively ran the city until it fell under the control of the British Empire in 1915. The Persian influence was deliberately reduced under British rule, with a series of nationality laws (such as a prohibition on foreigners occupying government posts) being introduced to squeeze out the Persian community. By 1957, they accounted for only 12% of the city's population. They were subsequently assimilated into the Iraqi population, accepting Iraqi nationality.

The association of the city with Shīʻa religious traditions led to it being treated with suspicion by Iraq's Sunni rulers. Under Saddam Hussein's rule, Shīʻa religious observances in the city were greatly restricted and many non-Iraqi Shīʻa were not permitted to travel there at all.

In March 1991, the city was badly damaged and many killed when a rebellion by local Shīʻa was put down with great brutality by Saddam's regime. The shrines and surrounding Shi'a houses, cemeteries, and hospitals became riddled with machine gun fire and military shelling. By April 1991, Saddam Hussein began an intense demolition project around the shrines in order to create a concrete perimeter. This "sanitary zone" created a wide open space in between and around the shrines. The shrines were rebuilt by 1994.[10] The 2004 pilgrimage was the largest for decades, with over a million people attending. It was marred by bomb attacks on March 2, 2004, now known as the Ashoura massacre, which killed and wounded hundreds despite tight security in the city.

A big Shia festival passed off peacefully amid fears of possible violence that brought thousands of troops and police into the city. Hundreds of thousands of Shia pilgrims who had come together to celebrate the Shaabaniya ritual began leaving the southern city after September 9, 2006 climax ended days of chanting, praying and feasting. Heavy presence by police and Iraqi troops seemed to have kept out Wahhabi/Takfiri Al-Qaeda suicide bombers who have disrupted previous rituals.

On April 14, 2007, a car bomb exploded about 600 ft (180 m) from the shrine, killing 47[11] and wounding over 150.

On January 19, 2008, 2 million Iraqi Shia pilgrims marched through Karbala city, Iraq to commemorate Ashura. 20,000 Iraqi troops and police guarded the event amid tensions due to clashes between Iraqi troops and Shia Muslims which left 263 people dead (in Basra and Nasiriya).[12]

  Main sights

  Shia beliefs

Shias believe that Karbalā is one of the holiest places on Earth according to the following traditions (among others):

Karbalā, where your grandson and his family will be martyred, is one of the most blessed and the most sacred lands on Earth and it is one of the valleys of Paradise.

God chose the land of Karbalā as a safe and blessed sanctuary twenty-four thousand years before He created the land of the Ka‘bah and chose it as a sanctuary. Verily it (Karbalā) will shine among the gardens of Paradise like a shining star shines among the stars for the people of Earth.

  • In this regard, Imam Jafar Sadiq narrates, 'Allah, the Almighty, has made the dust of my ancestor's grave - Imam Husain (a.s.) as a cure for every sickness and safety from every fear.' [14]
  • It is narrated from Imam Jafar Sadiq that: "The earth of the pure and holy grave of Hussein ibn Ali is a pure and blessed musk. For those who consume it from among our Shias, it is a cure for every ailment, and if our enemy uses it then he will melt the way fat melts, when you intend to consume that pure earth recite the following supplication" [15]

  Culture

Karbalaa FC is a football club based in Karbala.

  Media

There are many references in books in films to "Karbala", generally referring to Hussein ibn Ali's death at the Battle of Karbala. Hussein is often depicted on a white horse impaled by arrows. Films about the events of Karbala exist in both animated and realistic form (see external links "Karbala: When the Skies Wept Blood"; "Safar-e-Karbala").

Video footage of the actual city exists in a British documentary entitled "Saddam's Killing Fields."[16] The documentary shows the March 1991 destruction of the city by Saddam's army through the video camera of two brothers who lived in the city.

  University

There is a university called Ahlulbait University College in the city, teaching a variety of subjects.

  See also

  References

  1. ^ "Karbala and Najaf: Shia holy cities". BBC News. April 20, 2003. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2881835.stm. 
  2. ^ Muslims, Islam, and Iraq
  3. ^ http://english.bayynat.org.lb/occasions/karbala.htm
  4. ^ a b al-Qummi, Ja'far ibn Qūlawayh (2008). Kāmil al-Ziyārāt. trans. Sayyid Mohsen al-Husaini al-Mīlāni. Shiabooks.ca Press. p. 545. 
  5. ^ "World Weather Information Service – Karbala". United Nations. http://worldweather.wmo.int/154/c01465.htm. Retrieved 1 January 2011. 
  6. ^ al-Tabari, Muhammad ibn Jarir – History of the Prophets and Kings; Volume XIX The Caliphate of Yazid ibn Muawiyah, translated by I.K.A Howard, SUNY Press, 1991
  7. ^ Juan Cole, Sacred Space and Holy War, IB Tauris, 2007 p71-2
  8. ^ Cole, Juan R. I. Sacred Space and Holy War: the Politics, Culture and History of Shi'ite Islam. London: I.B. Tauris, 2002.
  9. ^ A Failed Manipulation: The British, the Oudh Bequest and the Shī'ī 'Ulamā' of Najaf and Karbalā'. Meir Litvak, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, http://www.jstor.org.proxy.lib.fsu.edu/stable/826171?seq=2
  10. ^ http://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports/1992/Iraq926.htm
  11. ^ Hamourtziadou, Lily (2007-04-15). "'A Week in Iraq'". iraqbodycount.org. Archived from the original on 2007-04-29. http://web.archive.org/web/20070429005149/http://www.iraqbodycount.org/editorial/weekiniraq/40/. Retrieved 2007-04-15. 
  12. ^ BBC NEWS, Iraqi Shia pilgrims mark holy day
  13. ^ al-Qummi, Ja'far ibn Qūlawayh (2008). Kāmil al-Ziyārāt. trans. Sayyid Mohsen al-Husaini al-Mīlāni. Shiabooks.ca Press. p. 534. 
  14. ^ Amali by Shaykh Tusi, vol. 1 pg. 326
  15. ^ Mustadrakul Wasail, vol. 10, pg 339-40 tradition 2; Jadid Makarimul Akhlaq pg.189; Beharul Anwaar vol. 101, tradition 60
  16. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyxhK9XfDKk

  External links

Coordinates: 32°37′N 44°02′E / 32.617°N 44.033°E / 32.617; 44.033

   
               

 

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