BAGHDAD — Down the highway from the railway yard the place plastic trash piles up towards rusting freight automobiles, the angels arrive each night to face watch over the tomb of Joshua. A servant of the shrine, Um Junayd, mentioned she sees them.
“After I open the prophet’s door at evening, I discover many birds on his tomb,” she mentioned. “They keep the evening with him they usually depart within the morning. These birds are angels.”
She requested to be referred to as merely Um Junayd, the mom of Junayd, her eldest son, as a result of to have her full title seem can be conceited. The household of her late husband have been caretakers of the shrines on this neighborhood for 600 years.
Within the Outdated Testomony, Joshua was a companion of Moses, main the tribes of Israel into battle and, as the hymn tells it, bringing the partitions of Jericho tumbling down.
There isn’t a historic proof Joshua really existed. If he did, his tomb is claimed to be in not less than three different locations, together with present-day Israel and Turkey.
However that doesn’t matter within the least to Um Junayd or the multitudes who’ve been coming to this shrine since Baghdad was based 1,200 years in the past.
“He prayed to God to come back to Iraq and die in Iraq,” Um Junayd mentioned when requested how Joshua would have made his means right here from Jericho. “That is his grave.”
The assistant director of Iraq’s Sunni Muslim shrines, Sheikh Suhaib Yas al-Rawi, mentioned he is aware of it’s Joshua’s tomb as a result of there was a solar engraved on the unique partitions, together with the title Joshua bin Nun, a reference to the prophet’s father. Within the Outdated Testomony, God stopped the solar for Joshua.
Um Junayd, 70, wears an all-enveloping black cloak over a darkish inexperienced velvet gown and plastic sandals. She exudes serenity and, sometimes in describing the wonders revealed to her, a radiant pleasure.
She speaks of visions of a chook encircled with Quranic verses, so blindingly stunning she can not describe its colours, and of a go to by an angel within the type of a white chook so massive its wings shook the ground.
Behind her, sparrows twitter and a bulbul, a songbird, trills from the branches of a sacred tree. With the birds utterly hidden behind a profusion of shiny inexperienced leaves, it appears as if the tree itself is singing.
The tomb itself lies by a low doorway of a vaulted brick shrine, partially renovated lately by Iraq’s Sunni Muslim non secular authority. Inside is a big rectangular coffin manufactured from sandalwood and lined in darkish blue velvet embroidered with gold and silver calligraphy. A star-shaped mosaic with lacking mirrored tiles on the domed ceiling is strung with a darkish inexperienced internet to catch bugs earlier than they fall onto the coffin.
Like mild refracted, over time the prophet within the Hebrew Bible has come to be revered by a number of faiths, together with Islam. The Quran considers him the assistant of Moses.
Greater than 1,200 years in the past through the Islamic golden age, when Baghdad was the capitol of the Abbasid caliphate, Sufi Muslim philosophers, students and mystics paid homage to Joshua, and a few are buried close to the shrine. The trustworthy hoping to have their prayers answered and the sick trying to be healed are drawn right here.’
Joshua’s shrine is now surrounded by the tomb of St. Junayd al-Baghdadi, a Sufi grasp who died in 910, and the grave of Bahloul, a choose and poet who lived about 100 years earlier. There’s additionally a shrine devoted to Guru Nanak, the founding father of the Sikh faith, mentioned to have visited Baghdad and to have mentioned theology with the spirit of Bahloul.
Accounts from centuries in the past place the shrine an hour’s stroll for pilgrims from the town. On a latest day, Salih Ahmed Salih and his spouse, Arwa Sameer, stepped out of a yellow taxi with their two kids in what’s now a crowded Baghdad neighborhood.
Mr. Salih mentioned no physician had been capable of relieve the ache of his spouse’s herniated disc. Ms. Sameer adopted Um Junayd, who learn Quranic verses over her within the hope of therapeutic and prescribed a verse for her to recite 30 instances a day at residence. Afterward, inside Joshua’s shrine, Ms. Sameer positioned her proper hand on the velvet masking beneath the crumbling domed ceiling and prayed.
“That is the medication for the world of believers,” mentioned Um Junayd, who by no means discovered to learn however is aware of the Quran by coronary heart.
Basheer Abdullah, a authorities worker, arrived together with his daughter and two sons. “Mama is sick,” mentioned his son, Gaith, four, after I ask why they’ve come.
Mr. Abdullah’s ancestors are buried in a cemetery close by, the place swish date palms forged shadows over centuries of tombstones.
“Our grandfathers mentioned the Prophet Yusha is buried right here,” he mentioned, utilizing the Arabic title for Joshua. “The prophets are identified from technology to technology.”
A burly man dressed within the beige clothes of a fighter, together with his knee in a plastic brace, limps into the shrine and lays his pistol on the carpeted flooring as he prays. A smiling man with a white crocheted prayer cap, who’s learning Sufi Islam, involves pay his respects to the prophet.
Um Junayd speaks solely to the ladies. She mentioned she has no use for the skin world, the place folks communicate of subjects that don’t curiosity her like furnishings and new automobiles. She feels blessed to have the ability to clear the road the place the prophet as soon as walked.
Her husband, Abu Junayd, died a decade in the past.
“He was good-hearted, and other people beloved him. He had a face just like the moon,” she mentioned, utilizing a typical Arab expression of magnificence. “God gave him to me as a blessing.”
I first met Abu Junayd after I visited the shrine in 2001 with my buddy Nermeen al-Mufti, an Iraqi journalist who 20 years later introduced me again. Twenty years in the past, Abu Junayd informed us in regards to the Jewish neighbors that some within the neighborhood nonetheless remembered — descendants of Jews in exile in Babylon, and an necessary a part of Iraqi society till most have been compelled to depart within the 1950s.
He informed us in regards to the snake that protects the shrine at evening, showing by a crack within the historic wooden of the prophet’s coffin.
Um Junayd mentioned within the daytime, the snake roams round defending the neighborhood. At evening, she mentioned, they will hear it returning. Past that, she can not not inform us.
“This land is blessed and has secrets and techniques,” she mentioned. “Some issues are apparent and a few issues should not apparent. We can not reply the whole lot.”
Nermeen al-Mufti contributed reporting from Baghdad.