BAGHDAD — Down the street 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, stated she sees them.
“Once I open the prophet’s door at night time, I discover many birds on his tomb,” she stated. “They keep the night time 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 could 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Within the Outdated Testomony, Joshua was a companion of Moses, main the tribes of Israel into battle and, because the hymn tells it, bringing the partitions of Jericho tumbling down.
There is no such thing as a historic proof Joshua truly existed. If he did, his tomb is claimed to be in at the very least 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 stated when requested how Joshua would have made his method right here from Jericho. “That is his grave.”
The assistant director of Iraq’s Sunni Muslim shrines, Sheikh Suhaib Yas al-Rawi, stated 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 Within the Outdated Testomony, God stopped the solar for Joshua.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, often in describing the wonders revealed to her, a radiant pleasure.
She speaks of visions of a chicken encircled with Quranic verses, so blindingly lovely she can’t describe its colours, and of a go to by an angel within the type of a white chicken 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 fully hidden behind a profusion of shiny inexperienced leaves, it appears as if the tree itself is singing.
The tomb itself lies by way of 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 web 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 throughout 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 seeking 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 decide and poet who lived about 100 years earlier. There’s additionally a shrine devoted to Guru Nanak, the founding father of the Sikh faith, stated 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 stated no physician had been in a position to 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 occasions a day at house. Afterward, inside Joshua’s shrine, Ms. Sameer positioned her proper hand on the velvet protecting beneath the crumbling domed ceiling and prayed.
“That is the medication for the world of believers,” stated Um Junayd, who by no means realized to learn however is aware of the Quran by coronary heart.
Basheer Abdullah, a authorities worker, arrived along with his daughter and two sons. “Mama is sick,” stated his son, Gaith, 4, once I ask why they’ve come.
Mr. Abdullah’s ancestors are buried in a cemetery close by, the place sleek date palms forged shadows over centuries of tombstones.
“Our grandfathers stated the Prophet Yusha is buried right here,” he stated, utilizing the Arabic title for Joshua. “The prophets are recognized from technology to technology.”
A burly man dressed within the beige clothes of a fighter, along with his knee in a plastic brace, limps into the shrine and lays his pistol on the carpeted ground 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 stated 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 liked him. He had a face just like the moon,” she stated, utilizing a typical Arab expression of magnificence. “God gave him to me as a blessing.”
I first met Abu Junayd once I visited the shrine in 2001 with my good friend Nermeen al-Mufti, an Iraqi journalist who 20 years later introduced me again. Twenty years in the past, Abu Junayd instructed 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 pressured to go away within the Nineteen Fifties.
He instructed us in regards to the snake that protects the shrine at night time, showing by way of a crack within the historic wooden of the prophet’s coffin.
Um Junayd stated within the daytime, the snake roams round defending the neighborhood. At night time, she stated, they’ll hear it returning. Past that, she can’t not inform us.
“This land is blessed and has secrets and techniques,” she stated. “Some issues are apparent and a few issues aren’t apparent. We can’t reply all the pieces.”
Nermeen al-Mufti contributed reporting from Baghdad.