LOS ANGELES, United States: A quarter of all Biblical prophets are
buried in Iraq. This fascinating photo-feature in the Los Angeles
Times blog (17 August) on the tomb of prophet Ezra (Uzair (peace be on
him)) the Scribe in Amarah reveals that since the mass departure of
the Jews, the site is now revered by Muslims.
Here on the plains of the Tigris River lies the shrine of prophet Ezra
(Uzair (peace be on him)). Locals believe Ezra passed away while
roaming through the area with his donkey.
About Prophet Uzair (peace be on him), Quran says:
(Or have you heard) of the one who, on passing through an empty and
ruined town, said, “When will God bring it to life?” God caused him to
die and brought him back to life after a hundred years and then asked
him, “How long have you been here?” He replied, “One day or part of a
day.” The Lord said, “No, you have been here for one hundred years.
Look at your food and drink. They have not yet decayed. But look at
your donkey and its bones. To make your case evidence (of the Truth)
for the people, see how we bring the bones together and cover them
with flesh.” When he learned the whole story, he said, “Now I know
that God has power over all things.” (2:259)
Prophet Uzair (peace be on him) was sent to the Bani Israel after
Prophet Moses (Musa (peace be on him)). Like all prophets, he was wise
One day he decided to travel to far-off lands and see the wonders of
his lord. He packed some food and water for the road, climbed on his
donkey and set off.
After riding for a long time, he came across an empty village. When he
stopped to have a look, he saw bones of the people who had once lived
there, scattered all around!
We have been told that this village was Jerusalem and its people
They had committed great sins and Allah had punished them by sending a
tyrant king, Nebuchadnezzar, over them. It was he who destroyed the
village and killed its people.
He looked at the broken bones for some time and then found himself
wondering, “How will Allah bring these scattered bones together into
bodies on the Day of Qiyamah (Day of Judgment)…?”
As soon as the words came to his mind, Allah caused him to die. When
He brought him back to life again, a hundred years had passed!
how long did you sleep?”
Prophet Uzair (peace be on him) replied, “I slept for one day…” and
then : thinking that was too much, he added, “or maybe half a day.”
Allah told him, “You have slept for one hundred years! Look at your
food and your donkey.”
Uzair (peace be on him) looked around and saw that his food was
untouched. What a shock he got when he searched for his donkey and
only found a pile of old bones!
He immediately realized that he had truly slept for a long time. It
was a miracle of Allah while his donkey had become dust and bones, his
food was as fresh as the day he had slept!
Allah told Uzair (peace be on him) to look at the bones and as he
watched, his donkey started coming back to life! The bones began join
together, then they were covered with flesh and soon the donkey stood,
alive and well, where he had tied it!
Seeing this Uzair (peace be on him) cried out in wonder, “Surely,
Allah has Power over all things!”. He returned home only to find that
his own children were now a hundred years older than him! When he said
he was ‘Uzair, no one believed him, so he told them to bring the
Tawrat (Old Testament) and began reciting it by heart. The people were
amazed because they knew that only Uzair had memorized the book and
this finally convinced them.
Uzair (peace be on him) became a sign of Allah’s power. He was also
proof that resurrection is a true promise and will take place.
His shrine still exists in this predominantly Shiite district of
Amarah province. Bashir Zaalan is the custodian of Ezra's shrine.
Zaalan inherited the job from his blind 100-year-old father, who
hobbles around on crutches. Iraq's once sizable Jewish population,
which thrived in Baghdad, appointed him caretaker long ago. The
capital is 268 miles away.
If the shrine was forgotten after the creation of Israel in 1948, when
most Jews left Iraq, Uzair (peace be on him) has proudly embraced its
cultural heritage. Like other prophets in the Bible, Ezra is a holy
figure in Islam. And the wooden shrine and blue mosaics in the domed
building are treated as sacred by visitors.
Visitors touch the wood out of reverence. People visit the shrine to
hold classes and deliver sermons on Islam.
"Before, people had no idea who Ezra was!" Zaalan said.
Zaalan guesses the brick building is 150 years old and replaced a reed
structure. Until now, Zaalan says the shrine has received no funding
from the national government, but he plans on heading to Baghdad to
request money. Once Zaalan and his father visited Baghdad's old Jewish
community and informed them they needed funds for renovations. They
were told a committee would be sent down to inspect the building.
No one ever came, but in 2000 a contractor showed up in the village
and carried out some repairs. "We don't know who paid for it," Zaalan