12.10.2016 - UNESCO Office for Iraq

UNESCO releases Arabic version of book Al-Najaf: Origin and Development of a Sacred City

UNESCO is releasing the Arabic edition of the publication Al-Najaf: Origin and Development of a Sacred City

UNESCO, jointly with Alwarrak Publishing, is releasing the Arabic edition of at the publication Al-Najaf: Origin and Development of a Sacred City. The English edition will be published jointly by Ithaca Press (UK) and UNESCO later this year. Both volumes were developed with the support of  the Iraqi Ministry of Culture in the context of the project “Preserving Najaf’s cultural heritage and promoting its international visibility,” implemented by UNESCO.

In this book, edited by Sabrina Mervin, Robert Gleave and Geraldine Chatelard, Iraqi and international scholars come together to provide a context for the cultural significance of al-Najaf, and present current scholarship from archaeology, anthropology and different historical approaches. Western scholarship which focuses on al-Najaf is not plentiful; by contrast, collecting the scholarly production about al-Najaf from within the Shia tradition creates a library of its own. Trying to redress this imbalance, the book involves scholars from within the Najafī intellectual world, and those from a Western tradition of historiography and social sciences. Part of the intention in doing so is to present Iraqi scholarship to those unfamiliar with its achievements, and to bring scholarship on al-Najaf from outside into the Najafī and more generally Arab intellectual space. It is rare that scholars of these different backgrounds come into contact and have their work presented together as part of a single project. This endeavour is in line with UNESCO’s mandate to promote knowledge and intellectual exchange, and act as a bridge between cultures in a spirit of respect and mutual understanding.

Al-Najaf Al-Ashraf owes its importance to its status as the location of the shrine of Imam Ali and the religious activities which have grown around it. Quite naturally, the shrine and the institutions associated with it which form the principal focus of this collection’s studies. Besides the architectural history of the Holy Shrine, contributions cover the foundation of the city, the history of Wadi Al-Salam cemetery, the development of the city’s Hawza and libraries, studies on religious and scholarly authority, the pilgrims’ experience, the way Najafi scholars write the history of Al-Najaf, and contemporary developments such as the revolt of 1918, the rise and fall of communism, and the significance of visual signs in the modern city.

The book will be available for purchase from Alwarrak Publishing (Arabic edition) and Ithaca Press (English edition). PDF versions will also be available to download from UNESCO’s Publication website. 




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