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Ezekiel's Tomb

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Ezekiel's Tomb
קבר יחזקאל הנביא (Hebrew)
قبر حزقيال (Arabic)
Conical dome of Ezekiel's Tomb
LocationAl Kifl, Iraq
Coordinates32°13′36″N 44°22′02″E / 32.22676°N 44.36716°E / 32.22676; 44.36716
Area54.06 m2 (581.9 sq ft)
Height17 m (56 ft)
Built12th–14th century (current form)
Built forEzekiel
Restored byImen-Sazeh Fadak Co.
Current useAl-Nukhailah Mosque
Architectural style(s)Muqarnas
Governing bodySpecial Secretariat for the Shrine of the Prophet Dhel-Kifl and Annukhailiah Historical Mosque
Ezekiel's Tomb is located in Iraq
Ezekiel's Tomb
Location within Iraq

Ezekiel's Tomb (Hebrew: קבר יחזקאל הנביא; Arabic: قبر حزقيال) is revered by Jews as the resting place of Ezekiel, an Israelite prophet who was deported from the Kingdom of Judah during the Babylonian captivity and serves as the eponymous protagonist of the Book of Ezekiel in the Hebrew Bible. Historically the oldest and most important Jewish site in Mesopotamia,[1] it is now the location of the Al-Nukhailah Mosque, which was built on top of the original site and holds separate significance for Shia Muslims.[2] The Jewish presence at Ezekiel's Tomb has greatly diminished since the Jewish exodus from Iraq in the 1950s, shortly after the beginning of the Arab–Israeli conflict. The larger complex has been extensively redeveloped since the 2003 invasion of Iraq; it is widely regarded by Muslims to be the resting place of Dhul-Kifl, an unknown Islamic prophet who is often identified with Ezekiel, and work was reportedly underway to convert the site's disused synagogue into a mosque.


Jews at Ezekiel's Tomb, 1932

Jewish documentation[edit]

According to the 8th-century rabbinical text Pirkei De-Rabbi Eliezer, Ezekiel was buried in Babylonia and mention of his tomb is first made by the 10th-century Jewish sage Sherira Gaon.[3] Ever since, Babylonian Jews were known to have visited the tomb and only in the 12th-century did Muslims begin to associate the site with an Islamic prophet.[3] The German-Jewish medieval explorer Petachiah reported in around 1180 that the Jews held the keys to the site and relates that between 60,000 and 80,000 Jews converged on the tomb during the week of Sukkot.[4] The Jewish explorer and writer Benjamin of Tudela mentioned that there were several synagogues at the location and noted that Muslim notables also frequented the site to pray.[5]

Ownership dispute[edit]

In 1860, the tomb became a source of contention when Muslims attempted to wrest control of the site. The British consul in Baghdad attempted to resolve the issue of ownership and wrote that the Jews claimed that "the tomb has been in their possession for upwards of 2,000 years and that their right to it has never before been questioned".[6] Upon the intervention of the Anglo-Jewish Association, an Ottoman government emissary from Constantinople decided in favour of the Jewish claim.[7] At the turn of the 20th century, the Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, Oman and Central Arabia stated that the tomb is "more venerated by Jews than it is by Muhammadans."[8]

Until the mid-20th century, over 5,000 Jews used to come to the tomb from Baghdad and other major cities during Passover.[9][10] During this period, the tomb walls contained various inscriptions, including three poems honouring various donors. An adjoining room contained five tombs said to belong to five Rabbis who transmitted and wrote the Babylonian Talmud. Another room was referred to as "Elijah's Cave" and a third room contained the tombs belonging to Baghdad's prominent Daniel family, who were custodians of the site.[7] A Hebrew plaque above the doorway dating from 1810 read "this is the tomb of our master Yehezkel the Prophet, son of Buzi the Kohen, may his merit shield us and all Israel. Amen."[11]

2003 invasion of Iraq[edit]

After the fall of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in 2003, the new Iraqi authorities redeveloped the tomb complex and converted the old synagogue courtyard into an area for Muslim prayer. Some Hebrew-language Jewish inscriptions from the tomb chamber were removed and replaced with Quranic verses. The large new Al-Nukhailah Mosque currently encompasses the tomb structure,[12] with Muslims believing the tomb to be that of the unknown Islamic prophet Dhul-Kifl, who is often identified with Ezekiel.[3]

On the walls inside, Hebrew script appears under a dome with medieval Islamic floral designs.

The site's status was reportedly protected while under Saddam Hussein's regime.[13] In 2020, it was reported that Iraqi authorities were transforming the synagogue at Ezekiel's Tomb into a mosque.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Joseph Shatzmiller (1998). "Jews, Pilgrimage, and the Christian Cult of Saints: Benjamin of Tudela and His Contemporaries". In Walter A. Goffart (ed.). After Rome's Fall: Narrators and Sources of Early Medieval History: Essays Presented to Walter Goffart. University of Toronto Press. p. 345. ISBN 978-0802007797. Among the dozens of shrines shown to our travellers, one was outstanding in its privileged status – the shrine of the prophet Ezekiel. […] Although our reporters knew about other important shrines, it would seems that Ezekiel's was the principle one.
  2. ^ Honoring Jewish Refugees From Arab Lands: A Letter From a Forgotten Jew. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Aviva Schussman (2002). "The Prophet Ezekiel in Islamic Literature". In Michael E. Stone; Theodore A. Bergren (eds.). Biblical Figures Outside the Bible. A&C Black. p. 330. ISBN 978-1563384110.
  4. ^ Martin Jacobs (2014). "Medieval Mingling at Holy Tombs". Reorienting the East: Jewish Travelers to the Medieval Muslim World. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 120. ISBN 978-0812246223.
  5. ^ The Holy Bible: According to the Authorized Version, Containing the Old and New Testaments : with Original Notes, and Pictorial Illustrations. C. Knight. 1838. pp. 209–210.
  6. ^ Peter C. Craigie (1983). Ezekiel. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-0664245740.
  7. ^ a b Cecil Roth (1972). Encyclopaedia Judaica: A–Z. Encyclopaedia Judaica. p. 1097.
  8. ^ J. G. Lorimer (2003). Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, Oman and Central Arabia. Archive Editions. p. 2368. ISBN 978-1852070304.
  9. ^ David M. Gitlitz & Linda Kay Davidson ‘’Pilgrimage and the Jews’’ (Westport: CT: Praeger, 2006) 96–97.
  10. ^ Passover pilgrimage to Ezekiel's tomb in Iraq
  11. ^ Sassoon, David Solomon (2002). "The Sassoons' Return Visit to Baghdad". The Scribe. Autumn 2002 (75). Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  12. ^ Zvi Yehuda (2017). "Struggle of Iraqi Jewry for Control of Prophet Ezekiel's Tomb". The New Babylonian Diaspora: The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Community in Iraq, 16th–20th Centuries C.E. Brill. pp. 188–189. ISBN 978-9004354012.
  13. ^ Iraq launches project to renovate Ezekiel's shrine
  14. ^ Synagogue at Ezeliels Tomb dismantled October 20,2020

External links[edit]