Al-Baqīʿ (Arabic: البَقيع), also known as Jannat al-Baqīʿ (Arabic: جنة البقیع) and al-Baqīʿ al-Gharqad (Arabic: البَقیع الغَرقَد) is the first and oldest Islamic cemetery of Madina where four of the Shi'a Imams (a) and many other noble Sahaba and the Tabi'un are buried. Some structures were built over the graves of these Imams (a) as well as other figures which were known as Buq'as of Baqi'. These buq'as were destroyed by Wahhabis in an incident called the Demolition of al-Baqi'.
Al-Baqi' is located near Masjid al-Nabi and is one of the places Lady Fatima (a) is said to be buried. Al-Baqi' is among the holiest pilgrimage destinations for Muslims especially the Shiites. Some hadiths have been narrated from the Holy Prophet (s) as well as the Imams (a) about the merits of this cemetery. The graves of Imams (a) and some other graves had tombs and shrines built upon them which were demolished in 1221/1806-7 by the first groups of Wahhabis but were later rebuilt by the order of the Ottoman king 'Abd al-Hamid II, but were again demolished by the order of Amir Muhammad, the ruler of Medina, by the order of his father, 'Abd al-'Aziz Al Sa'ud on Shawwal 8, 1344/April 21, 1926.
Al-Baqi' is used to refer to a piece of land covered by a certain type of thorny plant called Gharqad. Al-Baqi's was cleaned from those thorny plants and was allocated for burying Muslims died in Medina. There were some other al-Baqi' lands in Medina but the one which became a cemetery is located in the south east of the city near the al-Masjid al-Nabawi outside the city.
In the past, the cemetery was located outside the city and one of the city gates called Bab al-Baqi' opened to the cemetery. In recent years, due to expansion of the city, al-Baqi' has been neighbored with the city from the side of al-Masjid al-Nabawi's courtyard and the mosque and the cemetery are separated by a street.
Al-Baqi' was much smaller in size at the time of the Prophet (s), so that the graves of the third caliph and Halima al-Sa'diyya were located outside it. The size of al-Baqi' has been changed in different periods; for example, 'Umayyads added to its area. Also, some of the people killed by Umayyads at the time of occupying Medina are buried outside al-Baqi's current area.
The first person among the Muhajirun to be buried in al-Baqi' was 'Uthman b. Maz'un, the great companion of the Prophet (s) who passed away in 2/623-4; however according to Ibn 'Abd al-Barr, there is a disagreement over this issue between Muhajirun and the Ansar and Ansar believed that the first one buried in al-Baqi' was As'ad b. Zurara, one of the participants in allegiance of al-'Aqaba, who passed away before the Battle of Badr.
Al-Baqi' was not meant to hold certain people, but each tribe of Medina took a part of it. Later, places surrounding graves of Imams of al-Baqi' (a) were mostly taken by Shi'a and the rest of the cemetery was taken by the people of other schools.
However, today no one is buried in the main part of the cemetery where the graves of the companions and Imams (a) are located anymore.
Four of the Shi'a Imams (a), i.e. Imam al-Hasan (a), Imam al-Sajjad (a), Imam al-Baqir (a), and Imam al-Sadiq (a) are buried in this cemetery and possibly the grave of Lady Fatima (a) is also there although its location is unkown. Following mentioning Imam al-Sadiq's (a) demise, al-Mas'udi mentions a marble stone in the cemetery where the names of Lady Fatima (a) and Four of Imams (a) are written.
Companions and Followers
The following are among the Companions and the Followers who are buried there:
- Halima al-Sa'diyya (the wet nurse of the Prophet (s)),
- Fatima bt. Asad
- 'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib (the Prophet's uncle)
- 'Uthman b. 'Affan (his grave was later added to al-Baqi'),
- 'Aqil b. Abi Talib,
- Malik b. Anas (Leader of Malikis)
In one of his latest nights of his life, the Prophet (s) went to al-Baqi' and asked God for forgiveness of the people buried there.
Building Domes and Shrines
In the first half of 8th/14th century, Ibn Battuta described al-Baqi', "Malik b. Anas's grave with a small dome, Ibrahim's grave had a white dome on it. There was a tomb in which wives of the Prophet (s) were buried. The tombs of 'Abbas and Imams of al-Baqi' (a) had grand domes upon them. The grave of the third caliph had a big dome upon it and the grave of Fatima bt. Asad was near it."
Al-Safadi has reported that there was a tomb over the graves of the four Imams (a) of Shi'a and 'Abbas, the Prophet's (s) uncle.
Farhad Mirza, a Qajar princess (in 1914-5) and Muhammad Husayn Khan Farahani (in 1924-5) described al-Baqi' as following, "There was a shrine over the graves of the four Imams (a), the grave of 'Abbas and the grave attributed to Lady Fatima (a) with a cloth decorated in Golabatoun style covering the shrine of Lady Fatima (a) gifted by Sultan Ahmad 'Uthmani in 1131/1718-9. There was also a shrine over the graves of other daughters of the Prophet (s) and another shrine over the graves of the Prophet's (s) wives and there were other shrines as well."
However, Titus Burckhardt who visited al-Baqi' after the rule of Wahhabites reported al-Baqi' as "an inappreciable cemetery east of Medina. This cemetery is like the grave of Hamza in Uhud or the first mosque of Islam in Quba is among the holy places where pilgrims to Hajj consider visiting them among the rituals."
Demolition of the Shrines
Shrines and buildings demolished by first groups of Wahhabis in 1221/1806-7 were reconstructed by the Ottoman king 'Abd al-Hamid II, but they were demolished again by the order of Amir Muhammad, ruler of Medina, by the order of his father 'Abd al-'Aziz Al Sa'ud in 1344/1926.
Before that and to prevent Muslim protests especially Shi'a, 'Abd Allah b. Sulayman b. Bulayhad, the supreme judge of Saudi Arabia went to Medina, wrote an official letter to Islamic authorities in Medina and asked them about construction of buildings over graves. In reply to the letter which is said to be made under force and threat, the prohibition of constructing over graves and the Mawqufa nature of al-Baqi' are mentioned. Following this reply, al-Baqi' was demolished which brought up severe protest of Muslims.
According to al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin, Saudi's act in demolishing al-Baqi' worried Iranian government officials and religious authorities and an Iranian official delegation went to Hijaz and compiled a report on what was done. Also, strong reactions were made in India and they sent a delegation to Mecca to severely object to the action. However, the Saudi king did not listen to them.
Works in Rejection of Wahhabi Beliefs
In addition to the previous reactions, some Islamic scholars wrote books rejecting Wahhabi claims regarding demolition of graves including al-Baqi' such as the following:
- Kashf al-irtiyab written by al-Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin
- Da'wa al-Huda ila l-dar' fi l-af'al wa l-taqwa written by Muhammad Jawad al-Balaghi
- Mu'jam ma allafah 'ulama al-Islam raddan 'ala l-wahhabiyya
Al-Baqi' after Demolition
Al-Baqi' is still void of any construction or shrines. There are stones installed on graves without any inscription. Roter who visited al-Baqi' in 1926, shortly after the second rule of Wahhabis, described al-Baqi' like ruins of a town hit by an earthquake.
In 1954, following the pressures by religious authorities' and political measures, Sa'ud b. 'Abd al-'Aziz ordered making some passages in cement through al-Baqi' so that pilgrims could go through al-Baqi'. Also at the time of Faysal b. 'Abd al-'Aziz, a big gate was installed at the entrance of al-Baqi' and some years later a shade was made in the west side of al-Baqi'.
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