Attempts by the American-British troops to capture the town of al-Najaf are threatening Islamic shrines. Situated 160 kilometres south of Baghdad, Al-Najaf is a holy place for Shias /Shiism, in addition to Sunnism, is one of the main Islamic branches/ all over the world. It contains the grave of first imam Ali, revered by Shias.
The Al-Haidaria mosque erected over his grave, with two towering gilt cupolas and two minarets, is a place of pilgrimage for Shias. They believe that Muhammad's descendants, as he himself, possess divine grace. They worship Imam Ali as a sinless martyr no less than they do the prophet Muhammad himself. And many even consider him an embodiment of Allah.
Najaf is the world's centre of theology. It contains a leading Shia university and numerous religious schools. The residence of the main Shia mufti is also situated in this town.
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