Puncturing the Devil

On occasion the pro-Najdi apologists also cite the etymological sense of the Arabic word najd, which means ‘high ground’. Again, a brief consultation of an atlas resolves this matter decisively. With the exception of present-day northern Iraq, which was not considered part of Iraq by any Muslim until the present century (it was called ‘al-Jazira’), Iraq is notably flat and low-lying, much of it even today being marshland, while the remainder, up to and well to the north of Baghdad, is flat, low desert or agricultural land. Najd, by contrast, is mostly plateau, culminating in peaks such as Jabal Tayyi‘ (4,500 feet), in the Jabal Shammar range. It is hard to see how the Arabs could have routinely applied a topographic term meaning ‘upland’ to the flat terrain of southern Iraq (the same territory which proved so suitable for tank warfare during the ‘Gulf War’, that notorious source of dispute between Riyadh’s ‘Cavaliers’ and ‘Roundheads’).

Confirmation of this identification is easily located in the hadith literature, which contains numerous references to Najd, all of which clearly denote Central Arabia. To take a few examples out of many dozens: there is the hadith narrated by Abu Daud (Salat al-Safar, 15), which runs: ‘We went out to Najd with Allah’s Messenger (s.w.s.) until we arrived at Dhat al-Riqa‘, where he met a group from Ghatafan [a Najdite tribe].’ In Tirmidhi (Hajj, 57), there is the record of an encounter between the Messenger (s.w.s.) and a Najdi delegation which he received at Arafa (see also Ibn Maja, Manasik, 57). In no such case does the Sunna indicate that Iraq was somehow included in the Prophetic definition of ‘Najd’.

Further evidence can be cited from the cluster of hadiths which identify the miqat points for pilgrims. In a hadith narrated by Imam Nasa’i (Manasik al-Hajj, 22), ‘A’isha (r.a.) declared that ‘Allah’s Messenger (s.w.s.) establised the miqat for the people of Madina at Dhu’l-Hulayfa, for the people of Syria and Egypt at al-Juhfa, for the people of Iraq at Dhat Irq, and for the people of Najd at Qarn, and for the Yemenis at Yalamlam.’ Imam Muslim (Hajj, 2) narrates a similar hadith: ‘for the people of Madina it is Dhu’l-Hulayfa – while on the other road it is al-Juhfa – for the people of Iraq it is Dhat Irq, for the people of Najd it is Qarn, and for the people of Yemen it is Yalamlam.’

These texts constitute unarguable proof that the Prophet (s.w.s.) distinguished between Najd and Iraq, so much so that he appointed two separate miqat points for the inhabitants of each. For him, clearly, Najd did not include Iraq.

There are many hadiths in which the Messenger (s.w.s.) praised particular lands. It is significant that although Najd is the closest of lands to Makka and Madina, it is not praised by any one of these hadiths. The first hadith cited above shows the Messenger’s willingness to pray for Syria and Yemen, and his insistent refusal to pray for Najd. And wherever Najd is mentioned, it is clearly seen as a problematic territory. Consider, for instance, the following noble hadith:

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