Reportage

Religious Shrines in Lebanese Bekaa (Part 2)

Reportage 223-224

Prepared by: Qabas Society for Reserving Religious Sites in Lebanon

 

We presented in the previous reportage the main religious landmarks in the Lebanese Bekaa which give that region an additional special characteristic and grant it a spiritual fragrance that makes the visitor ascend towards heavens. In this reportage, we will continue highlighting more religious landmarks in that region, hoping that it will attract the reader and be a religious touristic guide for him.

 

The Shrine of Bathaa
the
daughter of Abi Ghadab

The Town of Sirin Fawqa

Location:

The Shrine of Bathaa – “the girl freed by Imam Ali (PBUH)” – lies on a plain hill in the town of Sir’in Fawqa (Upper Sir’in), in Baalbeck-Hermel Governorate in Baalbeck District. It is 70 kilometers far from the capital Beirut and some 17 Kilometers from the center of the district. It is surrounded by the towns of Nabi Sheath to the east, Bidnayel Field to the west, Hawsh Rafiqa to the North and Ali Al Nahri to the South. The etymology of the word may be either a distortion of Zorin – meaning peasants – or a compound word that includes “Sir” meaning “the prince” and “Ain” meaning “the well”. Thus the meaning of the word would be the prince of wells. It is an ancient town that was mentioned in the endowment of Nabi Sheath (PBUH) which dates back to 6 Zul Hija 518 A.H., and it was, along with the town of Karak Noah, among the most important towns of Baalbeck and the dwelling place of the princes from the Harfoush Family.

The Owner of the Shrine:
The Shrine of Bathaa the daughter of Abi Ghadab

The residents of the town and the neighborhood refer the shrine to a woman called ‘Bathaa, the daughter of Abi Ghadab”. They say it was freed by Imam Ali (PBUH) in the Mosque of Kufa. They say that she headed for Imam Ali (PBUH) to resolve a dilemma which had befell her and that she returned to their town and died there. Who is this Bathaa? What is the true name of her town? What drove her to the towns of Baalbek? Does she have any connection with the passage of the Husseini procession in Lebanon?

Narrator Mohammad bin Jurair al Tabari al Imami mentioned in a narration quotes Ammar bin Yasser (May Allah be content with him), the solemn companion of the Prophet (PBUH and his Household), who witnessed the event that took place in Dikkat-ul-Qada (the Seat of the Justice) in Kufa Mosque on 17 Safar 36 A.H. Bin Yasser said that he heard turmoil that deafened the ears. The Prince of Believers told him: Bring me my sword – Zul Fiqqar. Today I will reveal the distress of all the people of Kufa. Call in those on the door.

Ammar went and saw a woman from Damascus on a camel surrounded by some thousand knights with their unshielded swords – some with her, and others against her. They entered the mosque, and the woman stood before the Imam and told him: O Ali! Here I headed for you; O, do reveal my distress! You are fit for that and able of that.

So a call was made for people of Kufa to come, and they gathered in the mosque. Imam Ali addressed the father of the girl and asked him about the reason of their advent. The father addressed him saying: Peace be upon you O Refuge of the Grieved! My Lord! This is my daughter, and I did not marry her to any man, and here she is still pubescent, and yet she is pregnant. She disgraced me among my kinship.

The Prince of Believers (PBUH) said: What do you say, young girl?

She said: As for what my father said that I am still pubescent, he is honest in that. As for him saying I am pregnant, by Allah, I don’t know that I have been unfaithful. O Prince of Believers! You are the regent of the Prophet of Allah (PBUH) and his successor. O, do reveal my distress.

The Imam summoned the midwife of Kufa, and her name was Hawlaa, and asked her to examine the young girl. She did and said: O Prince of Believers! She is pubescent and pregnant. The Imam addressed the father of the girl by saying: O frowning Abi Ghadab! Aren’t you from a town in Damascus called Asaar on the way to Banyas Hawla? He said: Yes.

Imam Ali made use of some of the gifts Allah Al Mighty endowed him with and asked the midwife to put a specific matter on the belly of the woman, and a gigantic leech fell. The midwife brought the leech and put it before the Imam (PBUH). The Imam told the father of the girl: O Abu Ghadab! Your daughter did not commit adultery. She went to a pond and this leech entered and grew in her belly. The father rose to his feet and bore witness on the glory of the Imam before he returned to Asaar with his kinship, and thus his girl came to be known as “the girl freed by Imam Ali (PBUH)”.

After over 1400 years on this event in Kufa Mosque, the Seat of Justice and the Beit-ul-Tisht (The house of the Washtub) are still erect, and they are visited for blessings and for performing favorable prayers.

Now if the girl freed by Imam Ali (PBUH) was from Asaar in Golan on the way to Banyas Hawla, what is the secret behind the shrine and the tomb that are referred to her in the Bekai town of Sir’in? What brought her to this town which is remote from Asaar and Kufa all the same?

Narrator Tabari Imami mentions another narration which talks about the girl of Asaar and her stay in Kufa with her four brothers. The story says that they came to be among the close Shia of Imam Ali (PBUH) and then Imam Hassan (PBUH). The story adds that they went and fought in support of Imam Hussein (PBUH) and were martyred with him in Karbala. This gives way to the possibility that she was subject to captivity along with the womenfolk of the Household of Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon them). As such, she would have accompanied the Husseini procession of grief to Damascus, and she might have died on the old road between Baalbeck and Damascus in the land of Sir’in.

The Shrine:
The Shrine of Bathaa the daughter of Abi Ghadab

The shrine was more of ruins destroyed in previous times. A golden dinar was found in the venue that goes back to the Fatimi era. People then used to visit the place and fulfill their vows. Then a compartment was built on the old pillars of the shrine which was renewed in the 90s of the past century. Recently, a modern and elegant shrine was built. It comprises two stories topped with a dome. The tomb is within the shrine and next to it is a minaret.

To the south of the shrine, there appears a green dome next to the very old road known as the “Da’sset Naqat Ali” or the footprint of the she-camel of Ali (PBUH). To the east of the shrine towers a tremendous peak known as “Qers al Deir” or “Deir al Qantara”. There are found the ruins of an ancient monastery which is most likely to be the hermitage of the monk which the Husseini procession sought when they heard that Nasr Khuza’i wanted to restore the women captives and the heads of the martyrs.

We do not find among the “Ansar” or the supporters of Imam Hussein (PBUH) except three brothers from the Adnani Tribe of Tughlub who are from the Arabs of the north. Their names are Qasset, Muqsit, and Kurdos. They are the sons of Abdullah bin Zuheir bin Harth al Taghlubi. They used to reside in Kufa, and they were martyred with him (PBUH) in the first campaign. The names of Qasset and Kurdos are mentioned in the Ziyara of the Nahiya al Muqassa.

 

The Shrine of Sam bin Noah (PBUH)

 – The Town of Shmistar

Location:

The shrine is in the town of Shmistar in Baalbeck – Hermel Governorate in Baalbeck District. It is some 71 kilometers far from the capital Beirut and some 21 Kilometers from the center of the district.

The Shrine of Sam bin Noah (PBUH)
The Town:

The name is a compound word made from two terms Shemeah meaning sun and tura or tahra which mean the mountain or noon time1. In the middle of the tenth century after Hijra, it was annexed to Karak Noah, and its population was 390 Imamate Shia people2.

 

The Shrine:

The shrine is located to the south of the town in an ancient cemetery. It refers to Sam the son of Noah (PBUH). It consists of a very old shrine that includes stony collars. It is capped with a dome and beds a tomb topped with a silver cage with the words “The Shrine of Prophet Sam (PBUH)” written on it. The shrine was recently restored to good condition and became a beautiful shrine where miracles take place. It is visited by people for blessings and fulfilling vows.

 

The Shrine of Sayyeda Safieh, the Daughter of Imam Hussein (PBUH)

 – The Town of Hawsh Tel Safieh

The Husseini Procession in Lebanon:

Sayyeda Zeinab (PBUH) is quoted in one of her speeches in Damascus scolding Yazid (May the curse of Allah be on him) for his hideous deeds by saying: “O son of freed slaves! Is this your justice that make you keep your own daughters and slave maids veiled and we the daughters of the Prophet of Allah be paraded from place to place captives? You have thus insulted us by unveiling our faces. Your men took us from town to town where all sorts of people, whether residents of the hills or of riversides have been looking at us. The near as well as the far, the rude as well as the dignified ones – all starring at us while we lack the presence of a man relative of ours to render, help or even support us…!!!”

The words of Sayyeda Zainab (PBUH) here refers to the path the womenfolk procession took. It is the path mentioned in books of historians and books on the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (PBUH) and on which they semi-unanimously agree. In fact, they drew a clear path for the route of the procession starting with Hannana Mosque which lies to the north east of Najjaf to the left of the traveller to Kufa until the end of the path at the Shrine of the Head of Imam Hussein (PBUH) in Damascus.

Loot bin Yahyua “Abi Makhnaf” drew the stops the Husseini procession made among which he mentioned Labweh, Baalbeck, and the hermitage of the monk as places in Lebanon. Arab geographers and travellers mention the Sultani route from the city of Homs to Damascus via Baalbeck and its neighbourhoods. That indicates that the Husseini procession that included among its members Imam Zein Al Aabideen and Imam Mohammad Al Baqr (Peace be upon them) entered Lebanon coming from Homs. It is most probable that the procession took the road from Joseh Al Kharab to the town of Mishrefa to the east of Hermel. Then it returned to Qaa and took the road towards Ras Baalbeck passing through Fakiha and then Labwa – a primary stop mentioned by “Abi Makhnaf”. After a period of rest, the procession headed southwards to take most probably the road of Miqraq – Naqra – Yunin and entered Baalbeck from Nahle Gate. The residents of the city welcomed the procession with show of joy over the killing of the dissidents. The army settled in Ras al Ain Field to drink and rest. However, Sayyeda Zainab (PBUH) disclosed the truth to the residents and made them know that the casualties are none but the Household of the Prophet of Allah (PBUH). Knowing so, the residents revolted against the troops of Yazid and attacked them aiming to restore the heads and bury them. When they failed to do so, they expressed their loyalty by building a mosque in the place where the heads were erected and named it “The Mosque of the Head of Imam Hussein (PBUH)”. Hereof, the procession carried on its way and left from the southern gate of Baalbeck which is known as Damascus Gate where the Shrine of Sayyeda Khawla lies. Not far from it is located the Shrine of Sayyeda Safieh, the daughter of Imam Hussein (PBUH) in the town of Hawsh Tel Safieh.

The Shrine of Sayyeda Safieh the daughter of Imam Hussein (PBUH):    
The Shrine of Sayyeda Safieh
The Town:

Hawsh Tal Safieh is one of the villages of Baalbeck-Hermel Governorate. It lies in the middle of Beqaa Valley at an equal distance from the eastern and western mountain ranges. It is surrounded by Baalbeck city to the east, Hawsh al Zahab to the west, I’aat town to the north, and Hawsh Burda to the south. It is 85 kilometers away from the capital Beirut and 5 kilometers from Baalbeck.

Safieh is the name of a pious lady that people affiliate to Imam Hussein (PBUH). She was among the members of the Husseini procession. She was fatigued with illness and exhaustion and died and was buried in the place of her decease which came to bear her name and become known as “Hawsh Tel Safieh”.

The Shrine:

The shrine was no more than stony ruins near the water well. People gathered around it and built their houses. With days they encircled the tomb with walls from stones and clay and made two entrances for it and a window from the eastern side where people put a lantern for lighting the place.

In 1965, a shrine from cement was constructed, and later on in 2001, the old shrine was demolished and a modern spacious one from rocky stones was built. It is capped with a dome, and there is a minaret next to it. A mihrab is inside the shrine near the grave with the following words carved on it: “Safieh the daughter of Imam Hussein (PBUH)”.

The shrine is 5 kilometers away from the Shrine of Sayyeda Khawla (PBUH) and 60 kilometers away from Ras al Ain Mosque.

The Owner of the Shrine:
The Shrine of Sayyeda Safieh

The most ancient mention of her name comes on the tongue of her father; it is mentioned that Imam Hussein (PBUH) called his daughters on the tenth of Muharram to bid them farewell saying: O Um Khulthoum, O Zeinab, O Sukeiyna, O Ruqqayah, O Aatika, O Safieh, Peace be from me upon you.

In the Twelfth Century after Hijra, al Bahrani (Died in 1107 A.H.) said quoting Sayyed Saddi in a dialogue with Al Akhnas bin Zaid (May the curse of Allah be on him) who is one of the partakers in the battle of Karbala next to the Umayyad Army: “I was one of those ordered by Omar bin Saad (May the curse of Allah be on him) to trample the body of Hussein (PBUH) with the hooves of horses. So I smashed his ribs and swept a rug from under Ali bin Al Hussein – and he was ill – and turned him and threw him on his face, and pierced the ears of Safieh the daughter of al Hussein (PBUH) to rob the earrings which were in her ears”.

The residents of Hawsh Tel Safieh – Muslims and Christians alike – and the residents of the nearby towns as well as people from faraway places frequently visit her shrine for blessings and to fulfill their vows. Their visits express their love for Ahlulbeit (Peace be upon them) and their deep faith in their holiness. They talk about miracles that happened to them and narrate stories of the sick cured and needs achieved and their vows coming true. One of the residents of the town from among the Christian brothers asserts that one of his relatives was cured from diabetes which was about to lead him to death with the blessings of Sayyeda Safieh (PBUH).

 

The Shrine of Prophet AilaElias (PBUH)

The Town of Nabi Aila

Location:

In the middle of the highest hill on the eastern versant of Sanin Mount lies the Shrine of the Prophet of Allah, Elias. The hearts of people loved that spot, and since hundreds of years they constructed their homes around it and dwelled there. As such a town that holds the name of that prophet was populated; the town came to be known as “Nabi Aila”. It is 56 kilometers away from the capital Beirut and 5 kilometers away from Zahle. It is 1050 meters above sea level. It is surrounded by vineyards and orchids of different fruits. The shrine overlooks Sanin Mount from the west. Eastwards, it adjoins the town of Ablah and the town of Furzol southwards and Niha Citadel northwards.

Biography:  
The Shrine of Prophet Aila – Elias (PBUH)

He is Elias ibn Yasin ibn Fihnas ibn Eliazar, ibn Haron ibn Imran of Chebah. His name in Hebrew is “Ilia’, in Greek Iiliias, and in Arabic “Elias”.

He was born in 885 B.C. in the town of Chebah, and it is the city of Tobya in Sibt Niftali to the south of Qadess (Quds al Amilieh) to the north of Safad. He resided in Jilaad (The Golan) and also in the city of Baalbeck. He confronted idolatry and killed the priests of Baal Temple. He deserted his people fleeing the tyranny of the ruler. In his wandering, he reached the village of Sarfa (Sarafand) on the sea coast between Sidon and Tyr where he made a miracle by reviving the son of a widow.

He had more than one shrine in the Levant, and his shrine in Nabi Aila dates back to hundreds of years ago.

It is noteworthy that Elias is not Al Khodor (PBUH) as there are three hundred years between them. However, they are both alive on earth as Jesus and Idriss (Peace be upon them) are alive in Heavens.

His Status:

He was mentioned in the Holy Quran. Allah Al Mighty said: {so also was Elias among those sent (by us)* Behold, he said to his people, “Will ye not fear (Allah)?* “Will ye call upon Baal and forsake the Best of Creators?* Allah, your Lord and Cherisher and the Lord and Cherisher of your ancient fathers?”* But they rejected him, and they will certainly be called up (for punishment)* except the sincere and devoted Servants of Allah (among them)* And We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in Later times}3 Imam Sadeq (PBUH) mentions Elias (PBUH) as saying in his kneeling: “O Allah! Would you torture me and I have made myself thirsty for you at midday? Would you torture me and I have covered my face with the soil for you? Would you torture me and I have evaded sins for you? Would you torture me and I have spent sleepless nights for you? Allah Al mighty then revealed to him: Raise your head, I will not torture you…

His Shrine:

Sheikh Abdul Ghani Nabulsi says in his visit to the Shrine of Prophet Aila (PBUH) in 1100 A.H.: “Then we reached the village of the Prophet of Allah Nabi Aila…. We climbed to that mountain and requested his blessings and bestowments. We visited him and prayed jamaat noon prayers there…” He mentioned that he found a stone that keeps the date of building the dome of the shrine – 999 A.H.

The architecture of the shrine is marvelously beautiful. It is built of yellowish rocky stones and decorated from inside and outside with arches what grants the place solemnity and splendor.

Its floor is from marble and red granite. Its doors are from fine African Ebony wood. In its interior, there is the wooden cage that matches with the wooden inlay of the ceilings and walls. The cage is topped by a green dome surrounded by scarlet tiles.

A spacious courtyard spreads before the shrine for parking the cars. On its side, a two-story building was constructed as an endowment to Prophet Aila. The first floor includes a dining room and a place prepared for slaughtering sacrifices. The second floor comprises a reception hall and the offices of the administration.

 

The Shrine of the Prophet Noah (PBUH)

The Town of Karak NoahZahle

A Historical Background:

He is Noah ibn Lamechibn Methluselah bin Ibriss (Peace be upon them). The town of Karak came to be known for him. It came to be known as “Karak Noah”.

The Lebanese historian Professor Omar Tadmuri quotes Ibn Asaker of Damascus as saying: “… In Baalbeck in Bekaa there is a village called Karak which comprises a grave said to be the tomb of Noah”.

The Shrine of the Prophet of Allah Noah (PBUH)

He quote Sheikh Al Rabwa of Damascus as saying: “… There in karak Noah is a grave carved of stone. It is 51 steps long. It is said to be the grave of Noah”.

Yaquot al Hamwi was the first to mention the grave. In his book “Rihlatul Zahab wa al Ibreez fi Baalbeck wal Bekaa Al Aziz”, Traveler Nabulsi says that Al Hamei (Died in 626 A.H.) visited the shrine and mentioned in his book “Al Mushtarak” that in Karak there is a long grave which the residents of that area claim to be that of Noah (PBUH)”.

Traveler Harawi also visited the shrine. He says: “… It is a village in Baalbek. It is the seat of the grave of Noah (PBUH). He added: “Karak also is the seat of the tomb of Jabla the daughter of Noah (PBUH) in a town called “Ajarmoush”.

The Shrine of the Prophet of Allah Noah (PBUH)

Nabulsi asserts that in his book and writes: “… I said and I did not know that the grave of the daughter of Noah (PBUH) is there; so I did not visit the grave”. Nabulsi gives a detailed description of the shrine. He says:

“… Until we reached the aforementioned village of Karak, and we visited the grave of the Prophet of Allah Noah (PBUH), and we found that the length of his grave is just as that of Sheath (PBUH) – 40 cubits, exactly 120 hand spans. Above the tomb is an object similar to an upside-down wooden ark topped with tiles made of baked clay similar to the roofs in Roman countries. The grave is surrounded by erect Trabzans (rails). The grave is in a court in the mosque which is tiled with carved stones. It has iron windows that overlook from above the nearby fields and areas. The mosque was built while building the village on top of the mountain. It has a Mehrab and a platform as well as a nice minaret above the head of the tomb. With it that beautiful scene was perfected…” Nabulsi mentions that the residents of the village are Shia; he says: “Perhaps the muezzin said ‘Come to the best of deed’ instead of ‘Come for Prayers’.” Then he continues describing the shrine…

The Shrine of Prophet Yushaa

The Town of Shaath

The Shrine of Prophet Yushaa’

The shrine lies in the town of Shaath, and the residents refer it to Joshua bin Nun (PBUH). His name is mentioned in the Real Estate department: “The Endowment of Nabi Joshua”. This reference lacks evidence, and it is most probable that he was one of the ancient scholars or martyr or leaders of Baal who ruled the area in recent times.

The Shrine of Prophet Yushaa

The shrine is located between the town of Shaath and the town of Rasm al Hadath in the outskirts of the town of Shaath. It is a recent building with spacious areas and a small dome. Within remains the hall that contains the tomb with its ancient dome as they were. The walls were covered with a layer of cement. The grave is long and is encompassed with an iron case. Next to it is an ancient stony mehrab for praying.

In past decades one of the residents unearthed the corpse and found it for a young man with a blond beard. His neck bears a wound wrapped with a piece of cloth, what indicates that he was a martyr. Residents of the town and neighboring area come to visit him especially in al Qadr nights and mid Shaaban night.

The Shrine of Suleiman

The Town of Yunin

The Shrine of Suleiman

The shrine is located in the town of Yunin in Baalbeck-Hermel Governorate in Baalbeck District. The owner of the shrine is known as “Nabi Suleiman” but he is not a prophet. He is a Sufi scholar, and his name is Sheikh Suleiman bin Ali bin Seif bin Mahdi of Yunin. He is a descendent of Imam Sadeq (PBUH). Al Qotob of Yunin mentioned him saying: “He was one of the pious men. He fasted his days and spent most of the night sleeplessly worshipping Allah Al Mighty. He used to take the initiative to help people and took pains to fulfill their needs. He was one of the kindest people and most generous ones. He welcomed all who head to him with much joy besides being very humble, incessantly glorifying Allah, and reciting the Holy Book of Allah. He never backbit anyone of the creatures of Allah Al Mighty”.

The Shrine of Suleiman

Al Qotob of Yunin also talks about his Uncle Sheikh Mohamad bin Seif bin Mahdi of Yunin. He said that he secluded himself in a small mosque in an orchard near the village of Yunin, and he died in it in 655 A.H., and he was buried in that very place. Several of his children succeeded him but none had his status. In fact, that small mosque was inherited by his nephew Sheikh Suleiman bin Ali bin Seif bin Mahdi whose biography we are reading4.

The Shrine:

The Shrine lies in the south west of the town, and it is an ancient shrine with a tunnel that leads downwards to a cave with a dry water well with no water flowing in it.

The shrine was reconstructed by a man from the Emirates. Recently, it came to have a dome and surrounded with exterior yards. The residents of Nahle and Yunin come to visit the shrine and to take a walk or make picnics5.

The Shrine of Prophet Youssef (PBUH)

The Town of Kafardan

Location:

The Shrine lies in the town of Kafardan in Baalbeck-Hermel Governorate in Baalbeck District. It is 84 kilometers away from the capital Beirut and some 17 Kilometers from the center of the district.

The Shrine of Prophet Youssef (PBUH)
The Town:

It is a compound name made up of Kafar meaning village or town and Dan and it is a proper noun as mentioned in the Torah.

It is an old town which was dwelled by Abdullah bin Saad bin Rafaat bin Shaddad bin Abdullah bin Qais AlBajli as was mentioned in the documents of the Amro family6. Abdullah AlBajli is one of the prominent figures of the second Century A.H. The town was in the middle of the tenth century A.H. among the towns of Baalbeck. Its population is about 1014, and its residents are Imamate Shia7. The town had the endowment of the mosque of Badriddine Mohammad bin Murjal in the Sheikh’s mill as well as the endowment of Ibn Sirajuddine8.

The Shrine:

The owner of the Shrine is known as “Nabi Youssef”, and it is mentioned as such in the Real Estate Registration department – “The Shrine of Nabi Youssef (PBUH) – Kafardan”. It is believed that the Prophet of Allah – Youssef (PBUH) passed in that town, and perhaps the name of the town inspired that to its residents as Dan is the brother of Youssef (PBUH).

Professor Nasrallah mentioned him saying: Kafardan Nabi Youssef (PBUH) is near the cemetery and he had an edifice and a grave9.

People believe that the shrine was for decades and centuries a pile of stones that are referred to Youssef (PBUH). Then the shrine was built. Its ceiling is encircled with ancient domes erected on cylindrical pillars. It walls were later covered with a layer of lime. The shrine has balconies with domes from all sides. It is topped with a dome. Inside the shrine there is an old grave covered with a layer of lime also. The grave is inside an iron cage. Next to the shrine is a cemetery that comprises very ancient tombs.


(1)  Know Lebanon: V 6, P 240.

(2)  The Neighborhoods of Lebanon: P128.

(3)  Sura Saffat; Ayas (123 – 129).

(4)  Zeil Miraat Tarikh: V 1 – P76, Al Wafi bil Wafiyat: V 3 – P 122.

(5)  The History of Baalbeck: V1, P480.

(6)  The Documents of the Amro Family: P 46.

(7)  The Neighborhoods of Lebanon: P 125.

(8)  Lebanon in the Sixth Century: Endowments and Towns: P 79, 81.

(9)  The History of Baalbeck: V 1, P 501.

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