Antakya – Was This Place Mentioned In Surah Yaseen?

Antakya | Antioch

This Masjid in the centre of the historic city of Antakya (Antioch) is named after a man who was unknown to the world, yet the Qur’an makes mention of him.  

Known as the heart of the Quran, Surah Yasin is a Surah that is recited by Muslims from around the world on a daily basis. Yet we tend to lose focus on the meaning behind it. It is within this very special and significant Surah that the story of an unknown man was mentioned. A man who was promised paradise and gave his life for a divine cause. 

Whilst his name & location was not disclosed in the Quran, commentators have mentioned that his name was Habib Najjar or Habib the Carpenter. They also mention that he lived in Antioch, known today as Antakya. The city of Antakya was an important point on the Silk Road and became the capital of the province of Syria under the Romans. Goods were brought in from Persia and elsewhere in Asia to the Mediterranean due to its close proximity. 

Silk Road Route

Antioch was also one of the earliest centres of Christianity and is believed to be the place where followers of the Prophet Isa AS were first called Christians. 

Habib Najjar was one of several Christians that lived on the outskirts of the city. He was a devout believer and follower of the Prophet Isa AS and often made it a point to spend his time away from society.

Surah Yasin makes mention of three Messengers being sent to a place which was filled with idol worshippers. These three messengers tried their utmost best to invite people towards worshipping one God. But to no avail.  After some time, something remarkable happened.

Allah mentions,

“And there came a man rushing from the farthest part of the city. He said, ” O my people, follow the messengers. [20] Follow those who do not claim any reward from you, and they are on the right path. [21] And what excuse do I have if I do not worship the One who has created me and to whom you will be returned?” [22]

Surah Yasin

Commentators mention that this man refers to Habib Najjar. Running from the farthest part of the city with the urgency of spreading this message showed his state of emergency. However, things did not end well for him. With his efforts going unrecognised with the pagans, he was martyred. Upon this, the Quran mentions,

It was said to him, ” Enter Paradise”. He said,” Would that my people knew [26] how my Lord has forgiven me and placed me among the honoured ones!” [27]

Surah Yasin

It was for this reason that Habib Najjar came to be known as a Christian Saint. Today Muslim and Christian visitors come to this Mosque to visit the supposed burial place of this great man who is honoured in the Quran. 

We came to this mosque after learning that it was opened in the honour of this man who was anonymously mentioned in the Quran.

Visiting his supposed grave was a surreal experience knowing that we could be in the company of someone from 2000 years ago. 

We entered the Mosque and descended by the stairway to the crypt under the mosque. In a small room there are two sarcophagi (saa ko fuh gai), one with the name of Habib-i Neccar (Ottoman for Habib al-Najjâr) and one with the name of Sham’un al-Safa.

The Location of this mosque here dates back many centuries when it was a church which was then converted into a Mosque.

However, in the Year 637, it is believed that the companion Abu Ubaydah Ibn Jarrah RA conquered the city of Antakya and converted this church into a mosque, which was then known as Church of John The Baptist. It was later converted to a church but then became a mosque in the late 13th century. 

The mosque was demolished in an earthquake in 1853 and was later reconstructed by the Ottomans. However, the minaret is older dating back to the 17th century. 

There was a feeling of peace and serenity in the courtyard and within the mosque. Tour groups were coming in and out explaining the significance of the mosque. With cats wondering around the courtyard seeking attention from the visitors and people praying within the mosque, it felt nice to just sit here and wander! 

With many people nervous about travelling to this part of Turkey, sites like this are often missed. Located around 30KMs from the Syrian border, the city of Antakya is a very vibrant city and one filled with Ancient and Religious History. Due to this very reason, Antakya was known as Anatolia’s Centre of Tolerance, as it was home to people of many religions and ethnicities who lived in peace for many centuries which is still the case today. 

References

Tafsīr al-Ṭabarī (Jāmiʿ al-Bayān ʿan taʾwīl āy al-Qurʾān) – Volume 6 – Page 269

Tafsīr Fakhr al-Rāzī (Tafsīr al-Kabīr Wa Mafātih al-Ghayb) | Volume 26 | Page 55

Tafsīr Ibn āshur (Tafsīr al-Tahrīr wa’l-Tanwīr) – Volume 19 – Page 28

Fath al-Bāri – Sharh al-Bukhārī- Volume 7 – Page 109

Al Kāmil Fi al-Tārīkh by Imām Ibn al-Athīr – Volume 1 – Page 282

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