Nine Martyrs Mosque

Authors: Emine Bala, Ali Bala, Mohammed Abdulghani, Rawezh Farid

Foundation and History

Given the name of the mosque, you wonder where these people suffered their fate and what the story of the “Nine Martyrs” is.

This mosque was built during the exodus of 1991, when more than a million civilians were displaced by the regime of then-Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. After decades of revolution and sacrifice for their freedom, the Kurdish people in northern Iraq began a popular uprising on March 5, 1991, and drove the Baathist regime out of the Kurdistan Region. After the uprising, the Iraqi regime, in cooperation with the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, an exiled Iranian resistance group in Iraq, managed to retake part of the Kurdish-held areas through heavy military operations. The Baath regime’s fighting and hostilities against the Kurdish areas led to a massive exodus of the Kurdish population to the mountains, neighboring Iran, and countries in the West.

The Najars, like many other families, tried to flee, but unfortunately did not manage to leave safely. In the city of Koya, a car in which nine family members were traveling was bombed and all were killed. Years later, the family decided to build a mosque dedicated to the martyrs. In 1999, construction began and was completed in 2001 under the direction of Haji Talhat Najar. All previous costs were borne by the Najar family. The mosque was renovated in 2019.

The current imam is paid monthly by the government, as well as a worker who is responsible for cleaning and maintenance. In addition, some volunteers from the community help with the daily work. Initially, the mosque attracted a lot of attention due to its history and the fact that there are few mosques in the area. Mala Najib was the first imam of the mosque from 2001 to 2002, and was succeeded by Shex Abid Naqshbande in 2002. He received a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Baghdad University in 1993. His son, Ahmed Shex Abid Naqshbande, stands in for his father when he is unavailable.[1] 

Mihrab of the mosque. Mihrab: a niche in the wall of a mosque photo by Rawezh Farid

The nine martyrs are:

  1. Sherwan Talhat (son oF Haji Talhat)
  2. Muzhda Rafhat (wife of Haji Talhat)
  3. Kawa Sherwan (grandson of Haji Talhat)
  4. Lawa sherwan (grandson of Haji Talhat)
  5. Chiman Ibrahim (cousin of Haji Talhat)
  6. Deman Ibrahim (cousin of Haji Talhat)
  7. Layla Ibrahim (cousin of Haji Talhat)
  8. Rahel Ibrahim (cousin of Haji Talhat)
  9. An unborn child.

[1] Interview with Ahmed Shex Abid Naqshande, May 25, 2021.

Location and Building

The Mosque of the Nine Martyrs is located in the Azadi district. The northern part of the district is on Kerkuk Street, one of the main roads in Erbil, and the southern part is connected to Kuran Bazaar, one of the busiest bazaars in the city center. Another famous structure near the mosque is Nanakali Hospital for Children with Cancer, which is located opposite the mosque.

The mosque was built on an area of 2,000 square meters and the prayer hall can accommodate up to 600 people. Next to the mimbar there are two libraries with almost 120 books. It has a minaret 40 meters high and polygonal in shape, and there is a large dome with a diameter of about 15 meters in the center of the building, which reflects the general characteristics of the Persian style. The mosque has an event hall for religious occasions such as engagement ceremonies. It has a courtyard where the imam’s house and two separate offices are located: one for the imam and the other for Haji Talhat. The Imam uses his office for meetings and counseling services when people need them. The room also houses a library of about 400 religious books, including the Quran, Tafsir books and Islamic philosophical books by famous Islamic scholars. There is also a parking lot for the congregation behind the mosque. There is no special room for female participants in this mosque.

Front view of the mosque photo by Rawezh Farid

Prayer and Worship

The number of participants at the Fajr prayer ranges between 10 and 30 people daily. At the Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha prayers, the number of participants is usually constant at 50 each. On Fridays, people are busy with individual prayers until the imam’s sermon, after which they perform the Friday prayer. The topics of the sermons are sent by the Endowment Ministry, and the imam chooses one that he thinks is most appropriate for the congregation. Nearly 500 people attend Friday prayers at this mosque.

Prayer hall photo by Rawezh Farid

During Ramadan, more people, especially local residents, come to the prayers. Especially during Tarawih, there are up to 400. In the last days of Ramadan, people stay in the mosque for a long time to pray to Allah, because the last 10 days of this month are like no other days in Islam, so the mosque offers special speeches and programs for people. During the nights, different types of prayers such as Salat al-Tasbih and Tahajjud are performed. The imam stays late on all nights to serve the people with the help of volunteers, and provides a quality time and environment for the visitors to worship Allah in the best possible way. As many as 600 people come to the Eid Al-Adha and Eid Al-Fitr prayers. The congregation congratulates each other on their Eid and leaves the mosque.

Community and Group Activities

The Mosque of the Nine Martyrs also has a hall that is used for engagement ceremonies, mawlids and funerals, as people usually gather for these two occasions. Since the hall is rather large and can hold up to 300 people, most people prefer this mosque for the above ceremonies. Except for Ramadan, about 80 mawlid events are organized here. On these occasions, the mosque gets very crowded, but with the help of volunteers, this can be managed to please Allah. Visitors are provided with water and goodies such as sweets and tea.

In addition, on weekends and during the summer vacations, the imam teaches children in the neighborhood how to read the Quran. He enrolls up to 40 students in these classes. Like most mosques, the Nine Martyrs Mosque offers events during Eid-Al-Fitr and Eid-Al-Adha. During Ramadan, for example, the imam performs mawlud after the Taraweeh prayer. The mosque provides water and sweets to people who break their fast in the mosque during Ramadan. In addition, people who have slaughtered an animal bring meat to the mosque administrators to be distributed to those in need.

Public Relations

The mosque has neither a website nor a social media account. However, the imam of the mosque, Shex Abid Naqshbande, records his weekly Friday sermons as videos and posts them on his personal Facebook account.[1] The imam’s son, Ahmed Shex Abid, also broadcasts the Friday sermons live via his Facebook account.[2]