Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Miraculous Vine Cures the Sick
In a small courtyard in the northeast Baghdad slum of Madinat al-Sadr, dozens of people crowd beneath a grape arbour, holding plastic bags aloft to collect the water that drips down the vine.
Those gathered say the water is tears shed for the slain hero Imam Abbas - half brother of Imam Hussein, a key figure in Shia Islam - and that it can cure illness and disabilities.
Although such reported miracles have occurred from time to time throughout Iraqi history, the regime of Saddam Hussein took a dim view of the claims.
As a result, many Shia were fearful to seek out sites where miracles have taken place and partake of the baraka, or blessing, they are said to dispense.
But Shia popular piety is flourishing now, and hundreds of visitors reportedly have come to seek the healing waters of this grape arbour.
According to the owner of the courtyard, Um Jassem, the vine began to weep on February 29, the eighth day of the festival of Ashura, as a sheep was being led out for ritual slaughter.
"The sheep's eyes were also full of tears before it was slaughtered," said Um Jassem.
"I was praying inside the house, and suddenly I saw the sheep enter and lay down alongside me. We failed to get it to leave until we whispered into its ear [that there is no God but God," she said, referring to the Muslim creed.
As the sheep was being led out to be slaughtered, Um Jassem says, water fell on the animal's head from above - even though the sky was cloudless.
"We were under this grape tree and we looked for the source of the water and saw the tree branches shedding tears on us," said Um Jassem's husband Jumaa Allawi.
"We didn't know this water provided blessings, until the neighbours took some to bless and give it to their sick son. He recovered the next day."
News spread, and visitors soon descended on the courtyard. The vine, which Allawi says was "dead and dry", burst into bloom.
He produces a list of names and telephone numbers of people he claims the water cured.
"A mute six-year-old suddenly spoke and said 'Hussein!' after he drank drops of the water," said Allawi. "Haj Tumaa al-Maliki, an elderly blind man, wiped his eyes with this water and now he can see."
The water also reportedly caused a cyst in a young man's head to burst and subside, and allowed a woman paralysed from the waist down to walk again.
Not surprisingly, the reported miracle has also become a minor media event, which Allawi says has reduced the flow of water.
"It lessened after the photographers began to photograph it," he claimed.
Abdul Amir Aljubury holds a doctorate in Islamic history from the Arab Institute of History in Baghdad. He is an IWPR trainee.
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