Why Is Najaf So Holy?

A concise history of the city.

Fighting plagued Najaf today as U.S. and Iraqi forces continued their attack on militants loyal to rebel cleric Muqtada Sadr. As the weeklong conflict rages on, the issue of which troops will be allowed to strike at the militants’ strongholds within the city has become a contentious one: The interim Iraqi government insists no foreign troops will enter Najaf’s religious sites. In April, Slate’s Brendan I. Koerner explained why Najaf is so important to Shiite Muslims.